Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The State of Scientific Journalism

  1. Aug 24, 2010 #1
    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?

    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?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2010 #2

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    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
    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.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Aug 24, 2010 #3
    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.
     
  5. Aug 24, 2010 #4

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    No, I believe that they made the mistake in their article. Did the article at least lead you to the Nature article?
     
  6. Aug 24, 2010 #5

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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!!!
     
  7. Aug 24, 2010 #6
    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  8. Aug 24, 2010 #7

    turbo

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    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.
     
  9. Sep 2, 2010 #8

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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:
    More here: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/stephen-hawking-god-create-universe-question-day/story?id=11542128

    And my pick for rabble rousing:
    More here: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/09/02/stephen-hawking-picks-physics-god-big-bang/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook