If I had to pick one magazine that defines the cultural zeitgeist, it would be Seed. I read it with the same curiousity that I read Wired magazine when it first hit the newsstands in the early '90s. In the Seed Salon, there is a conversation between author Alan Lightman ("Einstein's Dreams") and choreographer Richard Colton, who adapted "Einstein's Dreams" into a dance. Colton says: "Science is about very abstract things--subatomic particles and wavelengths of light--which we can't see. I think of the things that art provides scientists with is language, the metaphors, and the images to describe what scientists are so desperately trying to understand." That also seems to be the undertaking of the editors at SEED.
The front of the book humorously introduces organisms who are members of the "Radical Sex Club," which is not about a new kind of swinging, but species whose males and females look radically different. For example, the paper nautilus: "The female, who floats around the ocean in a beautiful pure-white shell, was first described as having worms under her mantle. The worms were soon identified as males. The [male] paper nautilus, it became apparent fires off his penis, which then begins a life of its own inside the female."
There is also an except from His Holiness the Dalai Lama's new book, "The Universe in a Single Atom" (Morgan Road Books), which argues that a blending of neuroscience and Buddhism may bring us to a better understanding of human consciousness, and there is convenient tear-out crib sheet that explains the goals, science, and controversies around stem cell research. There are features on the controversies surrounding intelligent design and science in China. There is an interview with DJ Matthew Herbert, whose new album "Plat Du Jour" blends the sounds of food and cooking as a way to comment on the evils of the global food industry. There is a photo essay in which the photographs illustrate mathematical concepts: Quantum chromo dynamics, which says the strong coupling parameter between two quarks depends on the flavors present--the particles must maintain some distance between them in order to retain their strong attractions. The complementary photo is of two lovers embracing in a park.
The best parts of the magazine are the random tidbits scattered throughout in neat little boxes. One tells me that you shouldn't (or should) drink from the Aqueducts in Rome because nine pounds of cocaine have been found to flow through the Po River on a daily basis, and then there is the reason why "tigers don't like frosted flakes": "Scientists spotted a mutation in the gene for tasting sweets that appears to be present in felines. The mutant gene lacks several hundred genetic bases that normally help code for a protein animals need to taste sugar and other sweet substances." In the meta and the minutia, SEED is a great read.