Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

Telegraph: “But some are taking a cooler view.” – FAIL

Are journalists now so starved for “balance” that they can’t report on a new, incomplete, and untested theory without taking time out to play off people who think it’s promising but incomplete against people who think it’s incomplete but promising?

I read news articles these days in a constant state of dread for the moment where the reporter has to throw in the sentence starting with “But some…”. In political reporting, this means you’re about to get an insightful and equally valid (read: ridiculous if plausible-sounding) opposing viewpoint from a respected member of the political establishment. In the computer press they don’t even try to hide the fact that the “balance” is coming from paid PR flacks. In science, where you can actually test what was claimed … what exactly are they reporting?

Are journalists supposed to have the barest understanding of the field they cover any more? Could they take some time to figure out what actually happened, and not outsource the work to someone who either has an agenda or can’t know the answer? Are they actually supposed to report so that the reader learns things, or is this just so much gossip with the smokers out behind the gym?

The only journalists that seem to think they’re actually supposed to inform you are, ironically, the ones inside the gym: sports reporters. This might be because it’s a lot easier for a reporter to know what happened when it happened right in front of them and the officials kept track. It might be because sports reporting draws passionate people who care about the field they’re covering but can’t directly be involved with it. Either way, people like Bill Simmons actually seem to know what they’re talking about. This does not mean I agree with Simmons – I probably disagree with him more often than not (and not just about his Pats’ obsession) – but his writing actually says something.

A clearly stated opinion with supporting facts can be disagreed with. A muddled and conflicting set of opinions with no factual content just leaves people confused and causes them to fall back on their base assumptions.

Lisi’s theory will be studied and tested. If the tests turn up something, the theory will be studied further. If the tests turn up nothing, the theory will be quietly discarded like the thousands of other theories that didn’t turn out to be right.