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Thu May 28, 2020, 08:34 AM

The universe's 'missing matter' problem has finally been solved!

https://www.cnet.com/news/the-universes-missing-matter-problem-has-finally-been-solved/

When Jean-Pierre Macquart arrived home from work one night in 2019, he was buzzing with excitement. He'd just helped solve a decades-old cosmic mystery with the help of a team of international astronomers. He couldn't wait to tell his wife.

...

Within minutes, he was wrangling [his] two children, ages two and four, and taking to the kitchen, helping his wife with the cooking...

The critical information missing from this article is whether his children's ages were two and four during that night in 2019, or that's their ages today. There's also no mention of what they were cooking! I feel I won't completely understand this dramatic breakthrough in cosmology until I know these things.

Seriously, I hate "science" articles like this that try to be more about people than their discoveries. I immediately become skeptical that the writer even understands the subject.

6 replies, 1063 views

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Reply The universe's 'missing matter' problem has finally been solved! (Original post)
Towlie May 2020 OP
3Hotdogs May 2020 #1
Javaman May 2020 #6
C_U_L8R May 2020 #2
exboyfil May 2020 #3
eppur_se_muova May 2020 #4
NNadir May 2020 #5

Response to Towlie (Original post)

Thu May 28, 2020, 08:39 AM

1. I lost my wallet this morning.

Think he can help me find that?

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Response to 3Hotdogs (Reply #1)

Thu May 28, 2020, 12:25 PM

6. that was at the same time you discovered the 5th force of nature right?

or was that after you raked the leaves in your yard?

LOL

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Response to Towlie (Original post)

Thu May 28, 2020, 08:45 AM

2. Trump's been missing matter for years.

But he's rather hopeless.

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Response to Towlie (Original post)

Thu May 28, 2020, 08:59 AM

3. It is kind of the Olympics phenomenon

Trying to attach a human interest story to increase interest in the subject. I agree with you totally. You are right to be skeptical. Most stories in popular literature involving an expertise are written by authors who do not have a command of the subject. The best articles are the general articles written by the experts (for example Scientific American) or by dedicated science authors (who have a general training in the particular science or technology of that particular subject - also see Scientific American for examples as well).

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Response to Towlie (Original post)

Thu May 28, 2020, 09:58 AM

4. Well, it's actually an informative article, past those paras. nt

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Response to Towlie (Original post)

Thu May 28, 2020, 10:53 AM

5. While I agree that journalists often completely mangle science, this particular article...

...surely isn't the worst.

I gives a link to the original paper in Nature, which is the mark of better science reporting.

I often joke - all of my jokes are tired and repetitive - that one cannot get a journalism degree if one has passed a college level science course. However some popular science writing does direct one's attention to the original science.

A shorthand mark I use to determine whether a piece of science journalism - the term "science journalism" is in many cases oxymoronic - is worth reading is whether or not it is littered with conditional verbs like "could," or "might," especially those conditional verbs appear in the title of the article.

An example of bad science reporting is this article from Time Magazine: Inside the New Technology That Could Transform the Solar Power Industry.

The journalist is credulous, references no scientific papers and clearly hasn't looked into anything about perovskites, about which something like tens of thousands of papers have been written. If Mr. Worland had even typed in Google Scholar the term perovskite solar cell, he would have seen that over 100,000 papers on this subject had been written, so it's clear not a new or exciting technology that is likely to shatter the world. (If he had limited his search to those terms between 2000 and 2005, he would have seen over 4000 papers.) If he was aware of the atomic symbols in the periodic table, he could have quickly seen that many of these perovskite cells are lead (Pb) halide complexes, which belies the word "clean" in his first sentence, since distributed lead has been a long term environmental and health nightmare, which this technology would make even worse. Even without being laced with lead, solar cells are not "clean" energy at all, since they evolve into intractable electronic waste, but there seem to be zero journalists who are aware of that.

Of course, I personally knew that the article was garbage, because I've been coming across "solar perovskites" in the scientific journals I regularly read for decades. However, someone who doesn't read scientific journals will be entirely mislead by this example of extremely poor science "journalism."

The word "could" is used in the short body text referring to a putative magical future three times, and one time, in a direct quote from the scientist being interviewed, one time.

In the "Missing Matter" article referenced in the OP, "could" is used generally in the past tense, in ways I think are legitimate, and only once with reference to a short term prediction of the future, reasonably limited to a design goal of a particular instrument's capabilities.

I think this is acceptable.

Another warning sign in a science journalism title is "Scientist says..." since there is no effort to understand whether the "scientist" is credible or, more generally that scientists are not magical beings delivering oracles; some are credible, others clearly aren't and even among credible scientists there is legitimate disagreement. In these cases the journalists are often assuming truth that may or may not stand up to critical thinking.

Similarly, the words "Study shows..." again, often with more than a dollop of credulousness are warning signs that one is likely to read an article that clearly will require some critical thinking.

In general I agree, most of the popular press reporting on science is bad, but clearly some of it is better than others; this one in the OP is not an example of the worst.

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