It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Broken Telephone

As children, we played a game we called "broken telephone" in which one person would come up with a "secret" which we'd then take turns whispering in one another's ears. The last child would repeat the "secret" and then the secret's originator would announce the original. Everyone would laugh.

In comments, Kooiti Masuda provides the following example of a sequence of headlines describing the same research:
The original paper: M. Ogi, K. Yamazaki, and J.M. Wallace, 2010: Influence of winter and summer surface wind anomalies on summer Arctic sea ice extent. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L07701. (No. 13 as listed here).

Nature (research highlights, 18 March 2010): Geoscience: Wind-blown ice. (Nature's short headlines are like riddles, and I do not want to comment on this. I just include it for its content which the journalists probably read.)

Guardian (David Adam, 22 March): Wind contributing to Arctic sea ice loss, study finds. (Fair headline.)

Telegraph (Geoffrey Lean): Good news as research suggests global warming does not directly cause all the melting of Arctic ice. (This is a commentary in a blog, and the headline shows what the commentator thought rather than what the paper said.)

Daily Mail: Arctic winds and not global warming 'responsible for much of record loss of sea ice'. (Misleading.)

Fox News: Winds, Not Warming, Leading to Arctic Ice Melt. (False.)
See also this famous PhD comic whence the image snip.


Jo said...

I know exactly how you must feel.

Several people griped and groaned about this particular piece of disinformation back in March :-

"Horrible headlines" have been causing me to dance a gigue for a while now :- said...

This is a great post that really illustrates what we're up against, although I find it pretty depressing. Anyone else getting tired of willful ignorance?


CFR said...

Me, Kate.