Is Big Physics peddling science pornography?

There’s a new round of nonsense about theoretical physics making its way through the media, especially the British tabloids. The original source is a preprint from a few months ago by Aref’eva and Volovich entitled Time Machine at the LHC (it refers to another earlier one by other authors If LHC is a Mini-Time-Machines Factory, Can We Notice?). These papers discuss the possibility that the LHC will produce not just black holes, but also wormholes that would be “Mini-Time-Machines” (MTMs).

New Scientist now has a cover story based on this which begins:

As you may have heard, this will be the year. The Large Hadron Collider – the most powerful atom-smasher ever built – will be switched on, and particle physics will hit pay-dirt. Yet if a pair of Russian mathematicians are right, any advances in this area could be overshadowed by a truly extraordinary event. According to Irina Aref’eva and Igor Volovich, the LHC might just turn out to be the world’s first time machine.

The article invokes work by Nima Arkani-Hamed and others to justify the idea that the LHC will produce black holes and possibly wormholes, and Kip Thorne to justify the possibility of time travel. Several physicists are quoted in favor of the plausibility of the underlying idea, it not its practicality.

The story has now made it to the Sun, which has two stories: Time Travel Russia’s in and Visits From Crack to the Future. According to the Sun, the LHC will be switched on in May (not true….) and from that time on time travel will be possible:

The laws of physics suggest that no one from the future will be able to travel back any further than when the machine was switched on — with 2008 being Year Zero.

According to the Daily Mail:

Time travel could be a reality within just three months, Russian mathematicians have claimed. They believe an experiment nuclear scientists plan to carry out in underground tunnels in Geneva in May could create a rift in the fabric of the universe.

The Telegraph has Time travellers from the future ‘could be here in weeks’, but the article at least has some skeptical quotes, for instance from David Deutsch, who describes the idea as “not cranky”, but unlikely to work.

New Scientist does seem to realize that this kind of silliness may have gone too far, publishing an article by Michael Hanlon entitled Is Big Science peddling science pornography?. I think Hanlon raises extremely important questions that the physics community needs to address, although he makes a mistake by pinning this on “Big Science”. The people working hard to make projects like the LHC a reality are not the culprits here, irresponsible theorists are. Hanlon writes:

Physics and cosmology stories are like this these days. Once it was all hard sums and red-shifted galaxies; awesome enough one would have thought. Now it’s time machines and universe-eating particles.

Does any of this bear any relation to reality? Or is Big Physics guilty of some serious sexing-up, drifting away from the realm of hard data and into the softer universe of science pornography?

As well as accidental time machines we are told of cosmic strings – gigantic filaments of super-stuff that warp and tear space-time like ladders in a pair of celestial stockings – and crashing branes, titanic slabs of maths that give rise to the big bang in the exotically lovely ekpyrotic universe of Neil Turok.

Not crazy enough for you? What about the multiverse? One of the biggest sell-out lectures at last year’s Hay-on-Wye festival in Wales starred the UK’s astronomer royal, Martin Rees, who entertained his audience with a discussion of the possibility, indeed the probability, of multiple worlds – endless parallel realities existing in a gargantuan super-reality that makes what we think of as the universe as insignificant as a gnat on an elephant’s backside. Or there’s the simulation argument, philosopher Nick Bostrom’s delicious idea that since it should be possible to replicate an entire universe in a computer, and that this could be done countless times, statistical cleverness proves that we are not the real McCoy but the figments of some electronic entity’s imagination.

…Scientists, and people like me who stick up for science, are happy to pour scorn on astrologers, homeopaths, UFO-nutters, crop-circlers and indeed the Adam-and-Eve brigade, who all happily believe in six impossible things before breakfast with no evidence at all. Show us the data, we say to these deluded souls. Where are your trials? What about Occam’s razor – the principle that any explanation should be as simple as possible? The garden is surely beautiful enough, we say, without having to populate it with fairies.

The danger is that on the wilder shores of physics these standards are often not met either. There is as yet no observational evidence for cosmic strings. It’s hard to test for a multiverse. In this sense, some of these ideas are not so far, conceptually, from UFOs and homeopathy. If we are prepared to dismiss ghosts, say, as ludicrous on the grounds that firstly we have no proper observational evidence for them and secondly that their existence would force us to rethink everything, doesn’t the same argument apply to simulated universes and time machines? Are we not guilty of prejudice against some kinds of very unlikely ideas in favour of others?

Update: The time travel story has even made it to the Chronicle.

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46 Responses to Is Big Physics peddling science pornography?

  1. Steve Myers says:

    Science porn — a good term since it’s a substitute for the real thing.

  2. Chris Oakley says:

    “Pornography” may have been the term used by New Scientist but The Sun runs the genuine article in mild form on Page 3 each day in the form of a un- or scantily-clad babe (the “Page 3 girl”). They missed an opportunity in not combining this with their article about the LHC:

    “Delicious Debbie (19) from Dagenham, Essex, is looking forward to the opening of the LHC in May. “Yeah, it’s gonna be great: I mean, just last week I left my lip gloss in a taxi. If there was time travel I could’ve gone back in time and put it in my bag before I got in.” Did Debbie take an interest in theoretical physics, we asked? “Oh, no,” she replied, “I couldn’t get in to drama school, so I got a job as a secretary, didn’t I?””

  3. Bee says:

    I had plenty to say about the topic, but I’ve said it all before, therefore I’ll just link to Fact or Fiction?

  4. Yatima says:

    Well, I don’t care about the SUN – getting steamed up about their science reporting is not truly worthwhile, but New Scientist had a perfectly good article on mass extinctions not being caused by random asteroid impacts but cyclic world-wide resurgences of bacterial populations – an awesome idea. They could have used that for the cover page and relegated the time travel speculation to a footnote instead. The editor needs to be handed a fist-sized raspberry.

    In related news, Garrett Lisi is interviewed in the lengthy cover article of the french popular scientific mag “Science&Vie” of January.

  5. David Nataf says:

    Yatima,
    That’s pretty consistent of New Scientist magazine.
    They will in general have a sensationalist cover story, with interesting popular science articles on the inside. The sensationalism is always about how theoretical physics is breaking down. Superstrings, loops, the ether, time machines, et cetera.
    The best popular science magazine for the educated layman is American Scientist.

  6. Big Vlad says:

    i despair of this sort of rubbish. We as scientists have no grounds on which to dismiss ghosts and fairies while this stuff is being printed. It’s not even as if the sun has made this up – it’s based on an actual arxiv preprint!

    I really can’t wait until the LHC results come in and destroy 99% (100%?) of the currently fashionable theories, and then experimenters and phenomenologists will take over the world.

  7. Janus says:

    The difference, of course, is that people actually believe in ghosts, UFOs, homeopathy, creationism, etc. They don’t think of it as interesting remote possibilities that may be tested experimentally one day. They believe in them so strongly that they’re willing to spend considerable amounts of time, money, and/or energy on these things.

    I don’t think scientists should refrain from formulating hypotheses, even hypotheses that seem crazy to most laymen, as long as they acknowledge that they are merely hypotheses. If anyone needs to be criticized, it’s the ignorant media people who blow everything out of proportion.

  8. Peter Woit says:

    Janus,

    The question is not whether scientists should refrain from formulating hypotheses, but whether they should issue press releases or otherwise encourage mass media to write about these hypotheses when they are extremely speculative. No media person is going to write anything about a new scientific result if the scientist involved tells them that it’s something that is very unlikely to be true and shouldn’t be promoted to the public. The media may be swallowing too much hype, but it is scientists who are feeding it to them.

  9. chris says:

    janus,

    are you sure that – say – suskind does not *believe* in the multiverse? i would not bet at least.

    and to attribute this ‘simulated world’ idea to anyone in particular is just so plain silly. back when i was young, i discussed this over a beer with my school buddies and heck, there even where holywood films about it already.

    my lingering suspicion on why these subjects are so popular is that once you got into the mood (i.e. the community recognizes you as ‘serious’ contributor) you can crank out a paper per month with minimal effort. compare that (and the possibility of getting media attention) to a 4-loop qcd calculation and it should be obvious why baseless speculation is so sexy to researchers.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Who has more investment in nonsense?

    The difference, of course, is that people actually believe in ghosts, UFOs, homeopathy, creationism, etc. They don’t think of it as interesting remote possibilities that may be tested experimentally one day. They believe in them so strongly that they’re willing to spend considerable amounts of time, money, and/or energy on these things.

    For people, it is a hobby or obsession. For physicists, it is a career, a life’s work.

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  12. Mark Wallace says:

    It seems like too many professors in this decade confuse their love of science fiction with the discipline of physics. I was a physics undergrad in the early 80′s (Berkeley), and I recall that all my professors back then would become extremely irritated by persistent undergrad questions about time travel and other such nonsense. I appreciated their attitude at the time, and wish it were more prevalent now.

  13. Chris W. says:

    Mark,

    I guess what you’re saying is that we could use a bit more willingness to humorlessly dismiss such stuff as a muddle-headed waste of time.

    There are ways to discuss time travel seriously, as a way of getting at subtle aspects of the laws of physics. The trouble, the people who ask about the topic are usually not that interested in the laws of physics.

  14. Peter Shor says:

    I remember reading some popular article by Kip Thorne where he said that he was very reluctant to publish his work on time travel, I think because it was too speculative and science-fictiony to be considered serious science. He therefore spent a lot of time thinking about the consequences of time travel before he published anything.

    There should be some correlate to “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” along the lines of “extraordinary speculations require extraordinary groundwork.” If you’re going to introduce unconventional ideas, you should spend a lot of time figuring out as many of their implications as you can.

  15. Physicists have never lacked for exciting theories and ideas, but now they’re being sexed up to sell magazines and cable science shows as well as to court purse-string politicians. But why is nutty physics being popularized to such an extent today?

    As a lay person, I think the answer follows from the previous comments about belief in UFOs, homeopathy, ghosts and creationism. Sometimes I think that’s all physics is to these believers — just another means of legitimizing a lot of non-scientific nonsense. And I will add to that my assertion that most of today’s popularized high energy physics and cosmology is nothing but entertainment being hawked all too often by respected authorities in their fields using flashy, bewildering computer graphics and preposterous ideas with little or no educational or informational value.

    Dumbing-up sounds like a good idea, but I don’t see it working.

  16. Peter Shor says:

    When I was growing up (1960′s and 1970′s), I remember thee being extensive belief in UFO’s, new age medicine, and so on. But I don’t remember high energy physicists going out on limbs popularizing nonsense the way they’re doing now. Of course, maybe I couldn’t have told the difference between serious physics and nonsense at the time. But I suspect it was because high energy physics was going through a very exciting time (the Standard Model was being discovered and experimentally tested) and there was lots of real physics to popularize.

    Of course, there’s exciting physics to popularize now. Dark matter, dark energy, inflation, neutrino mass, all sorts of interesting exoplanets, stars and galaxies the astronomers are seeing, etc. But the particle theorists and string theorists are left out, and maybe some of them want to play, too.

  17. DB says:

    “But the particle theorists and string theorists are left out, and maybe some of them want to play, too.”

    There is probably something in this, particularly as much of the hype is coming from theorists who have spent the last twenty five years vainly struggling to create a successor to the Standard Model, and have precious little to show for it. Many are now over 45 years of age, and in mathematical physics it’s extremely rare to make important breakthroughs after that age. So these individuals, many of them in eminent positions at prestigious institutions, are in an invidious position. Do they shut up and let the world pass them by, or do they try to “talk their book” in the hope of persuading young talented theoreticians to take up the torch, while helping their postdocs make tenure by exaggerating the importance of the field and its achievements to date. I’m convinced that it’s the latter process that’s at work here. It’s about legacy and jobs.

  18. Anonymous says:

    As an outside observer who loves math and physics, I don’t think that there is necessarily anything wrong with speculative ideas. I think the problem is when those speculative ideas are just that, ideas, and not well reasoned arguments for why something is possible.

    We don’t live in a special time in this regard, certainly there are plenty of earlier examples of theories that were later proven completely ridiculous. I think the danger is similar to what we see in the intelligent design debate; where people are willing to tell lies under the banner of science, simply because they call the lie a “theory”.

    Such things undermine legitimate science, and shakes the public’s confidence in the ability of science to provide answers.

  19. Eric says:

    What’s really sad is that Discover magazine has a special issue this month devoted to Einstein. One article in the magazine is a listing of the ‘next Einstein’. Number one is the famous surfing, independent physicist who just ‘published’ a paper. Ed Witten is listed as number six. This is really deplorable.

  20. Peter Woit says:

    Eric,

    I don’t know about Witten as the “next Einstein”, I think he’s more kind of the “current Einstein”. As for the “next” one, I don’t see many convincing candidates.

    Funny, but you don’t seem to be bothered by the feature article in that issue of Discover by a string theorist about time travel (from a forthcoming book).

  21. Eric says:

    Peter,
    The book by Kaku that you link just seems to be a variation on the ‘Physics of Star Trek’ theme of Lawrence Krauss who is most definitely not a string theorist.

    The hyping of Lisi is an absolute travesty. How can anyone conclude that his inclusion in this article as nothing but a product of the alternative physics hype with which you sympathize and support? If the public cannot tell the difference between a real physicist and someone like Lisi, how can we ever expect proper financial support from the US government for serious projects?

  22. Migo says:

    It may be somewhat unrelated, but for some different kind of nonsense about theoretical high energy physics, you might want to have a look at the preprint 0802.0216. There the author claims to have found an argument proving that the mathematical structure of QFT is inconsistent. Unfortunately, he does not know what a representation of the translations is in QFT, and is therefore led to false conclusions. This example really makes we wonder where theoretical physics is going these days …

  23. Peter Woit says:

    Eric,

    If you pay attention to this blog, I think you’ll see that the only “alternative physics” hype that I really sympathize with and support has to do with the idea that some active topics of mathematical research like geometric Langlands have important relations to quantum field theory, and better understanding this may someday lead to new physics. My attempts to hype this don’t seem to have gotten very far. Of the people on the Discover magazine list of “new Einsteins”, there’s only one I support, who shares a bit my point of view, and I don’t think he’s very “new”.

    I don’t know what “alternative physics” is. If you mean “alternatives to string theory”, since string theory has failed as a TOE, I support people looking for alternatives, even if they’re ones I don’t personally find very promising. Sure, Lisi-mania was an unfortunate example of media hype, but I just don’t think there’s the slightest danger that NSF and DOE funding of Lisi studies will crowd out conventional theoretical physics research. If this shows any signs of happening I’ll devote postings here to the Lisi-hype problem.

  24. Peter Woit says:

    Migo,

    The arXiv is just a preprint server, and as such has a large helping of wrong and otherwise worthless submissions. Most of these are just completely ignored by everyone. For this one in particular, your comment is probably the only attention it has ever gotten or ever will get. I don’t think there’s the slightest danger it will be come the subject of media hype…

  25. Migo says:

    Peter, you are right, one should probably just ignore stuff like that. But given the far-reaching claims this preprint makes, and the potential for confusion it might cause among people not knowing QFT very well, I thought it would be a good idea to have some trackback to a short discussion indicating that it’s wrong. Yes, plain wrong in this case, instead of not even wrong …

  26. Peter Woit says:

    Migo,

    I deleted the “trackback” part of the your link, because it was mal-formed, wouldn’t have worked anyway (except in certain special cases, trackbacks to this blog are censored by the powers-that-be at the arXiv), and the last thing I want here is extended discussions of what is wrong with every worthless preprint posted to the arXiv, (this would be a huge and extremely unrewarding topic).

  27. neo says:

    Some of the ideas are really goofy, others are not. They seem to have been bundled together haphazardly. For example, the ekpyrotic theory is no more speculative and certainly philosophically more pleasing that eternal chaotic inflation.

  28. Chris Oakley says:

    I will be interested to see if Kaku has corrected an error in his previous book where he claims that my great-uncle W J van Stockum was Scottish when the only time he lived in Scotland was when he was doing doing his Ph.D. (1935 to 1937) – not that I care much, BTW, as I really doubt that GR is more than a weak-field approximation, but getting details like that right does help to boost peoples’ confidence.

  29. Yatima, I’m one of the physics features editors at New Scientist and take some responsibility for what goes on the cover. Why do we (and other popular science magazines) put so many theoretical physics and cosmology stories on the cover? Because big physics sells. At this time of funding cuts in the UK and US and worries over student numbers, surely it’s heartening to find so many people getting excited about the big questions that physics addresses.

  30. anon. says:

    ‘At this time of funding cuts in the UK and US and worries over student numbers, surely it’s heartening to find so many people getting excited about the big questions that physics addresses.’

    Valerie,

    New Scientist, as I’m sure you know, has been promoting speculative, non-checkable ideas since string theory came to fame over two decades ago. The fall in student numbers, see http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/news/newsarchive2006/ceer-physics-2.html doesn’t correlate to Woit’s blog or even to the popularity of the internet, but it does correlate to the rise of speculative stuff on your front covers:

    ‘Since 1982 A-level physics entries have halved. Only just over 3.8 per cent of 16-year-olds took A-level physics in 2004 compared with about 6 per cent in 1990.

    ‘More than a quarter (from 57 to 42) of universities with significant numbers of physics undergraduates have stopped teaching the subject since 1994, while the number of home students on first-degree physics courses has decreased by more than 28 per cent. Even in the 26 elite universities with the highest ratings for research the trend in student numbers has been downwards.

    ‘Fewer graduates in physics than in the other sciences are training to be teachers, and a fifth of those are training to be maths teachers. A-level entries have fallen most sharply in FE colleges where 40 per cent of the feeder schools lack anyone who has studied physics to any level at university.’

    One thing that is clear is that hype of speculative uncheckable string theory has at least failed to encourage a rise in student numbers over the last two decades, assuming that such speculation itself is not actually to blame for the decline in student interest.

    However, it’s clear that when hype fails to increase student interest, everyone will agree to the consensus that the problem is a lack of hype, and if only more hype of speculation was done, the problem would be addressed. Nobody will believe that a reduction in speculative hype could possibly address the problem, or that changing the focus of the front cover of New Scientist to more solid areas of physics would help. Electronics and computing innovation of the real world variety (not quantum computing hype from qubit/Deutch) for example, has been censored from New Scientist as too boring. I’m not including my name here as this isn’t a personal matter.

    Maybe the vast number of excited readers of New Scientist physics sci fi hype who don’t take up A-level physics as a result, take up writing science fiction or take up religious orders, instead?

  31. Chris Oakley says:

    Anon.,

    Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but one of the reasons that fewer students are taking A-level physics is that there are more options available for the technically-minded student, mostly related to electronics and computing, which have come on in leaps and bounds, both theoretically and practically, since then.

  32. anon. says:

    Chris,

    Thanks, but those technically-minded students of electronics and computing could also do an A-level in physics (which is an allied subject), instead of avoiding it like the plague which is what currently occurs.

  33. JC says:

    anon, Chris

    A better question to ask from an historical perspective is, did science hype/pornography increase the number of engineering, physics, and math majors back in the 1960′s? Or did the increase in engineering, science, and math majors have more to do with Sputnik era increases in science funding? Or was it a more mundane reason like the sheer large numbers of baby boomers attending university in the 1960′s?

  34. anon. says:

    JC: this is about a fall in the percentage of students doing physics, not a fall in birth rate. Disillusionment with physics is the problem, otherwise physics would be widely taken in addition to electronics, chemistry, computing, or maths.

    ‘Or did the increase in engineering, science, and math majors have more to do with Sputnik era increases in science funding?’

    Here in the UK, the funding of physics isn’t the key problem, which is student numbers. Funding has to follow students. You can’t really save a department with no students by increasing funding. It’s really not a money-related. When physics ‘hype’ stopped being tied to facts and went sci fi, physics became a not just nerdy but really weird and cult-like, which didn’t appeal to the technically-minded.

  35. Thomas Love says:

    JC, The increase in science majors in the 1960′s was at least in part due to the fact that a man was more likely to obtain a draft deferment if he was a math, science or engineering major. This was true at least with my draft board.

  36. Tony Smith says:

    JC asked “… did science hype … increase the number of engineering, physics, and math majors back in the 1960’s? …”.

    My personal experience may be merely anecdotal,
    but
    I was born in 1941 and grew up reading stories (even in comic books) about such things as:
    the idea of nuclear chain reaction fission;
    nuclear fusion related to elliptical pool tables with a hole at one focus;
    computers (rooms of tubes with punch cards) that could calculate stellar structure and evolution;
    rockets sending sputniks (and cosmonauts) into orbit;
    transistors for little radios and for calculators more accurate than a slide rule (and for smaller computers); and
    nuclear submarines that could stay under the sea for as long as the crew could tolerate.

    Those things were the hype of that time,
    and they did in fact motivate me to study science and math,
    because
    they were REAL and they really CHANGED the world.

    In contrast, today’s superstring hype does not deal with anything that is really changing today’s world, and is so far detached from reality that the superstringers have yet to connect their ideas with even the esoteric reality of existing results from high-energy particle physics experiments.
    Whether or not some future experiment might or might not connect with some idea from the superstringers is an open question,
    but
    the hard cold fact is that as of now there is no such connection with existing experimental results.

    So, if I were growing up now, I would see a lot of superstring hype
    but
    I would NOT see any connection between the hype and reality,
    unlike
    the connections with nuclear, computer, rocket stuff that was really REAL when I was growing up.

    Tony Smith

    PS – It is also interesting to compare two types of recent hype:

    1 – superstring with no connection to reality

    2 – hedge-fund-type finance, with very clear connection to the reality of the world’s economy

    and to observe that a lot of people over the past years have left the unreal world of superstrings for the real money hedge-fund world.
    (Whether or not they constructed a flawed monster whose collapse could cause a depression is another story, but either way their economic construct is quite real.)

    In short, hype connected with reality attracts people to work on a subject,
    but
    hype without reality (superstring theory, TV/movies/games about vampires, witches, magic, etc) is viewed by most people as mere fantasy,
    not worthy of being taken seriously as life-work.

  37. Mark Wallace Says:
    It seems like too many professors in this decade confuse their love of science fiction with the discipline of physics. I was a physics undergrad in the early 80’s (Berkeley), and I recall that all my professors back then would become extremely irritated by persistent undergrad questions about time travel and other such nonsense. I appreciated their attitude at the time, and wish it were more prevalent now.

    Mark, the undergrads of the early eighties are the professors of today… A generation of misfits :)

    Cheers,
    T.

  38. Anton Szautner says:

    A NewScientist cover story breathlessly touts 2008 as the incipient “Year Zero” and repeats the new-and-improved time-travel mantra: “…travelling into the past is only possible – if it is possible at all – as far back as the creation of the first time machine.”

    Well, for crying out loud already: what’s the universe if it ISN’T already a “time machine”?

    All this mindless hooplahype ignores that the LHC is less than a factor of ten more powerful than Fermilab’s Tevatron – a very small incremental increase in a vastly larger energy scale nature plays with. If those energies are what permit MTMs, then the big bang already made them in vast abundance and Year Zero remains Year Zero.

    Yet, so what? Where are the time travelers beating a path through their past to us from a “future” that hasn’t happened yet? Are we to presume the implication that all of those potential futures are already somehow coagulated into a “present” configuration which allows for the existence of time travelers? If so, we’re dealing (as the last sentence implies) with a past-tense version of a future ‘already’ formed.

    Ridiculous.

  39. Vicky says:

    In response to anon:

    In terms of declining student enrollment, I suspect that it has more to do with the lack of jobs at the end of the road than whether the professors are too “sci-fi.” If one wants a job in academia or a public sector laboratory, the competition is fierce, and if you want a job in industry, engineering may be a better path.

    Because of this, I have read some argue elsewhere that more money spent on physics will create more jobs which will entice more students to fill them. Sadly, that is unsustainable.

    Most people will not excel at their career. A mediocre engineer works as a mediocre engineer. A mediocre mathematician has a variety of options. A mediocre physicist competes with trained engineers to become engineers or with trained mathematicians to become mathematicians. In either case, it makes more sense to pick a path that is viable from the start.

    That is why I left physics to become an engineer…I never would have gotten a permanent position in physics (I later became a lawyer out of public interest.) I suspect that type of concern deflects others from studying physics.

    The question shouldn’t be how to excite people to study physics…it is intrinsically exciting enough to anyone likely to invest their life in the field. The question is how to make the field relevant enough to others in a practical sense so that they take more than an introductory course to satisfy another major’s requirements, or to justify the public spending billions of dollars on research. And I don’t think that science porn will do that.

  40. Professor R says:

    hi Peter, I too noticed the read the Hanlon article, but i disagree with both him and you…
    It is not Big Science, or a few theorists, who are peddling sceince pornography – it is NS themselves.
    The theorists didn’t ask to be the cover story, that’s the magazine’s choice. Some theories will be more speculative than others, its more a question of balanced reporting, surely.
    Bit coy of Hanlon not to mention this (he could do, as he is not their employee)…Cormac

  41. woit says:

    Cormac,

    I agree with you that New Scientist has a lot to answer for, but still think they’re not the only ones. Scientists can’t change the fact that popular media want to make their stories as sexy as possible, but they can take responsibility for what they do and say when they are speaking publicly, and when they are contacted by journalists.

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  43. Professor R says:

    Peter – I think you’re right, there is also the onus on the scientist to make clear where in the spectrum this particular hypothesis lies…

    that said, someone should suggest to NS that they have a special category headed “speculative science”- that way they could indulge their whims without damaging the credibility of science

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  45. Vigesh says:

    Yeah 3 weeks… but then if they invent time machine… talking about when they did is irrelevant as the existence of time machine will be(I guess) the (least) time where(/when) they traveled.

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