Brighten Up, There’s a Super Moon…


This week I’ve been told that my services as a freelance science news journalist were no longer needed for a science news outlet. I hadn’t been writing for them for several months because I was dealing with the aftermath of my grandfather’s death at the beginning of this year while juggling a full-time university study load. No big deal I suppose. I will even ignore being told that I could take all the time I needed. I really should have gotten that one in writing. I am living off cash reserves saved from working last year and can get through until December on $1000 a month. Lesson learned.

You know what people have been telling me this week over and over? That I should, “Brighten up because another opportunity will come along…”. If you are that opportunity, contact me. Really.

Where was I? Oh yes, “Brighten up…”. It was with much eye rolling when I happened across News.com.au’s, (not a news outlet I have ever contributed any science article too and probably won’t ever because I’m critical of their “science coverage”) take on the super moon of 2013, “Brighten up, the super moon is on the way“. The journalist interviewed an astrologer for details of the astronomical event.

What’s the big deal? An astrologer isn’t a scientist. Astrology is a set of beliefs that astronomical events can explain world events. Yup. Events that happen so far away that the distances are measured in light years. One light year is equivalent to 9,460,730,472,580.8 km. That is, very very, very, VERY far away from Earth. Put it this way, it’s like believing an aphid feeding on the sap of rose bushes in the front yard will directly cause rain falling  on a drought-ridden farm that grows your favourite food 1000km away.

James Byrne of Disease Prone fame created a breakdown analysis of News.com.au’s 2013 attempt at reporting on the super moon complete with graphs, (language warning).

Science Journalism: Doing it wrong

The journalists, (it required two journalists to write this article), did not interview an astronomer. An astronomer is a scientist who studies galaxies, stars, nebulae, gamma ray bursts, planets, and any other major body that makes up the universe that I have forgotten. They look at how these parts of the universe interact with one another. I have read of astronomical research that does link astronomical events to the daily activities on Earth. They include, an extinction event and tracking near earth objects, (it was just three months ago when a meteor broke up over Russia), to name two bits of ongoing research.

I don’t know who you would rather trust to talk about the universe. Someone who can provide evidence by studying and observing physical events around them or someone who links random events to the placement of celestial bodies in the skies. If this is what gets passed off as science journalism in Australia then perhaps it is a good thing I lost my freelance writing gig earlier this week.

On the bright side, it’s Friday so there’s nothing else that can go wrong for me this week. It can wait for next week.

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1 Comment

Filed under Opinionated Orations, Science Communication in Action, So Incredibly Lame

One response to “Brighten Up, There’s a Super Moon…

  1. I fear sometimes that we’re entering a Dark Ages of science ignorance. Twenty years ago Carl Sagan wrote about the conflict between the common lack of (any) science knowledge and a world burgeoning with technology. Today the gap seems even wider. It astonishes me that people can’t see the value.

    I wonder sometimes if it just seems too much work for some. We also live in an era of entitlement and quick fixes. “Learn X in 21 Days!” and “Y for Dummies!” No winner trophies and no losers, just participants. Everyone gets an “E” for Effort just for showing up.

    But science is a little bit hard; it takes some effort. You have to read stuff, and you have to remember stuff. You have to exercise something that doesn’t require a gym membership or a barista. And it’ll take longer than 21 days.

    The end result is pretty amazing, though. Science isn’t just a hammer or saw; it’s the whole toolkit!

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