Wednesday 5 August 2009

Exposure To Science In Magazines

Just under two weeks ago, I posted about a quiz testing the science knowledge of the average American, with results broken down by demographic. I noted that the only questions where women scored more highly than men were the life/health science stories, and we got a nice bit of discussion going as to why this might be. KJHaxton hit the nail on the head:
I wonder if it is to do with they types of media each gender is exposed to - women's magazines may be more likely to carry health information, programs (esp in the US) pitched at men focus on more physical things.
So I was tickled to see an example of this in action today.

Fellow palaeo-blogger and far-too-occasional drinking buddy Dave Hone is having a busy week, partly caused by this article. I've only just asked Dave for a PDF (and he might not even have a copy himself yet!), but here's the gist. Adult dinosaur bones are not commonly found with predator tooth marks, nor are adult bone fragments found in the stomach contents of predatory dinosaurs. Add in a distinct lack of juveniles preserved in the fossil record (along with the caveat that a fair bit of this may be attributed to taphonomic bias) and observations of extant predators tending to go for juvenile prey as an easier target than a sick or elderly adult and certainly easier than a healthy adult, and one can hypothesise that adult theropods were preying on predominantly juveniles.

Dave's got a comprehensive post on the paper on his blog, and he says himself it's almost as long as the paper, so I recommend going over and having a good read. But this is the bit that tickled me: it got picked up by GQ Magazine!

I don't know how many countries GQ has reached, but (originally short for Gentlemen's Quarterly) it is at the higher end of the spectrum of men's glossy magazines. It has the articles that all you boys say you read Playboy for. It has fairly intellectual (for a glossy) journalism, and a low tits quotient. The article itself is pretty good - there is no mention of the word "boffin", they've spelled "palaeontologist" correctly, remembered to capitalise the genus name of the dinosaurs concerned, and pretty much explained the journal article for non-scientists. This may be the very first time the word Lethaia has featured on any men's magazine website, but let's hope it's not the last.

Here's the kicker though - there is no way, if I go to the Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan or Glamour websites, that I would see this article or anything like it. I searched for the word "dinosaur" on each website, and all I got was a designer's fashion show where he/she had been "inspired" by One Million Years BC.


It really does seem as though women are only allowed to be interested in science that directly affects them as wives and mothers and consumers of expensive cosmetics. It's okay to inform men about cool science that (sorry Dave) won't have any impact on their daily lives, because men like cool stuff. Maybe dinosaurs would make it into the women's glossies if they were suddenly found to have been bright pink.

Your thoughts, oh loyal readership?

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