Physicist Hossenfelder on theory vs. wishful thinking
|February 16, 2016||Posted by News under Cosmology, Physics, Science|
Horgan: I have reasons to resent Sabine Hossenfelder. 1: She has criticized my end-of-science thesis. 2: She’s a free-will denier. 3: Scientists who write for non-scientists make it harder for mere journalists to make a buck. In December, she lectured at a physics conference in Germany, and then she reported on the conference in Forbes. Come on, how can journalists compete with that?
(Um, you could, for example, try reporting on the genuine upheaval taking place in evolutionary biology. But you’d lose all your remaining friends … So let’s get back to work. )
Horgan: Nice! You recently said on your blog: “The biggest task of science bloggers–like Peter Woit, Ethan Siegel and myself–has become to clean up after sloppy science journalism.” Please elaborate.
Hossenfelder: I often find myself having to correct articles that mislead the reader about some recent research. The way much science journalism appears today, it is impossible for someone with no background in the field to tell how serious to take claims. Like, that new research shows black holes don’t exist, or that we will make contact with parallel universes, will soon test quantum gravity, or string theory, or that the information loss paradox has been solved (again!). And so on.
People don’t learn from this, they just get confused, doubt the trustworthiness of science, and it’s no good. I recently went to visit my mom and first thing she says after she opens the door is that she’s read the LHC proved we live in a multiverse and if I could please tell her what that is supposed to mean.
Yes, there is good science journalism. But then there are a lot of outlets that just seem to uncritically repeat press releases or what a scientist told them about their own research. And after one major outlet picked it up, it will appear in a dozen other places, each trying to make a bigger headline than the others. How come we still haven’t confirmed string theory if we’ve read two dozen times that it’s soon going to happen? More.
Ah, at last! A question yer humble UD News hack can answer: “How come we still haven’t confirmed string theory if we’ve read two dozen times that it’s soon going to happen?”
Here is the answer, for any who wondered: Because in today’s mainstream media, narrative matters and facts don’t. The narrative is, “String theory WILL be confirmed. Keep watching this space.”
Long after the famous masthead sign is taken down from some gargantuan news outlet’s former building, you may still be watching that now-blank space. But at least you were a true believer. And surely that’s some comfort. Also, you can blame the overall problem on the hicks and rubes that never read Gargantua News, and maybe you can get some persecution going against them… .
But I don’t blame the lazy pom pom-waving hacks for anything so much as this: They lack curiosity. They don’t care if what they write is really where it’s at, as long as they can get a paycheck out of it.
And that is not why media matter.
Do American media think that their government would protect the rights of media in the First Amendment to the Constitution*, if it were just about them personally paying their rent and outgassing among movers and shakers, instead of among their own dreary social set?
But Horgan wouldn’t even be doing this interview with Hossenfelder if reality-based physics wasn’t under threat.
See also: Physicist tells people to stop saying they have free will (Sabine Hossenfelder) “However, her arguments against free will are both scientifically unsound and philosophically dated.” – Vincent Torley
Breaking, breaking: Science writer challenges conventional wisdom (John Horgan)
Rob Sheldon on dark matter as a superfluid (Sabine Hossenfelder’s idea)
*Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
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