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What is a popular science article?

We explain what is an article of scientific dissemination and its main characteristics. Also, how is its structure and an example.

  1. What is a popular science article?

Scientific dissemination article or simply dissemination article is understood as  a brief writing and directed to a general , non-specialized public, whose purpose is to inform and make the understanding of the masses a series of scientific concepts and knowledge .

It is not, therefore, an academic or technical publication, but quite the opposite: a text written in simple terms and accessible to the average reader , which does not require too much prior knowledge or higher education to understand it or at least get an idea of theme.

The latter implies a friendly writing and an effort to explain the subject in simple terms, with metaphors , comparisons and without taking any previous specialized knowledge for granted.

In that way, the writing of the articles of scientific dissemination usually falls into the hands of either scientists endowed with knowledge and with the passion and possibilities of transmitting it to the general public, or specialized journalists who are able to synthesize and “translate” the case.

These types of articles, available today especially on the Web , fulfill the role of promoting general knowledge and instructing the interested masses, encouraging interest in scientific advances and in the world of organized knowledge.

Often, however, they can be great transmitters of misunderstandings, misinterpretations or pseudoscientific theories, when they are not in the hands of the appropriate editor.

  1. Characteristics of a popular science article

Article of scientific dissemination
An outreach article must be written in a simple language, free of technicalities.

An article of scientific dissemination must be written in a simple language , free of technicalities (or in any case explaining them if they are unavoidable), and must be guided by a simple , linear logic , which goes from the most general of the introduction to the most specific to the topic developed, allowing the reader a continuous advance.

In general, visibility is given to data that is especially relevant, important or key to the article, whether in vignettes, illustrations or text boxes . In the same way, the content is usually divided into titled, differentiated lines that allow the reader to know what is being talked about at all times and from what perspective.

  1. Structure of a popular science article

Articles of scientific dissemination are usually thought of from a simple structure, not always in this same specific order:

  • Introduction . In this section, the reader should be offered all the initial information in order to address the issue, since starting at once with the data and information could discourage him. An introduction is a gradual approach to the subject, usually going from the most general to the most specific.
  • Background . A review of who developed the topic and what were the problems of the scientific field in question, so that the reader can understand how important the new advancement or the newly developed theory is.
  • Exposure . The count of the new information, with its explanations, graphs and support that make the reading something more interesting, at the same time that it is informed and complete.
  • Conclusions . A closure that rounds the article and retakes, perhaps, some of the topics offered in the introduction or the background, so that the reader can get a general impression of what he has just read.
  • References . An addition of bibliographic references or Web pages in which the reader who has been interested can continue on their own informing themselves of the subject, or can check where the information they just read came from.
  1. Example of a popular science article

THE LONG WAY TO MARS

What some years ago looked like fantasy, as is the possibility of living on another planet, today is offered as a reality far away. The stories of the American writer Ray Bradbury about the colonization of the planet Mars, or the studies that the German scientist Otto Von Braun left on a possible trip to the red planet, seem to have inspired the scientists of Space X, the company founded by the entrepreneur and Space enthusiast Elon Musk in 2002.

In order to make trips to space commercially profitable, Musk and his Space X have developed a series of astronautic projects that went through buying old rockets to Russia to develop their own, in search of developing the necessary technology so that they can take off and land standing.

Lowering costs

This, which might seem eccentric, is key in the eventual colonization of Mars, since the rockets must be able to be reused if the objective is to come and go from there at a constant rate. You cannot lose billions of dollars in material with each release. And apparently Space X has some achievements in the matter, given that its reusable Falcon 9 model is the cheapest on the market, with a cost of just $ 56.6 million per launch into low Earth orbit.

To this must be added the cost of fuel, of the implements to establish a colony there and, of course, keep the crew alive during the 39 days of the journey, assuming that it can fly at about 58,000 kmph (the speed of the New Horizons probe from NASA, the fastest of all).

A near dream

All of this may, however, be closer than thought. “I would like to die on Mars,” Elon Musk told reporters, “but not on landing.” We will have to wait a few years to see if he will really achieve his dream.

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