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The frothy formula of celebrities + products + buzz that informs general interest magazines hardly allows for discussion of real formulas, or any other scientific phenomenon. Save for the occasional charismatic cloned sheep, science magazine editors have to make do with stories that have far less appeal. But they’re a brainy bunch, and they’ve found ways to modify the standard formula to suit their own applications.

Recommended educational background Undergraduate degree in one or more of the hard sciences Graduate degree in one or more of the hard sciences or Mensa membership Glancing familiarity with the Sharper Image catalog At least two years of watching “Nova” on PBS and/or moderate-sized science-fiction collection Learning Annex “Certificate of Completion”
Weird Science “Split Electrons: Strange Creatures Born From a Storm” “Both a Bird and a Dinosaur” “Cars That Run on Air” “Ancient American Cannibals” “A Provocative Look at Taboos”
Celebrity angle “Meet El Niño’s Atlantic Cousin” “‘Scientific American Frontiers’—Hosted by Alan Alda” “More Secrets From Mars” “Beyond Hubble” “Dr. Laura Wants You to Stop Whining”
Most telling advertisement More than 40 pages of science-oriented help wanted ads. Must be willing to relocate to England. “Take the Cell Biology Set for only $5.95!” Ford Econoline centerfold “Think Different” ad from Apple Ad for a book called I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better
Einstein has left the building “If you cannot see, you may not be able to find your way out of a burning building—and that could be fatal.” “Although every discipline has its own jargon, the preference for simple language in some cases improves communication between doctor and patient.” “Full-size American-made family sedans once were the pride of the Motor City’s fleet. But the past decade has seen a mass defection toward smaller cars.” “When I watch a game with my sons, I can’t help but see that today’s NBA players are incomparably better than they were during my childhood 50 years ago.” “One intriguing implication of behavioral genetic research is that children…driv[e] their own development, through…the reactions they elicit, even the friends they pick.”

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