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From Homochirality In Amino Acids To Conquering Dinosaurs: How Journalists Report Science

Today, just a pointer to a hilarious story by Robert McHenry in The American of how a workaday paper in a chemical journal with the title

Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth

became, after a severe manhandling by journalists,

Do Intelligent Dinosaurs Really Rule Alien Worlds?

Since we’ve so often seen how some obscure paper with dicey conclusions is tarted up in the press to confirm this or that bias, it’s good to read the steps McHenry identifies in the common process:

1. Some scientists publish a report of their work.

2. An alert PR guy who works for the university or institute notices some potentially hype-able words in the report.

3. He writes up a release, under the impression that he is Arthur C. Clarke.

4. J-school grads at a number of media outlets, whose science education ended in 8th grade, pick up the release, change three words to make it their own, and it is published to an unsuspecting public.

5. The unsuspecting public, which is not as dumb as the PR guy believes, dismisses the story as bushwah and blames the scientists.

Go and read the rest.

8 thoughts on “From Homochirality In Amino Acids To Conquering Dinosaurs: How Journalists Report Science Leave a comment

  1. After thorough analysis of this journalistic phenomenon, I find the blame lies squarely at the feet of the…

    scientist!

    who blew his own work completely out of proportion in the quest for fame, fortune, and a date with a coed.

    The journalista conspired, no doubt, to paint the thing as yellow and scandalous as possible, but they were egged on by the scientista who displayed no ethical restraints.

    The lack of ethics in science has many roots, such as relativistic atheism, boredom, social decay, peer pressure, etc. But in the end it is all about egos gone wild. The culture is adolescentized. Look at me! Look at me now!

  2. I’m sure we have all had the experience of reading a journalists report on an event we attended and were left wondering if the journalist was in some alternate universe.

  3. It pains me that these ‘journalists’ are paid for the mindless garbage they turn out by the tonne. On the other hand many scientists join the club of mindless twits.

    The chemistry isn’t even journeyman. The circularly polarized light hypothesis has been around for decades.

  4. Actually, I think we got off easy.

    I could well imagine that “homechirality” thing leading to some journo coming up with…

    “Gay warrior dinosaurs would rule the World if not suppressed by meteor”.

  5. Uncle Mike: you said, “Look at me!” but not in quotes so I read your comment to mean: “The culture is adolescentized – just look at me!” I would have replied, “Right! Look at me too!” but then I wondered if that was your intended meaning.

  6. Dear Rich, it’s just an expression. I don’t care whether you look at me or not. I am no longer an adolescent. Far from it.

    Dear All, don’t blame the journalista. She’s just doing her job. The fault lies at the feet of the “scientist”.

    The “scientist” is just some poor schlub without a prayer. He is desperately seeking tenure, a guaranteed job for life where his myriad failures and propensity for more will be ignored. He needs a gummit gig where he can’t be fired because he is too stupid and too inept to make it in the real world.

    Therefore he puffs up his own crappy “science” to make others think he is somebody of talent or even genius, whereas the truth is he is a poor schlub without a prayer.

    Incompetence is its own reward, and a painful one at that, especially for the rest of us who have to pick up the tab for the poor schlub of a “scientist” for the rest of his unproductive life.

    My thought is “get him a shovel” so he can do something useful like digging a ditch. Instead of wasting air.

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