Science in the News

Since I have started blogging, I have increased the amount of time I spend reading about science in newspapers and on news websites. I have also been reading on topics outside my area of expertise, and I have come to realize that it is very hard to understand from a newspaper article or web posting just how solid the science is. The are two recent examples, one on the evolution of the ear and one on how a new measurement rejects Einstein’s cosmological constant. In each case the article is motivated by a very interesting conclusion. In the first case that the ear evolved from a tube used by a fish to breathe and in the second that Einstein’s cosmological constant may be wrong. In each case the author of the article finds scientists to point out that this result may not be correct or needs confirmation.

The case of Einstein’s cosmological constant is much closer to my area of expertise, so I did look up the material from the conference presentation and read some of the more technically oriented blogs. My conclusion is that this result is very interesting although not for the tentative conclusion about the cosmological constant, but for the fact that this is a new experimental technique that might be quite powerful when more fully developed. Powerful new experimental techniques rarely make the newpaper unless they are a multibillion dollar project like the Hubble space telescope, but they are critical to actually making progress in science.

I just cannot see a headline, “Powerful New Technique Should Shed Light on Dark Energy in Five to Ten Years.”

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One Response to “Science in the News”

  1. [...] I have written before about how poorly the news media covers science. Today there is a very important result on low-fat diets being reported in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The studies show that low-fat diets do not protect against heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Many people are quite disappointed by this result, but facts are what count not what people want. The point of the study is that a low-fat diet does not provide health benefits. Here is a quote from the top of the Washington Post article. “Based on our findings, we cannot recommend that most women should follow a low-fat diet,” said Jacques Rossouw of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the $415 million study. [...]

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