Does our latest issue look fat? If so, that’s a good thing

Nancy ShuteSubscribers to Science News may note that this special double issue is a lot heftier than the usual magazine, boasting more than 20 pages of advertisements. That’s up from 13 pages in last spring’s expanded issue.

Indeed, our ace marketing department sold so many ads that we had to include more articles, which, as anyone in print publishing will tell you, is a very nice problem to have. Thus, you’ll see not our usual two enterprise features, but three.

We have astronomy writer Lisa Grossman’s beguiling look at how to cook up an exoplanet. Since no one knows the exact recipes for planets outside our solar system, scientists are making educated guesses on exoplanet composition and literally cooking up samples in the lab.

Behavioral sciences writer Bruce Bower tells the tale of an archaeologist who, thanks to high school summer jobs working construction for his dad, was able to reverse engineer a pendulum saw, build it in his dad’s backyard and use it to slice stone. This MacGyver-esque effort was undertaken to buttress the scientist’s contention that ancient Mycenaeans used similar contraptions to build majestic Bronze Age palaces.

And if you were a critter, what armaments would increase your odds of surviving conflict with other members of your species? That’s the question life sciences writer Susan Milius asks, and the answer may surprise you. Giant stag antlers may look dangerous, but they’re used largely to intimidate, not for lethal attack. If you must defend your turf and survive to mate, Milius notes, you might want to have the diminutive jaws of the female fig wasp. She annihilates potential competitors by pinching off their heads.

These stories dig deep into how scientists do their work and what the scientific process reveals, and I’m delighted that many of the top young scientific minds in the world will receive this special issue at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, ISEF, being held May 13 to 18 in Pittsburgh. It’s the world’s largest precollege science competition and is a flagship program of Society for Science & the Public, the nonprofit organization that publishes Science News. Intel ISEF draws 1,800 competitors from almost 80 countries, more than 1,000 volunteer judges and thousands of other students, volunteers and members of the public — about 10,000 people all told.

If you’re encountering Science News for the first time at Intel ISEF, welcome! It’s great to have you join us in exploring what’s new, essential or just plain cool. You’re joining our print subscribers, as well as students and teachers at more than 4,300 high schools who stay up to speed on innovations and advances with Science News.

This publication has been a force for independent, accurate science journalism for almost 100 years. We believe in the power of science to transform lives and advance civilization. Our mission is to empower people to critically evaluate the news and the world around them.

We also think that science can be a heck of a lot of fun, whether it involves animal armaments or cooking up a planet.

Nancy Shute is editor in chief of Science News Media Group. Previously, she was an editor at NPR and US News & World Report, and a contributor to National Geographic and Scientific American. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.

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