When I was a child my favorite magazine was Popular Science. I seem to remember reading it as early as about 1972 or 1973, when I was 10 or 11 years old. I started subscribing in 1975, and kept my subscription for a number of years.
It always inspired me, as it gave me the feeling that science was advancing and that technology would save mankind. By the year 2000 we would have fusion power and our worries about running out of fossil fuels would be gone!
But as I grew older, I realized that a great deal of material in magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics are glorified press releases for start-up companies. They offer glossy press packages to magazines to promote their developing business. If you go back and critically examine popular science and technology magazines from years ago, you will find that many of the products or technologies never panned out.
As I got older, and was exposed to a wider range of information and ideas, I began to see criticism of the quality of mainstream science reporting. Indeed, a great deal of reportage of scientific issues is bad, and often the educated or critical reader must wade through a number of news accounts before getting to a substantive and accurate report.
So it’s particularly disturbing to see when a magazine like Popular Science makes an egregious and fundamental scientific blunder, like this:
There is no dark side of the moon! As seen from the earth there is certainly a far side of the moon, but it’s not dark when it faces the sun! For a better explanation of this popular misconception take a look at Phil Plait’s excellent Bad Astronomy site or this one, which offers another good explanation.