Skeptical students

by L

Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students

Teachers among us, have you dealt with students who didn’t believe what you taught them? How did you cope?

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Should you trust news reports about studies?

by MooshiMooshi

You know how everyone complains that studies get reported in the media which then get contradicted a year or two later? Well, it turns out there are reasons for this.

Study: half of the studies you read about in the news are wrong

It turns out that reporters tend to report on initial studies, which are more likely to be contradicted in one or more ways later on. In the world of science, inital studies are just that: initial.

Besides the attention grabbing headline, this article has a good critique of the reasons why initial studies tend to be reported instead of the later metareviews which are more likely to be correct.

This is a real problem. People learn about science mainly through the media, and if it feels like everything reported turns out to be wrong, people start distrusting science. If reporters were more careful to publicize the later, more complete studies, people might develop more faith in science. I think reporters, too, should spend more time explaining the process of science to their readers, rather than just pushing out headlines and brief explanations of what may be very small and very tentative studies.

Good science and financial reporters are in terribly short supply, And given the fragile state of the field of journalism these days, I don’t see it improving. But these are two areas that impact everyone. People have to make decisions about both science and financial information all the time, including when they vote. How can we improve public understanding?

‘Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious’

by WCE

This article detailing an alternative to Copernicus’ view that planets travel around the sun intrigued me, because correct hypotheses in science are usually the ones we learn and remember. It reminded me of the modern controversy over short term global cooling and warming trends and how to interpret the past 50 years of planetary temperature data, in light of limited historical data. Had you heard of Locher? Does he remind you of any other scientist? Does the controversy remind you of any other scientific controversy?

Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious

String Theory

by Honolulu Mother

String theory has always had the problem of being essentially unfalsifiable. I’ve wondered myself if it’s just particle physics’s version of epicycles. Thus, I was very intrigued by the suggestion in this Atlantic article on string theory (I know, that reputed science journal, the Atlantic) that insofar as string theory produces testable hypotheses, they’re being borne out:

Using the physical intuition offered by strings, physicists produced a powerful formula for getting the answer to the embedded sphere question, and much more. “They got at these formulas using tools that mathematicians don’t allow,” Córdova said. Then, after string theorists found an answer, the mathematicians proved it on their own terms. “This is a kind of experiment,” he explained. “It’s an internal mathematical experiment.” Not only was the stringy solution not wrong, it led to Fields Medal-winning mathematics. “This keeps happening,” he said.

Do you have an opinion on string theory, or any other cutting edge field of science? Or failing that, do you support the level of public spending necessary to, say, prove the existence of the long-predicted Higgs-Boson particle?