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Popular science, sometimes called literature of science, is interpretation of science intended for a general audience. While 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 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 and the biological components of intelligence, stirred by popular books such as The Mismeasure of Man and The Bell Curve.
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, 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.
Some usual features[by whom?] of popular science productions include:
- 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
Notable English-language popularizers of science
In alphabetical order by last name:
- John Acorn, naturalist and broadcaster known as the "Nature Nut"
- Amir Aczel, author and mathematician
- Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and broadcaster
- Jim Al-Khalili, theoretical physicist, author and science communicator
- Michael Allaby, writes on science, ecology and weather
- Elise Andrew, British blogger, founder and maintainer of the Facebook page "I Fucking Love Science"
- Natalie Angier, science journalist and writer
- Isaac Asimov, biochemist, science fiction writer and author
- Peter Atkins, physical chemist and author
- David Attenborough, naturalist and broadcaster
- Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and author
- Johnny Ball, broadcaster and math popularizer
- John D. Barrow, mathematician, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist; author of numerous journal articles, and books for general readers
- David Bellamy, broadcaster, author, and botanist
- Bob Berman, astronomer
- Adrian Berry, science author and columnist
- Howard Bloom, author
- David Bodanis, author
- Liz Bonnin, biochemist and TV presenter
- Daniel J. Boorstin, author and Librarian of Congress
- Sir David Brewster, Scottish scientist
- John Brockman, specializing authorship in scientific literature
- Jacob Bronowski, mathematician, biologist, historian of science, author and pioneering science broadcaster
- Bill Bryson, author
- Rob Buckman, doctor of medicine, broadcaster, columnist, author
- James Burke, broadcaster, television producer, and author; best known for the science historian BBC TV series Connections
- Nigel Calder, broadcaster and journalist
- Fritjof Capra, physicist and author
- Sean Carroll, cosmologist, blogger, and author
- Rachel Carson, marine biologist, conservationist, author
- Marcus Chown, author and science journalist
- Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author, inventor, and futurist
- Brian Clegg, author
- Jack Cohen, reproductive biologist
- Heather Couper, astronomer, broadcaster and author
- Brian Cox, broadcaster, musician and physicist
- Francis Crick, molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist; joint discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule
- Paul Davies, physicist, author and broadcaster
- Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author
- Michael DeBakey, world-renowned cardiac surgeon, innovator, and author
- Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist and author
- Alexander Dewdney, mathematician, computer scientist and philosopher
- Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist, physiologist and geographer
- Robin Dunbar, anthropology; evolutionary psychology, culture and language; and specialist in primate behaviour
- Marcus Du Sautoy, author, broadcaster, Professor of Mathematics
- David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author
- Sir Arthur Eddington, astrophysicist
- Loren Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology and History of Science
- Peter Fairley, journalist and broadcaster
- Michael Faraday, scientist and lecturer
- Kenneth Feder, archaeologist, skeptic, lecturer, and author
- Timothy Ferris, science writer and best-selling author of twelve books
- Richard Feynman, physicist and author
- Brian J. Ford, biologist, lecturer and author
- George Gamow, physicist, cosmologist and author
- Martin Gardner, mathematician, author, skeptic & polymath extraordinaire
- Atul Gawande, surgeon and author
- Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and author
- James Gleick, author and journalist
- Ben Goldacre, medical doctor, psychiatrist and author
- Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and science historian; author of numerous essays, articles, and books
- Steve Grand, computer scientist and roboticist
- Brian Greene, physicist
- Susan Greenfield, brain physiologist, writer and broadcaster
- Richard Gregory, neuropsychologist, author and editor of several books
- John Gribbin, astronomer and author
- Heinz Haber, physicist and author
- Thomas Hager, author and science journalist
- J. B. S. Haldane, biologist and author
- Bas Haring, philosopher and author
- Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author
- Lucy Hawking, journalist and daughter of Stephen Hawking
- Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and author
- Don Herbert, a.k.a. Mr. Wizard, broadcaster
- Christopher Hitchens, author, journalist and essayist
- Roald Hoffmann, chemist
- Douglas Hofstadter, computer scientist, cognitive scientist and author
- Lancelot Hogben, experimental zoologist and medical statistician, with many popularising books on science, mathematics and language
- Julian Huxley, eminent scientist, author, and first Director of UNESCO
- Jamie Hyneman, special effects artist and TV personality (MythBusters)
- Jay Ingram, broadcaster and author (Daily Planet)
- Steve Irwin, wildlife expert and conservationist; TV personality of the worldwide-fame wildlife documentary TV series (The Crocodile Hunter)
- Ray Jayawardhana, astrophysicist and author
- Steven Johnson, author
- Steve Jones, evolutionary biologist and author
- Horace Freeland Judson, historian of molecular biology and author
- Olivia Judson, evolutionary biologist, broadcaster and author
- Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author
- Lawrence Krauss, physicist and author
- Robert Krulwich, broadcaster
- Karl Kruszelnicki, a.k.a. Dr Karl, broadcaster
- Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist
- John Lennox, mathematician and author
- Daniel Levitin, cognitive neuroscientist and author
- Roger Lewin, British anthropologist
- Richard Lewontin, evolutionary biologist, geneticist and author
- Chris Lintott, astrophysicist
- Bob McDonald, CBC journalist and host of Quirks and Quarks
- Alister McGrath, molecular biologist and author
- Lynn Margulis, evolutionary biologist and author
- Robert Matthews, physicist, mathematician, computer scientist, and distinguished science journalist
- Peter Medawar, biologist, called by Richard Dawkins "the wittiest of all scientific writers" and by New Scientist "perhaps the best science writer of his generation".
- Fulvio Melia, physicist, astrophysicist and author
- Julius Sumner Miller, physicist and broadcaster
- Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and humanist, authored by over 60 books
- Sir Patrick Moore, amateur astronomer and broadcaster
- Desmond Morris, zoologist, ethologist and author
- Philip Morrison, physicist, known for his numerous books & TV programs
- PZ Myers, professor and author of the science blog Pharyngula
- Yoshiro Nakamatsu, Japanese inventor
- Jayant Narlikar, cosmologist and author
- Steven Novella, skeptic and advocate of science-based medicine
- Bill Nye, broadcaster and mechanical engineer, known as the Science Guy
- Tor Nørretranders, author
- Robert Olby, author and historian of science
- Chad Orzel, physicist and author
- Linus Pauling, one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century
- John Allen Paulos, mathematician and author
- Fred Pearce, journalist at New Scientist
- Yakov I. Perelman, author
- Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and author
- Phil Plait, astronomer and skeptic who runs the Bad Astronomy website
- Martyn Poliakoff, British chemist, featured in the YouTube The Periodic Table of Videos series
- John Polkinghorne, physicist and author
- Robert Pollack, biologist and author
- Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini Imaging Team
- Roy Porter, prolific work on the history of medicine
- Christopher Potter, publisher, philosopher and author
- Magnus Pyke, food scientist, broadcaster and author
- V. S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist, cognitive scientist and author
- James Randi, stage magician, skeptic and author
- Mark Ridley, zoologist, evolutionary scientist and author
- Matt Ridley, zoologist, journalist and author
- Alice Roberts, anatomist, anthropologist, television presenter and author
- Steven Rose, biologist, neurobiologist, broadcaster and author
- Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author
- Carl Sagan, astrobiologist, astronomer, broadcaster and author
- Kirsten Sanford, neurophysiologist and broadcaster
- Adam Savage, special effects artist and TV personality (MythBusters)
- Seth Shostak, astronomer, broadcaster and author
- Simon Singh, physicist, mathematician and author
- Edwin Emery Slosson, chemist, journalist and editor
- Iain Stewart, geologist and broadcaster
- Ian Stewart, mathematician and author
- David Suzuki, broadcaster, geneticist and environmental activist
- Lewis Thomas, physician, poet, etymologist, and essayist
- Chriet Titulaer, Dutch astronomer, author and broadcaster
- Colin Tudge, biologist and author
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author
- Kevin Warwick, biomedical scientist, roboticist and author
- Michael White, musician and science writer
- Norbert Wiener, mathematician, author; the father of cybernetics
- Robert Winston, medical doctor, scientist, TV presenter and author
- Richard Wiseman, psychologist and author
- Stephen Wolfram, mathematics, theoretical physics, scientific computing
- Lewis Wolpert, developmental biologist, author and broadcaster
- Peter Wothers, chemist and author
- Carl Zimmer, science writer and author of the science blog The Loom
Some sources of popular science
- ABC Science – website owned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Are We Alone? – Seth Shostak science radio program
- Ask A Biologist – audio podcast program and website
- The Best American Science and Nature Writing – book series
- The Best American Science Writing – book series
- The Best Science Writing Online 2012 – Scientific American showcasing more than fifty online essays 
- BBC Focus – magazine
- BBC Horizon – TV series
- BBC Science & Nature – latest news in nature, science and technology
- BBC Sky at Night – a monthly magazine about astronomy aimed at amateur astronomers
- BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science – website of Arizona State University
- British Science Association – providing all ages learning about the sciences; advancing public understanding; thought-provoking its many implications
- CASW: Council for the Advancement of Science Writing – increasing public understanding of science
- CBS News – Science 60 Minutes: Health/Science Nature This Morning: HealthWatch Evening News: Health Sunday Morning: Nature
- Cosmos Magazine – Australian magazine
- Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – 1980 television series by Carl Sagan, with its companion book
- Daily Planet – Canadian television series
- Discover – magazine
- Discovery – BBC World Service radio programme and podcasts
- Discovery Channel – cable/satellite television channel
- Edge – online magazine exploring scientific and intellectual ideas
- Exploratorium – museum in San Francisco
- Frontiers of Science – comic strip
- Guru Magazine – digital 'science-lifestyle' magazine
- HowStuffWorks – website
- Inside Science – BBC Radio 4 news stories keeping the audience abreast of important breakthroughs in science
- Inside Science (AIP) – syndicating research news and related topics for general audiences through the press, the TV, and the web
- ITV Science News – videos, stories, and the latest live updates
- The Life Scientific – Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work (BBC Radio 4)
- Little Atoms – weekly chat show on Resonance104.4FM in London; also podcasts
- LiveScience – syndicating major news outlets with an online news-magazine format
- Material World (radio programme) – weekly science magazine on BBC Radio 4
- MITnews:science – Massachusetts Institute of Technology's recent news, featured stories, and videos
- MIT Technology Review – a magazine with authoritative journalism in clear simple language
- Mr Science Show – radio show and podcast from China Radio International
- MythBusters – American TV series that seeks to confirm or debunk science-related stories, urban legends, viral videos, etc.
- The Naked Scientists – audience-interactive radio talk show
- NASA – news, images, videos, TV, and interactive features from the unique perspective of America's space agency
- National Geographic Society – one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world
- Natural History – magazine of the American Museum of Natural History
- Natural History Museum (London) – "Nature online – explore the natural world"
- NBC News – Science Technology Health
- New Scientist – magazine
- Nova – television show on PBS; PBS Science & Nature and the Nova ScienceNow TV spinoff
- Nova: science in the news – Australian Academy of Science making accessible, and looking behind the headlines
- The Periodic Table of Videos – a series of YouTube videos featuring chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff
- PLOS: Public Library of Science – available to every scientist, physician, educator and citizens at home, in school, or in a library
- Plus – popular maths online magazine featuring the beauty and the practical; diverse topics such as art, medicine, cosmology, sport, puzzles & games
- Popular Science – magazine
- Popular Science (UK) – website on books and authors
- Pop Science Books – website listing new popular science books
- Popular Science Historic Film Series – short films
- Quirks & Quarks – Canadian radio show and podcast on CBC Radio; CBCnews Technology & Science
- Radiolab – listen, read, watch; imaginative use of radio and podcast making science accessible to broad audiences
- The Ri Channel – the Royal Institution, showcasing science videos from around the web
- Science – journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- ScienceBlogs – some of the best-known independent science bloggers within ten subject channels
- Science Fantastic – Michio Kaku radio program
- Science Friday – American radio show on NPR; NPR Science
- The Science Hour – BBC World Service radio programme weekly digest of Discovery, Click, Health Check and Science in Action and podcasts
- Science Illustrated – popular magazine with editions in other languages
- Science in Action (radio programme) – long-running weekly broadcast on BBC World Service
- Science Museum (London) – "Online Science"
- Science News – magazine
- Science Niblets – online magazine
- Science World (magazine) – especially educating children and covering many aspects
- Scientific American – magazine
- Seed – magazine
- Smithsonian – magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution
- Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman – documentary television series
- This Week in Science – American radio show and podcast
- VOA News – Voice of America's latest news in science and technology and VOA's Science World
- WIRED – WIRED Science WIRED Science article list WIRED Science Blogs WIRED UK Science
Science in the headlines
- Remember Newspaper Science Sections? They’re Almost All Gone Christopher Zara | International Business Times
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- CitizenSci – projects, people, and perspectives fueling new frontiers for citizen science
- Citizen science
- Murdz William McRae, "Introduction: Science in Culture" in The Literature of Science, pp. 1–3, 10–11
- Jeanne Fahnestock, "Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts" in The Literature of Science, pp. 17–36
- Dawkins, Richard (2008). The Oxford book of modern science writing. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-19-921680-0.
- Editorial (October 1987). "Peter Medawar (obituary)". New Scientist 116 (1581): 16.
- "Pharyngula". Scienceblogs.com. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- "The Loom". Blogs.discovermagazine.com. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- "ABC Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Best Science Writing Online 2012". Retrieved 2013-01-26.
- "BBC Science & Nature". Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "CASW". Retrieved 2013-01-04.
- "Science & Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "60 Minutes: Health & Science". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "60 Minutes: Nature". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "This Morning: HealthWatch". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "Evening News: Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "Sunday Morning: Nature". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "Discovery Radio Programme". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Discovery Podcasts". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Inside Science". Retrieved 2013-07-18.
- "Inside Science (AIP)". Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "ITV Science News". Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Life Scientific". Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "MITnews:science". Retrieved 2013-07-07.
- "Nature online"
- "NBC Science". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "NBC Technology". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "NBC Health". Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "PBS Science & Nature". Retrieved 2013-01-26.
- "Nova: science in the news". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "PopularScience.co.uk". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Pop Science Books". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "CBCnews Technology & Science". Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- "The Ri Channel". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Science Fantastic with Michio Kaku News/Audio/Video/About/Listen Live". Talk Radio Network. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "NPR Science". Retrieved 2013-01-18.
- "The Science Hour". Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "The Science Hour Podcasts". Retrieved 2013-08-06.
- "Online Science"
- "Science Niblets". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Science & Technology News – Latest in scientific breakthroughs and gadgets – VOA News". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "Science World". Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- "WIRED Science". Retrieved 2013-07-17.
- "WIRED Science article list". Retrieved 2013-07-17.
- "WIRED Science Blogs". Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- "WIRED UK Science". Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "CitizenSci". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- 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
- The dictionary definition of popular science at Wiktionary