Another rhetorical science question

Via Twitter I read on the BBC website an article about a bacteria that was able to take ‘arsenic on board in its cellular machinery’. It was discovered in an Californian lake and the BBC calmly explain the meaning of the discovery:

John Elliott, a Leeds Metropolitan University researcher who is a veteran of the UK’s search for extraterrestrial life, called the find a “major discovery”.

“It starts to show life can survive outside the traditional truths and universals that we thought you have to use… this is knocking one brick out of that wall,” he said.

“The general consensus is that this really could still be an evolutionary adaptation rather than a second genesis. But it’s early days, within about the first year of this project; it’s certainly one to think on and keep looking for that second genesis, because you’ve almost immediately found an example of something that’s new.”

I then flicked through the Daily Mail and saw how they had covered the story:

Click to Enlarge

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, they have included a picture of ET. And yes, aliens do not live in this lake.

The Daily Mail on Asbestos

Richard Wilson has an excellent guest post on the Guardian website today on how Daily Mail published an article by Christopher Booker that claimed white Asbestos was ‘relatively harmless’ and that the threat from such products was ‘vanishingly small’. Wilson calmly highlights what the Daily Mail reader probably does not know:

What many reading the Daily Mail article won’t have known is that the author, Christopher Booker, has a long track record of downplaying the health risks of white asbestos. Though not a scientist himself, Booker has written at least 42 newspaper articles on this subject since 2002, making claims that run counter to the views of most experts, but are remarkably similar to those of the asbestos industry.

Several of the claims in the Daily Mail article – including that an HSE study once concluded the health risks of white asbestos cement were “insignificant” – have previously appeared in Booker’s Sunday Telegraph column, prompting a series of direct rebuttals from the HSE. The available evidence, as assessed by – among others – the World Health Organisation, the UK and US governments, and the European Union, is that white asbestos poses a serious risk to human health that needs to be carefully managed.

It is highly recommended that you read the rest of the article about why correcting such disinformation matters and why it takes 7 months to the Daily Mail to print a correction.

Top quality science journalism from the Daily Mail

The Mediablog has a theory that the Daily Mail website is becoming more purposefully offensive in order to attract more visits. They suggested that after the 21% rise in website traffic after Jan Moir’s Stephen Gately article the Daily Mail realised that a visitor is a visitor, no matter whether they despise your output or not. It’s the sort of theory that seems convincing given the ludicrous way the Mail website reports straightforward stories, as if they’re playing up to their reputation for being a big joke. Someone, somewhere in the Mail website team is checking headlines and making sure they are stupid enough to attract Internet users to post links along the lines of ‘WTF?! have you seen this on the Mail website?’.

And look, this article on ‘pressure-sensitive electronic skin which could one day be used to restore touch to patients who have prosthetic limbs’ has me biting just like they want with the way it is reported: ‘Age of Terminators comes a step closer as scientists invent ‘e-skin’ that could give robots a sense of touch‘. To add weight to my theory the original headline (shown in the URL) was actually reporting the news: Scientists-invent-e-skin-sense-touch-patients-artificial-limbs.html; but then someone realised that a sensible headline just would not do and changed it.

As if the headline wasn’t stupid enough they follow it up with the following picture and caption:

Just like the Terminator

The article seems to be trying to shoe-horn in as many film references as possible – along with a pretty awful spelling mistake:

More sinister, however, is the prospect of the invention lending robots the ability to adapt the amount of roce needed to hold and manipulate objects.

The nanowires are incredibly thin structures, more than 10,000 times thinner than a single human hair.

They open up the possibility for a robot to be able to hold an egg by judging how delicate it is.

But in true Terminator style, robots would for once know their own strength – which the hero of those movies, John Connor, would presumably see as bad news.

But the worst thing of all, the thing that is truly appalling and utterly baffling: people buy this shit everyday. People actually think that the Daily Mail is a newspaper.