Science Reporting vs Reality

It’s not uncommon to see health stories that turn out not to be valid.  Sometimes one study is later contradicted by others, which is a lot of what science is about. Sometimes the science news cycle / game of telephone adds confusion. Sometimes a computer model  invents something wonky, but with an appealing hook.

And then there’s things like Ars Technica noted today:

Reports appeared in The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and were picked up by Fox News and spread as far away as India. The articles describe the tormented life of a British DJ who is convinced that WiFi signals set off a variety of health symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and nausea. With the proliferation of wireless devices, not only has this individual found it difficult to pursue his career, but also simply to find a house, shops, and pub that he feels comfortable occupying. And he is apparently not alone; the reports consistently claim that two percent of the population suffers from the same issues.

There’s a fundamental problem here: the condition, electrosensitivity, doesn’t appear to exist.  […]  Why would reports of a purported victim suddenly appear around the globe? Only the story in The Sun provides any indication. After the article proper ends and the text invites readers to comment on their own experiences with the apparently nonexistent disorder, there’s a sentence that indicates the DJ being profiled has a new album coming out. It’s name? Electrosensitive.

This wasn’t a health story. It was entertainment PR.

It’s a funny tale, but I think this is one real-life example of PR going a bit wrong — the “hook” (electrosensitivity) beat out the product (Electrosensitive).


Posted

in

, ,

by

Tags:

Comments

One response to “Science Reporting vs Reality”

  1. […] “Studies that come up with such associations are likely to be published, even though often the associations turn out to be spurious.”** * One such calculator is here. ** Can I just say I love that quote? It’s such a staid, scientific way of saying “linking fat people to bad things is popular, even though it often turns out to be garbage.” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: