Science magazines for layperson
November 2, 2020 8:29 PM   Subscribe

What are the best science magazines written for the layperson? Ideally, these feature articles that are well-written and high quality. Ideally articles put new ideas/discoveries/findings in appropriate context in the field and discuss the degree of validity / extrapolation appropriate, and are written by science-focused journalists. I'm fine with some sensationalism (to provoke interesting thoughts!), but would like it strongly tempered with appropriate skepticism and adherence (duh) to the scientific method.

I used to read Scientific American, Seed Magazine like 10+ years ago, but would love whatever is currently "good." US-based. Would prefer print, but am fine with digital. OK with paying for content. I am generally looking for "written" formats (as I'm trying to read more), but if you have an excellent YouTube channel or comic series, sure, feel free to recommend that.
posted by ellerhodes to Science & Nature (16 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: New Scientist is exactly what you are looking for. Not US-based, but in English and offers US subscriptions.
posted by gryphonlover at 8:49 PM on November 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify "US based", this means that I would like to be able to subscribe as someone who reads English and is based in the US. Am totally fine with publications managed outside of the US or focused on regions/countries outside of the US.
posted by ellerhodes at 8:58 PM on November 2, 2020

Best answer: I enjoy Quanta Magazine which is available online.
posted by azalea_chant at 9:25 PM on November 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

I like Scientific American, too, but I haven't read it in some years.
posted by NotLost at 9:37 PM on November 2, 2020

Best answer: doesn't just have articles about physics, but a wide range of scientific topics. I don't it very useful. is also an excellent source of general advice articles. It's my other go-to science source.
posted by happyroach at 10:07 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Quanta. I subscribe to their e-newsletters, so mostly experience it as a slow drip of excellent science reportage rather than a magazine per se.
posted by mumkin at 10:20 PM on November 2, 2020

Best answer: anecdata: i recall hearing quite a bit of snark about new scientist regarding lack of rigor and common science-journo mistakes. I'm not qualified to say, just fwiw.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:14 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've recently been following the twitter of Plants People Planet (from New Phytologist). Open-Access. Very very interdisc. probably not all plant-focused and very artfully graphical, I'm very happy with what I've seen so far; medicinal floras, garden art - it's a step away from cold science.

New Scientist is as pop science approach (and often fails to credit images - grrr), although I prefer it to Scientific American's militant aetheism, which I suppose is necessary in a divided society but less so outside.

I used to read Geographical Magazine - UK, it was certainly very good back in the day, IDK about now. Seems to have retained its global outlook.
posted by unearthed at 12:30 AM on November 3, 2020

ScienceNews used to be good. Maybe it still is - it's been a while since I subscribed to it.
posted by metadave at 4:31 AM on November 3, 2020

Best answer: I like Science News, and think it's still good. It's a little biweekly magazine that is mostly small news items, from a few paragraphs to a few pages, usually just one or two longer features per issue.

You can check out part of each issue for free, and if you subscribe you get access to their archive of almost 100 years. Also it's nonprofit, which matters and it shows. It's among the highest level of "lay" science reporting still out there imo.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:33 AM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The news side of Science (the journal) has reporting geared at a non speciality and a podcast, both of which are good. Some of the coverage is more general news through a science lens, but there's substantial coverage of new findings as well.

Some of the best coverage of science for a lay audience right now though is being done by dedicated science reporters at publications with a broader focus. Carl Zimmer at the NYT, Maggie Koerth at 538, the science desk at Buzzfeed, and Ed Yong at the Atlantic are all phenomenal, and pre-COVID were routinely covering a diverse beat of weird and cool scientific discoveries.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:36 AM on November 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

A bit askew from what you're looking for, but I highly recommend back issues of the now defunct The Sciences magazine, 1961-2001. Articles on a wide range of science fields and topics, accessible to the layperson, accompanied by insightful and thought-provoking artwork. (The archives seem to display issues with all the same placeholder image, which is a shame.) In fact it would be interesting to choose a few future-facing articles and compare to where we are today in those fields. You need to be a member of NYAS to access the archive, but membership also gets you an annual subscription to either Nature or Scientific American, also recommended up-thread. I grew up on SA and tended to like The Sciences better because went deeper on topics in a more narrative way rather than a more technical way.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:55 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nautilus is perfect for this purpose! Sapiens is digital-only, but great for anthropology features. STAT is medicine-focused and more or a news site, but they do have longer/more in-depth features.
posted by quatsch at 6:47 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: American Scientist is the nearest thing I have seen to the Scientific American of old --- much less sensational and more in depth than the recent Scientific American and most other popular science magazines. For a long time they had a regular column by computer scientist Brian Hayes, that reminded me of the old Martin Gardner column on mathematical games. Despite all that, I have seen it on supermarket magazine racks.
posted by JonJacky at 1:29 PM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The web magazine Science Daily does what you want.
posted by conrad53 at 1:31 PM on November 3, 2020

Enthusiastic second for American Scientist. (I used to pick it up at my local bookstore, which has of course stopped happened thanks to Covid.)
posted by mark k at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2020

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