NYU students are trying new ways to put science on your lap. The online magazine Scienceline’s motto is “the shortest distance between you and science.” Now, with the release of its brand new iPad app, that distance just got a lot shorter.
Graduate students at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute (full disclosure, I’m one of them) (Ed: Lena was a Spring 2011 intern) created the iPad app in their free time this past summer. The app displays 16 stories from Scienceline and is also packed with multimedia features designed especially for the iPad format, from slideshows to timelines to videos. The best part? It’s free to download from iTunes.
The students, all in NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), were led by writer and podcaster Rose Eveleth in selecting stories, developing special features, and designing the look and feel of the app. The goal was to create a digital, curated collection of their best science stories and take advantage of the visual, interactive nature of the iPad. They used a piece of software called Mag+, a plug-in to Adobe InDesign developed by Bonnier Corporation.
Scienceline first launched in the spring of 2006. Since then, each successive class of editors has put its own mark on the site, adding new features and elements to improve the content and engagement with users. Keeping with tradition, the Scienceline iPad app began as mere musings about new ways to explain scientific concepts and reach a broader audience. It seemed like a crazy idea; no one really knew how to code, and no one even had an iPad. But after learning about Mag+ from Mike Haney, former executive editor of Popular Science, the team realized an app was a real possibility.
“When I first started looking into coding an iPad app, I realized pretty quickly that we would be in way over our heads,” said Eveleth. “Mag+ made it a legitimate, if still kind of crazy, thing to try.”
The stories, plucked from the students’ work during their first year in the SHERP program, span topics from astronomy to zoology. There’s everything from the macabre techniques of taxidermy (and contests that display such handiwork) to technology that lets paralyzed patients manipulate the world (using only their minds). Most stories are also accompanied by multimedia bonus materials –- such as an infographic on the illegal animal ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, or a video explaining the biochemistry of beer.
“While many are content to churn out boring, recycled material, others are taking risks, experimenting with fresh approaches, and embracing new technologies, often in their own time,” said Ed Yong, a science writer who also blogs at Discover. “The SHERP students are clearly in the latter camp, and they’ll go far because of it.”