Now that Time Inc. has sold Discover, its prize-winning popular science magazine, no major magazine or commercial television show started during the popular science "boom" of the last decade has succeeded. What happened? And, more important to science professionals, what's going to happen?

The Rise and Fall

Between 1977 and 1986 nearly 20 new magazines, 17 new television shows, and more than 60 newspaper sections devoted to popular science appeared. Several of these new ventures breached the wall between products aimed at specific audiences and those intended for mass consumption by a general audience whose members hold nothing in common but their supposed interest in "science."

Of these ventures, the most prominent were three magazines (Discover, Science Digest, and Science 80, later 81,82, etc.) whose finances depended on commercial advertising. Science was to be an economic commodity that could be sold in the same...

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