Adding drama and controversy to scientific articles for the public

  • #1
HankDorsett
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Adding drama and controversy to scientific reporting and written articles for the public is not new new to me. For over 20 years I've seen it in the global warming/climate change discussion. What is new to me is a high level of drama in controversy added to a couple of subjects that are normally not discussed in the public realm. I've come across a few articles regarding a couple of recent studies, an update to the rate of Hubble's Constant and a star of that could be older then 14 billion years, that seemed to be more concerned about the drama and controversy than the scientific information. A couple statements I've come crossed. Science is in a panic. Recent studies suggest our understanding is wrong. And so on.

Although I've only recently came across this on a couple of subjects, I'm wondering how common it actually is.
 
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  • #2
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I've come across a few articles regarding a couple of recent studies..
Do share, might help all of us understand better what you mean.

I have seen some sensationalism being promoted in pop science, but I've never really cared.
 
  • #4
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Taken from the article you mentioned.
Analysis of the star showed that it contained very little iron content, which would suggest that it formed during a period when the iron element was not abundant in the Universe.
As I understand, a star undergoes fusion which constantly turns more basic elements such as hydrogen into heavier ones like helium , eventually carbon and at some point iron, which causes the star to collapse due to the increase in gravity.

So, I would predict the age of a star could be determined by its composition, if it can be observed somehow.

If the star contains little to no iron, that would indicate the star is 'young' (in cosmic scale), no?

tl;dr Such articles are not convincing hence they need not be taken seriously.
 
  • #5
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Although I've only recently came across this on a couple of subjects, I'm wondering how common it actually is.
Clickbait is very common these days.
Just ignore it and look up the original source if you are interested (or forced to clarify the issue).
 
  • #6
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Another problem is actual scientists might be mis-represented in such articles. A form of appealing to authority.
In layman's terms: "hey it's that scientist guy, he must be right" (although he likely never even said whatever they claimed he said)
 
  • #7
PeroK
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Adding drama and controversy to scientific reporting and written articles for the public is not new new to me. For over 20 years I've seen it in the global warming/climate change discussion. What is new to me is a high level of drama in controversy added to a couple of subjects that are normally not discussed in the public realm. I've come across a few articles regarding a couple of recent studies, an update to the rate of Hubble's Constant and a star of that could be older then 14 billion years, that seemed to be more concerned about the drama and controversy than the scientific information. A couple statements I've come crossed. Science is in a panic. Recent studies suggest our understanding is wrong. And so on.

Although I've only recently came across this on a couple of subjects, I'm wondering how common it actually is.
It's called journalism.
 
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  • #8
russ_watters
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It's called journalism.
Agreed. I don't think the in-practice definition of journalism is what people think it is or what journalists may idealistically describe it as. Certainly in the past 100 years and probably forever.
 
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  • #9
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"Ooh, let's add some excitement by offering a contrarian view !!"
Done right, you get lively 'Compare & Contrast'.
Done wrong, which is far too common, 'Good Science' is left bleeding out on the cutting room floor...
snark:
Besides, a 'settled argument' is exactly that, while pundits at loggerheads may run & run unto features and syndication...
/
--
Tangential: For some years, my then-employer ran a series of 'human interest' articles in our monthly news-letter.

As I'd a well-known interest in Astronomy, had just been on a 'Northern Lights' flight with Patrick Moore and got a superb 'selfie' in local news-paper, I was 'voluntold' to interview for a feature.

( This was in the lonnnng gap between van de Kamp and 'Hot Jupiters', so my fascination with our Solar Neighbourhood was a tad esoteric. And, really, to allow me to better write 'Hard-ish Sci-Fi'...)

Took three angrily red-lined 'final drafts', then my ranting with fury, before the in-house journalist very, very reluctantly corrected my reported interest in Astrology...
"But they're the same, aren't they ? Stars and stuff ??"
Nyaaaaargh !!
 
  • #10
mjc123
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As I understand, a star undergoes fusion which constantly turns more basic elements such as hydrogen into heavier ones like helium , eventually carbon and at some point iron, which causes the star to collapse due to the increase in gravity.

So, I would predict the age of a star could be determined by its composition, if it can be observed somehow.

If the star contains little to no iron, that would indicate the star is 'young' (in cosmic scale), no?
As I understand, ordinary stars don't form iron. They stop around oxygen, I think. Heavier elements like iron are formed in supernova explosions. If a star contains iron, the iron must have been present in the gas cloud from which it condensed, as the result of earlier supernova explosions. As the universe gets older and more supernovae explode, there are more heavy elements present in gas clouds and the next generation of stars. A star with very little iron would have been formed early in the universe's lifetime, so would be old, not young.
 
  • #11
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mjc 123

Stars the size of our own star do not make iron cores. Iron cores absorb energy rather than produce energy and are the cause of core collapse prior to supernovas. Our star will not explode.

Much larger stars will form iron cores and explode. Elements heavier than iron are produced in the excess energy available from the explosion, but iron is there first.
Metals visible from the surface prior to explosion are the ones condensed from the clouds.
I learned from books a while back and do not have links.

Clickbait science articles run in cycles. If one release gets clicks then three to five other releases appear with ever more lurid titles. Often the same article reappears a couple years later for a re run.
 
  • #12
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A caution: a star with very little iron or other metals has certainly formed from a collapsing cloud of near-primordial 'stuff', barely seeded by super-nova etc. But, when did that cloud collapse ? Was it 'New Old Stock' ? Could it have been isolated from other star-forming regions by happenstance & sheer distance ? So, you must look at the star's mass / type and development stage to estimate its actual age.

Still, low metallicity is a convenient way to flag possible candidates for ancient origins...
 
  • #13
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Then there's the observation of an old star that apparently ingested a new star and was a ball of anomalies difficult to get a good handle on.
Hard and fast rules are hard to come by in this universe, exceptions seem to continually occur.

Sensationalizing these exceptions is the job of tabloids, clicks are money.
 
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  • #14
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