I like to keep track of popular science web sites and which articles collect the most traffic, which are most popular, and which are shared on social networks.
I couldn’t help but notice that on LiveScience.com, the Popular Posts widget shows five stories, and none of them are based on hard science. Their top stories are often related to sex or the paranormal. As of November 14th, 2011, the top articles were, in order:
1: 11/11/11 How Friday is tied to the Mayan Apocalypse
2: Sex With Animals Linked to Penile Cancer
3: Asian Ancestors Had Sex With Mysterious Human Cousins
4: Lair of Ancient ‘Kraken’ Sea Monster Possibly Uncovered
5: Do Einstein’s Laws Prove Ghosts Exist?
Now, to be fair, the content of these articles are ultimately based on hard science. The titles are chosen to provide link bait for users – so I don’t fault the creators of the site. In fact, LiveScience.com is one of the sites I will occasionally use as a reference for content. What I am surprised at, is how popular the paranormal and sex are, even on a science-based website.
Which begs the question: are people looking to find the truth (science-based evidence), or are they looking to further support their own beliefs?
Update, October 2012: It seems things haven’t changed… Now, the top 5 articles ALL have to do with sex: