A message from the Big Bad: before you slink off into the darkness, make sure you delve into Lateral's new sidekick, our podcast Collateral.
Callous, conniving, misunderstood: it's not easy being a villain, or at least perceived as one. Scientists are often maligned as villains in science fiction for creating a deadly disease or a being that terrorises our fair world. But is it fair to blame a scientist for their creation?
Objectivity is upheld as a central tenet of science, and it's a helpful pillar to hide behind. But is simply doing science without thinking about the potential consequences a source of villainy in itself?
Science doesn't exist in a vaccum (unless you're working on some cool physics, probably in space) and I'd argue that an unwillingness to fathom the disastrous potential of your research is a hidden evil. Scientists have to take agency for what they work on, and it should be matter-of-course that every experiment has an attached component to ensure the broader context is always kept in the conversation. While this might be the case in the biological sciences, where ethics boards are required for most types of research, physical scientists aren't so well equipped.
But enough from me.
As you'll learn in our latest edition, scientists have a complicated relationship with villainy. This month, our writers have been plotting to seduce you with tales about how bad policy affects science, the destructive power of solar flares, Stalin-era science prisons, turning our bacterial enemies into allies, and the problem with painting mental illness as an evil quality.
That’s not all that’s on offer. We are extremely proud to present you with the first episode of our new podcast, Collateral. Our podcast team, led by Ellice Mol, have been beavering feverishly away to design, create and record Collateral's sound.
We’re pretty pleased with the result.
We’ve talked about having a regular Lateral podcast since the early dawn of the magazine. Now, a grant from the University of Melbourne has made Collateral possible. We’ve been lucky to welcome three producers to the Lateral team, each with their own areas of expertise.
From now on, every issue of Lateral will be accompanied by an episode of Collateral. Each episode will expand and enhance on the issue’s theme, with regular segments like Unpopular Culture and That Sinking Feeling, and audio stories produced by contributors and polished by our team.
This issue, our trio of producers are sinking their fangs (delicately) into the case for antiheroes, the knaves behind the Soviet Union's atomic bomb project, an interview with our magazine’s cover artist, Will Tempest, and much more.