Popular science isn’t so scientific

There has recently been a lot of speculation and unsupported assertions about gravitational waves, cosmic inflation and multiverses (e.g. http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/january-2015/cosmic-inflation-remains-undiscovered). Then this book “Farewell to Reality” by Jim Baggott turned up! I guess I’ll read the book before commenting in detail, but this review seems interesting, and would suggest my cynicism about the presentation of science, and its resulting popularity, is shared by the author.

We have seen in the past year publications about faster-than-light neutrinos (from CERN to Gran Sasso) and perturbations in the cosmic microwave background (the BICEP2 experiment) being discredited. The scientists involved seem to have been too keen to enhance their reputations, resulting in quite the reverse. It gets science a bad name generally if the scientific method is poorly executed.

There is also a handful of TV and radio broadcasters who similarly seem more interested in becoming famous rather than explaining the uncertainties in the subject matter. Using twitter, with links to programmes and book publishers, these popularisers of science just seem to me to be self-promoters.

Baggott’s book would seem to be an attempt to bring us back to the reality of science, and reminds us that many aspects and potential behaviours of Black Holes, wormholes, multiverses, string theory and all the rest are just theories, without many falsifiable predictions, at least in the foreseeable future – and by that I think we are talking about a VERY long time.

See more about Baggott’s book at http://physics.about.com/od/stringtheorybooks/fl/Farewell-to-Reality-by-Jim-Baggott.htm


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