That's the argument made by Ben Thomas earlier this week. Thomas charges that overenthusiastic viral sharing of half-baked scientific projects can make it more difficult for more well-planned projects to achieve success, particularly when high-profile crowdfunded projects go on to flop badly. Worse, the public backlash when real, messier science fails to live up to the flashy, unrealistic claims that media and social media hype blows up can have repercussions even for scientists who are funded by traditional grants. Signe Cane has a useful criticism of Thomas' piece with advice for non-specialists on how to try to separate cool things in real scientific work from cool things that are mostly hype and exaggerations. On the flip side of crowdfunding, Jacquelyn Gill shares her experience of using crowdfunding to fund her scientific research, ultimately concluding that it was a hell of a lot of work for relatively minimal payout. And Terry McGlynn, another ecologist, expresses some reservations about the effects of crowdfunding and other publicly marketed initiatives on science more broadly.
Wind chill is vitally important information. Or is it a meaningless number useful only in making weather forecasts more dramatic? [more inside]
Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health.
Reports that honey bees are dying in unusually high numbers has concerned many scientists, farmers and beekeepers, and gripped the public. There have been thousands of stories ricocheting across the web, citing one study or another as the definitive explanation for a mystery that most mainstream experts say is complex and not easily reducible to the kind of simplistic narrative that appeals to advocacy groups. We explore the claims by Harvard School of Public Health researcher Chensheng Lu, heralded by anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups, for his research that purportedly proves that the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids are killing bees and endangering humans.Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees.
Here we examine the specific claim that neonics are responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder—the centerpiece of Lu’s assertions and again see how influential media manipulate quotes and selectively present information to ideologically influence trusting readers.[more inside]
This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.[more inside]
How often does a great story dominate the headlines, only to be dropped from the news cycle? How often do journalists tell us of a looming danger or important discovery – only to move quickly to the next new thing? What really happened? How did these events change us? And what are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day? These are the questions we are answering at Retro Report, an innovative documentary news organization launched in 2013 as a timely online counterweight to today’s 24/7 news cycle. Combining documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting, we peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media in ~10 minute segments. [more inside]
"...we still can’t tell whether we are all about to die or whether we are being sold a bill of goods."
'The stories about epidemics that are told in the American press—their plots and tropes—date to the 1920's, when modern research science, science journalism, and science fiction were born.' This is the story of how the media back then (January, 1930) helped fuel fears about a parrot-fever pandemic, and the subsequent public backlash. (Via) [more inside]
The Burns Archive is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
Climategate: What Really Happened? How climate science became the target of "the best-funded, best-organized smear campaign by the wealthiest industry that the Earth has ever known." [Via]
Right Wing astroturfing A non-scientific analysis of the patterns in forum board discussions on a variety of topics. The gist: discussions of issues in which there's money at stake (like climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance) are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption by rightwing libertarians who are pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Discussions of issues in which there's little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions.
Science meets the news cycle, part n: Researchers look at cancer rates in the ancient world and conclude that cancer is "a modern, man-made disease." The story makes headlines in the UK (and pops up on the political fringe). Meanwhile, New Scientist and others debunk the claim. Will that critical perspective get as much coverage as the original story? [more inside]
Local TV news says: Based on his daughter having an ultrasound and grandson being autistic, doctor concludes that ultrasounds cause autism. This news story headline is: "Could autism be linked to ultrasounds?," fueling freak out fire. This is another example of correlation versus causation in the media, and in this story, based on speculation and no evidence. But what does the journal article say? [more inside]
Museums build some pretty cool websites. To help people find them, use them, and give them props, the Museums and the Web conference has held an annual Best of the Web contest since 1997. This year's nominees are here. Just a sample: the MOMA on Bauhaus, the Center for New Media's Bracero History Archive, the Textile Museum of Canada's In Touch:Connecting Cloth, Culture, and Art, Perception Deception from The National Science and Technology Center of Australia, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh from the Van Gogh Museum, the Smithsonian's Prehistoric Climate Change and Why it Matters Today, and more . If that doesn't wash out the remainder of your Friday, you can always dig into the past nominees.
The NHS Behind the Headlines site gives the scientific facts behind the medical stories making the news.
Kill or cure: making sense of the Daily Mail’s ongoing effort to classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it. Paul Battley uses automation and crowd-sourcing in the war against bad science reporting.
The SF Signal Mind Meld feature poses science fiction related questions to a number of SF luminaries and the scientist, science writer or blogger. Subjects have included the best women writers in SF, taboo topics in SF, underated authors and the most controversial SF novels of the past and present. The also cover lighter topics, such the role of media tie-ins, how Battlestar Galactica could have ended better (bonus Geoff Ryman) and the realistic (or otherwise) use of science on TV SF shows.
The death of SciAm. It's no secret that print media is getting hit pretty hard, but the butchering of Scientific American seems particularly brutal. [more inside]
The Early Television Foundation and Museum Website covers the nascent days of the nation's pastime, with interesting items like mechanical TVs and programming schedules from 1939.
These are the cures. These are the illnesses. Guaranteed to cure what ails you. A look at the fantastic science of medicine, and the fantastic art of bodies afflicted.
Who can you trust if you can't trust the Wall Street Journal? RealClimate debunks the latest junk science on climate change from the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
Blinded By Science: How `Balanced' Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality. How and why the media has failed so completely to educate the American public on the massive environmental dangers we face. (via WorldChanging)
What's the real story here? "An international team researching particle physics at Tohoku University has observed a new kind of neutrino." BZZT! Try again."Sun is ok, says latest neutrino experiment." BZZT. Wrong answer. The media sure made a hash out of this one. [more inside]