Sunday, May 13, 2012
I don’t really understand science reporting in the mainstream media. They tend to set a very high bar of originality and novelty, which is fair enough, but will then go and publish stuff that seems ancient news. I guess that occasionally there’s an argument that what seems extremely old hat to those who follow science will be new to a more general readership, which may explain Jeff Forshaw’s (perfectly good) piece on quantum computing in last week’s Observer. (There was an excuse for this, a recent Nature paper on a quantum simulator consisting of 300 beryllium atoms in an electromagnetic trap – but that nice work was deeply exotic, and so was skated over very briefly.) But the article in the New York Times on the uncertainties of cloud feedbacks on climate, and Richard Lindzen’s sceptical line on it, could have been written circa the turn of the millennium. Far be it from me to complain about a piece that does a good job of setting the record straight on Lindzen’s campaign of confusion, but it seems mighty odd to be talking about it now, and I couldn’t even see an attempt at a topical peg. I’m not complaining, I’m just very puzzled about how these decisions are made.