Reviews For Scientific American Magazine

Terminally dumbed-down

Yes, I'm one of those who sadly dropped my subscription over a decade ago, when the magazine abandoned content written by scientists in favour of populist journalism written by staff.

Before that, I had been a faithful subscriber and enthusiastic reader since the early 1970s.

I now subscribe to American Scientist. I'm not a scientist, but I like my updates on science to be dinkum, as we say in Australia.

From science to cupcakes; sad decline of an institution

Witnessing the editorial deterioration of Scientific American over the years has been a sad disappointment. I began to read SA in my high school library nearly fifty years ago. From the 60's through the 80s' it was a serious and dignified journal with explanations by major scientists of their own work. The Amateur Scientist and Mathematical Recreations columns had many devotees. In these years many who chose careers in science credited SA as an inspiration. Apparently it was not considered cool or profitable enough by its publishers however; sometime in the 90's SA was taken over by a new crowd, the articles now written by journalists, and it became strongly politicized, with a shrill liberal agenda. They turned away from hard science and devoted more pages to psychology and social issues, often with a clear bias attached. Many of the columnists were no longer significant thinkers but just some cronies of the editor - borderline cranks whose monthly "thoughts" are not worth the paper. Steve Mirsky, the "humorist," is simply a waste of a page and Michael Shermer has nothing new to say. (Jeff Sachs however is an exception - he is a genuine leader in international development.)

There has also been an ongoing obsession with the evolution / creationist debate, not bringing any new scientific insights as a leading science magazine could and should have done, just elitist religion-bashing and constant ridicule of the "stupid" creationists. Embarrassing even to non-religious readers. Even the art direction is wacky, highly impressionistic (people with blue heads and swoopy arcs in outer space seem to be used for ALL subjects) and of no value for illustrating the content.

During most of this phase the editor was John Rennie, a mediocre mind who had no business leading such an important institution. He guided Scientific American down a soft path which dissipated fifty years of prestige. Very sad. Recently his understudy Mariette DiChristina has taken over. She also is a journalist rather than an intellectual leader with a personal grasp of the vastness of modern science. None of these people are PhDs. The advisory board of famous scientists seems to be only for show; I am surprised they allow their names to be used as the magazine slides downhill.

The bottom point so far has been the September, 2009 issue where the magazine's hack staff (not a panel of real scientists) took it upon themselves to choose the greatest "origins" in the history of the universe. Among their choices; Scotch tape, the vibrator (female sex toy), the paper clip, intermittent windshield wipers, and cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes. The venerable Scientific American, continuously published for 160 years, chose the paper clip and the cupcake as two of the most important innovations of all time. What a pack of idiots. This is what happens when Nobel Prize winners are replaced by Steve Mirsky.

It didn't have to be like that. Magazines like Smithsonian and National Geographic have maintained their identity and high editorial standards consistently, decade after decade, while SA has lost it. During a period where science itself has exploded on every front, Scientific American has been surpassed by many other sources in print and on the Web. HowStuffWorks attracts ten times the readership of the SA website, likewise Discovery. Popular Science has become much more sophisticated in recent years. Wired News is brilliant. PhysOrg is an excellent way to keep up across the sciences. The Web pages of Science and Nature highlight recent discoveries. Physical Review Focus interprets recent developments for students and non-experts, and does a very good job.

After forty years of subscribing, I will not renew. Others who may not be renewing include your local library or university - after being taken over recently by the Nature Group, the most aggressively profit hungry of the academic publishers, Scientific American announced they were raising their subscription price to libraries by a factor of 10X - as if they were a major archival research journal rather than a pop-science disposable like Psychology Today. Good strategy folks - piddling away the uniqueness of your franchise while arrogantly raising the price.

To socialize science

Throughout the sixties and seventies this magazine, this Scientific American, played a significant role in the development of budding critical thinkers. At the least it was a periodical that satisified thoughtful, logical thinkers. Thinkers that had been abandon by the dry, inaccurate textbooks provided by the bureaucratic, so-called educational boards that served no other function but to pander to their political interests. At most it served as a treatise of legitimate scientific thought. This once revered, lay, scientific journal that with some effort could be understood by those of us that were ignorant, but interested, has now debased itself into a gooey morass of popular political pap. If you remember it as an enjoyable, informative, periodical that for decades served the purpose of satisfying your thirst for lay scientific knowledge, it is no longer. It now serves the egos of the mediocre thinkers that believe their view of existance should be yours.

Sadly, once good, now a pawn of the liberal elite

I once loved this magazine - my subscription has run out - I will not renew. Pay close attention to the reviews here that note that SA now uses its power as a Science Authority to support a political ideology and now ignores the value of open debate on scientific issues. Truly a sad development - I hope SA wakes up and returns to its egalitarian roots - big interests and money is not the answer.

Magazine would taste as good as it reads.

Magazine is not technical, did not expect it to be.
It is just boring and uninteresting. I like science and
want to learn new things. This magazine seems to suck the life
out of anything interesting. Most articles at least
in the July issue seem to be left wing propaganda. Way too
much editorial commentary to promote a agenda. I
don't care about their politics.

Now Run By Left Wing Political Hacks

My family has had subscriptions to Scientific American for three generations.

I have old copies announcing the Wright brothers famous flights.

Sadly times have changed!

In the past 20 years this once great magazine has been turned into a political left wing activist rag.

Every single issue now has several articles about global warming just for starters.

If you are a left winger then this is the rag for you.

If you want to read about "Industry and Enterprise" and/or "Mechanical and other Improvements" forget it; this ain't that!

2/3's of this magazine is now devoted to political discourse.

If you want science then get a subscription to "Science News" or "Science" if you can afford it.

Don't waste your time or money on this propaganda until they scrap their editorial slant and go back to their roots.

I am sure their subscription numbers are sinking fast!