Dear scientists…

I'm sorry, scientists, that I haven't blogged for a few days. I have only just emerged from a cocoon of overturned sofas, duvets and cushions designed to soften the jostling I would inevitably experience on being sucked into a black hole. I was reliably informed one would be created as soon as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was switched on.

Of course I haven't, scientists. I am not, in the frankly wonderful words of Professor Brian Cox, a "twat". Unfortunately, a lot of journalists and other people are.

Though I have to say well done, scientists, on getting such media interest in the switch-on of the LHC. Your PR team must have been working overtime to whip up such a frenzy over something only a tiny pocketful of people understand. (The rest of us: "Er, something to do with particles banging together?") But I have to mark you down on the savviness of your timing. See, what you did was turn on the collider at the end of silly season. Which gave the media all summer to build up this tale of black hole-induced-armageddon – it's just the thing to boost sales / viewers / clickthroughs. It doesn't matter that you stood there and explained the preposterousness of such a suggestion. You are powerless before the might of a bored media.

Then, poor scientists, you had to suffer the indignity of the press hanging around with 'now what?' expressions on their faces. I think they were expecting more than "a pair of dots on a computer screen". The stupid segment from Channel 4 News – which, to be fair, did contain the line "the progress of science is rarely suited to the 24 hour news agenda" – with a journo 'reporting live from the scene' as Newton comes up with the theory of gravity, or Copernicus realises the Earth moves round the Sun, made me wonder if they'd only have been happy if a black hole had spontaneously formed before their incredulous eyes and swallowed the planet.

Watch it. It's about 3.30 in. (May not work properly in Firefox.)

If that's honestly how the media wants to represent science – as theories occuring, fully formed, to a series of boffins – you can't win, can you, scientists? Should you have waited until you had evidence of the Higgs boson before you brought the media in? Satisfied their lust for results? But then you deny the years of work that goes into a discovery like that. At least this way you get to show how you're doing things. Or, you would if anyone could be bothered to report it properly without getting sidetracked by hysteria.

Scientists, have you ever considered giving up on us? We, the general public and our media pals? We clearly have no time for your painstaking research and incremental finds. Have you never considered retreating into the labs and dicking about with stuff just for fun, leaving us to slowly slide back into pre-Enlightenment? For truly, we do not deserve you, scientists.


2 responses to “Dear scientists…

  1. Kate September 13, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Ha, yes. Two things:
    a) Clearly you didn’t hear the Today programme segment in which Andrew Marr (or someone sounding scarily like him) tried to narrate LIVE FROM THE SCENE for about 10 minutes in prime time. It was, um, how you say? Ah yes, that’s it – special. Definitely special. And not in a good way.
    b) Read Bad Science (the book). It’s just come out. I’ve just finished it. It’s fucking fantastic.

  2. Rachel September 13, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I heard later comments about Andrew Marr… classic. And Bad Science is on order, hopefully I can get one – the first print run’s already sold out!

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