What are the dangers of misinformation in science reporting?

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In summary, Time magazine's article on the recent observation of the collision of two neutron stars makes two astounding claims: 1) We now know, for the first time, the rate of expansion of the universe, and 2) The source of heavy elements was previously a mystery, but we now know it was created by this type of event. However, the article overlooks the fact that this observation was only made possible recently due to the arrival of the signal at Earth. This raises questions about the accuracy and credibility of Time's science reporting.
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phinds
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In the Oct 30 issue of Time there is an article on p15 on the recent observation of the collision of two neutron stars. In it they make two astounding claims about what we learned from this observation.

1) We now know, FOR THE FIRST TIME, the rate of expansion of the universe (which they correctly state as about 43 miles per second per megaparsec, a fact that they could have found on Wikipedia prior to this observation)

2) The source of heavy elements WAS a mystery, but we NOW know it was created by this kind of event. They apparently have never heard of supernovae.

They also mention that no one was here on Earth to witness this even back 130 million years ago when it happened, overlooking the fact, which they point out in the next sentence, that the observation only became possible recently because that's when the signal arrived here at Earth.

The fact that I am surprised by all this (their stupidity, not the facts) tells me I have kept faith in Time Magazine LONG after they stopped deserving it. They used to have science writers who more or less knew what they were talking about and they had editors and fact checkers that would not let this kind of crap slip through. No more.
 
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phinds said:
1) We now know, FOR THE FIRST TIME, the rate of expansion of the universe (which they correctly state as about 43 miles per second per megaparsec, a fact that they could have found on Wikipedia prior to this observation)

2) The source of heavy elements WAS a mystery, but we NOW know it was created by this kind of event. They apparently have never heard of supernovae.
Perhaps they are speaking for themselves - "we" being the people at Time. Until now, they did know these things.
phinds said:
They also mention that no one was here on Earth to witness this even back 130 million years ago ...
That's just their excuse for not covering the story sooner.
 
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  • #3
.Scott said:
Perhaps they are speaking for themselves - "we" being the people at Time. Until now, they did know these things.
Good point
That's just their excuse for not covering the story sooner.
o0)
 
  • #4
i too found the article fascinating, wonder how these scientists were even able to quantify something as precise as 43 megaparsec. especially when there is no matter at the border of the galaxy, they are essentially finding the speed of nothing. often TIME articles miss the profound implications of new discoveries like this, but they can't be blamed as they are made to be thought provoking and mind blogging.
 
  • #5
Kuzon said:
i too found the article fascinating, wonder how these scientists were even able to quantify something as precise as 43 megaparsec. especially when there is no matter at the border of the galaxy, they are essentially finding the speed of nothing. often TIME articles miss the profound implications of new discoveries like this, but they can't be blamed as they are made to be thought provoking and mind blogging.
You misunderstand the recession velocity that they are talking about. It has nothing to do with anything in or near our galaxy. Google recession velocity. What's astounding is not that they got this right, it's that they got everything else wrong.
 
  • #6
phinds said:
2) The source of heavy elements WAS a mystery, but we NOW know it was created by this kind of event. They apparently have never heard of supernovae.

Well I had heard of supernovae and I had heard that that is where the heavy elements are cooked up, so I too was surprised when I heard this in other papers. But then in truth I would not have a clue where to start calculating anything about it or how good the theoretical and observational knowledge is, and after all it would not be surprising if the explanations have not explained everything. Maybe the Time explanation missed the little point that was in The Times explanation:
"Up to now, scientists had struggled to work out how any elements heavier than iron could have come into existence. The furnaces at the hearts of most stars are far too feeble, and even supernovae are thought to fall some way short of the power needed to fuse the 79 protons and 118 neutrons needed to make a single particle of gold."

On the subject what source can anyone recommend to read of the state-of-art explanation of origin of all the elements, at a level that considers the individual elements and at Scientific American or not much higher level?
 
  • #7
epenguin said:
at Scientific American or not much higher level?
[off topic?]
The 'real' Scientific American or the 'new, eviscerated' one? :cry:
[/off topic]
 
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  • #8
Tom.G said:
[off topic?]
The 'real' Scientific American or the 'new, eviscerated' one? :cry:
[/off topic]

The old one would be fine! I know what you mean, I read every issue and nearly every article over quite some years, I rarely look at it now, though there are some articles that hold up. Maybe I'm stuffy, so nice to hear from another one. :oldsmile:
 
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It actually says in thre article (Times Oct 17) "One of the most important discoveries was the clear signature of chunky gold and platinum atoms coalescing out of an angry soup of sub-atomic particles heated to temperatures dozens of times hotter than the core of the sun."...
""
"Kate Maguire, a physicist at Queen’s University Belfast who analysed the spectrum of light from the explosion for signs of its chemistry, said that this was the first direct evidence of the alchemist’s dream. “The jewellery that you might be wearing today is formed in a neutron star merger — we can say that conclusively,” she said.
...
The star crash, the fallout from which reached Earth on August 17, happened (when) pterosaurs ruled the skies."
 
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  • #10
epenguin said:
It actually says in thre article ...
No, it does not. You clearly are not referencing the article that this thread is about. As I clearly said:

phinds said:
In the Oct 30 issue of Time there is an article on p15 ...

You are referencing a different article in a different issue.
 
  • #11
phinds said:
In the Oct 30 issue of Time there is an article on p15 on the recent observation of the collision of two neutron stars. In it they make two astounding claims about what we learned from this observation.

1) We now know, FOR THE FIRST TIME, the rate of expansion of the universe (which they correctly state as about 43 miles per second per megaparsec, a fact that they could have found on Wikipedia prior to this observation)

2) The source of heavy elements WAS a mystery, but we NOW know it was created by this kind of event. They apparently have never heard of supernovae.

They also mention that no one was here on Earth to witness this even back 130 million years ago when it happened, overlooking the fact, which they point out in the next sentence, that the observation only became possible recently because that's when the signal arrived here at Earth.

The fact that I am surprised by all this (their stupidity, not the facts) tells me I have kept faith in Time Magazine LONG after they stopped deserving it. They used to have science writers who more or less knew what they were talking about and they had editors and fact checkers that would not let this kind of crap slip through. No more.
Remember, the writers are journalists, not physicists. Most people in the public domain have no clue to what scientists are exploring on the subatomic or cosmic levels.

epenguin said:
On the subject what source can anyone recommend to read of the state-of-art explanation of origin of all the elements, at a level that considers the individual elements and at Scientific American or not much higher level?
I find that venerable (or used-to-be) institutions have dumbed-down to appeal to a larger market.

Those conducting science have a difficult time explaining their work to those who have little understanding of the science, and then there are the folks given responsibility of 'communicating' with the general public, and that generally means simplifying and embellishing, or sensationalizing what is otherwise dry and difficult to comprehend. Think of executive summary.
 
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  • #12
Astronuc said:
Remember, the writers are journalists, not physicists. Most people in the public domain have no clue to what scientists are exploring on the subatomic or cosmic levels.
Yes, I'm aware of that but the dumbing down did not used to be nearly so bad

I find that venerable (or used-to-be) institutions have dumbed-down to appeal to a larger market.
That is exactly the point of my post. As I said, I expected better of Time, but I'm clearly too optimistic about them.
 
  • #13
phinds said:
That is exactly the point of my post,
The dumbing down started in the 1980s, and accelerated in the 90s.

I have access to numerous journals from Elsevier, Springer and Taylor-Francis, and various other scientific and technical institutions, so I don't have to rely on mainstream media.

My latest entertainment is pondering the optimization of various alloys with respect to radiation transport in condensed matter and addressing effects of transmutation.
 
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  • #14
Astronuc said:
The dumbing down started in the 1980s, and accelerated in the 90s.
Well, I'm slow to catch on :smile:
 
  • #15
phinds said:
Well, I'm slow to catch on :smile:
I try not to think about it, or at least not let it get to me.

When I was a grad student researching nuclear propulsion, I remember some journalist talking about how 'ion propulsion' for spacecraft was inspired from science fiction like Star Trek. NO! it wasn't. Ion propulsion predated Star Trek, and in fact had been developed during the 1940s and 1950s. As part of my research, I reviewed technical foundations of ion propulsion, arc jets and plasma systems, from the early to mid 20th century.

The science fiction reflected the science, not the other way around.
 
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Related to What are the dangers of misinformation in science reporting?

1. What is "Time Magazine strikes again" about?

"Time Magazine strikes again" is a phrase often used in reference to an article published by Time Magazine that has caused controversy or received significant attention.

2. What makes Time Magazine a reputable source?

Time Magazine has been in circulation since 1923 and has won numerous awards for its journalism. It also has a large and diverse team of journalists and editors who fact-check and thoroughly research their articles before publishing.

3. Is Time Magazine biased in their reporting?

Time Magazine has been accused of having a liberal bias in the past, but they strive to present balanced and objective reporting. However, like all media outlets, they may have some inherent biases that can influence their coverage.

4. Why is Time Magazine's coverage important?

Time Magazine has a wide readership and is known for covering current events and issues that shape our world. Their articles often spark important discussions and provide valuable insights into global affairs.

5. Can I trust the information presented in Time Magazine?

While Time Magazine is a reputable source, it's always important to critically evaluate the information presented and consider multiple perspectives. It's also helpful to fact-check information from any source before accepting it as truth.

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