I like New Scientist headlines. I think it’s hard to take some science topics and make them catch the eye and make sense for all potential readers. It’s a tough job to do well. New Scientist have kept me in stitches with hilarious headlines over the years. Some I really dislike, such as the infamous “Darwin Was Wrong” headline. Others appear to be written by someone on acid. I’ve read about how flies unlock our understanding of slowing down or speeding up time itself, and the magazine has asked me to consider questions such as “does now exist”?
I mean, here’s an example:
It definitely works, because I stopped in my tracks while shopping and walked straight to the magazine when the headline caught my eye.
So, I’ve been getting better at coding thanks to various projects such as Deckard the Robot and my GenomeTweet acounts (HIV and E.coli are complete, yeast, fly and nematode are still running). I got bored last night so I decided to create an automated New Scientist headline generator on Twitter. This isn’t an attack on New Scientist. I certainly do have a problem with some of their sensationalism, but I love the wacky headlines that always make me smile. I don’t agree with many of their choices but I can’t fault their ability to choose eye-catching titles. Although the headline generator clearly has some creative input from me to make sure things run smoothly, the actual results for each tweet are a surprise and there are hundreds of thousands of combinations so I’m really enjoying seeing it run! Here are the first four tweets it created:
It’s only been running a few hours but already has 180+ followers at the time of writing (mostly scientists and science journalists). Clearly I’m not alone in enjoying New Scientist’s wacky headlines. Some thoughts on the new account:
Of course, it hasn’t escaped the notice of the lovely people at New Scientist. Fortunately they’ve taken it the right way.