Frontiers of Science: Science journalism at its best?

I published a feature in the Sydney Morning Herald today about a comic strip that appeared in newspapers all over the world for about 20 years from 1961. It was called Frontiers of Science and although it was a comic, it was seriously good science journalism. It’s currently being scanned up and displayed on the University of Sydney’s library website.

5 days a week, for over 900 weeks, the comic explained important and complex scientific ideas to an enormous audience. Peter Harowell, one of the people I spoke to about the comic, said that it represented a “high point” for science communication in the mainstream press. Why don’t we see this kind of serious (but entertaining) science communication today?Panel2

One episode gives a wonderful explanation of Special Relativity while others explain angular momentum, propositional logic and the workings of electron microscopes. There are also countless episodes which are quite funny by today’s standards. Some episodes propose quite unusual theories about the origins of life, the future of computer technology and the destiny of the human race.

Its a shame that you don’t see discussions of such abstract or esoteric topics in the mainstream press today – that we don’t see more “succour for nerds”. I’m not sure what the cause is. Is it because the public doesn’t have the same fascination with pure science? Or is it that the people hired by the mainstream papers don’t have the skills to present it?