Sunday, May 2, 2010

Snarky News

From The CSM:
A Wednesday article in the the Sun, a British tabloid, carried the headline 'NASA: Evidence of Life on Mars,' leaving scientists from the US space agency wondering if there's intelligent life in the Sun.
I think if news sources themselves were more aggressive about ridiculing bad reporting, it might provide some motivation to get it right. I have commented positively on the the overall quality of science reporting at the Christian Science Monitor in the past... a fact that I still find kind of surprising in the context of what I know about the Christian Science Church's belief system. But once again, they come through with a politely scathing critique of bad reporting.
The piece claimed that the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have been wheeling around the surface of the red planet since January 2004, found pond scum, which the paper calls "the building blocks of life as we know it."

"I think they have taken this stuff out of context," Brown said.

Such a discovery would truly have been groundbreaking, since pond scum, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, are actually a form of life themselves, not just building blocks for it.

"I can only assume that the Sun reporter misunderstood," said Cornell University planetary scientist Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover project, who was quoted in the story. "What Spirit and Opportunity have found is sulfate minerals... not organic materials, not pond scum, and not the building blocks of life as we know it.
More like this, please!

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