New Scientist is a UK-based weekly English-language international science magazine, founded in 1956. Since 1996 it has run a website.
Sold in retail outlets and on subscription, the magazine covers current developments, news, reviews and commentary on science and technology. It also prints speculative articles, ranging from the technical to the philosophical. There is a readers' letters section which discusses recent articles, and discussions also take place on the website.
Readers contribute observations on examples of pseudoscience to Feedback, and questions and answers on scientific and technical topics to Last Word; extracts from the latter have been compiled into several books.
New Scientist is based in London and publishes editions in the UK, the United States, and Australia.
The magazine was founded in 1956 by Tom Margerison, Max Raison and Nicholas Harrison as The New Scientist, with Issue 1 on 22 November, priced one shilling (£0.05 as 20 shillings in the £) (£1.13 today).
The British monthly science magazine Science Journal, published 1965–71, was merged with New Scientist to form New Scientist and Science Journal.
Originally, the cover had a text list of articles rather than a picture. Pages were numbered sequentially for an entire quarterly volume, as is the norm for academic journals (i.e., so that the first page of a March issue could be 651 instead of 1). Later issues numbered pages separately. Until the 1970s, colour was not used except for on the cover. From the beginning of 1961 "The" was dropped from the title. From 1965, the front cover was illustrated.
Since its first issue, New Scientist has written about the applications of science, through its coverage of technology. For example, the first issue included an article "Where next from Calder Hall?" on the future of nuclear power in the UK, a topic that it has covered throughout its history. In 1964 there was a regular "Science in British Industry" section with several items.
An article published on the magazine's 10th anniversary issues provides some anecdotes on the founding of the magazine.
In 1970, the company Albert E. Reed acquired New Scientist when it merged with IPC Magazines, retaining the magazine when it sold most of its consumer magazines in a management buyout to what is now IPC Media.
Throughout most of its history, New Scientist has published cartoons as light relief and comment on the news, with contributions from such long-time regular contributors as Mike Peyton and David Austin. The Grimbledon Down comic strip, by the renowned cartoonist Bill Tidy, appeared from 1970 to 1994.
Ariadne, which later moved to Nature, commented weekly on the lighter side of science and technology, with the plausible but impractical humorous inventions of (fictitious) inventor Daedalus, often developed by the (fictitious) DREADCO corporation.
In the first half of 2013, the international circulation of New Scientist averaged 125,172. While this was a 4.3% reduction on the previous year's figure, it was a much smaller reduction in circulation than many mainstream magazines of similar or greater circulation. For the 2014 UK circulation fell by 3.2% but stronger international sales, increased the circulation to 129,585. See also below.
Editors of New Scientist
- Percy Cudlipp 1956–62
- Nigel Calder 1962–66
- Donald Gould 1966–69
- Bernard Dixon 1969–79
- Michael Kenward 1979–90
- David Dickson 1990–92
- Alun Anderson 1992–2000
- Jeremy Webb 2000–08
- Roger Highfield 2008–11
- Sumit Paul-Choudhury 2011–present
New Scientist currently contains the following sections: Leader, News, Technology, Opinion (interviews, point-of-view articles and letters), Features (including cover article), CultureLab (book and event reviews), Feedback (humour), The Last Word (questions and answers) and Jobs & Careers. A Tom Gauld cartoon appears on the Letters page.
There are 51 issues a year; the Christmas and New Year double issue covers two weeks. The double issue in 2014 was the 3,000th edition of the magazine.
Staff and contributors
The New Scientist website carries blogs, reports and news articles; users with free-of-charge registration have limited access to new content and can receive emailed New Scientist newsletters. Subscribers to the print edition have full access to all articles and the archive of past content that has so far been digitised.
Online readership takes various forms. Overall global views of an online database of over 100,000 articles are 8.0m by 3.6m unique users according to Adobe Reports & Analytics, as of September 2014. On social media there are 1.47m+ Twitter followers, 2.3m+ Facebook likes and 365,000+ Google+ followers as of January 2015.
New Scientist has published books derived from its content, many of which are selected questions and answers from the Last Word section of the magazine and website -
- 1998. The Last Word. ISBN 978-0-19-286199-3
- 2000. The Last Word 2. ISBN 978-0-19-286204-4
- 2005. Does Anything Eat Wasps?. ISBN 978-1-86197-973-5
- 2006. Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?. (selections from the first two books) ISBN 978-1861978769
- 2007. How to Fossilise Your Hamster. ISBN 978-1-84668-044-1
- 2008. Do Polar Bears Get Lonely?. ISBN 978-1-84668-130-1
- 2009. How to Make a Tornado: The strange and wonderful things that happen when scientists break free. ISBN 9781846682872
- 2010. Why Can't Elephants Jump?. ISBN 978-1-84668-398-5
- 2011. Why Are Orangutans Orange?: science questions In picture. ISBN 978-1-84668-507-1
- 2012. Will We Ever Speak Dolphin?. ISBN 978-1-78125-026-6
- 2014. Question Everything. ISBN 978-1781251645
Other books published by New Scientist include -
- The Anti Zoo - 50 freaks of nature you won't see on TV (e-book based on the website's Zoologger column)
- Nothing: Surprising insights everywhere from zero to oblivion. (compilation of articles previously published in the magazine) ISBN 978-1615192052
- New Scientist: The Collection (series of e-books on specific scientific topics)
- VOL1 - The Big Questions; The Unknown Universe; Guide to a Better You; The Human Story
- VOL2 - Our Planet; Being Human; Medical Frontiers; The Human Brain; 15 Ideas you Need to Understand
- VOL3 - Discovering Space
In 2012 Arc, "a new digital quarterly from the makers of New Scientist, exploring the future through the world of science fiction" and fact was launched. In the same year the magazine launched a dating service, NewScientistConnect, operated by The Dating Lab.
A Dutch edition of the New Scientist was launched in June 2015, replacing the former Natuurwetenschap & Techniek (NWT) magazine. The monthly magazine is published by Veen Media and sold in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Greg Egan's criticism of the EmDrive article
In September 2006, New Scientist was criticised by science fiction writer Greg Egan, who wrote that "a sensationalist bent and a lack of basic knowledge by its writers" was making the magazine's coverage sufficiently unreliable "to constitute a real threat to the public understanding of science". In particular, Egan found himself "gobsmacked by the level of scientific illiteracy" in the magazine's coverage of Roger Shawyer's "electromagnetic drive", where New Scientist allowed the publication of "meaningless double-talk" designed to bypass a fatal objection to Shawyer's proposed space drive, namely that it violates the law of conservation of momentum. Egan urged others to write to New Scientist and pressure the magazine to raise its standards, instead of "squandering the opportunity that the magazine's circulation and prestige provides".
The editor of New Scientist, then Jeremy Webb, replied defending the article, saying that it is "an ideas magazine—that means writing about hypotheses as well as theories".
"Darwin was wrong" cover
In January 2009, New Scientist ran a cover with the title "Darwin was wrong". The actual story stated that specific details of Darwin's evolution theory had been shown incorrectly, mainly the shape of phylogenetic trees of interrelated species, which should be represented as a web instead of a tree. Some evolutionary biologists who actively oppose the intelligent design movement thought the cover was both sensationalist and damaging to the scientific community. Jerry Coyne, author of the book Why Evolution Is True, called for a boycott of the magazine, which was supported by evolutionary biologists Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers.