I like New Scientist headlines. I think it’s hard to take some science topics and make them catch the eye and make sense for all potential readers. It’s a tough job to do well. New Scientist has kept me in stitches with hilarious headlines over the years. Some I really dislike, such as the infamous “Darwin Was Wrong” headline. Others appear to be written by someone on acid. I’ve read about how flies unlock our understanding of slowing down or speeding up time itself, and the magazine has asked me to consider questions such as “does now exist”?
I mean, here’s an example:
It definitely works, because I stopped in my tracks while shopping and walked straight to the magazine when the headline caught my eye.
So, I’ve been coding some silly fun for Twitter such as Deckard the Robot and my GenomeTweet accounts. I got bored last night so I decided to create an automated New Scientist headline generator on Twitter. This isn’t an attack on New Scientist. I certainly do have a problem with occasional sensationalism, but I also love the wacky headlines that always make me smile. I don’t agree with many of their choices but I can’t fault their ability to choose eye-catching titles. Although the headline generator clearly has some creative input from me to make sure things run smoothly, the actual results for each tweet are a surprise and there are hundreds of thousands of combinations so I’m really enjoying seeing it run! Here are the first four tweets it created:
3D printing. What Einstein didn't know.— Not New Scientist (@NS_headlines) January 20, 2014
Stranger than fiction. Cancerous cells are caused by cancerous cells.— Not New Scientist (@NS_headlines) January 21, 2014
Subterranean mole rats and Darwin: The connection that could change the way we think about wormholes.— Not New Scientist (@NS_headlines) January 21, 2014
Tomorrow's technology today: Wearable 3D printers.— Not New Scientist (@NS_headlines) January 21, 2014
It’s only been running a few hours but already has 180+ followers at the time of writing (mostly scientists and science journalists). Clearly I’m not alone in enjoying New Scientist’s wacky headlines. Some thoughts on the new account:
Oh this is genius, and I wish it were me behind it RT @NS_headlines: Stranger than fiction. Cancerous cells are caused by cancerous cells.— Dr Adam Rutherford (@AdamRutherford) January 21, 2014
Just discovered @NS_headlines. Best satirical science coverage since I'm F*ing Ambivalent About Science: https://t.co/IVvbmkxQfW— Imran Khan (@imrankhan) January 21, 2014