Science@Berkeley Lab Magazine banner Berkeley Lab logo
May 30, 2006
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Words into Print

Science shapes the future, usually without meaning to. Even when a scientist sets out to save energy or build a better light bulb (or both), finding out what is really true about the world is a stronger motivator than trying to change it.

Technology shapes the future on purpose. A deep irony — but one that has never deterred entrepreneurs — is that those notorious "unintended consequences" are so often farther reaching than the intended kind.

The internet has made information available to more people, more readily than ever before. Of many unintended consequences, one that bears watching is whether people will learn a different way of thinking to deal with the flood. That's because misinformation too is more readily available, whether it's somebody altering the biography of a politician he doesn't like on Wikipedia or just blogging mistakes as if they were facts.

Will a new generation of net surfers develop a nose for infogarbage by acquiring sharper, more instinctive critical thinking? Could be. Certainly words in print were never proof against mistakes and mischief, but it used to be hard to set things in type and print them. So there just wasn't as much bad (or good) information floating around.

Technology now makes printing easier too. You can do it yourself. And because there are advantages to having information in print form, we're offering condensed versions of articles that have appeared in past issues of Science@Berkeley Lab, edited to fit on two sides of a single sheet of paper and available as pdf files. To see the pdfs currently available, go here. And if you have an article you'd like us to condense and make available in this form, please let us know.

If you have questions and comments about any of the stories in this issue of Science@Berkeley Lab, drop us an email.

Paul Preuss, Editor, Science@Berkeley Lab