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‘Why Files’ finally in print after 13 years on the Web

April 21, 2009

A pioneering UW–Madison project that was among the first to deliver accurate, understandable and appealing science to the infant World Wide Web has finally found a home between the covers of a book. On Tuesday, April 28, Penguin will release “The Why Files: The Science Behind the News.”

Cover of book


Since 1996, The Why Files has published weekly articles related to the headlines, fulfilling its quest to explore the science behind the news. The Web site has won major awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Science Writers, and received critical acclaim from such entities as the Washington Post, Popular Science, Scientific American and U.S. News & World Report.

The book contains mostly new material, yet retains the style and focus of The Why Files, says author David J. Tenenbaum, Why Files staff writer. “We searched for the juiciest news from the world of science, and so we decided to examine why rotting food stinks, what happens when a trillion stars collide, and what we have learned about the first swimming dinosaur. I think the subtitle, ‘The not-for-nerds guide to human brains, animal sex, exploding bugs and galactic death rays,’ pretty much says it all.”

“Science might seem intimidating, but it ain’t necessarily so,” says co-author Terry Devitt, a co-founder and editor of The Why Files. “If you strip out the lingo, keep your sense of humor and present the facts plainly, science becomes comprehensible and fascinating. And it is important for people to know about it.”

Organized like a newspaper, “The Why Files: The Science Behind the News” includes 15 sections, on sports, business, style, and life and love. Articles cover the relationship between smarts and wealth, the role of good fat, the butt of a racehorse, and the different way that men and women respond to tearjerker movies.

Tags: books, milestones