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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Brief History of Time's Many Errors

Posted by on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Did you know that Time magazine nominated the Higgs boson for its Person of the Year? It's true! So stupid! Michael Moyer at Scientific American explains that it gets dumber:

Under ordinary circumstances, we would be all for the elevation of the Higgs to “Person of the Year” status, if only to further honor the heroic efforts of thousands of scientists and engineers who made the discovery possible (more on that below). But Time’s nomination threatens to do more harm than good. Every single sentence in Time’s nomination contains at least one serious error. The magazine scores a perfect five for five.

Moyer then fisks the nomination, which even got Peter Higgs's nationality wrong. Go read the blog post for a great illustration on how ineptly the media tends to handle scientific matters.


Comments (12) RSS

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At least they didn't call it the god particle. God damn that rustles my jimmies.
Posted by GermanSausage on November 29, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
venomlash 2
My jimmies are pretty rustled at how badly they fucked up the science. Sure, I might have made a couple of those mistakes too, but it's as if they didn't even do their research on it.
Posted by venomlash on November 29, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
@2 Most of the science reporting I see has serious problems. I notice them more in my own area of expertise, but I suspect it is all science writing. The exception is when an expert writes about his/her own area of expertise. Scientific American has numerous articles like that, but most other publications get former communications majors to do the work.
Posted by wxPDX on November 29, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
Daddy Love 4
It's just science. Accuracy is not an issue. Todd Akin told me so.
Posted by Daddy Love on November 29, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
I did not read the whole thing. But if I read correctly, it said "...Scottish physicist Peter Higgs..." and the author takes issue with this, because while he was working in Scotland, Higgs was born in England. It doesn't say he was Scottish. really. The reader is inferring that "Scotting physicist" means his nationality is Scottish, and not his residency.
If that's our measure, then we have to disown the telephone and Alexander Graham Bell, because he was born in Scotland, lived some time in Canada, then moved to the US where he invented the phone. So the telephone, by the measure of the SA article, is a Scottish invention.
Posted by TJ on November 29, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
I'm Kindling "The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next" by Len Smolin (… ).

He says there are actually several different Higgs Bosons, including the one they think they found, which could be a lot more prosaic than a so-called God particle.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on November 29, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
Wandergeist 7
I take it "Kindling" is different from "reading." I'm trying to imagine how.

(While I appreciate verbing in general when it adds value to the language, I don't really see the need here, and particularly where the scrupulous use of capitalization suggests conspicuous name™ dropping. While we're on the subject, "fisking" rather bothers me also, but mostly because it's such a late term for a practice that predates the name by at least 20 years -- and also because it's obscure outside of the Sullivanistas)
Posted by Wandergeist on November 29, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
Time nominates their person of the year like US News re-ranks a "best college" every year—if there's a positive to take away from this, it's that Time thinks science will sell magazines.

2010 was even dumber.
Posted by Dougsf on November 29, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
I don't want to defend Time exactly, and there are some pretty egregious mistakes in a five sentence paragraph, but fairness where it is due. This is extremely complicated material to non-scientists and very easy to screw up. I just watched theoretical physicist Sean Carroll on the Colbert Report and could not figure out why his description of the HIggs boson was correct but Time's was wrong. Much of it sounded exactly the same. This is also the same explanation that I have heard on many science programs and podcasts including Science Friday, Nature, NPR's Higgs boson reporting, and even Scientific American.
Posted by SolM on November 29, 2012 at 9:27 PM · Report this
passionate_jus 10
Of course the worse scientific topic the US media handle is the subject of climate change, when they pretend that there is significant debate among climatologists regarding climate change being man made.

There isn't.
Posted by passionate_jus on November 30, 2012 at 5:51 AM · Report this
There's also the minor issue that the Higg's boson is not, ya know, a person. Not that that has stopped Time in the past.
Posted by matt! on November 30, 2012 at 7:37 AM · Report this
Time is just Highlights with less educational content.
Posted by dirge on November 30, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this

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