The State of Scientific Journalism

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I have been wondering about the state of Scientific Journalism recently after reading an article in a UK newspaper discussing the recent http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100822/full/news.2010.423.html" having formed 4.568 billion years ago.

The article does not appear on the newspaper's website, so I shall quote it below:

THE Solar System could be 2million years older that was thought, say US Scientists. The claim comes after minerals buried in a meteorite found in north-west Africa were tested and shown to have formed 4568.2million years ago - up to 1.9million years earlier than the previous estimate for the birth of the Sun and the Universe.
The research, by a team at Arizona State University, is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Now it isn't exactly difficult to research the age of the Universe and discover that current estimates are 13.75 ± 0.17 billion years. So why would a meteorite from our solar system help to date the Universe?

There are also documentaries on various TV channels which are propogating the 2012 Apocalypse Hoax and other pseudoscientific rubbish such as Nostradamus and so on, which has led to NASA's http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist/"[/URL] being bombarded with questions regarding "Nibiru" ad other components of the 2012 hoax.

My question is, what is your opinion on mainstream scientific journalism and how would you like to improve the quality of it? Would you want to attempt to increase scientific literacy in the general population, or would you try to legislate against such lies?
 
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  • #2
Evo
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I have been wondering about the state of Scientific Journalism recently after reading an article in a UK newspaper discussing the recent http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100822/full/news.2010.423.html" having formed 4.568 billion years ago.

The article does not appear on the newspaper's website, so I shall quote it below:



Now it isn't exactly difficult to research the age of the Universe and discover that current estimates are 13.75 ± 0.17 billion years. So why would a meteorite from our solar system help to date the Universe?
Do you mean that you read a paper copy of an article that appeared in a local paper and it's not online? If so, it's an obvious mistake.

The paragraph from the nature article says
The new estimate, which comes from measuring the ratios of lead isotopes inside the chondrite — an ancient stony meteorite — suggests that the Solar System is 4.568 billion years old. This is 0.3–1.9 million years older than some previous studies projected. The relatively small revision means that models of the gas and dust that gave rise to the Solar System should have around double the amount of a certain iron isotope, iron-60, than previously suggested.
You can find mistakes in articles, news shows. and online blogs all of the time, that is why we ask for a link to the actual source whenever possible.
 
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  • #3
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Do you mean that you read a paper copy of an article that appeard in a local paper and it's not online? If so, it's an obvious mistake.

The paragraph from the nature article says You can find mistakes in articles, news shows. and online blogs all of the time, that is why we ask for a link to the actual source whenever possible.
The article itself is not online, rather than simply the mistake, if necessary I can scan the article and post it as an image tomorrow.
 
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Evo
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The article itself is not online, rather than simply the mistake, if necessary I can scan the article and post it as an image tomorrow.
No, I believe that they made the mistake in their article. Did the article at least lead you to the Nature article?
 
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Gokul43201
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No, I believe that they made the mistake in their article. Did the article at least lead you to the Nature article?
Now that, in my opinion, is a big problem with scientific reporting in mainstream media - they don't bother to cite the paper that they're doing a disservice to!!!
 
  • #6
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No, I believe that they made the mistake in their article. Did the article at least lead you to the Nature article?
I found the Nature article by using google to search for the key sentence, i.e. solar system older than previously thought, and it came up as the first link, along with others from the likes of Physorg and The Telegraph.
 
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  • #7
turbo
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The problem isn't just with scientific journalism, but journalism in general. I have given information to journalists about historical items that I researched prior to auctioning. The lack of intelligent follow-up question on the part of the reporter is a big warning flag that the resulting article will either be incomplete, inaccurate, or both. Reporters want to fill their allotted air-time, column-space, etc, and they are NOT specialists. Nor are they generally well-informed or well-educated enough to ask questions relevant to their planned article. I learned the hard way that you have to spoon-feed most journalists regarding specialized subjects and gauge their comprehension before moving on. Even then, howlers are inevitable. Part of the problem is that editors/producers don't bother to consult with sources before chopping the raw coverage to suit themselves.
 
  • #8
Gokul43201
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Check out the following headlines (links embedded where available; The Times requires subscription):

Only one of those headlines doesn't severely distort the truth.

My pick for brainless reporting:
ABC News said:
Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking now says definitely that God did not create the universe or spark the Big Bang.

In his new book, "The Grand Design," scheduled for a September release, Hawking argues that the universe didn't need divine inspiration to come into being.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," writes Hawking. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists why we exist.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going," he writes, according to excerpts published in the Times of London today.
More here: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/stephen-hawking-god-create-universe-question-day/story?id=11542128

And my pick for rabble rousing:
Fox News said:
Physics was the reason for the Big Bang, not God, according to scientist Stephen Hawking.
...
The book, co-written by American physicist Leonard Mlodinow and published next week, sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have created out of chaos.
...
While other eminent scientists, such as leading atheist Richard Dawkins, will welcome Professor Hawking's views, others are still not convinced.
...
More here: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/09/02/stephen-hawking-picks-physics-god-big-bang/
 
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