Science for the People: Impossible Space

sftpThis week Science for the People is exploring the limits of science exploration in both fictional and fact. We’re joined by “lifelong space nerd” Andy Weir, to talk about his debut novel The Martian (and soon to be film, trailer below), that pits human invenitveness and ingenuity against the unforgiving environment of the red planet. And astrophysicist and science blogger Ethan Siegel returns to explore so-called “impossible space engines“, and what news stories about them can teach us about journalism and science literacy.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Eulogy for Jonah Lehrer’s career

There isn’t much left to be said about the unraveling of Jonah Lehrer‘s career (though I suspect he’ll be back).

For a long time, I’d advised family members to take the information from Lehrer’s writing and TV appearances with some serious salt, which would give you the impression that all new discoveries in neuroscience fit neatly into the way Lehrer had been telling you it all worked. Media personalities have the luxury of making the research fit the world view that has made them popular. Quality researchers with true expertise and experience do not.

Lehrer broke the rules of both journalism and science, but was only punished when he was caught breaking the rules of journalism.

I was never a Lehrer fan, but we can’t pretend this is an isolated action by a “bad apple”. Like many science fraudsters, fraudulent journalists are responding to the perverse incentives provided by their field. Good science reporting often takes time and a moderate tone. We reward speed and attention grabbing prose. It makes you wonder if the decision makers either don’t know or don’t care when the journalists break the rules of science.

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