Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Very Latest from the Physics Pornfront

This morning, the New York Times’ Sunday Review offers a delightfully droll essay by an astrophysicist, professor Ray Jayawardhana, plugging his book -- er, plugging the neutrino, about which (by merest coincidence) he happens recently to have published a slender volume.  He, as do we (here, and here, and here), makes merry at the expense of all the hoopla that has long (too long) surrounded the Higgs particle, decrying “the dark art of self-promotion from this boson”, whose indelible “God particle” mark-of-Cain (out, out damned spot!) “cheapens a solemn scientific enterprise.”   He also usefully reports the dénoument of the Mystery of the Supraluminal Particle:  “In the end, the whole affair turned out to be much ado about a faulty cable.”  Worth a read;  here you go:

However, we must sadly point out that his book, accurately and excitingly titled Neutrino Hunters (echoing the classic Microbe Hunters of many years ago), comes with a subtitle

The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

which, in so far forth, places it squarely in the camp of the physics-pornographers.   That tawdry flourish is undoubtedly not his own, and no doubt he deplores it;  it is the latest from the dens of the Headline Writers,  a scurvy crew.

Such is the fate that awaits any author who hands over his manuscript to a traditional publisher.  Only when one is writing for the blog over which one retains complete editorial control, can one avoid such smudges.  Never would we stoop to festooning our essays with phrases like “Physics Porn” or “Bristol Topless” or “the XXX-axis” or the like, in the hope of attracting readers.
Oh wait …

[Update 14 Feb 2014]   A clear-headed and entertaining article by one of my favorite columnists:

The Shroud of Turin, pseudoscience, and journalism

    By Joel Achenbach    
    February 14 at 10:28 am

When I signed on to my AOL email (retro cool!) on Thursday, a headline flashed on the screen saying something about the Shroud of Turin. Instinct said: Look away! Nothing good can come of reading a Shroud of Turin article. Fact-free zone! But I was weak, and I looked, and soon discovered that I had plunged down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience and bunk.

It was a Huffington Post article. The headline said: “Shroud of Turin Formed by an Earthquake? Scientists Say Face of Jesus Image Caused By Neutron Emissions.”

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