08 February 2016

On science writing

Tim Radford on Science Writing — an interview by Jo Marchant of fivebooks with longtime Guardian science editor Tim Radford — offers insights into what makes for good science writing. Not only is the interview uplifting in its own right, but it is full of uplifting quotes by inspiring science writers.

While the highest forms of science writing soar high above everyday technical journalism, writers and translators with even just a passing interest in science and technology can learn from great science writers such as these.

The books discussed in the interview are:
  1. Possible Worlds by J.B.S. Haldane
  2. Of a Fire on the Moon by Norman Mailer
  3. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
  4. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by CS Lewis
  5. The First 3 Minutes by Steven Weinberg
Tim Radford was science editor of the Guardian from 1980-2005 and four time winner of awards from the Association of British Science Writers. He is also the author of  The Address Book and Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution.

Quotable quotes:
Good writing is not that easy to define, but it’s stuff you want to read. That’s a tautological definition, but also the best definition that I know. If it’s stuff you want to read then it will be well written.
Science explains the world I’m living in and it doesn’t just explain it scientifically, it can explain it in literary terms as well.
Everything about science is hard except the words. ... People will occasionally condemn the use of metaphors in science, and my answer is, ‘Yes, but try and write without them’. You won’t get very far. What you’re doing is describing the world and you’re telling people things that they don’t even know they want to know.
About fivebooks:
We ask experts to recommend five books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.
We publish a new interview every Friday.
On this site we house an archive of almost one thousand interviews. Browse through our diverse archives, and use the comments to recommend your own favourite books.

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