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Why Were So Many "Crazy" Higgs Boson Stories Published?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the what-can't-it-do? dept.

Idle 291

The presumed discovery of the Higgs boson may be one of the most important scientific discoveries ever, but it did bring out quite a bit of "strange" science reporting. In addition to blogs, many mainstream news sites jumped on the crazy headline bandwagon. The ability to soon travel at the speed of light, the building of a Star Trek style transporter, and many stories of the particle proving God doesn't exist have made the rounds in the past week. Is the particle's discovery just on the fringe of common scientific knowledge and therefore prone to wild speculation, or does this all come down to having the most sensational headline?

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291 comments

Invitation to San Francisco Higgs Boson Party (4, Informative)

E1910 (2681139) | about 2 years ago | (#40602221)

Let me steal this first post to invite fellow slashdotters to a Higgs Boson Scientists Launch Party next weekend in San Francisco. We have friendly people, interesting discussions and huge orgy. Everyone is welcome to come! WOOOHOOO

Re:Invitation to San Francisco Higgs Boson Party (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602391)

Everyone is welcome to come!

QFE

Re:Invitation to San Francisco Higgs Boson Party (4, Funny)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#40602893)

...and huge orgy. Everyone is welcome to come! WOOOHOOO

I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the neckbeards who rated this entry as informative show up for the "orgy".

Re:Invitation to San Francisco Higgs Boson Party (1)

tool462 (677306) | about 2 years ago | (#40602907)

We have friendly people, interesting discussions and huge orgy

Minor correction, "you *had* friendly people, interesting discussions, and huge orgy."
Now that you've invited Slashdot, you'll have grumpy people, awkward silence, and a whole bunch of sweaty fat men staring at pictures of Natalie Portman and hot grits.

Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 years ago | (#40602227)

The exact same reasons we read headlines about creating universe eating black holes when the thing started up.. about global pandemics that are going to wipe us all out.. about “Africanized” bees. It gets eyeball time, which is what it’s all about.

“A long held theory has been possibly confirmed”

Vs.

“THE FUTURE IS HERE, LIVE LIKE THE JETSONS IN 5 YEARS!”

One of those is going to sell a _lot_ more toothpaste.

I'm postponing buying toothpaste (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#40602287)

I'm waiting for the one-time-application tooth-enamel-protector we will surely have in 5 years thanks to the discovery of the Higgs!

Sorry advertisers, your current pre-Higgs-announcement product lines are already obsolete so I won't be buying any of them.

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (1)

E1910 (2681139) | about 2 years ago | (#40602307)

Sorry, Google hit that tree already when they tried to evacuate prematurely.

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (4, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | about 2 years ago | (#40602521)

I'm waiting for the one-time-application tooth-enamel-protector we will surely have in 5 years thanks to the discovery of the Higgs!

You know, I'd be happy with just a new way of getting a cleaning.

We put men on the moon. We can remove an internal organ through an incision smaller than a Kennedy half-dollar. We've discovered the Higgs Bosun. So why the FUCK are dental hygienists still using techniques clearly dreamed up and perfected by friggin' Torquemada?!

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (4, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 years ago | (#40602683)

As someone with a lot of dental problems.. so much this.

I mean there is a lot of advancements in the dental industry.. composite fillings, implants, etc.. but some stuff is just conspicuously primitive. Maybe there really is no better way than physically scraping the junk off with metal picks.. or maybe it's impractical for whatever reason.

Personally I'd like to see one of these nifty painless numbing methods I've been hearing about as "just around the corner" since I was in high school to actually show up at my dentists office. Metal picks I don't mind.. my dentist trying to directly freeze my brain stem or something with a needle the size of a drinking straw and then STILL feeling it kinda gets on the nerves..

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | about 2 years ago | (#40602911)

There's a guy in town that uses a laser to get the plaque off, and very very rarely has to use the scraper. I went to him forever and loved it, then my dental insurance decided he wasn't any good and I can't go to him anymore :(

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (4, Funny)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#40602801)

At least the dental hygenists are still hot.

Re:I'm postponing buying toothpaste (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40603027)

All of them..

Consistently..

Seriously what the hell is with that. Not that I'm complaining, but that can't just be a coincidence.

Where were they? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602235)

I didn't see any articles like that, are you confusing random small blogs for mainstream news sites? Or was this an American news thing?

Re:Where were they? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602463)

I didn't see any of that among US news outlets either, but I'm sure it happened somewhere.

And if it did, it's because the Higgs Field, and why it's important, is somewhere just beyond the comprehension of your average person. We're used to popsci shows giving us the simple explanation, where the best I've seen for this is still a bit above that.

This is a very good one though..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hn0jYjijNs

Re:Where were they? (5, Informative)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | about 2 years ago | (#40602507)

Try the BBC: "The Higgs boson is another nail in the coffin of religion", "What do you get if you divide science by God?", "Is there room for Higgs Boson & Religion?"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-radio-and-tv-18712238 [bbc.co.uk]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7955846.stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00tt7kb/World_Have_Your_Say_WHYS_60_Is_there_room_for_Higgs_Boson_and_Religion/ [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Where were they? (1)

Rei (128717) | about 2 years ago | (#40602613)

While these sort of articles were the exception, not the rule, probably 80-90% of mainstream reporting on the topic seemed to mix up the Higgs field and the Higgs boson. Sad.

Re:Where were they? (3, Insightful)

ratbag (65209) | about 2 years ago | (#40602643)

To be fair to our beloved Beeb, none of those links point to "hard news" pages. They're either from the magazine section (a bit like the op-ed section of a paper) or a "balanced" current affairs program where one uninformed talking head berates another one for 30 minutes and noone emerges from the program any the wiser.

Re:Where were they? (1)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | about 2 years ago | (#40602759)

that's where majority of scientific reports end up. Few news organizations do a proper report on scientific discoveries that do not involve golf balls.

Re:Where were they? (2)

ratbag (65209) | about 2 years ago | (#40602865)

Sadly you're absolutely right on that point. From my point of view, I pre-filter the stuff on the BBC news site that isn't on the main news page since most of it (the non-hard news) is no better than the Idle section of Slashdot.

In the absence of Ben Goldacre from his Guardian column (come back Ben), there's very little consistently good science reporting in mainstream UK media.

Re:Where were they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602863)

Sure, it was BBC, but give people enough time and they'll find a way to blame the American news anyway.

Re:Where were they? (1)

Spad (470073) | about 2 years ago | (#40602557)

I'm going to go with the latter. I saw very little sensationalist nonsense from the UK media on the whole, nor did I see a lot on any of the sci/tech blogs and sites that I read. The only place I saw anything even vaguely stupid (that wasn't intended as such) related to the Higgs discovery was on Twitter, where you can find stupid related to *anything* at any time.

Re:Where were they? (5, Insightful)

irenaeous (898337) | about 2 years ago | (#40602659)

Did you read the linked article? As a Christian, I rolled my eyes most at the BBC radio headline, "The Higgs boson is another nail in the coffin of religion." This seems like an equal opportunity attempt to offend. It attacks religion, but with an argument that is so stupid that it ought to offend atheists too who might be associated with such asininity. And this is the BBC who you think wouldn't do this kind of thing.

Re:Where were they? (1)

f3r (1653221) | about 2 years ago | (#40602903)

religion does not need any other nail...the only place left for god right now is just as a designer of the Lagrangian of the standard model, don't you agree?

Re:Where were they? (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#40602939)

I'll happily be the atheist who agrees with you. Religion isn't science. Science isn't religion. They don't overlap and claiming either can prove the other wrong is absurd.

Re:Where were they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40603009)

I'm not too worried about occasional silly hyperbole in op-ed's, aimed at the validity of religion. Get as crazy as you like, you're not going to make an argument any less rational than the religious superstitions themselves.

Re:Where were they? (2)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#40602669)

"Or was this an American news thing?"

If you RTFA, you'll see that the first two examples cited were from Canada's National Post and the BBC.

Re:Where were they? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602843)

If there is anything the internet has taught us, it is that the mainstream news outlets are often less credible than small blogs.

The only problem is that the "small blog" quality varies wildly from "extremely good" to "glue sniffing paranoia". The problem with mainstream news is that while the consistency is better... You're nearly always being lied to.

The bandwagon is old, and low to the ground (1)

kiriath (2670145) | about 2 years ago | (#40602257)

thus it is very easy to jump on. You have one story, and thousands of different news outlets - all of them trying to find *their* angle on the story. Thus you wind up with 1% news 99% cruft. If you look below the surface, this happens with all 'news'.

Re:The bandwagon is old, and low to the ground (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#40602401)

The bandwagon is old, and low to the ground

Building on your analogy: this probably means that it was built to last, and is hard to overturn. In other words, we've doomed to be fed news stories by ignoramuses.

Microsoft helped majorly in the project (-1, Troll)

E1910 (2681139) | about 2 years ago | (#40602263)

Little known fact is that Microsoft Research was one of the major contributors to the discovery. But don't let little facts like this get in the way of your FOSS fanatism.

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602329)

Yeah, that must be why CERN used Linux. So then MS shill, let's see MS's contributions...

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (0)

Rtrtr (2681193) | about 2 years ago | (#40602365)

I am not the GP, but Microsoft uses Linux too. Microsoft provided research to CERN, not OS. CERN probably used Linux because it's highly customizable. Windows is too, but not to that extend, and it suits Microsoft just fine. Unlike FOSS zealots, they understand the importance of using right tool for the job.

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (1)

f3r (1653221) | about 2 years ago | (#40603001)

Microsoft provided research to CERN, not OS. .

evidence please?

CERN probably used Linux because it's highly customizable.

LOL. Playing adult games with baby toys? Sure you do not even begin to grasp the computational tasks that are to be done in order to make a 5 sigma discovery of such heavy particle. You probably have a desktop-level knowledge of OSes, dont you? you could check the numbers, like data flow, amount of storage, flops etc which are needed in CERN...

Unlike FOSS zealots, they understand the importance of using right tool for the job

sorry to wake you up from your nice dreams, Linux is the only tool used in serious science, unless propietary hardware suffers from the windows lock-down. That's why you'll see more windows boxes in labs than in theory departments (in fact it is rather hard to see a theorist using anything but linux)

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602377)

CERN datacenters run Linux..... the fact that Microsoft research also runs Linux servers is no surprise. Its all about using the right tool for the job. They could have crunched numbers on iPad's but it would have just taken longer so why do it.

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602467)

So what does this discussion have to do with open/closed source again?

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#40602637)

poor trolling, mostly.

Re:Microsoft helped majorly in the project (2)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#40602851)

What the Higgs confirmation means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602273)

Some day we'll be able to dial up velocity to 1.1 times c!

Re:What the Higgs confirmation means (5, Funny)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 2 years ago | (#40602341)

Nothing goes faster than C


(besides assembly, but who does assembly?)

Re:What the Higgs confirmation means (3, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40602679)

Learn to assembly.

Not mutually exclusive. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#40602293)

A little from column A, a little from column B.

Re:Not mutually exclusive. (3, Informative)

Kelbear (870538) | about 2 years ago | (#40602487)

I like to try to stay reasonably well-informed relative to the general population, but I still needed about 2 hours of looking up summary articles and digging through wikipedia entries to make any goddamn sense of what was actually discovered, and what importance it has to progress in physics research. My highschool science classes never discussed anything below the atomic level. I had absolutely no awareness of where the Higgs Boson was theoretically supposed to fit into the "Standard Model" since I'd never even heard of the Standard Model either.

Pretty sure the vast majority of the population still has no clue what the Higgs Boson hullaballoo entails. It's easy for misinformation to propagate on this subject because the audience has virtually no context.

Could be... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602295)

Could be that the book by Leon Lederman in 1993 which was going to be entitled "That Goddamn Particle" got turned into "The God Particle" by his publisher. Typical disregard for fact in favor of sensationalism to promote sales.

Re:Could be... (5, Funny)

rilles (1153657) | about 2 years ago | (#40602323)

As an atheist, I cannot accept the existence of a god particle. Now if you call it the particle known as 42, then I'm good.

Re:Could be... (3, Funny)

scubamage (727538) | about 2 years ago | (#40602655)

I propose we rename the Higgs Boson "the spaghetti particle" or "the noodley particle" or to be truly sensational, "the pirate particle." Though I do suppose that "the invisible pink particle" would also be appropriate.

Re:Could be... (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#40602827)

I would rather call it the Ninja Particle, because it's only there for a little while and we don't detect it directly, only its effects as it disappears.

--
BMO

Re:Could be... (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#40602385)

This is actually a true story, albeit tongue in cheek from Leon Lederman. Not his fault everyone took it seriously when it was changed to the "God" particle by the publishers. Calling it the "chocolate chip" particle makes just as much sense (as it is a condensed form of chocolate in the sea of the chocolate chip cookie field.)

Three Words (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40602297)

Science journalism sucks.

Re:Three Words (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#40602587)

I would reduce that to 2 words: Hanlon's Razor

Re:Three Words (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#40602923)

two other words : Sturgeon's law


Allthough in the case of /., it should be amended to read "at least 90% of everything is crap"

Re:Three Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602627)

Mainstream science journalism sucks.
 
 
Fixed that for you.
 
When it comes right down to it the masses are easily fooled. Too many people get heady about crap they see on The Science Channel and on the mainstream news. Too many people think that a blurb or sound-bite is a fair summery of a science paper. Too many think that they know a subject until they're challenged to answer questions on the subject.
 
I have a nephew that's like that. All about light science and his friends think he's the smartest kid on the block. One asked me how much he really knew about what he babbled on about endlessly and I told them to study up on it and call him out about his supposed knowledge. I don't know if they ever did but he really needed one of his peers to make him eat crow.

Two words (3, Insightful)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40602639)

Journalism sucks. But let me qualify. Science journalism and journalism in general suck when they're written to beat the deadline in attempt to be "fresh" or "hot off the press" (conference). You can picture the reporter emailing his or her story to the editorial department and the editor, finding the report, a bit dull decides to sex it up just a little, adding "factoids" lifted from Google or Wikipedia (the two not being mutually exclusive) or making snappy generalizations that can reduce to two or three words WTF the whole event is about.

Let's be honest, which would you rather read: "God particle may explain creation" or "CERN scientists discover new subatomic particle"?

A common trick in newspaper headlines is to give off the impression of certainty where there is none. When you read something like "500 feared dead" the day after a disaster, you can be sure that the "500" is an approximation that most likely came from some random bloke or bureaucart.

Wait a few more weeks or months, and the science reporting will get more sober.

Re:Two words (3, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40602981)

I don't read most science journalism anymore. It's too infuriating. Following the exploration of the Higgs particle, I've going to Professor Matt Strassler's blog http://profmattstrassler.com/ [profmattstrassler.com] where he has gone over a good many of the issues in reasonably easy to follow language. Since he's at CERN, he's well placed to write sensible articles on the matter.

Because: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602301)

Everyone at CERN, as per usual, but with a little more enthusiasm, was getting gossipy about the 4th (as far back as a few weeks), they were handjobbing the media, but yes, with more gusto, more finesse in the wrist if you will. Hornily leaking things over Skype phone calls, I kid you not, I have an audio file of it.

Find me a story and trivialise it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602305)

Its just the usual gutter-press SOP.

Now anyone and their dog can publish "news" and "comment", d'you think that we're going to get intelligent and well thought out reporting? Eh?

Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle" (5, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#40602345)

And journalists are morons.

Re:Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602397)

When it comes to quantum physics, almost everyone is a moron.

Re:Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40602563)

Everybody is actually both a moron and a genius at the same time, until observed.

Re:Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle (1)

q.kontinuum (676242) | about 2 years ago | (#40603029)

"Si tacuisses, philosophus fuisses" - Because this quantum wave easily collapses in the presence of human voice ;-)

Btw.: Since English is not my native language, can anyone tell me an appropriate English proverb?

Re:Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle (1)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | about 2 years ago | (#40602697)

any one who thinks they understand quantum mechanics doesn't understand quantum mechanics

Re:Because Lederman nicknamed it "the god particle (3, Informative)

Necroman (61604) | about 2 years ago | (#40602599)

I wish I has karma to give you, as I was coming to say the same thing.

The wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] on the Higgs Boson has some quotes from the author who nicknamed the Higgs Boson "the god particle":

While use of this term may have contributed to increased media interest, many scientists dislike it, since it is sensational and overstates the particle's importance. Its discovery would still leave unanswered questions about the unification of quantum chromodynamics, the electroweak interaction, and gravity, as well as the ultimate origin of the universe. Higgs, an atheist himself, is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the "God particle", because the term "might offend people who are religious".

Lederman said he gave it a nickname because the particle is "so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive," and added that he chose "the God particle" because "the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing."

I understand he did it so his book had a catchy title, but the media decided to go crazy when talking about it. Sure, it's a big discovery to physicists and understanding how our universe works, it really shouldn't be receiving the coverage it's getting. There is just too many ignorant reporters trying to explain something, which is creating a lot of mis-information.

Why? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40602347)

It's been a slow news Summer.

Unless you have a thick enough skin to get involved in the US election campaigns, which are like droning, dull soap opera.

Come to think about it .. that's probably why Higgs-Boson was so exciting - it's a diversion from the horror or the rest of the news.

Higgs-Boson Party at my house! Beer! Party hats! Quantum Physics! Whooo!

Re:Why? (2)

Fatch Racall (2330110) | about 2 years ago | (#40602457)

Higgs-Boson Party at my house! Beer! Party hats! Quantum Physics! Whooo!

...I'm uncertain about Quantum Physics...

Re:Why? (3, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40602733)

Higgs-Boson Party at my house! Beer! Party hats! Quantum Physics! Whooo!

...I'm uncertain about Quantum Physics...

That is just her stripper name.

Speculation is founded (1)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about 2 years ago | (#40602357)

Think about it. They found this thing in their atom smashing lab where they are trying to recreate the big bang. Now they found the piece of the puzzle they need. We will create alternate universes and crazy monsters and black holes and all that.. shit is going down. End of humanity as we know it.

God particle (5, Insightful)

techstar25 (556988) | about 2 years ago | (#40602359)

Calling Higgs boson "The God Particle" is probably the greatest marketing decision in the history of science.

Re:God particle (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about 2 years ago | (#40602497)

That was my conclusion, the stories created great traffic.

Re:God particle (5, Informative)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40602551)

It wasn't the decision of the physicists. Leon Lederman originally wanted to title his book [wikipedia.org] the goddamn particle, but the publisher wouldn't allow it.

Peter Higgs [wikipedia.org] isn't happy with the name either.

Slashdot editors could do the world service by revising the name to its original whenever it appears here. Perhaps the rest of the world will pick up on the change.

Re:God particle (1)

Millennium (2451) | about 2 years ago | (#40602673)

Of course the publisher wouldn't allow "the goddamn particle." You wouldn't want Batman suing you for infringement.

Re:God particle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602909)

This.

Re:God particle (0)

DaysSinceTheDoor (805570) | about 2 years ago | (#40602905)

Whenever I hear someone say this I always correct them. I tell them it is actually the Odin particle. That it is the presumption of the common man to believe it proves the existence of the Jewdeo-Christian god. Amazingly some people actually believe me.

The usual people misunderstanding science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602369)

It's really just a terrible name calling it the "God" particle. It's only called that because the publishers wouldn't let Lederman publish with the title "The Goddam Particle" which would 'offend' people. It's too bad people don't read the actual CERN report, which was very good and accurate. Nothing like letting the mainstream news fudge everything up as always.

Those stories aren't nearly as crazy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602375)

...as the actual science.

Simple: Stupid sells (2)

iceaxe (18903) | about 2 years ago | (#40602381)

Stupid sells even better than sex.

Re:Simple: Stupid sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602753)

The problem is simple:

1. This is really deep, pure science stuff we're talking about. The layman has no way of comprehending what it means.
2. A vast wave of anti-science sentiments in the US is making the stupid portion of the people very afraid of things they simply don't, can't, or refuse to understand.
3. The Large Hadron Collider cost a really bigly huge amount of money to build, largely at taxpayer expense.
4. The stupid portion of the US has been taught to be afraid of any and all taxpayer expenses due to very flaky-at-best, blatantly-lying-at-worst reasoning that can be distilled down to even-less-accurate spoon-fed soundbites for the teevee crowd.
5. The stupid portion of the US has a very difficult time comprehending that all of this happened in another country with THAT country's taxpayer dollars, not the US's. They also have a very difficult time comprehending that this other country's currency isn't specified in "dollars". Heck, they have a very difficult time comprehending the concept of other countries besides the US.
6. Find a relationship between point 2 and points 1 and 5. That's double the fear of the unknown! TRIPLE if you include point 4!
7. Add a desire by the spoonfeeders to desperately have something, anything, GOOD LORD, ANYTHING AT ALL populating their media outlets (read: the teevee) 24/7 for their own advertising profits. Thus, they'll air anything if it means the stupid portion of the US will sit and watch it.
8. Hey, presto, you've got an endless supply of crazy stories playing off the fear and/or desires of very stupid people, nearly all of them originating from the US!

Crazy (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#40602383)

I count as "crazy" any story that referred to the Higgs boson as the "God Particle."

Seriously. Check out this crazy: (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40602403)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/q-and-a-the-higgs-boson-and-you.html [nytimes.com]

...

Q. Will the discovery affect everyday life?

A. Well, duhhh.

Q. Hey, I’m not a science-y person, O.K.?

A. Sorry. The answer is absolutely. Sort of. Well, yes and no.

Q. Can you be like a little more specific?

A. For starters, you’re going to be hearing the phrase “Higgs boson” about 800 trillion times. You’ll be at a cocktail party talking about the Kardashians and someone will say, “OMG, Higgs boson!” and you’ll go, “No, no, no — please, no more with the Higgs boson.” So there’s that. Plus this Halloween, every other trick-or-treater is going to be dressed as — guess what? — the Higgs boson. What else? Ten bucks says Al Gore claims he discovered it. Another 10 says Mitt Romney picks it as his running mate. Romney-Higgs boson. Dream ticket. So, yes, it’s going to affect your everyday life. My advice? Deal with it.

Don't even try to read the rest of it, unless you like wasting your time.

Based on this famous quote:

“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

That would put this sort of annoying Higgs boson chatter squarely in the realm of average minds.

They can usually come up with something good to say about events most of us understand. But they can't understand the Higgs boson. Doesn't matter: the media is all about generating copy, this is the highest imperative. Making sense is secondary. And so not understanding doesn't prevent them from trying to say something. Nor should it, according to the logic of their profession, since the logic of their profession says the editorial has to be filed on time, the column must fit so many square inches of space, the front page must have timely links about today's news.

And so they all come up with this WHARRGARBL like the NY Times story above. Welcome to the media industry.

Re:Seriously. Check out this crazy: (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40602605)

“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Surely this counts as irony?

Re:Seriously. Check out this crazy: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40602811)

absolutely. we are here on slashdot, doing the same thing

but we pretend at least to understand the topic

having said that, now that you've pierced the irony... please don't pierce the hypocrisy! ;-)

Re:Seriously. Check out this crazy: (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | about 2 years ago | (#40602629)

Sad thing is, I clicked on your link, as probably did many others. Now their sales team is thinking "more articles like this one".

Next Frontier (2)

thygate (1590197) | about 2 years ago | (#40602427)

Perhaps it shows how much people are waiting for the next frontier to happen. You know .. space ships and robot hookers ... in fact .. forget about the spaceships.

The science is above the heads of many folks (4, Insightful)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#40602441)

I wanted to be a theoretical physicist when I grew up (oh, childhood dreams) and I've got an above average understanding of particle physics just from my general fascination with the subject. Even I have a tough time grasping the nitty gritty details of the Higgs field. The sensationalism stems from 1. The general population not understanding particle physics and 2. The general population not understanding the nature of the announcement. The Higgs wasn't so much discovered as it was confirmed to be exactly where we expected it to be all along. No new technology will come out of this so much as our understanding of the universe has been strengthened considerably - we're on the right track with the Standard Model after all.

Journalists are not scientists (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602453)

Journalists don't understand any of this, that's the simple truth. Its just gibberish which they copy verbatim and add any old bullshit they can find to it.

Bottom line, its the result of an extremely poor education system.

Next Headline (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 2 years ago | (#40602541)

SCIENCE JOURNALISTS KNOW LESS SCIENCE THAN GEORGE W BUSH

But it's not exactly news, is it? Science journalism works like this:

1 Scientist writes paper about the biodiversity of the average suburban house
2 Press officer at scientist's institution is bored and decides to read paper
3 Press officer gets through three words of the paper before going to ask scientist for a canned summary
4 Scientist writes a 20 word canned summary highlighting the unexpected variety of creatures to be found in the average household and how this is a good thing for preventing the onset of various respiratory illnesses in children
5 Press officer cuts the canned summary down to four words and runs it backwards through a thesaurus
6 Journalist reads the remaining four words, which are probably "Mutant Bacteria Infest Drawers" and write an article with the headline "ALIEN STD THREAT".
7 ???
8 Profit!

Re:Next Headline (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 2 years ago | (#40602567)

And, anyway, they all seem to have missed the point that finding the Higgs thingy isn't very interesting in itself, except that it proves that the Higgs Field exists.

What's in a name... (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | about 2 years ago | (#40602549)

It's obviously because of the name, I think it would have been better for the name to remain "Goddamned particle"... also prepare for similar reaction if they call a particle "the Devil's particle".

Because... (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#40602705)

American journalists are idiots when it comes to science reporting. They even fail at the "Mr. Wizard" level of science. It's truly abysmal.

And I took so long typing this, because I could not find the series of physics programs I grew up with as a kid in the early 70s. They involved a quite intense physics professor, and he used phrases like "boys and girls" when explaining things like magnetism and diamagnetism or thermal expansion and had this ... unique way of pronouncing "thermometer" as "thermal meter"

It was on WGBH and it was a Canadian import.

Halp. This is driving me nuts.

But anyway, I was going to say that journalists also fail at that level too.

--
BMO

Remember this the next time (1)

decoy256 (1335427) | about 2 years ago | (#40602715)

Remember how horribly stupid the media/news is about things they don't understand next time there is a story about the "right-wing" or they use eye-grabbing words and phrases like "fundamentalists" and the like. Chances are facts are blown out of proportion, details distort or flat out omitted, and everything is phrased in the most extreme way possible.

Just as most scientific discoveries (like the Higgs boson) are rather mundane (by comparison to what the media/news tries to sell us) so are most people. That includes people... most people only want to be left alone to raise their family, do their work, and live life happily. Sure, there is the occasional true story about crazy people who do and believe crazy things, but those are so extremely rare that they do not deserve the excessive amount of attention they get.

we all want to understand G-d... (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 2 years ago | (#40602763)

(tongue in cheek...)

we all want to understand G-d, and will even claim understanding. Thus, per the very nature of our being, we have theories about the H-B ;)

Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602795)

Many people have trouble rationalizing the billions (trillions?) of dollars in expenses attributed to the LHC just to prove what we already knew to be true, and so have little trouble constructing absurd mythologies around the experiments.

Thats the problem! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40602799)

The problem with science today is it seems more concerned about disproving God rather than solving the mysteries of the universe, etc..

cannot be otherwise (1)

f3r (1653221) | about 2 years ago | (#40602819)

(senior quantum physicist)
"may be one of the most important scientific discoveries ever"
BS. Science does not evolve by critical jumps made by one person in one tiny micro-region of science space. It evolves by hordes of scientists opening new fronts all over. (comment: it might well be the most expensive and publicised in the whole history of science, though)

"Is the particle's discovery just on the fringe of common scientific knowledge"
Isn't that 100% redundant? every discovery is at the fringe by definition.

Some days ago I was telling a friend that every time my parents come with a "hey, have you heard about (...) scientific discovery?" it takes me at least 10 minutes to relate the newspaper's title to the real news, even if the news belong to my field of research. Even if journalists were not interested in sensationalizing the news, and even if they were not complete idiots, which I am sorry to know they are, they could NEVER post reasonable scientific news, because they do not understand the content. No matter how much you try to explain the Higgs mechanism, lay people are never going to understand it, you need the maths for that, no way around. They could grasp some fairy-tale-ishly drawn picture of an approximate explanation, but never the reality. This is such an obvious concept to people who are expert at a given field: you can only understand what you know about, in other fields you are just like a little baby wandering in the dark.

But, hey, let's keep with the false illusion that being mediocre and ignorant is no problem at all.

Craziness proportional to lack of understanding (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#40602821)

The concept of the Higgs Boson is undeniably part of a branch of physics that the average person barely understands. In a society where concepts and values have to be expressed in terms of "real world" metaphors, like "The length of 6 football fields", or "The amount of concrete used could build a sidewalk from Boston to New York", or "Faster then NASCAR!", instead of just reporting on the fact that Higgs Boson was discovered reporters felt obligated to "enrich" their reporting by suggesting what could be done with the Higgs Boson discovery, including references to Star Trek.

The bottom line is that the average person (i.e. American) would think, "Wow, they actually achieved something useful and exciting" rather then the typical "Why dey gone done blowin my dough on da shit".

Both (1)

Dracos (107777) | about 2 years ago | (#40602845)

The options presented in the post here are not mutually exclusive, and are probably both true. The general population is uneducated about science. News reporting sucks; science reporting is especially dumbed down, if not saturated with speculation and lack of comprehension of the topic.

Simple answers (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#40602871)

1. it's the current buzzword
2. it's cool
3. it's (mostly) European stuff
4. there's nothing more interesting at the moment

Because people are stupid. (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 2 years ago | (#40602877)

Case closed.

Somewhat Boring: Our model predicted it correctly (3, Interesting)

Theovon (109752) | about 2 years ago | (#40602895)

First of all, what was found is a particle with the same MASS as that predicted by the standard model. They haven't yet confirmed spin or other properties. But what this amounts to is confirmation of what was already suspected. Unfortunately, this isn't all that helpful, because we already know that the standard model doesn't predict everything correctly. If we hadn't found the Higgs Boson, then perhaps it would have helped us to fix the standard model. As it is, this can't help us improve the standard model. In other words, this is great, and it's nice to know that brilliant scientists in the past century were right, but it isn't any kind of revolutionary progress.

It's all about an imposter Higgs Boson (1)

3seas (184403) | about 2 years ago | (#40602917)

http://www.thebunsenburner.com/news/a-higgs-boson-impostor-thats-the-theory-put-forward-by-physicists/ [thebunsenburner.com]

Besides if the Higgs Boson verified no energy is lost than in our ever increasing expanding universe no new energy is created and we will eventually expand into nothing as we stretch and thin out all the energy to where its ... well no one to notice it.

Sensationalism knows no bounds (1)

J'raxis (248192) | about 2 years ago | (#40602961)

As if this kind of sensationalistic ignorance is confined to the Higgs discovery. Here [nasa.gov] is a similar example of a recent article by a NASA "science" writer. I can't even fathom what kind of leap of ignorance it takes to frame the relatively banal topic of connections between the Earth and Sun's magnetic field in terms of sci-fi "portals" (as in wormholes), but there you have it.

Journalism (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 years ago | (#40603023)

Piss poor science reporting, is likely due to the shit-for-brains idiots we jokingly call "journalists".

Bearing in mind here, that "media studies graduate" is a perjorative phrase for something a bit dense from a well-off background, who had Mummy and Daddy pay their way though university, and ended up doing a soft-option humanities course as a prelude to working as a "writer" or "journalist"; because they were too stupid and dishonest to try anything more challenging or of any social utility whatsoever.

I suspect too, that journalists are arrogant and conceited enough that that think they, as the gatekeepers between the news and the public at large, have the brains and skills to write all the news, whereas they are hopelessly ill equipped to handle anything even remotely technical. The last few years has taught the world how many "newsworthy stories" can break, that NO-ONE has the slightest clue about. The global financial crisis has been described as the first major disaster that nobody understood. We see this time, and time, and time again. Distortions, fantasy, inanity and outright lies on everything from finance and politics, to nuclear energy and particle physics.

Contributing to this is the fraudulent and dishonest postmodernist garbage that humanities types are so fond of. Because to these stupid pricks, the strange implications of quantum mechanics sounds so similar to the made-up garbage they're used to, they take it as a license to simply bullshit and make stuff up.

Idiocracy is upon it, because the gatekeepers of our public life, journalists, are so consistently, uniformly shit.

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