The Best Place to Get Your Daily Science Fix
Great science—along with videos of cat antics and the latest entertainment gossip—is all over the web. We asked professors around campus and an alumna who works at Des Moines’ Science Center of Iowa where they go to get their daily science fix. The answers from this crew of experts offers a list of online destinations you won’t find in a typical Google search.
Carrie Dunham-LaGree, librarian for digital literacy & general education, assistant professor of librarianship
I subscribe to The Week on my iPod, follow them on Facebook, and receive their morning newsletter: 10 Things You Need to Know Today. Their science news coverage—and all their news coverage—is filled with links to external sources and presents the sometimes complicated or confusing information in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s my go-to source for talking points on most topics in the news, including science.
Like The Week, The New York Times’ Science page pulls together stories from a variety of web resources, but it also includes annotations from the science writers at the newspaper. It’s another hub for quality information made easy to understand.
Matthew Mitchell, assistant professor of international business and strategy
As a recovering physics/math major, I usually turn to Reddit for my science fix. They have an interesting community of voters who tend to “upvote” science/tech related stories—right up there with cats and bearded dragons. Be sure to check out Reddit’s science page and technology page.
Billed as the “world’s largest show and tell,” Instructables was created by one of my best friends and her husband, a robotics Ph.D. from MIT. The site and the users have a fun do-it-yourself vibe.
Elsewhere on the Web, I recently found two particularly interesting stories. One was about the first “mechanical gear” found in a living creature. The second explored the correlation between drinking milk during pregnancy and the height of children. I found this especially interesting as my wife is pregnant and I’m short.
Eric Manly, assistant professor of computer science
The top source I get my daily science fix from is the xkcd comic strip. It’s tremendously funny and well produced, despite its apparent simplicity (e.g., stick-figure characters). It often relies on weighty topics in science, math, and computer science for its jokes. I often motivate concepts in class with these comic strips because the students respect it as a cultural force within computer science, and because they need to understand the material in order to be in on the joke. The site contains a related blog called What If that takes a humorous approach to seriously answering weird hypothetical science questions.
I also like John D. Cook’s fact-of-the-day Twitter accounts. He curates accounts for several areas within computer science and math, as well as one for general science.
Emilee Richardson, JO’09, marketing and communications coordinator, Science Center of Iowa
Science-heavy Twitter accounts representing prominent publications and organizations—@PopSci, @SmithsonianMag, @NatGeo, @nytimesscience, @NASA—share in-depth and breaking news that even less scientifically inclined people find interesting.
Science writers have found a place on Twitter as well. While nobody has quite mastered the 140 character scientific paper, it’s worth following @BadAstronomer (aka Phil Plait) and @elakdawalla (aka Emily Lakdawalla). Both focus on the universe beyond Earth.
Pramod Mahajan, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences
NPR is the first thing I listen to when I wake up, and they usually present a balanced view of the topic at hand—often one connected to science. It is easy to access stories online and share their links with family, friends, and, of course, students and colleagues.
TED Talks are the place to learn about wild, exciting, fresh ideas that were once trashed by the established, experienced, knowledgeable, powerful, elite. These ideas have succeeded beyond expectations in changing the world. The talks enjoy a certain status with the younger generation and are considered “cool.” I once told my children, “I heard it on a TED talk.” They immediately started listening to what I had to say.