Lazy science reporting

2007-04-25

in Rants, Science, Writing

Oxford goat

People may have noticed that the news today is saturated with stories about scientists ‘discovering Kryptonite:’ the fictional substance that causes Superman to lose his powers. The claim is based on how the chemical formula for the new mineral – discovered in Siberia – is the same as the one invented for Kryptonite in the film Superman Returns. Obviously, this is just a fluke that arose because of some words a scriptwriter or prop designer happened to string together. No insight arises from referring to the new mineral with reference to the film. To me, this seems like the same kind of cheap, low-brow science reporting as when all the coverage about ‘hobbits’ being discovered emerged in response to the discovery of H. floresiensis.

I can understand why a journalist might want to put out a fluff piece like these and then take the weekend off, but it really isn’t ‘science’ reporting in any meaningful sense. It is especially depressing when quality newspapers decide to print such rubbish, perhaps hoping to attract a few more readers. It is astonishing to me that they lack allure on their own, when discussing serious science. After all, the pace of ongoing discovery and technological development is staggering, and it has never been more important for ordinary citizens to understand the natural and man-made phenomena that influence the ways in which we live.

PS. Claire, Hilary, and I saw many goats today. Here are some goats eating plants.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan Laing April 25, 2007 at 8:46 pm

I don’t think anyone really thinks this is science reporting. It’s just an outstanding cooincidence.

Milan April 25, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Tristan,

This post was inspired by how the entire ‘Science’ section in Google News was crammed with news about ‘Kryptonite.’

Mike Kushnir April 25, 2007 at 11:12 pm

goats: creepy beasts with their creepy eyes.

no wonder they got pegged as the symbol of the devil.

Anon April 26, 2007 at 10:05 am
. June 13, 2009 at 10:52 am

Goats enjoy living in their own tower
Posted by Mark Frauenfelder, June 12, 2009 10:55 AM

“Currently there are only three Goat Towers in the world (which I think you’ll agree is not nearly enough!). The original Goat Tower was built in 1981 by Charles Back at the Fairview Wine and Cheese Estate in Paarl, South Africa. The estate has 750 Saanen goats and some of these are allowed access to the tower.

“The other two Goat Towers are the “Tower of Baaa” in Findlay, Illinois and one built in 2006 in Ekeby, Norway, both of which are modeled on the original.

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