Amateur Science Makes a Comeback

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In the not so distant past, it seemed that hobby science had gone the way of the dodo bird. Surveying back issues of Popular Science, Mark Frauenfelder, the editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and co-founder of Boing Boing, noticed that stories about basement adventures with test tubes and hot plates disappeared sometime in the 1960s, replaced by tales of big money experimentation–“the kind that costs billions of dollars and requires an army of PhDs to oversee.”

Then along came the internet, that fertile ground the next generation of amateur scientists are springing from, according to Frauenfelder. In a post for Good magazine’s blog, he writes:

The Internet inspires and speeds along amateur scientific research by making it possible to share reports, videos, blueprints, data, and discussions. Interestingly, amateur scientists are using the Internet exactly as the architects of the Internet years ago envisioned it 40 years ago–as a scientific research facilitator, replacing snail mail, print versions of peer review papers, and conferences. It’s brought far flung researchers together in a shared space where communication is instant and ideas flow fast.

The proof for Frauenfelder lies in the surging popularity of MAKE’sannual DIY fair, which he attributes to “the resurgence of experimentation spurred on by Internet communication.”

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