Looking for something scientific to sink your teeth into? Take a look at these award-winning tales, which touch on topics ranging from the inner workings of the world's smartest computer brain to ... the inner workings of your own brain:
The National Academies Communication Awards, announced today, recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine to the general public. Each winner receives a $20,000 prize, and they'll be honored during an Oct. 12 ceremony at the National Academy of Science building in Washington. I won the online award in 2008 and have served as a judge for the past two years. Check out this year's winners and finalists:
- Book: Daniel Kahneman for "Thinking Fast and Slow." A Nobel-winning psychologist looks at the two tracks that our mind can take to make decision — and why those tracks can sometimes tie us in knots.
- Film/Radio/TV: Paula Apsell, Michael Bicks and Julia Cort for "Smartest Machine on Earth," the "Nova" public-TV documentary about IBM's Watson computer and its quest to beat human champions on the "Jeopardy" TV quiz show.
- Magazine/Newspaper: Crocker Stephenson, Guy Boulton, Mark Johnson, John Schmid and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's staff for "Empty Cradles," a series that looks at why infant mortality is so high in the Milwaukee area.
- Online: Daniel Engber for "The Mouse Trap: How One Rodent Rules the Lab," a series written for Slate that focuses on the problem with relying exclusively on lab mice for medical research.
- Finalists: James Gleick for "The Information," Charles Mann for "1493," The New York Times' Dennis Overbye for the series "Life Out There" and the Los Angeles Times' Alan Zarembo for "Discovering Autism: Unraveling an Epidemic."
The Science in Society Journalism Awards are given by the National Association of Science Writers to recognize investigative or interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact on society. I won the online award in 2002 for a series on genetic genealogy. This year's prizes, including a $2,500 check for each winner, will be handed out on Oct. 27 at the ScienceWriters2012 meeting in Raleigh, N.C. Here are the winners:
- Book: Seth Mnookin for "The Panic Virus," which delves into the controversy over a research paper alleging that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. The paper, published in 1998, was subsequently discredited — but its claims have survived and proliferated as a "panic virus."
- Science Reporting: "Poisoned Places," by reporters from the Center for Public Integrity (Jim Morris, Chris Hamby, Ronnie Greene, Elizabeth Lucas, Emma Schwartz) and NPR (Elizabeth Shogren, Howard Berkes, Sandra Bartlett, John Poole, Robert Benincasa). The series covers how air pollution continues to harm communities 21 years after Congress called for curbing that pollution.
- Science Reporting for a Local or Regional Audience: "Perilous Passages," written by Emilene Ostlind, Mary Ellen Hannibal and Cally Carswell for High Country News. The series covers scientists' struggles to understand and protect the long-distance migrations of Western wildlife.
- Commentary or Opinion: "Ban Chimp Testing," by Scientific American's board of editors. The commentary argues that it is no longer scientifically productive or moral to continue invasive experiments on chimpanzees.
More tales that take the prize:
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.