June 17, 2008

Pigeonholing Stories on Birds, Bubbles, Bugs

By Siegfried, Tom

One of the enduring strengths of Science News is its scope. Its pages are open to all fields of science and their subspecialties, to all the realms of human inquiry into the natural (and artificial) world, whether physical, biological or social. Of course, carving all that up into meaningful categories for labeling magazine pages isn't simple. The old 19th century disciplinary divisions don't really work so well in the current interdisciplinary era. So our pages use a flexible system of general purpose topic names to organize the news by areas of interest.

Biology fans, for instance, will want to watch for pages labeled Life and perhaps Environment. For chemistry, keep an eye out for Molecules. Hard-core devotees of condensed matter physics will gravitate toward Matter & Energy. If you're into gravity, cosmology, astronomy and particle physics, watch for Atom & Cosmos. Social sciences of all sorts, along with archaeology and anthropology, show up under Humans. And the frontiers of medicine, neuroscience and molecular genetics appear under Body & Brain or Cells & Genes. And don't forget all the new science that has to do with the Earth, cleverly disguised by the label Earth.

For those of you who prefer more traditional categories, the Science News website, www.sciencenews.org, can still be searched for topics like botany and zoology, psychology and paleontology. News from such traditional fields can be found in the subtopic available by clicking on a main topic label at the top of the home page. Physics stories, for example, can be accessed under both Atom & Cosmos and Matter & Energy. You'll find botany, zoology and ecology under Life.

Even with such a flexible system, some stories defy easy listing. This issue's features provide some excellent examples. From the frontiers of human eating habits, we present Janet Raloff's report on entomophagy, which merges entomology, nutrition and food science into a tasty intellectual feast. From beyond the frontiers of the universe, we offer freelancer Diana Steele's account of "bubble universes" that may smash into the one that humans call home - blurring the boundary between cosmology and science fiction. And from cosmic distances we revert to the nanoscale, where light and matter interact to generate the beauty of iridescence in birds and other beasts, mixing physics and geometry with biology.

Naturally, the fun of combining so many sciences in each feature outweighs the trouble posed in deciding on a category. Besides, we don't put category labels on features.

-Tom Siegfried, Editor in Chief

Copyright Science Service, Incorporated Jun 7, 2008

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