21 August 2000 | The West Australian
By Carmelo Amalfi
A JAPANESE couple concerned by their son’s lack of interest in science called in to see the country’s top science communicator for help.
Rather than throw more maths at the boy, Hitoshi Takeuchi directed the couple to visit the arts department.
The honorary professor of geophysics at the University of Tokyo suggested they discover the hidden illustrator in their son so he could visualise, in graphic form, complex scientific concepts and ideas.
The Takamoris took the professor’s advice and after much encouragement by friends, the Newton concept was born in the early 1980s.
This month, Newton, the 128-page magazine landed in Australia, already boasting audiences in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and recently Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The new colour bi-monthly publication, the first “collector’s edition”, is chock-a-block with graphics and top photographs by Australian Geographic, which secured the rights to produce the magazine based on the Takamori vision.
The Australian version described itself as “taking the best from the Japanese version and adding wholly Australian content”.
Promoted as having no competition on Australian newsstands, apart from the CSIRO publication The Helix, it regarded itself as the closest offering to New Scientist magazine, “but poles apart in format”.
Newton editor and former Helix editor David Salt, former ABC TV Quantum and 21C magazine reporter Wilson da Silva , chief sub-editor Bob Guntrip, production editor Emma Dorreen and art director Mark Thacker formed its publishing executive.
What made it a brave publishing venture was its release at a time of high Internet access - particularly to science sites. For example, in 1997, NASA’s 25 Web sites received about 100 million “hits” the day after the Pathfinder landed on Mars.
Newton, which costs $12.95, covers a range of areas including anthropology, astronomy, palaeontology, medicine, engineering and physics. It revisits the Big Bang creation theory of the universe, quantum uncertainties and the possibility of multiple universes.
Its Australian content focuses on the southern hemisphere night sky, fossil digs and the human body. Many of the science concepts in Newton are not new but their representation in graphic form and brief “grabs” used to explain them are very useful and refreshing.
If the first edition is anything to go by, the Takamori desire to bring science to a wider audience, particularly young people, will have succeeded with flying colours.