The science journalism game of whispers

I’ve been hopping around the lab like a short order cook on the line for lunch hour*, but I can’t resist noting the degeneration of Higgs Boson headlines:

The real scoop, at Scientific American:

In short, the results, although preliminary, point with a high level of confidence to the existence of a Higgs-like particle…

What do you think of people calling the Higgs the “God particle”?

“That’s a very bad term,” said [physicist] Gross. “It has nothing to do with that.” [Other physicist] Rubbia added: the physicist Leon Lederman, who coined that expression in a somewhat longer and more colorful version, has “a unique sense of humor” and we should use that term with “the same kind of sense of humor.”

The distinguished NY Times decides that we can now unlock the universe:

“Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe”

The mass market USA Today gets the tentative nature of the evidence, but then goes in for a bit of God Particle sensationalism:

“Physicists: New particle consistent with ‘God particle'”

And then there is the St. Louis Dispatch, whose pg. 1 headline tacked on to an AP story needs no comment:

“Physicists celebrate proof of ‘God Particle'” (Note that after the print edition came out, someone sensibly changed the word ‘proof’ to ‘evidence’ for the web edition.)

*Many of you are familiar with the classic infinite loop of molecular biology:

1 MINIPREP
2 DIGEST
3 GELPURIFY
4 LIGATE
5 TRANSFORM
6 GOTO 1

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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