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Popular science

Popular science

Popular science (also called pop-science or popsci) is an interpretation of science intended for a general audience. While science journalism focuses on recent scientific developments, popular science is more broad-ranging. It may be written by professional science journalists or by scientists themselves. It is presented in many forms, including books, film and television documentaries, magazine articles, and web pages.


Popular science is a bridge between scientific literature as a professional medium of scientific research, and the realms of popular political and cultural discourse. The goal of the genre is often to capture the methods and accuracy of science, while making the language more accessible. Many science-related controversies are discussed in popular science books and publications, such as the long-running debates over biological determinism and the biological components of intelligence, stirred by popular books such as The Mismeasure of Man and The Bell Curve.[1]

The purpose of scientific literature is to inform and persuade peers as to the validity of observations and conclusions and the forensic efficacy of methods. Popular science attempts to inform and convince scientific outsiders (sometimes along with scientists in other fields) of the significance of data and conclusions and to celebrate the results. Statements in scientific literature are often qualified and tentative, emphasizing that new observations and results are consistent with and similar to established knowledge wherein qualified scientists are assumed to recognize the relevance. By contrast, popular science emphasizes uniqueness and generality, taking a tone of factual authority absent from the scientific literature. Comparisons between original scientific reports, derivative science journalism and popular science typically reveal at least some level of distortion and oversimplification which can often be quite dramatic, even with politically neutral scientific topics.[2]

Popular science literature can be written by non-scientists who may have a limited understanding of the subject they are interpreting and it can be difficult for non-experts to identify misleading popular science, which may also blur the boundaries between real science and pseudoscience. However, sometimes non-scientists with a fair scientific background make better popular science writers because of their ability to put themselves in the layperson's place more easily.

Common threads

Some usual features of popular science productions include:

  • Entertainment value or personal relevance to the audience

  • Emphasis on uniqueness and radicalness

  • Exploring ideas overlooked by specialists or falling outside of established disciplines

  • Generalized, simplified science concepts

  • Presented for an audience with little or no science background, hence explaining general concepts more thoroughly

  • Synthesis of new ideas that cross multiple fields and offer new applications in other academic specialties

  • Use of metaphors and analogies to explain difficult or abstract scientific concepts

Notable English-language popularizers of science

In alphabetical order by last name:

  • John Acorn, naturalist and broadcaster known as the "Nature Nut"

  • Amir Aczel, Jewish author and mathematician

  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and broadcaster

  • Jim Al-Khalili, theoretical physicist, author and science communicator

  • Alan Alda, actor, who inspired The Center for Communicating Science

  • Michael Allaby, writes on science, ecology and weather

  • Elise Andrew, British blogger, founder and maintainer of the Facebook page "I Fucking Love Science"

  • Natalie Angier, science journalist and writer

  • Isaac Asimov, biochemist, science fiction writer and author

  • Peter Atkins, physical chemist and author

  • David Attenborough, naturalist and broadcaster

  • Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, & author

  • Johnny Ball, broadcaster and math popularizer

  • John D. Barrow, mathematician, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist; author of numerous journal articles, and books for general readers

  • Marcia Bartusiak, science journalist and author

  • David Bellamy, broadcaster, author, and botanist

  • Bob Berman, astronomer

  • Adrian Berry, science author and columnist

  • Tim Blais, physicist and YouTuber

  • Howard Bloom, author

  • David Bodanis, author

  • Liz Bonnin, biochemist and TV presenter

  • Daniel J. Boorstin, author and Librarian of Congress

  • Sir David Brewster, Scottish scientist

  • John Brockman, specializing authorship in scientific literature

  • Jacob Bronowski, mathematician, biologist, historian of science, author and pioneering science broadcaster

  • Michael Brooks, noted for explaining complex scientific research

  • Bill Bryson, author

  • Rob Buckman, doctor of medicine, broadcaster, columnist, author

  • James Burke, broadcaster, television producer, and author; best known for the science historian BBC TV series Connections

  • Nigel Calder, broadcaster and journalist

  • Dallas Campbell, Presented Bang Goes the Theory

  • Fritjof Capra, physicist and author

  • Eugene Thacker, philosopher and author

  • Sean Carroll, cosmologist, blogger, and author

  • Rachel Carson, marine biologist, conservationist, author

  • Manuel Castells, sociologist and writer

  • Marcus Chown, author and science journalist

  • Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author, inventor, and futurist

  • Brian Clegg, author

  • Jack Cohen, reproductive biologist

  • Heather Couper, astronomer, broadcaster and author

  • Brian Cox, broadcaster, musician and physicist

  • Michael Crichton, medical doctor, author, filmmaker

  • Francis Crick, molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist; joint discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule

  • Jon Culshaw, impressionist, also occasionally appears as a presenter on The Sky at Night

  • Antonio Damasio, neuroscientist and writer

  • Paul Davies, physicist, author and broadcaster

  • Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author

  • Michael DeBakey, world-renowned cardiac surgeon, innovator, and author

  • Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist and author

  • Alexander Dewdney, mathematician, computer scientist and philosopher

  • Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist, physiologist and geographer

  • Robin Dunbar, anthropology; evolutionary psychology, culture and language; and specialist in primate behaviour

  • Marcus Du Sautoy, author, broadcaster, Professor of Mathematics

  • David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author

  • Sir Arthur Eddington, astrophysicist

  • Gerald Edelman, from the immune system, analogously, to brain & mind

  • Loren Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology and History of Science

  • Peter Fairley, journalist and broadcaster

  • Michael Faraday, scientist and lecturer

  • Kenneth Feder, archaeologist, skeptic, lecturer, and author

  • Timothy Ferris, science writer and best-selling author of twelve books

  • Richard Feynman, physicist and author

  • Brian J. Ford, biologist, lecturer and author

  • Anna Frebel, astrophysicist and author

  • Morgan Freeman, actor and host for TV's Through the Wormhole

  • George Gamow, physicist, cosmologist and author

  • Martin Gardner, mathematician, author, skeptic & polymath extraordinaire

  • Atul Gawande, surgeon and author

  • Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and author

  • James Gleick, author and journalist

  • Marcelo Gleiser, physicist and astronomer

  • Ben Goldacre, medical doctor, psychiatrist and author

  • Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and science historian; author of numerous essays, articles, and books

  • Steve Grand, computer scientist and roboticist

  • Hank Green, entrepreneur, musician, and vlogger

  • John Green, author and vlogger

  • Brian Greene, physicist

  • Susan Greenfield, brain physiologist, writer and broadcaster

  • Richard Gregory, neuropsychologist, author and editor of several books

  • John Gribbin, astronomer and author

  • Heinz Haber, physicist and author

  • Thomas Hager, author and science journalist

  • J. B. S. Haldane, biologist and author

  • Jack Hanna, zoologist, broadcaster, author

  • Brady Haran, filmmaker

  • Yuval Noah Harari, historian, professor and writer

  • Bas Haring, philosopher and author

  • Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author

  • Lucy Hawking, journalist and daughter of Stephen Hawking

  • Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and author

  • Don Herbert, a.k.a. Mr. Wizard, broadcaster

  • Roald Hoffmann, chemist

  • Douglas Hofstadter, computer scientist, cognitive scientist and author

  • Lancelot Hogben, experimental zoologist and medical statistician, with many popularising books on science, mathematics and language

  • Sabine Hossenfelder, theoretical physicist who researches quantum gravity

  • Fred Hoyle, British astronomer

  • Julian Huxley, eminent scientist, author, and first Director of UNESCO

  • Jamie Hyneman, special effects artist and TV personality (MythBusters)

  • Jay Ingram, broadcaster and author (Daily Planet)

  • Steve Irwin, wildlife expert and conservationist; TV personality of the worldwide-fame wildlife documentary TV series (The Crocodile Hunter)

  • Hope Jahren, geochemist and author

  • Ray Jayawardhana, astrophysicist and author

  • Donald Carl Johanson, paleoanthropologist and author

  • Steven Johnson, author

  • Steve Jones, evolutionary biologist and author

  • Horace Freeland Judson, historian of molecular biology and author

  • Olivia Judson, evolutionary biologist, broadcaster and author

  • Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and author

  • Sam Kean, author

  • Marek Kukula, public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

  • Lawrence Krauss, physicist and author

  • Robert Krulwich, broadcaster

  • Karl Kruszelnicki, a.k.a. Dr Karl, broadcaster

  • Richard Leakey, Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist

  • John Lennox, mathematician and author

  • Edward M. Lerner, computer engineer and author

  • Daniel Levitin, cognitive neuroscientist and author

  • Roger Lewin, British anthropologist

  • Richard Lewontin, evolutionary biologist, geneticist and author

  • Chris Lintott, astrophysicist

  • Bob McDonald, CBC journalist and host of Quirks and Quarks

  • Alister McGrath, molecular biologist and author

  • Katie Mack, astrophysics professor who focuses on studying dark matter

  • Lynn Margulis, evolutionary biologist and author

  • Robert Matthews, physicist, mathematician, computer scientist, and distinguished science journalist

  • Danica McKellar, actress, author, mathematician

  • Terrence McKenna, ethnobotanist, lecturer, and author

  • Peter Medawar, biologist, called by Richard Dawkins "the wittiest of all scientific writers"[3] and by New Scientist "perhaps the best science writer of his generation".[4]

  • Fulvio Melia, physicist, astrophysicist and author

  • Ben Miller, English comedian and hosted shows such as It's Not Rocket Science (TV series)

  • Julius Sumner Miller, physicist and broadcaster

  • Mark Miodownik, materials scientist, engineer, broadcaster and writer

  • Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and humanist, authored by over 60 books

  • Sir Patrick Moore, amateur astronomer and broadcaster

  • Desmond Morris, zoologist, ethologist and author

  • Hamilton Morris, pharmacologist, broadcaster, and author

  • Philip Morrison, physicist, known for his numerous books & TV programs

  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, oncologist, biologist, author

  • Randall Munroe, writer of What if blog

  • PZ Myers, professor and author of the science blog Pharyngula[5]

  • Yoshiro Nakamatsu, Japanese inventor

  • Jayant Narlikar, cosmologist and author

  • Steven Novella, skeptic and advocate of science-based medicine

  • Eugene P. Northrop, research mathematician and math popularizer

  • Bill Nye, broadcaster and mechanical engineer, called the Science Guy

  • Tor Nørretranders, author

  • Sten Odenwald, astronomer, author, lecturer

  • Robert Olby, author and historian of science

  • Chad Orzel, physicist and author

  • Kasha Patel, comedian and science writer

  • Linus Pauling, one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century

  • John Allen Paulos, mathematician and author

  • Fred Pearce, journalist at New Scientist

  • Yakov I. Perelman, author

  • Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and author

  • Phil Plait, astronomer and skeptic who runs the Bad Astronomy website

  • Martyn Poliakoff, British chemist, featured in the YouTube The Periodic Table of Videos series

  • John Polkinghorne, physicist and author

  • Robert Pollack, biologist and author

  • Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini Imaging Team

  • Roy Porter, prolific work on the history of medicine

  • Christopher Potter, publisher, philosopher and author

  • Eduard Punset, politician, lawyer, economist, and science popularizer

  • Magnus Pyke, food scientist, broadcaster and author

  • V. S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist, cognitive scientist and author

  • James Randi, stage magician, skeptic and author

  • Lisa Randall, theoretical physicist and author

  • Mark Ridley, zoologist, evolutionary scientist and author

  • Matt Ridley, zoologist, journalist and author

  • Alice Roberts, anatomist, anthropologist, television presenter and author

  • Steven Rose, biologist, neurobiologist, broadcaster and author

  • Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author

  • Carl Sagan, astrobiologist, astronomer, broadcaster and author

  • Kirsten Sanford, neurophysiologist and broadcaster

  • Adam Savage, special effects artist and TV personality (MythBusters)

  • Walter Warwick Sawyer (or W. W. Sawyer), mathematician, mathematics educator and author

  • Eric Scerri, chemist, historian and philosopher of science, and author

  • Joseph A. Schwarcz, chemist, author, TV and radio host

  • Garrett P. Serviss, American astronomer and science fiction writer

  • Tali Sharot, cognitive neuroscientist and writer

  • Seth Shostak, astronomer, broadcaster and author

  • Neil Shubin, paleontologist, evolutionary biologist

  • George Gaylord Simpson, paleontologist, zoologist and author

  • Simon Singh, physicist, mathematician and author

  • Edwin Emery Slosson, chemist, journalist and editor

  • Laura J. Snyder, historian, philosopher, and author

  • Mary Somerville, polymath, mathematician, and author

  • Paul Stamets, mycologist and author

  • Michael Stevens, science-based YouTube content creator

  • Iain Stewart, geologist and broadcaster

  • Ian Stewart, mathematician and author

  • David Suzuki, broadcaster, geneticist and environmental activist

  • Lewis Thomas, physician, poet, etymologist, and essayist

  • Chriet Titulaer, Dutch astronomer, author and broadcaster

  • Colin Tudge, biologist and author

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author

  • Kenneth Walker (author), surgeon and author

  • Fred Watson, astrophysicist, musician and author

  • James D. Watson, molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist

  • Kevin Warwick, biomedical scientist, roboticist and author

  • Michael White, musician and science writer

  • Norbert Wiener, mathematician, author; the father of cybernetics

  • Simon Winchester, geologist and author

  • Robert Winston, medical doctor, scientist, TV presenter and author

  • Richard Wiseman, psychologist and author

  • Stephen Wolfram, mathematics, theoretical physics, scientific computing

  • Lewis Wolpert, developmental biologist, author and broadcaster

  • Peter Wothers, chemist and author

  • Andrea Wulf, author

  • Carl Zimmer, science writer and author of the science blog The Loom[6]

  • Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and behaviorial ecologist

  • ABC Science – website[7] owned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation

  • Are We Alone? – Seth Shostak science radio program

  • Ask A Biologist – audio podcast program and website

  • BBC Focus – magazine

  • BBC Horizon – TV series

  • BBC Science & Nature – latest news in nature[8] and science[9]

  • BBC Sky at Night – a monthly magazine about astronomy aimed at amateur astronomers

  • BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science – website of Arizona State University[10]

  • British Science Association – providing all ages learning about the sciences; advancing public understanding; thought-provoking its many implications

  • CASW: Council for the Advancement of Science Writing – increasing public understanding of science[11]

  • CBS News – Science[12] 60 Minutes: Health/Science[13] Nature[14] This Morning: HealthWatch[15] Evening News: Health[16] Sunday Morning: Nature[17]

  • Cosmos Magazine – Australian magazine

  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – 1980 television series by Carl Sagan, with its companion book

  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – 2014 television hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson based on the 1980 Carl Sagan series

  • Daily Planet – Canadian television series

  • Discover – magazine

  • DiscoveryBBC World Service radio programme[18] and podcasts[19]

  • Discovery Channel – cable/satellite television channel

  • Edge – online magazine exploring scientific and intellectual ideas

  • Exploratorium – museum in San Francisco

  • Frontiers of Science – comic strip

  • Guru Magazine – digital 'science-lifestyle' magazine

  • HowStuffWorks – website

  • Inside Science – BBC Radio 4 news stories keeping the audience abreast of important breakthroughs in science[20]

  • Inside Science (AIP) – syndicating research news and related topics for general audiences through the press, the TV, and the web[21]

  • Institute of Making – materials science and technology from many different perspectives

  • ITV Science News – videos, stories, and the latest live updates[22]

  • Knowing Neurons – website featuring neuroscience articles, infographics, artwork, and videos

  • Leading Edge – BBC Radio 4 series explores the world of science, people, passions & policies; final edition celebrating Darwin's 150th anniversary[23]

  • The Life Scientific – Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work (BBC Radio 4)[24]

  • Little Atoms – weekly chat show on Resonance104.4FM in London; also podcasts

  • LiveScience – syndicating major news outlets with an online news-magazine format

  • Material World (radio programme) – weekly science magazine on BBC Radio 4

  • MITnews:science – Massachusetts Institute of Technology's recent news, featured stories, and videos[25]

  • MIT Technology Review – a magazine with authoritative journalism in clear simple language

  • Mr Science Show – radio show and podcast from China Radio International

  • MythBusters – American TV series that seeks to confirm or debunk science-related stories, urban legends, viral videos, etc.

  • The Naked Scientists – audience-interactive radio talk show

  • NASA – news, images, videos, TV, and interactive features from the unique perspective of America's space agency

  • National Geographic Society – one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world

  • Natural History – magazine of the American Museum of Natural History

  • Natural History Museum (London) – "Nature online – explore the natural world"[26]

  • NBC News – Science[27] Technology[28] Health[29]

  • New Scientist – magazine

  • NHS choices – UK health "Behind the Headlines ¬ Your guide to the science that makes the news"[30]

  • Nova – television show on PBS; PBS Science & Nature[31] PBS NewsHour: Science[32] and the Nova ScienceNow TV spinoff

  • Nova: science in the news – Australian Academy of Science making accessible, and looking behind the headlines[33]

  • The Periodic Table of Videos – a series of YouTube videos featuring chemistry professor Martyn Poliakoff

  • PLOS: Public Library of Science – available to every scientist, physician, educator and citizens at home, in school, or in a library

  • Plus – popular maths online magazine featuring the beauty and the practical; diverse topics such as art, medicine, cosmology, sport, puzzles & games

  • Popular Mechanics - magazine

  • Popular Science – magazine

  • Popular Science Historic Film Series – short films

  • Quirks & Quarks – Canadian radio show and podcast on CBC Radio; CBCnews Technology & Science[34]

  • Quo – Spanish-language magazine

  • Radiolab – listen, read, watch; imaginative use of radio and podcast making science accessible to broad audiences

  • The Ri Channel – the Royal Institution, showcasing science videos from around the web[35]

  • Science – journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

  • Science (TV network) – cable/satellite television channel

  • ScienceBlogs – some of the best-known independent science bloggers within ten subject channels

  • science fantastic – Michio Kaku radio program[36]

  • Science Friday – American radio show on NPR; NPR Science[37]

  • The Science HourBBC World Service radio programme weekly digest of Discovery, Click, Health Check and Science in Action[38] and podcasts[39]

  • Science Illustrated – popular magazine with editions in other languages

  • Science in Action (radio programme) – long-running weekly broadcast on BBC World Service

  • Science Museum (London) – "Online Science"[40]

  • Science News – magazine

  • Science Niblets – online magazine[41]

  • Science World (magazine) – especially educating children and covering many aspects

  • Scientific American – magazine

  • Seed – magazine

  • Smithsonian – magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution

  • Startalk Radio - hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • Technologist – magazine and website published by the EuroTech Universities Alliance

  • This Week in Science – American radio show and podcast

  • Through the Wormhole – documentary television series with Morgan Freeman

  • VOA News – Voice of America's latest news in science and technology[42] and VOA's Science World[43]

  • WIRED – WIRED Science[44] WIRED Science Blogs[45] WIRED UK Science[46]

  • ZSL: Institute of Zoology (London) – "Latest News from Science"[47]

Science media

Science in the headlines

Science gateways

News online

News agencies


  • Remember Newspaper Science Sections? They’re Almost All Gone [151] Christopher Zara, International Business Times

Daily newspapers





See also

  • Citizen science

  • Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

  • Easiness effect

  • Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century

  • History of science

  • Kalinga Prize

  • List of notable online science encyclopedias

  • List of popular science books on evolution

  • List of science museums

  • National Association of Science Writers

  • Nature documentary

  • Nature writing

  • Popular history

  • Popular mechanics

  • Popular mathematics

  • Popular psychology

  • Public awareness of science

  • Science communication

  • Science & Entertainment Exchange

  • Science by press conference

  • Science outreach

  • Physics outreach

  • Sense About Science

  • TED (conference)


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