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Erebus, Nov 2013, Photo by Alasdair Turner
Charlie Petit
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  Those were the days, back when UPI went toe to toe with the AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse to cover the world. Even the bottom of the place. In 1979 a packet of newspeople on an NSF-hosted tour of US Antarctic operations finished up and flew back to Christchurch NZ in an Air Force C-141 cargo plane. I...

  Those were the days, back when UPI went toe to toe with the AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse to cover the world. Even the bottom of the place. In 1979 a packet of newspeople on an NSF-hosted tour of US Antarctic operations finished up and flew back to Christchurch NZ in an Air Force C-141 cargo plane. I was among'em. So was Ira Flatow. But not the late, indefatigable Al Rossiter, UPI's main scence guy. He had a sinus problem.  The medicos told him not to go up in the ill-pressurized airplane till he got better. Nothing much had happened while the whole group was on the ice (we lapped up the lingo). That is, other than the standard parades to the Pole, to the Dry Valleys, to visit Penguins, and to gorge on fried Antarctic cod thank you U. of Illinois prof. Art DeVries, guru of hematic antifreeze.

   A week earlier we'd watched an Air New Zealand DC-10 cruise low and slow past McMurdo. It was on a sightseeing tourist flight. The base helo...

  Here's a long, remarkably detailed and deeply-reported yarn that is at heart a paean to the perseverence, dedication, and sheer perspiration of physicists and other designers of a monster project in Europe. Yet it will not be such good news for the supporters of the vital enterprise on which they are...

  Here's a long, remarkably detailed and deeply-reported yarn that is at heart a paean to the perseverence, dedication, and sheer perspiration of physicists and other designers of a monster project in Europe. Yet it will not be such good news for the supporters of the vital enterprise on which they are working:

 The subject, as even those who merely casually follow energy technologies will guess from the evocative hed, is fusion energy  - specifically, magnetically confined fusion and the long-planned and enormous International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. It has far to go but is now abuilding in France with tens of billions of...

Paul Raeburn
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[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the...

[Ed. note: On Feb. 28th, the Sacramento Bee's executive editor, Joyce Terhaar, said she would review the use of press releases on the paper's website. See more here.]

 

A few weeks ago, the blogger and author Maryn McKenna-- who covers emerging infectious diseases, among other things--was sent what looked like a story from The Sacramento Bee about a new bacterial health threat.

Except that it wasn't a Sacramento Bee story. It was a press release from PR Newswire that appeared online in the pages of the Bee.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post acknowledged that it was publishing press releases in its Health & Science section. When...

In yet another attempt to describe why scientists get things wrong, Nature this month featured a story headlined, Scientific method: Statistical Errors, by Regina Nuzzo. The story highlights a practice...

In yet another attempt to describe why scientists get things wrong, Nature this month featured a story headlined, Scientific method: Statistical Errors, by Regina Nuzzo. The story highlights a practice that confuses scientists and journalists alike – calculations of statistical significance.

The material on misuse of statistics could be useful, though not new, and it makes this feature more focused than many other recent stories about the growing concern with irreproducible results. Previous stories in the New Yorker, The Economist and The New York Times are critiqued on the Tracker here, here and...

Nueva sección "Ciencias" en El Comercio (Perú)
Pere Estupinya
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(English intro to Spanish lang post) The main newspaper in Peru (El Comercio) launched a daily science-news section, in both print and online versions. It’s very good news because it might contribute to the readers perception that science is important and deserves an specific section in...

(English intro to Spanish lang post) The main newspaper in Peru (El Comercio) launched a daily science-news section, in both print and online versions. It’s very good news because it might contribute to the readers perception that science is important and deserves an specific section in the biggest newspaper in the country. The stories we’ve read are varied, well written, and well illustrated. But we think there’s still too few content talking about local researchers. By including more stories about local science, the section “Ciencias” could make an even better contribution to the development and public engagement of science and technology in Peru.

Semanas atrás el diario peruano El Comercio (el de más tirada del país), inauguró una sección específica de ...

  The press will, despite some new data on why people so warp scientific conclusions to fit their preferences, continue to focus on how such preconceptions and knee-jerk reactions sort out according to political party affiliation. After all, political parties are winners and losers according to how much their...

  The press will, despite some new data on why people so warp scientific conclusions to fit their preferences, continue to focus on how such preconceptions and knee-jerk reactions sort out according to political party affiliation. After all, political parties are winners and losers according to how much their platforms and rhetorical gymnastics sway people to vote for them. Political parties really matter. Their differences drive much of the news cycle.

   Still, reporters should take a look at a study just out that seeks to explain, with polling data from Americans going back many years, what sort of personal characteristics lead some people, say, to vociferously oppose human embryonic stem cell research and its conclusions as anchors for public policy, that lead others to embrace it, and that leave others not caring or pondering.   And it's not so much political party as a set of other personal qualities which, while somewhat co-variant with...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the...

The Discovery Channel has given new meaning to the screenwriters' desperate maneuver known as jumping the shark--with an apparently faked photo of an actual extinct shark.

The evidence the image was faked comes from the columnist George Monbiot at theguardian, who might have done something more important with today's column but couldn't have done anything more entertaining. "Did Discovery Channel fake the image in its giant shark documentary?" he asks.

"Come clean or prove me wrong," he writes.

The Discovery documentary includes this image, which Monbiot displays in his column:

...

  The tracker over the years has taken note of innovative, or desperate, measures that science reporters and their close kin in the environmental and medical journalism world have taken to, uh, get paid to do what they do. The collapse of old time print daily media has spawned great and in many ways exciting...

  The tracker over the years has taken note of innovative, or desperate, measures that science reporters and their close kin in the environmental and medical journalism world have taken to, uh, get paid to do what they do. The collapse of old time print daily media has spawned great and in many ways exciting ferment in journalism.  But the regular paychecks are rare these days. One example of new thinking about bottom lines has come from the environmental journalist Stephen Leahy, who not only writes for several scrappy (ie not lavish spending) outlets but put on his website a suggestion that readers send him viaPayPal a bit of cash, offer him housing when he's on the road, etc. The site, by the way, is a little old, but Leahy is soldiering on, often for the Inter Press Service where this list of his stories is. 

  ...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists...

Headline writing is an art, as I was reminded the other day by this superb example: "Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists Say Face of Jesus Image Caused By Neutron Emissions."

Admittedly, it doesn't make much sense. Still, you have to admire the headline writers at The Huffington Post who wrote this.

I'm not the only one who succumbed and clicked. Joel Achenbach, a science writer and blogger at The Washington Post, was also sucked "down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience and bunk" when he saw this hed.

He used the occasion to reflect on the state of science journalism, which, like the shroud...

The National Science Foundation has just come out with its latest periodic survey on the public understanding of science, and yet again, shown that most people don’t have a clue. An embarrassingly large fraction discounts evolution...

The National Science Foundation has just come out with its latest periodic survey on the public understanding of science, and yet again, shown that most people don’t have a clue. An embarrassingly large fraction discounts evolution. Some respondents also inevitably answered that the sun revolves around the earth rather than the other way around, though this is an odd question considering that motion is relative. A much better approach would be to ask which body is at the center of the solar system. Such a question would more accurately measure whether people really do prefer Ptolemy to Copernicus.

But the big news this year was that more people than ever said they thought astrology was “very scientific” or “somewhat scientific”. It was up to more than half, from about a third in previous surveys.  

Several people covered the findings. Chris Mooney...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton...

You might think that two sweets like sugar and corn syrup would be get along well. They do the same job, more or less, and people like them.

Alas, it isn't so. Sometimes the more two parties are alike, the more they fight. And that's sadly the case here.

Last week, Eric Lipton wrote an illuminating story on the front page of the business section of The New York Times in which he mined documents uncovered in a federal lawsuit between the corn refinery and sugar industries. The story reports that both parties resorted to covert operations, misrepresentation of research on health risks, and enlisted academics and policy groups as allies.

The battle began with research suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup might be less healthy than sugar, Lipton reports--which the corn industry vigorously denied. The sugar and corn...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science...

The Washington Post announced Tuesday that it will stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section following the disclosure of the practice by the Knight Science Journalism Tracker last Friday.

I received the following email today from Kristine C. Coratti, the Post's spokesperson:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for your patience!

Your post raised good questions and we are discontinuing the feature.

Thank you again,
Kris

In the post last week, I asked, "What is the Washington Post doing reprinting press releases? The Post's website groups the Health & Science Section under national news. Is the Post so strapped that it can't report its own national news, but...

Faye Flam
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Last week, researchers announced that in a tiny study, they treated a handful of SIV-infected monkeys with cannabis. The researchers reported in a journal called AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses that upon examining the monkeys...

Last week, researchers announced that in a tiny study, they treated a handful of SIV-infected monkeys with cannabis. The researchers reported in a journal called AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses that upon examining the monkeys’ intestines, they observed less inflammation and a lower viral load than they saw in control monkeys.

Competent medical reporters know better than to raise hopes regarding any disease following a single, tiny trial in animals, or even for that matter a more substantial trial in animals. In this case we don’t even know if the treatment would have allowed the monkeys to live longer or stay healthier.

And yet, a couple of news outlets ran with headlines declaring that pot fights AIDS, and suggested that the lack of enthusiasm in the medical community was all due to the illicit nature of the drug – rather than caution because it was just a small...

It was almost inevitable that a climate discussion would come up last Thursday as I waited at the Philadelphia International Airport for my second cancelled flight of the day. Thousands of people were stranded by unusual snow and ice. I struck up a conversation with a couple of bankers – frequent flyers with...

It was almost inevitable that a climate discussion would come up last Thursday as I waited at the Philadelphia International Airport for my second cancelled flight of the day. Thousands of people were stranded by unusual snow and ice. I struck up a conversation with a couple of bankers – frequent flyers with outsized carbon footprints. Amid the grousing, one of them interjected a comment more or less like, “So much for global warming, ha ha.” And then the other one chimed in, with a tone of mockery, recalling how liberals keep trying to explain to him that the cold really is a sign of global warming.

Moods were tense, and Philadelphia’s brotherly love was wearing thin. It was no time to get into a squabble, but as a responsible citizen I did at least point out that it’s rather balmy in Alaska and the west is parched.

Next time, I’ll start with a question. How big is the U.S. as a portion of the globe? I got that idea from ...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see...

[Editor's note: On Feb. 18, four days after this post was written, the Washington Post said it would stop reprinting university and other press releases in its Health & Science section.]

Did you see the story in last Tuesday's Health & Science section of The Washington Post about how women find Tour de France leaders more attractive than the riders bringing up the rear? The study shows "that we can assess a man's endurance performance by looking at his face." And you can turn that around: "Attractive riders are,...

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