Today let's talk about how science news is distorted by news "media" primary focus on entertainment. A few days ago we saw many entertaining stories about the small North Carolina town turning down a solar energy facility for fear the facility would suck up all of the sun's energy.
Then we read a story in Physics Today [link] which showed that the entertaining stories greately distorted the event. Yes, some fool, or comedian, apparently did say something about sucking up all the sun's energy but the solar energy facility was rejected because of concerns about design and location — which is reasonable but not entertaining.
My response to the mocking news reports is: "This tiny town already approved three solar energy facilities. What have you done?" Which is close to what the mayor said in response to news reports entertaining readers at the expense of his town.
Entertaining science news reports can also cost us all when they undermine trust in science. News "media" (as they call themselves) are now primarily focused on entertainment in order to feed interests of their paymasters. You and I spend a good portion of our time checking science news and nearly every day we see science news distorted to make it more entertaining. This is not good.
When I browse "news" why do I end with the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day? I know the answer. Very little in the "news" is uplifting. The NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day [link] is almost always uplifting. It appeals to our wonder about what is above us and what is beyond us. It appeals to our passion to explore.
We see an unimaginable vastness of time and space and matter bespeaking our insignifance. At the same time we see with our incredible creations. With our trustworthy science we created telescopes, space telescopes, and spacecraft to explore what is above us and what is beyond us. With our trustworthy science we created a story of how we got here.
For me it is inspiring to be reminded that we are made of stellar garbage. Stars form, use their primordial fuel creating elements, and explode spewing those elements and creating more elements. From that stellar garbage new stars form. On at least one planet orbiting one of those new stars life began putting all that stellar garbage to good use.
"Good use" indeed. For me the story of our wonder and our passion to explore and our creations all fortify our committment to work for human rights and social justice so that someday all the news will be uplifting.