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Peter Woit on science journalists



What’s not normal science is the behavior of a lot of theorists in response to the BICEP2 claims. The Stanford University Linde video and its 3 million downloads will live forever as an example of misguided PR for science. The comments from theorists about the significance of this for string theory that Nature quoted were an embarassment for the field (why not just say that you could get any value of r out of string theory?), and even worse were the publicity campaigns from Linde, Guth and Carroll aiming to convince the public that this was evidence for the multiverse.

What’s the lesson for science journalists? Take a hard look at the behavior of some prominent theorists in this story, and draw the obvious conclusions for your future coverage of developments in this field of science.

I don’t know what motivates science journalists. Hey, I went down the Creighton Mine in a cluster of j’s to SNOLab in 2009 (detecting dark matter).

Never knew if I was accepted or not. But this I knew: I am born Canadian. Paid my dues. Marched all the way. Asked for nothing special or extra. Got into no kind of trouble with anyone – of course. Then went back to Toronto.

Sense was: So many of my companions seemed to want science journalism to be something out of Hollywood crime fiction where, in the end, all the pieces fit in exactly the way that satisfies us.

But what if they fit, but not in a way that satisfies us? – O’Leary for News

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