Science & Society

Here are the top ten science headlines ripped, raw and bleeding, from this month's huge AAAS uber-science meeting. The National Association of Science Writers sponsored 10 undergraduate science journalists. Here is their coverage, arranged using my own arbitrary ranking from harder science down through the squishier marshes of policy and ending at the meta-topic of science education.  (Or follow this this link for the full stories.)

Comp Sci
Simulations make earthquake hazards less shaky ELIZABETH STOREY

Pitfalls Of Science Journalism

How do we fix it so that journalists can again be the 'trusted guides' they used to be?

If you are going to write about science and want the public to trust what you are saying to them then you need to understand three simple facts.  

fact #1 Many scientists lack basic language skills
The Third Player Hypothesis

Ever since our first ancestor had enough brain cells to ponder something more than the flavor of roast dinosaur, we have pondered over the why of our world: the real causes of observed effects.

At one time it was thought that most ordinary events in our lives were caused for the amusement of gods.  Thor throws a hissy-fit and we poor mortals get zapped for no good reason.  Today, in the 21st century, we laugh at such nonsense.  But if we examine our own beliefs, are we all that different today?
UK Libel Law Reform - A First Step

A UK Parliamentary committee has today 24 February 2010 published online its report on press standards, privacy and libel.

The committee's conclusions will give some cheer to those of us who believe that current UK libel laws are bringing British jurisprudence into disrepute.

Judge Judge Judges Judgement

Today, 23 Feb 2010, a high court judge named Lord Judge has just judged the meanings of some terms used in a previous judgement in a lower court, during a pre-trial hearing.

Today is a day of hope for Simon Singh, for opponents of stupid laws, for champions of free speech and lovers of language.

Rt Hon The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has made some comments in the pre-trial hearing which give cause for hope to supporters of Simon Singh in his fight against stupid laws and worse science.
An article has just been published at New Scientist claiming that if repeated attempts at lawsuits against the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were to continue, then a judge may well have to decide on whether to pull the plug on the famous experiment.

Various lawsuits have already been filed and all have so far failed. We've been here before, but the NS shows that CERN keep changing their minds over the possibility of a black hole forming as new studies are released. As CERN updates its recommendations, so we could see a new batch of lawsuits with fresh concerns that the LHC may create a black hole that would destroy the world.
How to sell a broken hockey stick

If there exists a scientist who can prove to the satisfaction of the world's leaders that global warming - anthropogenic or not - is a myth, he or she will get a Nobel prize and a medal from every government on Earth.  Why?  Because it will stifle all opposition to the 'business as usual' economic model.  Sorry, but I don't think that person exists.

How plausible are AGW theories in general?

I will address that question using the sort of logic that can be programmed into a computer to simulate human intelligence: semantic logic.


For those who have not entered the world of Twitter, it is hard to fathom why people feel compelled to stream their lives to strangers 140 characters at a time. And such non-Twitter folk are also unlikely to fathom the purpose of blogging, especially in a world with more than 170 million blogs. Imagine the non-tweeting non-blogger’s disbelief, then, when they read story after story about how Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress, Posterous and the other “Social Web 2.0” heavyweights are changing the world as we know it.

Day two and day one if you need to catch up.

One great thing about being at a conference on a press pass is people want to buy you food. You can literally go the entire day without buying anything for yourself if that's how you roll. Breakfasts - check. Coffee - check. Lunch - well, I am not much of a lunch guy but I suppose I could get the proverbial free lunch in the way of a literal one. Dinner could at least be bar food.
Attending the AAAS symposia on "Facing the Uncertain Future of International Science Journalism" I was stunned by something:   I am the most hated guy in every room I walk into.