Putting a new spin on science

What do nuclear fusion, conger eels, a trip to Mars and how your nose might help lead you to the love of your life have in common…

What do nuclear fusion, conger eels, a trip to Mars and how your nose might help lead you to the love of your life have in common? All are featured in a science magazine that is being launched today. A new science magazine is hitting news stands, writes Dick Ahlstrom.

Science Spin, a quarterly, will offer a blend of news and features describing research discoveries from Ireland and abroad, says Tom Kennedy, one of its three editors. Kennedy has joined fellow science journalists Mary Sweetman and Sean Duke to plug a hole in the Republic's publishing scene.

The trio are also joint editors of Technology Ireland magazine, but this is their own venture and entirely different from Technology Ireland, says Kennedy. That magazine is strongly associated with engineering and technology; this one will deal only with scientific research.

"We have been putting it together for the past six to eight months," he says. "There was a very obvious gap there. The notion of doing something on science has been there for a while. There is no one platform for the Irish science community, and it was obvious somebody had to step into that gap."

Kennedy is quick to emphasise that the magazine will take a populist approach both to its content and the way it is written. It will be a magazine for the general reader, understandable to anyone.

"The idea of coming up with a very popular approach is very important. The idea is to get people to read it without realising they are reading science," Kennedy says.

"We want to produce something that people will enjoy reading, that isn't like a textbook or like homework," says Sweetman. It will provide a mix of hard science and life sciences, but all will be written in a very approachable way. Although it is aimed at adults, the magazine should also have potential in an educational context, she believes. "I think it would be useful for teachers, because it is hard for them to keep up [with scientific discoveries]."

The content is varied in the first edition and will remain so, says Duke. "We are trying to cover all aspects of science," he says. "We have a news section up front going right across the board. It is a popular science magazine, so we have a piece on how people are attracted to one another and how pheromones might have a role.

"It will also include the people behind the science. That can be interesting in its own right."

Backing for the venture is unusual in that it includes a mix of State bodies, the universities and private interests. Agencies such as the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland have backed it to help promote science, says Kennedy.

The three plan a 15,000-copy print run for the first edition, circulated by subscription and news-stand sales. Science Spin will cost €4.50 an issue or €16 a year.