Newest Review: ... advertising, most of which has some kind of scientific base. If I have one criticism about BBC Focus magazine it's the cost. I really... more
Taking readers to infinity and beyond
Member Name: ladybracknell
Advantages: Well written, interesting scientific magazine
Disadvantages: The cost!
BBC Focus is a month glossy magazine which covers all aspects of science and nature not only on our own planet or even within our solar system but like Buzz Lightyear takes the reader to infinity and beyond. The magazine currently retails at £3.99 per issue although there is a 32% price reduction if readers take out a subscription.
The format for Focus is similar to most glossy monthlies, or at least it is now as it has recently undergone a bit of a style makeover. Like many other magazines, Focus begins with an editorial and contents page all neatly divided into sections: On the Cover, Discoveries, Features, Tech Hub, To Do List; all of which makes navigating the articles pretty easy in order to dip in and out. Personally, however, I tend to start at the beginning and work my way through, skimming over those articles which are way beyond the grasp of my feeble brain. There is the obligatory letters page and recently published scientific books, too, and as one would expect from a BBC publication, quite a bit about upcoming TV programmes including an interview with Dara O'Brien about his new science series.
There is such a diversity of subject matter within the natural world covered in this magazine that I doubt there are many people who wouldn't find something to engage their interest. As a schoolgirl going into physics and chemistry lessons was just like walking into a fog and I never fully grasped any of the concepts my teachers tried to impart. Reading this magazine, however, has shown me that physics and chemistry aren't exclusively for brainboxes and also that these subjects can be interesting and that they are very relevant to all our lives.
The November issue of the magazine covers many scientific disciplines such as excavating the remains of our prehistoric origins from the floor of the North Sea and revealing information of life before Britain was separated from the rest of the European landmass; the ultimate spy - not James Bond but in the shape of a supercomputer; and, even more sci-fi, the plans to mine asteroids as the world's natural resources run out.
Many of the articles in the magazine demonstrate over and over again just how interconnected the natural world is. For instance, the current issue includes an article about some current research being undertaken using sea squirts from the Great Barrier Reef. These sea squirts produce a molecule which can take on two different forms and scientists from Aberdeen University hope to be able to produce a molecule which will replace the silicon atoms currently used in transistors, research which should aid the building of smaller, faster computers.
It isn't only the feature articles which make this magazine so fascinating but also the little snippets of information dotted throughout as well as the stunning photography. In fact, the November issue surpasses itself with not only a beautiful photograph of a lake edge in Southern France showing deep red water and salt encrusted reeds, caused by the abundance of salt-loving organisms in the water, but also an absolutely stunning photograph showing the anus of a sea urchin and it's far more aesthetically pleasing than any human possesses, I can tell you!
Now I can't pretend to understand every single word in this magazine as there are some articles which go way over my head. These tend to be the ones dealing with big scientific theories such as high end biology (DNA and the like) and nuclear physics and even when explained in pure layman's terms, it's still a struggle for me. However, there is so much else which is more accessible and which makes this well worth reading.
I've already touched on the article about digging up our past from beneath the sea and I found reading about this particularly fascinating. It's hard to imagine that until as recently as about 8,000 years ago, our ancestors were hunting mammoths in the area we now know as the North Sea and which scientists are now calling Doggerland but diving teams have not only unearthed a complete mammoth skeleton but also the bones of early man and some obviously man made structures, all of which give us much more information about our past and the cataclysmic cause of our separation from other lands.
The article about mining asteroids is equally interesting and it's amazing to think that there are resources in our solar system worth billions of pounds just there for the taking, once we master the technology. In my time I've read science fiction which centred around mining in space but who knew it would ever be within the realms of possibility?
There's a pretty good balance between articles and advertising here with roughly only 10% of the magazine's 122 pages being devoted to advertising, most of which has some kind of scientific base.
If I have one criticism about BBC Focus magazine it's the cost. I really feel that £3.99 is far too much to expect anyone to pay for a monthly magazine. Although the articles are erudite and many written by leading scientists, I can't really see how the BBC can justify asking this price. The quality of paper is top grade but with the exception of some of the photographs, it could quite easily be printed on a lower grade paper without it being detrimental to the quality of the magazine as a whole.
All that being said, I can highly recommend this magazine. I feel it would appeal to anyone interested in the natural world, and it isn't just for adults either. I think if I can understand most of the concepts presented here, then any reasonably educated child should be able to as well. In fact, I think it would be positively beneficial reading for any student of science.
Summary: It covers the natural world, the solar system and beyond!