That’s the tagline I saw on the cover for the revamped Popular Science making its debut with the January 2006 issue. It went to press last week and it’ll be on stands in about a month.
The mag has gotten a top-to-bottom makeover and I got a glimpse of it when I stopped in at the editorial offices a little more than a week ago. The design is streamlined, simplified, and very easy on the eyes without being slick. I think that’s quite an accomplishment in this era when a lot of publishing seems to be about design for its own sake at the expense of the content.
I’ll have two stories in that issue, one about a rocket powered bicycle built by Orion Propulsion’s Tim Pickens, and another about the launch of suborbital tourism by Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane Ltd.
Those of you who paid special attention to my blog posts about the latter two companies are probably wondering whether what I wrote in print bears any relation to what I said here. Well, you’ll just have to buy the issue to find out!
During my visit to PopSci I had a good discussion with my main editor about how the magazine decides what to cover. It’s a simple as that new tagline that will go under the name “Popular Science.” If it looks like it really does represent the future, in it goes. If not, well, no need to belabor the point; it just isn’t included in the magazine.
Looking at my ever-growing stack of back issues (my latest eBay purchase is the May 1876 issue), I can see that Popular Science has consistently covered the most important technology stories of the day and quite a few that became big only in later years. There are surprisingly few stories about completely mad schemes (they all have at least some relation to reality), and none ripping into ideas the editors and writers felt just had to fail.
In short the magazine takes to heart the adage “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s always been an optimistic look at the future, leaving pessimists of all stripes to other venues.
It’s a great legacy, and I’m going to do my best to live up to it.