Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Food for thought, or empty mental calories?

In the quest for eyeballs -- aka, monetizing one's website -- journalistic integrity often suffers. Too often, even legitimate/serious reports online have click-bait titles.

Consider the following recent articles. Which of these quoted headlines are fair? Which are inappropriately sensationalized? (Inquiring minds, as they say, want to know.)

From The Washington Post, we have "This scientist nearly went to jail for making up data." The issue: how egregious and/or self-serving can the fudging of grant applications and research data be before such behavior becomes garden-variety fraud? 

Data, data everywhere (but how much can we trust?)

Next, Yahoo News offers us "Wireless mice leave billions at risk of computer hack: cyber security firm." The cited study claims an ability to inexpensively hack into unencrypted mouse/computer links (some mice use encrypted links) from a distance of up to 180 meters.

Ow! My eyes!
CNN contributes "Doctors issue warning about LED streetlights." These lights may contribute to sleeping difficulties (cooler hues are better) and impede night vision.

Space.com suggests that " 'Laser Cloak' Could Hide Earth from Evil Aliens." That is, we might shine bright lasers at another star so that, from that star's vantage point, there's no tiny dip in stellar brightness as Earth crosses the Sun. Or we could replace only specific wavelengths corresponding to the spectral absorption lines of life-indicative molecules (such as oh-two) in Earth's atmosphere. The catch? You would need to separately shine a very bright laser(s) at every star whose hypothetical inhabitants we would want to fool. (From another star's perspective, Earth is in transit only a short time each year; one laser, redirected, could serve at different times of the year to disguise us from different stars.)

Science magazine Cosmos opines "Universe is expanding faster than physics can explain." Dark energy was dubbed dark energy because physicists don't know what it is. Given that physics has no explanation for the Universe's expansion, only a label for our ignorance of the phenomenon's cause, at best "what physics can explain" refers only to one unproven theory about the nature of dark energy. And the perceived anomaly with respect to that particular theory of dark energy is 8% -- not big, IMO, in the context of our limited ability to characterize cosmic behavior and properties across billions of years and light-years.

What say you? Acceptable journalism or unprofessional practice?

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