Thursday, February 12, 2009

Secret Science Agendas in Headlines

My fiancee and I both think the coolest science story as of late is the Large Hydrogen Collider (LHC), even though neither of us are physictists.  That's why I was a little discouraged to see this obviously biased science press release.  Just from the headline and first sentence, I thought, "Uh-oh, they are spending money on unnecessary safety measure just to please the scientific-illiterate."

For those who may not know, the LHC is a giant particle smasher, which scientist hope will answer many pressing questions, such as the existance of the Higgs boson, many particles predicted by supersymmetry, and how dark matter and dark energy work.  However, many people are frieghtened over essentially ignorance because they fear the LHC will produce stable micro black holes and strangelets (and I'm sure many other things).  Safety studies were conducted and stated that there was no danger.   You can read more on this here.  Fox News even goes so far as to show an artist's illustration of a black hole (note: they don't even show a micro black hole since there are galaxies swirling around the black hole... which is weirder still black holes are generally in galaxies).

So, when I saw that the LHC was being delayed due to "safety," naturally I thought this meant that they were going to devise someway to stop something that wouldn't happen anyway.  It's kind of like Lisa Simpson's tiger repellant rock.  Anyway, after reading the article, I found out that "safety" was in regards to the EQUIPMENT.  It had nothing to do with any type of safety for humans!!!  Of course, you wouldn't know this unless you read the whole article, but most people only read, especially when posted online.

And this is not to fault FoxNews, since the story came from the Associated Press.  So what are the morals of this tale:

  1. All reporting is biased, even if unintenionaly.
  2. You really do have to read the whole article.
  3. Scientists need to be careful about the words they use.  They never should have used the word "safety."  Instead, they should have said something along the lines of "taking measures to protect equipment."

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