Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How sloppy journalism hurts society.

Technology BAD!  Nature Gooooood.
This is the extent of cranial processing I see these days in a lot of science reporting.  No matter the subject, if us eeeevile Humans would just leave things alone and go back to the horse and buggy, everything would be perfect and beautiful. Little fairies would flit from flower to flower scattering fairy dust on us all, as we recline in the bosom of Gaia and smoke dope together in harmonious wonderfulness.  sigh.

Case in point.

How buckyballs hurt cells

Yep, that's the title of the press release on Eurekalert today. 

First sentence:
A new study into the potential health hazards of the revolutionary nano-sized particles known as ‘buckyballs’ predicts that the molecules are easily absorbed into animal cells, providing a possible explanation for how the molecules could be toxic to humans and other organisms.

Seeing that, you'd think the guys were biochemists who had done a breakthrough study in toxicology, showing that

A) buckyballs are toxic, and
B) how they are toxic.

But, you'd be wrong!  Because they didn't observe "that the molecules are easily absorbed into animal cells".  They modeled it.  On a computer.  Its a simulation.

The LAST sentence in the article finally quotes the guy.
“Buckyballs commonly form into clumps that could easily be inhaled by a person as dust particles,” Tieleman said. “How they enter cells and cause damage is still poorly understood but our model shows a possible mechanism for how this might occur.
So what we have is a computer simulation of a hypothesis, not an observation of an actual occurrence.  AKA, its a movie.  It might be true, it might not.  We don't even know IF they enter cells, because the toxicity mentioned in the article has to do with Fullerenes as a class including nanotubes, not buckeyballs as in C-60 which as I understand it is damn near completely inert chemically.

A little more than half way down the article the idiot journalist mentions that C-60 occurs naturally "from lightning strikes", to which I'll add it occurs profusely in SOOT, particularly from carbon arc lamps such as are used in movie projectors, spot lights, plus anywhere else a carbon electrode is used.  Oh, plus welding soot from torches, they get hot too.  There's been no plague of projectionists and welders dropping dead these last hundred or so years, so you know what?  It can't be that bad.  Maybe you might not want to eat it by the handful. Snorting lines of it like coke could be contra-indicated as well

But what do I get from reading the article?  This super duper high tech stuff which irresponsible bastards are building into products I use every day is gonna hurt my cells.  Nanotechnology is gonna give me BRAIN CANCER!!!  AIEEEEE!!!!  Kill the scientists!

That's not journalism, that's Big Lie disinformation.  Just thought y'all should know.

The Disinformed Phantom

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