Score one for the de-atomized audience

Eamonn Fitzgerald has a post titled ‘Manufacturing and deconstructing the (fake) news in five acts’ which tracks the Sunday Times story about a Google search consuming half as much energy as boiling a kettle from initial made up gobbledegook, to refutation, to the Times’s response (there’s been no official retraction).  That response ends with a mealy mouthed ‘What do you think?’, seemingly failing to acknowledge that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, the stats quoted by the newspaper were not verifiable, and were derived from a questionable source that wasn’t cross-checked by the Times.

Refuting these kinds of tech and science stories are what the web does best – see badscience.net for one of the originators of the genre, as well as loads of links to similar sites that devote their time to debunking sci/tech nonsense in the newspapers.  The web does this best because readers have easy access to as much information as journalists (unlike, say, in an article that quotes a public figure – the quote may have been tweaked, for example, but who’s to know for sure; the quoted can aver (s)he said no such thing, sure, but the journalist can say (s)he did; unless it’s a really big shitstorm it’s unlikely that journo is going to release their tape to settle the issue).

Hundreds of thousands of poorly researched articles on science and technology are printed (I use the word advisedly) each year, and this one only became a big story because it was about Google.  But the more often such articles are published online with a comments section below them, the more often they will be questioned, and, hopefully, shown up as the nonsense they are by interested, informed and dilligent readers.

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