Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Media and Science

Back in September 2011, the OPERA experiment said that it had potentially measured neutrinos going faster than the speed of light
"with the stated intent of promoting further inquiry and debate. " [wiki]
And there was a hurried flurry of sensationalized media attention about this with crazy headlines like "Was Einstein wrong?"
I came across a nice quote about this from experimentalists aren't idiots:
"In a lot of ways, the OPERA fast-neutrino business has been less a story about science than a story about the perils of the new media landscape."
This couldn't have been more true. A little later, the team reported two flaws in their equipment set-up that had caused errors far outside of their original confidence interval [wiki].

Last week there were a few cows frozen in a cabin up in the Colorado mountains. The headlines read like:
"Frozen cattle stuck in Colorado cabin may be blown up"
I heard an NPR interview with a ranger where they asked "how unusual is this?" to which he responded:
"Not unusual at all, stuff like this happens every year, but only this time has the news been interested ... why? well you have cows in a cabin with potential explosions..." [paraphrased]
I thought it was great that the way he essentially called the news out for what they are - entertainment.

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