Popular science
Popular science, sometimes called literature of science, is interpretation of science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 intended for a general audience. While science journalism
Science journalism
Science journalism conveys reporting about science to the public. The field typically involves interactions between scientists, journalists and the public, and is still evolving.-Aim of science journalism:...

 focuses on recent scientific developments, popular science is broad-ranging, often written by scientists as well as journalists, and is presented in many formats, which can include books, television documentaries, magazine articles and web pages.


Popular science is a bridge between scientific literature
Scientific literature
Scientific literature comprises scientific publications that report original empirical and theoretical work in the natural and social sciences, and within a scientific field is often abbreviated as the literature. Academic publishing is the process of placing the results of one's research into the...

 as a professional medium of scientific research, and the realms of popular political and cultural discourse. The goal of the genre is often to capture the methods and accuracy of science, while making the language more accessible. Many science-related controversies are discussed in popular science books and publications, such as the long-running debates over biological determinism
Biological determinism
Biological determination is the interpretation of humans and human life from a strictly biological point of view, and it is closely related to genetic determinism...

 and the biological components of intelligence, stirred by popular books such as The Mismeasure of Man
The Mismeasure of Man
The Mismeasure of Man , by Stephen Jay Gould, is a history and critique of the statistical methods and cultural motivations underlying biological determinism, the belief that “the social and economic differences between human groups — primarily races, classes, and sexes — arise from inherited,...

and The Bell Curve
The Bell Curve
The Bell Curve is a best-selling and controversial 1994 book by the Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray...


The purpose of scientific literature is to inform and persuade peers as to the validity of observations and conclusions and the forensic efficacy of methods. Popular science attempts to inform and convince scientific outsiders (sometimes along with scientists in other fields) of the significance of data and conclusions and to celebrate the results. Statements in scientific literature are often qualified and tentative, emphasizing that new observations and results are consistent with and similar to established knowledge wherein qualified scientists are assumed to recognize the relevance. By contrast, popular science emphasizes uniqueness and generality, taking a tone of factual authority absent from the scientific literature. Comparisons between original scientific reports and derivative science journalism and popular science typically reveal at least some level of distortion and oversimplification which can often be quite dramatic, even with politically neutral scientific topics.

Popular science literature can be written by non-scientists who may have a limited understanding of the subject they are interpreting and it can be difficult for non-experts to identify misleading popular science, which may also blur the boundaries between formal science and pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...


Common threads

Some common traits of popular science productions include:
  • Bridging the is-ought gap
    Is-ought problem
    The is–ought problem in meta-ethics as articulated by Scottish philosopher and historian, David Hume , is that many writers make claims about what ought to be on the basis of statements about what is...

  • Entertainment value or personal relevance to the audience
  • Emphasis on uniqueness and radicalness
  • Exploring ideas overlooked by specialists or falling outside of established disciplines
  • Generalized, simplified science concepts
  • Presented for an audience with little or no science background, hence explaining general concepts more thoroughly
  • Synthesis of new ideas that cross multiple fields and offer new applications in other academic specialties
  • Use of metaphors and analogies to explain difficult and/or abstract scientific concepts
  • Very limited mathematical formulas or complicating details

Some sources of popular science

  • Are We Alone?
    Are We Alone?
    Are We Alone? is the SETI Institute's weekly science radio program, hosted by Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley, the Executive producer of the radio show....

    - Seth Shostak
    Seth Shostak
    Seth Shostak is an American astronomer. He grew up in Arlington, VA and earned his physics degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D...

     science radio program
  • Ask A Biologist
    Ask A Biologist
    Ask A Biologist is a science outreach program originating from Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences.-About the program:Ask A Biologist is a pre-kindergarten through high school program dedicated to answering questions from students, their teachers, and parents...

    - audio podcast program and website
  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing
    The Best American Science and Nature Writing
    The Best American Science and Nature Writing is a yearly anthology of popular science magazine articles published in the United States. It was started in 2000 and is part of The Best American Series published by Houghton Mifflin...

    - Book series
  • The Best American Science Writing
    The Best American Science Writing
    The Best American Science Writing is a yearly anthology of popular science magazine articles published in the United States. It was started in 2000 and published by Harper Perennial...

    - Book series
  • BBC Focus
    BBC Focus
    BBC Focus is a British monthly magazine about science and technology published in Bristol, UK by Bristol Magazines Ltd, a BBC Worldwide company. Edited by Jheni Osman, it covers all aspects of science and technology and is written for general readers as well as people with a knowledge of science...

    - Magazine
  • BBC Horizon - TV series
  • Cosmos Magazine - Australian magazine
  • Daily Planet
    Daily Planet (TV series)
    Daily Planet is a television program on Discovery Channel Canada which features daily news, discussion and commentary on the scientific aspects of current events and discoveries. The show first aired as @discovery.ca in 1995. It was renamed to Daily Planet in 2002. The show relaunched with in high...

    - Canadian television series
  • Discover
    Discover (magazine)
    Discover is an American science magazine that publishes articles about science for a general audience. The monthly magazine was launched in October 1980 by Time Inc. It was sold to Family Media, the owners of Health, in 1987. Walt Disney Company bought the magazine when Family Media went out of...

    - Magazine
  • Discovery Channel
    Discovery Channel
    Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

     - Cable/satellite television channel
  • Explorations in Science - Michio Kaku
    Michio Kaku
    is an American theoretical physicist, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York of City University of New York, the co-founder of string field theory, and a "communicator" and "popularizer" of science...

     radio program
  • Exploratorium
    The Exploratorium is a museum in San Francisco with over 475 participatory exhibits, all of them made onsite, that mix science and art. It also aims to promote museums as informal education centers....

     - Museum in San Francisco
  • Frontiers of Science
    Frontiers of Science
    Frontiers of Science was a popular illustrated comic strip created by Professor Stuart Butler of the School of Physics at the University of Sydney in collaboration with Robert Raymond, a documentary maker from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1961. The artist was Andrea Bresciani...

    - Comic strip
  • Guru Magazine
    Guru Magazine
    Guru Magazine is an online crowd-sourced magazine published by Guru Magazine Ltd. It is a bi-monthly popular science magazine published in DRM-free ePub, Adobe PDF and kindle formats. Guru Magazine is designed to be read on tablet devices, smartphones and eReaders to reduce publishing costs...

    - Digital 'science-lifestyle' magazine
  • HowStuffWorks
    HowStuffWorks is a commercial edutainment website that was founded by Marshall Brain with the goal of giving its target audience an insight into the way in which many things work. The site uses various media in its effort to explain complex concepts, terminology and mechanisms, including...

     - Website
  • Medicine Magazine
    Medicine Magazine
    Medicine Magazine is a UK consumer magazine focused on health and medical issues. It has a more serious medical and scientific editorial than women's magazines....

    - Medical and health articles for a general audience
  • Mr Science Show
    Mr Science Show
    Mr Science Show is an Australian science podcast. The show originated on China Radio International in 2006, and was broadcast on China Drive until 2008, at which point it became a podcast. The show in China was broadcast in English and produced in Beijing, with creator Marc West interviewed down...

    - Radio show and podcast from China Radio International
    China Radio International
    China Radio International , the former Radio Beijing and originally Radio Peking, founded on December 3 of 1941, is one of the three state-owned media in China along with China National Radio and China Central Television in the People's Republic of China .As the PRC's external radio station, CRI...

  • MythBusters
    MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is screened by numerous international broadcasters, including Discovery Channel Australia, Discovery Channel Latin America, Discovery Channel Canada, Quest...

    – American TV series that seeks to confirm or debunk science-related stories, urban legends, viral videos, etc.
  • National Geographic Channel (UK)
    National Geographic Channel (UK)
    The National Geographic Channel is a television channel that features documentaries produced by the National Geographic Society. It features some programming similar to that on the Discovery Channel such as nature and science documentaries. The channel was launched in Europe in September 1997 and...

  • New Scientist
    New Scientist
    New Scientist is a weekly non-peer-reviewed English-language international science magazine, which since 1996 has also run a website, covering recent developments in science and technology for a general audience. Founded in 1956, it is published by Reed Business Information Ltd, a subsidiary of...

    - Magazine
  • Nova - Television show on PBS
  • OMNI
    Omni (magazine)
    OMNI was a science and science fiction magazine published in the US and the UK. It contained articles on science fact and short works of science fiction...

    - Magazine (defunct)
  • Popular Science
    Popular Science
    Popular Science is an American monthly magazine founded in 1872 carrying articles for the general reader on science and technology subjects. Popular Science has won over 58 awards, including the ASME awards for its journalistic excellence in both 2003 and 2004...

    - Magazine
  • Popular Science Historic Film Series - Film shorts
  • Quirks & Quarks - Canadian radio show and podcast on CBC Radio
    CBC Radio
    CBC Radio generally refers to the English-language radio operations of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The CBC operates a number of radio networks serving different audiences and programming niches, all of which are outlined below.-English:CBC Radio operates three English language...

  • Science Fantastic - Michio Kaku
    Michio Kaku
    is an American theoretical physicist, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York of City University of New York, the co-founder of string field theory, and a "communicator" and "popularizer" of science...

     radio program
  • Science 80
    Science (magazine)
    Science was a general science magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science . It was intended to "bridge the distance between science and citizen", aimed at a technically literate audience who may not work professionally in the sciences...

    - Magazine (defunct)
  • Science Friday - US radio show on NPR
    NPR, formerly National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR was created in 1970, following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting...

  • Scientific American
    Scientific American
    Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

    - Magazine
  • Science News
    Science News
    Science News is an American bi-weekly magazine devoted to short articles about new scientific and technical developments, typically gleaned from recent scientific and technical journals. Science News has been published since 1922 by Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit organization...

    - Magazine
  • Seed
    Seed (magazine)
    Seed is an online science magazine published by Seed Media Group. The magazine looks at big ideas in science, important issues at the intersection of science and society, and the people driving global science culture...

    - Magazine
  • Smithsonian
    Smithsonian (magazine)
    Smithsonian is the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The first issue was published in 1970.-History:...

    - Magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution
    Smithsonian Institution
    The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

  • This Week in Science
    This Week in Science
    This Week in Science is a science radio talk show broadcasting from KDVS 90.3FM on the UC Davis campus. Each week, TWIS founder/host Kirsten Sanford and co-host Justin Jackson review current research in technology...

    - US radio show and podcast

See also

  • Kalinga Prize
    Kalinga Prize
    The Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is an award given by UNESCO for exceptional skill in presenting scientific ideas to lay people...

  • List of popular science books on evolution
  • Public awareness of science
    Public awareness of science
    Public awareness of science , also public understanding of science , is a term relating to the attitudes, behaviours, opinions and activities that comprise the relations between the general public or lay society as a whole to scientific knowledge and organisation.It is a comparatively new approach...

  • Science by press conference
    Science by press conference
    The term science by press conference is a phrase referring to scientists who put an unusual focus on publicizing results of research in the media. The term is usually used disparagingly...

  • Science outreach
    Science outreach
    Science outreach, also called Education and Public Outreach or simply Public outreach, is an umbrella term for a variety of activities by research institutes, universities, and institutions such as science museums, aimed at promoting public awareness of science and making informal contributions...

  • TED (conference)
    TED (conference)
    TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading"....

Further reading

  • McRae, Murdo William (editor). The Literature of Science: Perspectives on Popular Scientific Writing. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, 1993. ISBN 0-8203-1506-0
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