Thursday, March 21, 2013

Keeping Up With Science: ScienceNews.org



I find it difficult to keep up with advances in science. I usually try to stop and visit CNN.com or other news sites several times a week, but I find that if the site’s raison d’etre is political or financial news, the science stories will consist mostly of the latest computer app and how it will affect a corporation’s bottom line, or the most sensational science stories. As a reference librarian I definitely need to be aware of these news stories, but I also occasionally like looking beyond the headlines to the ‘merely’ interesting stories that make up the bulk of science advances.

ScienceNews.org, the magazine of the Society for Science & the Public, does a great job of presenting ordinary science news for the layman, and presenting these stories in an extraordinary way. But don’t misunderstand me; ScienceNews.org doesn’t just cover the quotidian. They also report on major science events such as the recent meteor that caused over 1,000 injuries in the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. What I appreciated about this piece is that the science reporter, Andrew Grant, covered the destruction, but also explained why NASA and other international space agencies were unable to see this meteor approaching and entering our atmosphere. (At 15 meters in diameter, it was too small to be detected. Yikes!)

I’m a believer that just about any science story is aided by pictures and video. And ScienceNews.org has some wonderful media accompanying their stories. Check out the artwork for the HR 8799 planetary system, or the video showing the interaction between a paralyzed woman and a robotic arm. This isn’t science fiction, but emotionally moving science fact.

The site is separated into eleven categories, e.g. atom & the cosmos, environment, matter & energy. All the news stories include networking tools for sharing such as Facebook and Twitter. And speaking of social media, a recent story highlighted in ScienceNews showed what scientist can learn from social media tools such as twitter. In the piece Twitter maps New York City, language by language Delia Mocanu of Northeastern University in Boston showed how twitter reveals which second languages are prominent in New York City and in which neighborhoods these second language speakers can be found.

ScienceNews.org also reviews science books, but not dry, academic titles. A recently reviewed title, The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece, explores the intersection of science, culture and literature. (And it just happens to be available at your local library.)

Submitted by David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology
Central Library

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