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His biggest mistake is not what people think
Faye Flam
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An interesting story ran on NPR recently, describing a “lost” paper of Einstein’s, which was never published because Einstein recognized that he’d made a mistake and therefore never submitted it for publication. Apparently there was some excitement surrounding this abandoned work because...

An interesting story ran on NPR recently, describing a “lost” paper of Einstein’s, which was never published because Einstein recognized that he’d made a mistake and therefore never submitted it for publication. Apparently there was some excitement surrounding this abandoned work because physicists had assumed it was a draft of a different paper – one that was published in 1931.

According to the story, Einstein’s Lost Theory Discovered, and It’s Wrong, this erroneous and never-published paper examined a possible explanation for then-recent observations by Edwin Hubble (also Georges Lemaitre), that the universe was expanding.

Faced with evidence that the universe was growing, Einstein apparently wanted to figure out why it wasn't filling up with empty space. His proposed solution is in this newly discovered paper...

Until today, the powerful language in the latest climate-change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change generated scant coverage, and little or no demand from reporters for government reactions.

Coverage of any kind was meager yesterday, as I pointed out in...

Until today, the powerful language in the latest climate-change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change generated scant coverage, and little or no demand from reporters for government reactions.

Coverage of any kind was meager yesterday, as I pointed out in my previous post. Today, some others caught up, running stories from The Associated Press or writing off of the IPCC report and press release. But aside from the handful of reporters who went to Yokohama for the release of the report, nobody was doing much original reporting.

I found one example of the kind of story I was looking for when I opened The New York Times today. There Coral Davenport wrote a news analysis reporting that the new data puts...

Poco caso al repetitivo reporte sobre adaptación del Grupo de Trabajo-2 del IPCC
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) Yesterday the IPCC issued the report “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” from its Working Group-II. Last September WG-I presented its report concluding that human influence in climate change is absolutely established, next week...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) Yesterday the IPCC issued the report “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” from its Working Group-II. Last September WG-I presented its report concluding that human influence in climate change is absolutely established, next week WG-III will present its report on mitigation, and finally next October, the 5th Assessment Report will be issued after the previous ones in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2004. This 5th Assessment report is supposed to be the basis for the negotiations in Lima-2014, and for the expected global agreement in 2015.

The report presented yesterday adds more scientific data, and is more specific about the real risks of different regions in the world. It also mentions adaptation practices that are giving good results. But it doesn’t offer new views about the problem. We all know that it’s not date what the planet needs now, but actions. Maybe for...

[Update 4/2: A couple of justifiably aggrieved friends at The Washington Post said the paper did more than run the AP.  Staff reporter Steven Mufson...

[Update 4/2: A couple of justifiably aggrieved friends at The Washington Post said the paper did more than run the AP.  Staff reporter Steven Mufson wrote a piece off of the report and the press release, with reaction from several scientists.]

On March 25, the Tracker's Charlie Petit predicted that few members of the Western press would fly to Yokohama, Japan for the release of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He was right. The problem, he explained, was that we've heard it all before and we'll be hearing it again and again.

It's the paradox of climate-...

Faye Flam
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Yet another scandal has broken over bad science, this time in the field of neuroscience. In a new paper published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the Netherlands claim that of 314 studies in the field, more than half relied...

Yet another scandal has broken over bad science, this time in the field of neuroscience. In a new paper published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the Netherlands claim that of 314 studies in the field, more than half relied on an erroneous assumption about the independence of the data and were  therefore likely to be giving false positive results. This bombshell wasn’t widely covered, but luckily it was explained clearly by Gary Stix at Scientific American. His story, Statistical Flaw Punctuates Brain Research in Elite Journals, is posted on his blog, Talking Back.

The post suggests that the stastistical flaw dosen't just punctuate brain researrch, it puctures much of it.

According to this new...

  News agencies in the Pacific Northwest have gone full bore with coverage in the week following the massive landslide in Washington's Snohomish County where a steep canyon wall, one that has suffered many slides in the past, suddenly surrendered again to gravity in a colossal avalanche. It surged across...

  News agencies in the Pacific Northwest have gone full bore with coverage in the week following the massive landslide in Washington's Snohomish County where a steep canyon wall, one that has suffered many slides in the past, suddenly surrendered again to gravity in a colossal avalanche. It surged across the Stillaguamish River, splintering trees on both sides. Like a thousand runaway locomotives it obliterated much of a rural community, ripping homes to pieces. As least 18 bodies have been recovered and about 30 people are missing. The river has backed up while it makes a new bed hundreds of feet from where it was.

  The region's largest newspaper, the Seattle Times, has risen far above the norm. I've not done a survey of media coverage but would be surprised if anybody surpassed the Times's breadth and speedy response. About three dozen reporters plus illustrators and others have been working long hours to get the facts. The all-staff assault paid...

I'm apparently not the only one to take a shot at Nate Silver's new news site. He's taking hits from all over.

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs...

I'm apparently not the only one to take a shot at Nate Silver's new news site. He's taking hits from all over.

Tabitha M. Powledge at On Science Blogs wraps up much of the coverage--all of it negative, as far as I can tell. The principal line of attack is not a subtle one: Silver's new data journalism site lacks, uh, how should I put this...

Data.

Powledge quotes various commentators who have said that, and she also raises questions about some of the people Silver has chosen to cover science. Roger Pielke, Jr. and Emily Oster are idiosyncratic choices, to say the least.

Powledge thinks Silver will get better, because it always takes time for startups to find their footing.

...

E-cigarettes have largely escaped coverage, especially coverage by science and health reporters.

And when they do get covered, the most important thing about them is rarely explored in depth--whether they help smokers quit, or whether they encourage non-smokers to start.

Last December, Joe...

E-cigarettes have largely escaped coverage, especially coverage by science and health reporters.

And when they do get covered, the most important thing about them is rarely explored in depth--whether they help smokers quit, or whether they encourage non-smokers to start.

Last December, Joe Nocera, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, wrote a piece extolling e-cigarettes. He describes them as "an innovative device that can help people wean themselves" from smoking. "It has the same look and feel as the lethal product...but the ingredients that kill...

  The nation's leading newspaper is giving a high profile today to a stirring report from Brazil on evidence that people reached what is now its northeastern region at least 22,000 and perhaps more than 40,000 years ago.

  •  NY Times - Simon Romero:...

  The nation's leading newspaper is giving a high profile today to a stirring report from Brazil on evidence that people reached what is now its northeastern region at least 22,000 and perhaps more than 40,000 years ago.

Stirring, that is, to readers with little familiarity with a long-running and at times bitter debate over that very assertion. And, of course, relatively few American keep up on such things. To them this story will seem a great adventure into the early peopling of the Americas. It will offer a chance to ponder how science is extending knowledge of the epochal series of migrations to the New World, a vast settling that set the stage for the...

 It has been said that all news is local. Hardly any topic beats out weather when it comes to being right in the readers' backyards.

   In corollary fashion, the rising speculation among long range weather and climate forecasters that an El Niño of moderate to perhaps large...

 It has been said that all news is local. Hardly any topic beats out weather when it comes to being right in the readers' backyards.

   In corollary fashion, the rising speculation among long range weather and climate forecasters that an El Niño of moderate to perhaps large intensity is brewing in the tropical Pacific gets coverage in a very different fashion in Australia and southern and southeast Asia than it does in California. Or Peru. Or India. The US's Nat'l Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts chances of one occurring at 50-50 during the summer or fall. It's not much, but a significant one has not gotten odds that high for years. A paper in PNAS put the chances at 3 in 4. So it is news.

   ...

The email began this way:

Rotary International (www.rotary.org) can cover travel costs for a writer who secures an assignment with a top-tier U.S./global media outlet to write about its global humanitarian work.  Example: ...

The email began this way:

Rotary International (www.rotary.org) can cover travel costs for a writer who secures an assignment with a top-tier U.S./global media outlet to write about its global humanitarian work.  Example:  Travel with Oregon Rotarian Nancy Hughes and her team to visit a stove factory they help to establish near Antigua, Guatemala between June 18–27.

They tell me Guatemala is lovely in June...

The offer is apparently being tendered by the public relations firm GolinHarris on behalf of Rotary. The email goes on to explain why the stove project is important, the number of lives that can be saved by better stoves, and so forth.

I'm all for it. Who's against saving lives?

What I'm not for is to have sources pay for coverage. A reporter's obligation is to present what he or she learns to readers, viewers, or listeners...

Reading a San Francisco Chronicle story about how a mother cured her daughter's autism by removing MSG from her diet, I wanted to shout, "There is no science to back up the...

Reading a San Francisco Chronicle story about how a mother cured her daughter's autism by removing MSG from her diet, I wanted to shout, "There is no science to back up the mother's claims!"

But the article's author, Stacy Finz, had scooped me. "There is no science to back up many of her claims," Finz wrote. 

Knowing that, she wrote the story anyway--a story that will surely lead many other parents to try the same unproven diet. Why write it if there is no science to back this up, and when we know that many readers will slip past the caveats to seize the hope?

Finz actually answered that question:

While there is no science to back up many of her claims, Reid [Katherine Reid, the mother] said the most convincing evidence to her is the results she saw in her...

Experts struggling to explain a new study that finds little harm from saturated fat in the diet have found another clue: Errors were discovered in the new paper.

"A new version of the publication had to be posted...

Experts struggling to explain a new study that finds little harm from saturated fat in the diet have found another clue: Errors were discovered in the new paper.

"A new version of the publication had to be posted shortly after it appeared on the website of the Annals of Internal Medicine to correct several errors. And although the study's first author stands by the conclusions, a number of scientists are criticizing the paper and even calling on the authors to retract it," writes Kai Kupferschmidt at Science.

Harvard's Walter Willett, whose decades of research was flatly contradicted by the new study, told Kupferschmidt that the study's authors "have done a huge amount of damage. I think a retraction...

After three weeks of mystery regarding the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, representatives of a British satellite company called Inmarsat have claimed that with a complex mathematical analysis, they’ve narrowed down the fight path and made a solid case that the plane went down in the Southern Ocean.

...

After three weeks of mystery regarding the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, representatives of a British satellite company called Inmarsat have claimed that with a complex mathematical analysis, they’ve narrowed down the fight path and made a solid case that the plane went down in the Southern Ocean.

This news raises just the kinds of questions that cry out for good science reporting. Is the satellite company’s claim to be believed? How did they do it? Some stories explained in very simple terms that they applied the Doppler effect to “pings” transmitted between the plane and a geostationary satellite.

The New York Times and Wall Street...

From The Age, Mar 23, 2014
Charlie Petit
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  Don't stop me if you heard this. Because you have, and you'll hear it many more times. A big conference of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is meeting and will soon issue a dire warning on the course and consequences of climate change should the world continue to take no strong steps...

  Don't stop me if you heard this. Because you have, and you'll hear it many more times. A big conference of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is meeting and will soon issue a dire warning on the course and consequences of climate change should the world continue to take no strong steps against the ways we've caused it. 

  One cannot be surprised that a fair contingent of the international press has just given up on covering these events on scene. You know, ground hog day and all that. Just this month the AAAS weighed in with its own statement of grave concern. But a few disciplined souls are in Yokohama Japan - or following closely via streaming video and other 21st century means - for what is formally the IPCC's Working Group II of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). It started early today (Tuesday Mar. 25)  and is to wind up with a press conference on the 31st. Its charge is to reach consensus on what the impact on humanity...

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