Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Times' new magazine about science: Eureka

Early this morning I ran out in my pyjamas, flipflops and hoody to get a copy of Eureka, the new science supplement in The Times. I even picked up two copies of The Times by mistake, and paid for one, sorry Mr Newsagent Man.

I opened up the paper and the glossy, 60-page magazine fell out. “Eureka”, it said.

Eagerly, I devoured its contents, noting: Cute little boxouts filled with graphics of ladies shoes and dogs yawning; very many cool illustrations, such as the Chinese baby being held aloft, the sprouting aeroplane, and the scientific typewriter; and excellent photography of cotton bales and a cityscape. Apart from the look of the magazine, I noticed three things about it that will send me running off to the corner shop in a semi-appropriate state of dress each month. These are:

  1. It is full of wit and whim. The “Quantum of Cool” – haha. Can I feel sorry for Bono being held up as the epitome of uncool? I guess I can’t.
  2. Has some insightful, provocative features, such as Ben Webster’s “It’s no silver bullet” on biofuel aviation. In a sentence: Biofuel from algae and crops grown on “marginal land” could halve aeroplane CO2 emissions by 2050 but it has to be ethical and sustainable. Another goodie was racy story of “Forbidden Love” told by Anjana Ahuja about research funding. Also very good to see scientists getting coverage for their work in the roundup of 12 bleeding-edge solutions to the world’s troubles. Read Eureka content online here.
  3. It has useful stuff at the back. Stuff that people who think science is spiffing and fascinating will like. There are listings of lectures, blogs, book reviews and so much more to keep those from the mildly geeky to the incessantly curious at bay.

Methinks this is the ideal concoction of lightheartedness and substance to chew over for its target audience, who are “intelligently curious about the universe” says Antonia Senior, the editor of Eureka.

Why did The Times decide to launch Eureka today? Ms Senior says: “We thought it was is a really good time to have a platform where we could explore all the best and most exciting ideas in the world of science. It partly comes from our commitment for the environment. We think that all of the solutions to the world’s current climate crisis will be found by scientists. And we wanted and have space and the freedom to really explore how that could happen.”

Hannah Devlin, science reporter for The Times adds that: “Science isn’t just worthy, it sells.” She told me that James Harding, the editor of The Times, revealed at the World Conference of Science Journalists in July that the second biggest spike in sales other than Obama’s inaugeration, was the day that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was on the cover. It appears the public is more interested in Higgs Boson than previously imagined.

The Times is also proud of its science writers, and Eureka is a chance for them to shine. “We do have a lot of readers who are very enthusiastic followers of our science blog and big followers of people who write for us, like Mark Henderson, our brilliant science editor,” says Ms Senior. The blogsite for science has now been re-branded Eureka Zone.

The Eureka site will also begin to include more audio and visual content to enhance its overall offering. In fact, there's a little video showing what Eureka is about here.

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