‘Nautilus’ is an appropriate name for a publication its editorial director, John Steele, describes as “a New Yorker version of Scientific American”. Science journalism has evolved into something rapid and breathless, plundering scientific studies for provocative headlines, no matter how specious, rather than adopting the big-picture approach of free online magazine Nautilus (a lavish print quarterly is also published). Just like the mollusc for which it’s named, Nautilus can seem a living fossil.
Though, just as how the scientific conclusions can demand holding contradictory ideas simultaneously, Natutilus also represents a significant evolution of the form. Emphasising narrative and thoughtfulness, each month an issue is presented – ‘turbulence’, ‘mutation’, ‘symmetry’ – and weekly chapters fill the brief with some of the best science reporting out there. There’s also nothing fossilised about the design of the site, nor the amazing illustration littered throughout. Ultimately, however, it’s very much like its namesake – a beautiful oddity from which we stand to learn a great deal. Now we just need a Paris Review version of Muscle and Fitness and we’re all set.