Nerds Need Love, Too

Let it never be said that science magazines don’t have a streak of romance, starting with New Scientist, a long-lived, respected science news and opinion publication with a sense of humor, roots in the UK and branches both down the street here and in San Francisco. I really like it, subscribe, and read when I get the time — though usually from an RSS feed. Which is why I missed the new launch of their online dating service a couple of weeks ago, just noticing now a funky little module on their homepage that looks like this:

Uh, say what?

It’s not quite as though Science or Nature, those two end-all-be-alls of research publishing started posting personal ads, but it’s not all that far removed either. Kind of like if National Geographic, Popular Science or Scientific American suddenly offered to start matchmaking. Kind of random, you know. A little … uh, unusual.

A quick search indicates that, at least on Twitter, the Internet had roughly a similar reaction:

@Lizzie_Jarvis:”Ummmm… The NewScientist has launched a dating site. Am I the only person who finds that a little strange?

@scareduck: “New Scientist now offers personal ads. No, I am not

@hilarysutcliffe “New Scientist launches a dating website!!! Is it April 1st?”

But, believe it or not, this has actually been in the works for a long time, and it’s definitely not the first time the publication has ever dabbled in matchmaking. They’ve got at least one marriage in their track record already after running a “lonely hearts” section in a 2006 Science of Love issue — to which 158 readers sent in “would like to meet entries.” (By the way, if you are interested, here’s the goods on your average New Scientist reader, pulled from their advertising kit.) As online publisher John MacFarlane wrote to me in an email:

“Our readers love science and they love sharing that passion with their friends and family. Sometimes finding people who are excited about science can be difficult. If you are [a] Sox fan you can visit Fenway and join up with thousands of people who share your interest. If you are into science it’s sometimes not so easy…”

(True words indeed, Mr. MacFarlane, as anyone who’s found themselves still in the lab well after midnight on a Friday night, waiting for their tissue samples to incubate, will attest.)

“… Over 2 million people visit our website every month, and we are always looking for ways in which we can build up the community aspect of our site. The dating site is an extension of that effort. We’re hoping that it will help our readers meet up with like minded people and perhaps result in a rise in their levels of oxytocin — a hormone linked to love and attraction.

Add to that the fact that online dating is by now a billion dollar industry and apparently bigger than porn, and this has the makings of a win-win situation. Plus, unlike the multiple other nerdellic dating sites around, successful couples will be able to immediately knock the New Scientist subscription bill in half, guaranteed. And a penny save is … well, a penny saved, and in this economy, that’s just good sense.