Let There Be No Weeping At The Bar Chart

Have you ever picked up a modern copy of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN or BRITISH JOURNAL OF SCIENCE and thumbed through it? And then looked for a potted plant or sofa down which it could be stuffed? It’s rather like taking a canapé off the tray thinking it will be iced caviar and discovering that it is really warm blood sausage…

The comparison is particularly poignant if you have had a chance to read copies of the same publications from 100 years ago – caviar is still pretty good but blood sausage does not improve with age.

The problem is that science has become a lot harder to find interesting, the further it moves from our daily lives. The People Who Publish do so for one reason: to become The People With PhD’s who can then progress to becoming The People With Secure Academic Jobs…or failing that, The People With A Highly Paid Job In The Edible Intestine Trade. The sausage continues and it gets bloodier as it goes on.

I enjoyed reading SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN when the articles featured mechanics or aeronautics – just as I enjoyed the editions of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC when they featured native girls with no tops on and WWII fighter planes. Now, when the articles head into Stephen Hawking territory in the first paragraph or dissolve into bar charts and percentages I find that there is no interest whatsoever. It makes me think that the rise of anti-science has been fuelled by other people reacting in the same way.

Incomprehensible, Boring, and Irrelevant is a fine name for a firm of Melbourne solicitors, but not in a $ 20 magazine at the news stand.

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