18 September 2008

More bad science

More bad science from CNN/AP:

"...a statement by CERN, as the organization is known." Any reason to not give what CERN stands for, or at least what the organization is?

"The Large Hadron Collider was launched September 10, when scientists circled a beam of protons in a clockwise direction at the speed of light." While "launched" may be a poor choice of words, "at the speed of light" is outright WRONG, and shows that the author has a complete lack of understanding of the concepts "speed of light."

28 comments:

Marcus said...

I definitely agree with you on speed of light comment. Where are the editors? Does not the science writer know that protons have mass, and though they can be accelerated to relativistic speeds (.99999c is fine with me) they can never achieve the speed of light.

As I think about it, the author must have confused protons with photons, but that still shows ignorance on the writers part since photon-photon scattering is something all together different.

Anonymous said...

Are you seriously complaining that this website said that the protons were moving at the speed of light instead of saying that they were moving at almost the speed of light? That's your complaint? Seriously?

Dude- rounding off by a tenth of a thousandth of one percent doesn't make the reporter stupid. If you want hardcore science then read the scientific literature, not CNN.com. This is a soft media treatment of interest to the general public. Let it go, man.

Jason said...

"Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire", if you're really THAT upset about the meaning of the name missing.

Greg said...

Or, as the article stated, "European Organization for Nuclear Research." That's what CERN stands for. It's right in the lead.

Dano said...

Actually, the screw up on light speed versus almost light speed is huge. If they were routing protons at LIGHT SPEED, then the Theory of Relativity, and most all modern physics, is out the window.

So, I beg to differ with the earlier poster about "letting it go". This is not a minor eror.

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that we are preoccupied in the micro-managment of a media article, when good science requires debate, research and testing over the many larger ramifications of theories not yet tested in this experiment. For example, many scientists have half-heartedy dismissed the possibility of creating small black holes, by saying they may likely be created but will probably evaporate. That's like saying it's probably gravity that makes you plop your fat ass down in front of a computer. So you think . . . wouldn't it be cool to see what this thing does? Even if nothing "bad" happens, which we trust is correct, this looks like a rush to play with big-boy toys.

Jus_Sn said...

No one has "half-heartedy" dismissed the possibilities of minature black holes. The LHC is a discovery machine meant to test experimental predictions put forth by modern theories. One group of theories suggest that miniature black hole masses COULD be small enough that we could see one in the LHC. Those same theories tell us that the lifetime of the blackholes created is MUCH less that the amount of time it would take ONE particle to make it to the singularity.

Also, saying that something went the speed of light is a HUGE mistake...especially for a science writer. As another commenter noted, it would mean that everything we think we know about nature is incorrect. It's actually quite sad and a terrifying reflection of the extreme scientific illiteracy of most Americans. It's definitely not an advanced matter to at least know that nothing but light (or an unknown massless particle) can go the speed of light.

Anonymous said...

This is in response to "jus_sn".
"It's actually quite sad and a terrifying reflection of the extreme scientific illiteracy of most Americans". It is funny everyone is talking about science when the entire existence of universe and its creation is so easily explained by creationism. You just need an open mind to understand it. Faith.

Jus_Sn said...

Yes, that's why praying the cancer away always works.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, just like chucking Draino at cancer works, too. Modern oncology is torture that feeds off desperation. Despicable.

I like to think that the kids at CERN will find their God particle. But all we have to ask then is "Who made that particle...?"

I'm not a believer, but this pursuit of teensy, teensy things reflecting the universe of billions of years ago cracks me up no end. Seriously: if gravity breaks or matter starts to unravel, will anything the LHC discovers allow us to fix it...?

Hank said...

WHO CARES?

Anonymous said...

The LHC, like all particle colliders, is a complete waste of capital, both human and material.

Nothing critical to human needs for the next century will be gained from these experiments.

If anyone goes on about tertiary benefits, such as cryo or magnets. Think about how more efficiently these can be obtained by reallocating the accelerator's budget to those specific fields.

Down with useless experiments!

Anonymous said...

very funny,Dano.

Marcus said...

Wow, the "Anonymous" person is fired up about the premise of the thread. I love people who misunderstand science. It makes for good debate.

dano and jus_sn are right in how scientists approach risks in experiment. At U.C. Riverside we had to make sure of all the contingencies with our positronium experiment. At the LHC, it's 1000-fold more important. The scientists have done more than necessary due to media sensationalism regarding mini-black holes and stragelets.

As for "seriously" complaining, you are absolutely right. It takes two minutes to write this response, so it's no skin off my back. Additionally, a "trival" mistake as perceived by a layperson (aka: anonymous) is never taken lightly in science. That is why I responded and it is that stringent requirement of straight facts that enables you to use a product of science-a computer.

I also love the age old, tired argument that basic science is a waste of the money. It really shows some peoples utter ignorance and misplaced priorities. The LHC cost a few billion dollars; more that half of which is from Europe. Also, the money the US spent comes from a general fund for basic science. Once the money is in the pot, it's not up to the public to decide where the money goes because they are not qualified to judge the worthiness of proposals by US scientist. It is up to a peer group of scientists to decide which proposals get funded. Finally, there are tens of billions of dollars spent on pork barrel projects every year, e.g. The Big Dig, yet most people never complain about them - and that is a PUBLIC WORKS FUND for christ's sake!

Humm...misplaced priorities, go figure.

Mr. Shark said...

The various comments here are claimed to show lack of understanding of science, but what is really being demonstrated is lack of trust in scientists.

I think the real question from this debate is not whether or not the LHC is worthy, but why the general public thinks that scientists are unworthy of decision-making authority over what kinds of experiments to perform.

The answer is that our societies' science geeks are typically arrogant and anti-social frosted with condescension. Their failure at public relations negatively impacts their ability to perform studies and acquire funding at the expense of the human race.

If scientists really are dedicated to the security of the human race, then they ought to spend more time mastering social skills and public relations so that the biggest obstacle (us) to their beneficial work is overcome.

Unfortunately to date their arrogance is reflected in their lack of interest in doing this. "We're scientists. You don't understand. Just beat it. You aren't qualified to decide."

Next scene shows a scientists burning at the stake.

You'd think they'd learn after hundreds of years, but even the smartest people can be morons.

m said...

Protons accelerated to the speed of light would be news all in its own.

Anonymous said...

First off, I'm not a lay person, I'm a Physicist. I have no idea why you would assume otherwise.

Does the general public not have a right to read a casual story on this topic without you jumping in to set them all straight? Good for you if you know better, but this is the level the reporter elected to delve to because this is the interest level of the public. The point is that you guys are pointing it out as an ERROR and it is a CHOICE. The media opts to have a certain level of technical description in each piece based on the intended audience. That is their choice, and it benefits everyone by making the subject matter accessible.

You are "correcting" a choice that a professional journalist made. I never said you were incorrect in your assertion, just that there is a time and place for a general public interest story about science and CNN.com is that place. Get over it.

cmpsci said...

The mere fact that the human race is able to reconstruct even the most minuscule of events at the beginning of our universe is a testament to the higher order of our intellect.

This is the foundation of math and science. We don't do it because it has proven "tangible" benefits in the here and now. Leave that to the already well funded military industrial complex. In comparison, to spend a couple of billion dollars on a particle collider is a brilliant investment for mankind.

The goal is simple. Continue to solve the most complex problem before us all ... our existence. Pretty good expenditure of time and effort if you ask me.

Angus McDugan said...

The most disturbing product of this project is the perception created by the media that we are mad scientist who could carelessly destroy the world. The second most disturbing thing is that the general public is so easily lead around by the media.

Frank said...

You're all a bunch of nerds. Are you really arguing about this? Get. A. Life.

rvolt24 said...

thank you, frank... thank you... i read these comments, and i want my minute back... bunch of mindless whining about semantics... grow up.

Angus McDugan said...

Frank and rvolt24: Did not notice the BLOG name? (Modern Science) (Insert a picture of me rolling my eyes here)

Mark said...

There is a big difference in "almost the speed of light" and "the speed of light". In fact, the difference is so huge that it is almost incalculable. Yet, by simply adding the word "almost" to the phrase, it becomes correct.
Journalists should ethically report factual information. "Fudging" isn't really acceptable, especially when it is misleading, as this is.
When you dumb down communications you proliferate ignorance. Is it some huge deal? No, but it is worth discussion, which is exactly what is going on here. If you don't appreciate discourse, you likely don't mind proliferation of ignorance.
Oh, and to the "A la Peanut butter sandwiches!" creationist crowd, its not really a question of who created the universe, but how. Scientists leave the "who" speculation to the theologists.

Rick said...

Angus McDugan, get a name that isn't dumb.

Angus McDugan said...

Rick: Ouch! (Insert picture of me almost in tears here)

Angus McDugan said...

LOL Rick! Angus IS a dumb name. Sounds like anus! Maybe I should change it!

JFistere said...

I am not worried about the LHC creating a black hole that will swallow the earth.
However, I am interested in the timeline of a black hole that is just barely large enough to survive. Would it immediately eat its way to the center of the earth? Quickly, slowly? Would we detect it initially? If not, when would we first notice it, and how? What would be the overall scenario?

Mini_The_Science-Girl said...

http://www.minisciencebites.blogspot.com
A sassy blog about bad science, reviews and articles written by an outragous female scientist.