I have been behind on my science reading since late last year. In part this has been due to other demands on my time. My Vacation in the Golden Age has crowded out most of my other reading, for instance, including keeping up with my science magazines. But over the weekend, I glanced at the stack of more than a dozen accumulated issues of New Scientist and Scientific American and decided that something had to be done about it. I knew there was no way I could read each issue cover-to-cover the way I used to. So what I did was this:
I went through the table of contents for each issue, and checked off one or two feature articles that caught my eye. I then paged quickly through the issue and looked for any short news or opinion items that I might be interested in and marked those off. I did this for each of the issues that had piled up. Then I turned back to the first issue in the pile and read only those items that I had checked off. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
At lunch today, I finished going through the April 2011 Scientific American and as of this moment, I am completely caught up.
I imagine this won’t last very long. I suspect I’ll get home to find the April 2 issue of New Scientist in my mailbox. I’m afraid that for the duration, I’ll have to continue using this technique to “keep up” because I have too many other commitments. To some extent, this is unfortunate. I am not necessarily interested in every article in every issue, but reading them cover to cover forces me to learn things that I might not otherwise learn–about medicine, or biochemistry for instance. In weeding out articles, I tend to weed these out first which gives me an unbalanced view of all of the physical sciences, but that’s just something I have to live with for a while.
As it turned out, there were several interesting articles that I did read and I was glad I did. For instance:
- In the March Scientific American, there was a good article on Mercury and MESSENGER called “Journey to the Innermost Planet“. It is particularly timely since my story in the June issue of Analog involves a human mission to Mercury.
- That same issue contained a fascinating article, “Putting Stonehenge in its Place” with an absolutely gorgeous 2-page aerial photo of Stonehenge, which I visited back in the summer of 2007.
- The March 5 New Scientist had an “instant expert” on mass extinctions that was very interesting; it also had an article on “Cosmic Showstoppers” which looked at the biggest, hottest, most distant, etc. things in the universe, in a manner that Isaac Asimov sometimes explored in his science essays.
- The March 12 New Scientist had an interesting article on dreams, “The I in dreaming” that my good friend Eric would do well to read. (Eric is our circle of friends resident Freudian.) There was also an interesting piece on the value of paranormal beliefs and how and why they may have evolved.
- Finally, the March 26 New Scientist had a fascinating article on how we might rebuilt our civilization from scratch if we could take the lessons learned the first time around.
I should mention that I subscribe to both these magazines and have access to their online content. If you click on the above links you may be limited by a pay-wall.