Ruins of the Sutlej avulsion paper’s coverage

Reporting on the new Indus civilisation study out of IIT-K and Imperial College London was an interesting experience because it afforded an opportunity to discover how the technical fields of sedimentology and hydrodynamics can help understand the different ways in which a civilisation can grow. And also how “fluviodeltaic morphodynamics” just rolls off the tongue.

In my report for The Wire, however, I stuck to the science for the most part because that in itself offered a lot to discover (and because you know I’m biased). For example, how the atomic lattices of quartz and feldspar played an important part in identifying that the Sutlej river had formerly occupied the Ghaggar-Hakra palaeochannel.

Audience response to the reports were also along expected lines:

  • a fifth read it quietly, without much fanfare, asking polite questions (without notifying the authors, however) about various claims made in the article;
  • some two-fifths went to town with it, calling the Hindutva brigade’s search for the Saraswati a lost cause; and
  • another two-fifths also went to town with it, calling out The Wire‘s attempt to ‘disparage’ the Saraswati misguided.

I’ll leave you to judge for yourself.

What was not along expected lines, however, was international coverage of the study. The BBC’s and Axios‘s headline on the topic were the following (in order): River departed ‘before Indus civilisation emergence’ and Indus Valley civilization may have arisen without a river. The Axios headline is just wrong. The BBC headline is fine but its article is wrong, stating:

The Indus society came to prominence in what is now northwest India and Pakistan some 5,300 years ago thanks in large part to the sustenance of a long-lost Himalayan river.

Or so it was thought.

New evidence now indicates this great water course had actually changed its path and disappeared before the Indus people had even settled in the region.

That they lacked the resource offered by a big, actively flowing river will come as a surprise to many; the other early urban societies of the time, in Egypt and Mesopotamia, certainly benefitted in this way.

The Daily Mail had an unsurprisingly garbage headlineMysterious Indus Valley Civilisation managed to thrive without a river to provide flowing water 5,300 years ago. Newsweek‘s headline (Long-lost river discovered in the Himalayas may completely change what we know about early civilisations) and article were both sensational. Excerpt:

Scientists have found the ancient remains of the river that prove it did not exist at the same time as the Indus civilization. This means the civilization existed without a major active water source, something archaeologists did not believe was possible.

The common mistake in all these reports is that they either assume or suggest that the Indus valley civilisation was fed by one river – at least in the first half – and that the entire civilisation was centred around that river. On the contrary, the Indus valley civilisation was the largest of its time, over a million sq. km in area, and was fed by the Indus and its dozens of tributaries (only one of which was the Sutlej).

This in turn limits the extent to which claims about civilisations being able to arise without perennial sources of water can be generalised. The prominent Indus valley settlements affected by the Sutlej’s avulsion are two in number (Banawali and Kalibangan) whereas the civilisation overall hosted over 1,000 such sites and, by one estimate, almost five million people. Second: to what extent would the Indus civilisation have been possible (relative to what actually was) if all of its settlements had been fed by gentler monsoonal rivers?

So yes, the study does provide a new perspective – a new possibility, rather – on the question of what resources are necessary to form a conducive natural environment for a proto-urban human settlement. But this is not a “revolutionary” idea, as many reports would have us believe, at least because other researchers have explored it before and at most because there is little data to run with at the moment. What we do know and for sure is that the Sutlej avulsed 8,000 years ago and, about 5,000 years ago, a part of the Indus valley civilisation took root in the abandoned valley.

Further, I’m also concerned the reports might overstate what “ancient Indians” (but for some reason not “ancient Pakistanis”) could have been capable of. This is a topic that the Hindutva brigade has refurbished with alarming levels of success to imply that the world should bow down to India. Archaeological surveys of the Indus valley region could definitely do with staying away from such problems, at least as much as they can afford to, and some of the language in the sites quoted above isn’t helping.

Featured image credit: Usman.pg/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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By the way: the Chekhov’s gun and the science article

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” (source)

This is the principle of the Chekhov’s gun: that all items within a narrative must contribute to the overarching narrative itself, and those that don’t should be removed. This is very, very true of the first two Harry Potter books, where J.K. Rowling includes seemingly random bits of information in the first half of each book that, voila, suddenly reappear during the climax in important ways. (Examples: Quirrell’s turban and the Whomping Willow). Thankfully, Rowling’s writing improves significantly from the third book, where the Chekhov’s guns are more subtly introduced, and don’t always stay out of sight before being revived for the grand finale.

However, does the Chekhov’s gun have a place in a science article?

Most writers, editors and readers (I suspect) would reply in the affirmative. The more a bit of science communication stays away from redundancy, the better. Why introduce a term if it’s not going to be reused, or if it won’t contribute to the reader understanding what a writer has set out to explain? This is common-sensical. But my concern is about introducing information deftly embedded in the overarching narrative but which does not play any role in further elucidating the writer’s overall point.

Consider this example: I’m explaining a new research paper that talks about how a bunch of astronomers used a bunch of cool techniques to identify the properties of a distant star. While what is entirely novel about the paper is the set of techniques, I also include two lines about how the telescopes the astronomers used to make their observations operate using a principle called long baseline interferometry. And a third line about why each telescope is equipped with an atomic clock.

Now, I have absolutely no need to mention the phrases ‘long baseline interferometry’ and ‘atomic clocks’ in the piece. I can make my point just as well without them. However, to me it seems like a good opportunity to communicate to – and not just inform – the reader about interesting technologies, an opportunity I may not get again. But a professional editor (again, I suspect) would argue that if I’m trying to make a point and I know what that point is, I should just make that. That, like a laser pointer, I should keep my arguments focused and coherent.

I’m not sure I would agree. A little bit of divergence is okay, maybe even desirable at times.

Yes, I’m aware that editors working on stories that are going to be printed, and/or are paying per word, would like to keep things as concisely pointy as possible. And yes, I’m aware that including something that needn’t be included risks throwing the reader off, that we ought to minimise risk at all times. Finally, yes, I’m aware that digressing off into rivulets of information also forces the writer to later segue back into the narrative river, and that may not be elegant.

Of these three arguments (that I’ve been able to think of; if you have others, please feel free to let me know), the first one alone has the potential to be non-negotiable. The other two are up to the writer and the editor: if she or they can tuck away little gems of trivia without disrupting the story’s flow, why not? I for one would love to discover them, to find out about connections – scientific, technological or otherwise – in the real world that frequently find expression only with the prefix of a “by the way, did you know…”.

Featured image credit: DariuszSankowski/pixabay.

Talking scicomm at NCBS – II

I was invited to speak to the students of the annual science writing workshop conducted at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, for the second year (first year talk’s notes here).

Some interesting things we discussed:

1. Business of journalism: There were more questions from this year’s batch of aspiring science writers about the economics of online journalism, how news websites grow, how much writers can expect to get paid, etc. This is heartening: more journalists at all levels should be aware of, and if possible involved in, how their newsrooms make their money. Because if you retreat from this space, you cede space for a capitalist who doesn’t acknowledge the principles and purpose of journalism to take over. If money has to make its way into the hands of journalists – as it should, for all the work that they’re doing – only journalists can also ensure that it’s clean.

2. Conflicts of interest: The Wire has more to lose through conflicts of interests in a story simply because there are more people out there looking to bring it down. So the cost of slipping up is high. But let’s not disagree that being diligent on this front always makes for a better report.

3. Formulae: There is no formula for a good science story. A story itself is good when it is composed by good writing and when it is a good story in the same way we think of good stories in fiction. They need to entertain without betraying the spirit of their subject, and – unlike in fiction – they need to seek out the truth. That they also need to be in the public interest is something I’m not sure about, although only to the extent that it doesn’t compromise the rights of any other actor. This definition is indeed vague but only because the ‘public interest’ is a shape-shifting entity. For example, two scholars having an undignified fight over some issue in the public domain wouldn’t be in the public interest – and I would deem it unfit for publication for just that reason. At the same time, astronomers discovering a weird star billions of lightyears away may not be in the public interest either – but that wouldn’t be enough reason to disqualify the story. In fact, a deeper point: when the inculcation of scientific temper, adherence to the scientific method and financial support for the performance of science are all deemed to not be in the public interest, then covering these aspects of science by the same yardstick will only give rise to meaningless stories.

4. Representation of authority: If two scientists in the same institute are the only two people working on a new idea, and if one of them has published a paper, can you rely on the other’s opinions of it? I wouldn’t – they’re both paid by the same institution, and it is in both their interests to uphold the stature of the institution and all the work that it supports because, as a result, their individual statures are upheld. Thankfully, this situation hasn’t come to be – but something similar has. Most science journalists in the country frequently quote scientists from Bangalorean universities on topics like molecular biology and ecology because they’re the most talkative. However, the price they’re quietly paying for this is by establishing that the only scientists in the country worth talking about apropos these topics are based out of Bangalore. That is an injustice.

5. Content is still king: You can deck up a page with the best visuals, but if the content is crap, then nothing will save the package from flopping. You can also package great content in a lousy-looking page and it will still do well. This came up in the context of a discussion on emulating the likes of Nautilus and Quanta in India. The stories on their pages read so well because they are good stories, not because they’re accompanied by cool illustrations. This said, it’s also important to remember that illustrations cost quite a bit of money, so when the success of a package is mostly the in the hands of the content itself, paying attention to that alone during a cash-crunch may not be a bad idea.

Do your bit, broaden your science menu

If you think a story was not covered by the media, it’s quite likely that that story didn’t feature in your limited news menu, and that it was actually covered by an outlet you haven’t discovered yet. In the same vein, saying the entirety of India’s science media is crap is in itself crap. I’ve heard this say from two people today (and some others on Twitter). I’ll concede that the bulk of it is useless but there are still quite a few good players. And not reading what they are writing is a travesty on your part if you consider yourself interested in science news. Why I think so is a long story; to cut it short: given what the prevailing distribution mechanisms as well as business models are, newsrooms can only do so much to ensure they’re visible to the right people. You’ve got to do your bit as well. So if you haven’t found the better players, shame on you. You don’t get to judge the best of us after having read only the worst of us.

And I like to think The Wire is among the best of us (but I can’t be the final judge). Here are some of the others:

  1. The Telegraph – Among the best in the country. They seldom undertake longer pieces but what they publish is crisp and authoritative. Watch out for G.S. Mudur.
  2. Scroll – Doesn’t cover a lot of sciencey science but what they do cover, they tend to get right.
  3. The Hindu – The Big Daddy. Has been covering science for a long time. My only issue with it is that many of its pieces, in an effort to come across as being unafraid of the technicalities, are flush with jargon.
  4. Fountain Ink – Only long-form and does a fab job of the science + society stories.
  5. Reuters India – Plain Jane non-partisan reportage all round.

I’m sure there are other publishers of good science journalism in India. The five I’ve listed here are the ones that came quickest to mind and I just wanted illustrate my point and quickly get this post out.

Note: This is the article the reactions to which prompted this post.

Featured image credit: Hans/pixabay.

Talking about science, NCBS

On June 24, I was invited to talk at the NCBS Science Writing Workshop, held every year for 10 days. The following notes are some of my afterthoughts from that talk.

Science journalism online is doing better now than science journalism in print, in India. But before we discuss the many ways in which this statement is true, we need to understand what a science story can be as it is presented in the media. I’ve seen six kinds of science pieces:

1. Scientific information and facts – Reporting new inventions and discoveries, interesting hypotheses, breaking down complex information, providing background information. Examples: first detection of g-waves, Dicty World Race, etc.

2. Processes in science – Discussing opinions and debates, analysing how complex or uncertain issues are going to be resolved, unravelling investigations and experiments. Examples: second detection of g-waves, using CRISPR, etc.

3. Science policy – Questioning/analysing the administration of scientific work, funding, HR, women in STEM, short- and long-term research strategies, etc. Examples: analysing DST budgets, UGC’s API, etc.

4. People of science – Interviewing people, discussing choices and individual decisions, investigating the impact of modern scientific research on those who practice it. **Examples**: interviewing women in STEM, our Kip Thorne piece, etc.

5. Auxiliary science – Reporting on the impact of scientific processes/choices on other fields (typically closer to our daily lives), discussing the economic/sociological/political issues surrounding science but from an economic/sociological/political PoV. Examples: perovskite in solar cells, laying plastic roads, etc.

6. History and philosophy of science – Analysing historical and/or philosophical components of science. Examples: some of Mint on Sunday’s pieces, our columns by Aswin Seshasayee and Sunil Laxman, etc.

Some points:

1. Occasionally, a longform piece will combine all five types – but you shouldn’t force such a piece without an underlying story.

2. The most common type of science story is 5 – auxiliary science – because it is the easiest to sell. In these cases, the science itself plays second fiddle to the main issue.

3. Not all stories cleanly fall into one or the other bin. The best science pieces can’t always be said to be falling in this or that bin, but the worst pieces get 1 and 2 wrong, are misguided about 4 (but usually because they get 1 and 2 wrong) or misrepresent the science in 5.

4. Journalism is different from writing in that journalism has a responsibility to expose and present the truth. At the same time, 1, 2 and 6 stories – presenting facts in a simpler way, discussing processes, and discussing the history and philosophy of science – can be as much journalism as writing because they increase awareness of the character of science.

5. Despite the different ways in which we’ve tried to game the metrics, one thing has held true: content is king. A well-written piece with a good story at its heart may or may not do well – but a well-packaged piece that is either badly written or has a weak story at its centre (or both) will surely flop.

6. You can always control the goodness of your story by doing due diligence, but if you’re pitching your story to a publisher on the web, you’ve to pitch it to the right publisher. This is because those who do better on the web only do better by becoming a niche publication. If a publication wants to please everyone, it has to operate at a very large scale (>500 stories/day). On the other hand, a niche publication will have clearly identified its audience and will only serve that segment. Consequently, only some kinds of science stories – as identified by those niche publications’ preferences in science journalism – will be popular on the web. So know what editors are looking for.

Stenograph the science down

A piece in Zee News, headlined ISRO to test next reusable launch vehicle after studying data of May 23 flight, begins thus:

The Indian Space Research Organisation has successfully launched it’s first ever ‘Made-in-India’ space shuttle RLV-Technology Demonstrator on May 23, 2016. After the launch, the Indian space agency will now test the next reusable launch vehicle test after studying May 23 flight data. A senior official in the Indian space agency says that India will test the next set of space technologies relating to the reusable launch vehicle (RLV) after studying the data collected from the May 23 flight of RLV-Technology Demonstrator. “We will have to study the data generated from the May 23 flight. Then we have to decide on the next set of technologies to be tested on the next flight. We have not finalised the time frame for the next RLV flight,” K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) said on Wednesday.

Apart from presenting very little new information with each passing sentence, the piece also buries an important quote, and what could well have been the piece’s real peg, more than half the way down:

As per data the RLV-TD landed softly in Bay of Bengal. As per our calculations it would have disintegrated at the speed at which it touched the sea,” Sivan said.

It sounds like Sivan is admitting to a mistake in the calculations. There should have been a follow-up question at this point – asking him to elaborate on the mismatch – because this is valuable new information. Instead, the piece marches on as if Sivan had just commented on the weather. And in hindsight, the piece’s first few paragraphs present information that is blatantly obvious: of course results from the first test are going to inform the design of the second test. What new information are we to glean from such a statement?

Or is it that we’re paying no attention to the science and instead reproducing Sivan’s words line by line because they’re made of gold?

A tangential comment: The piece’s second, third and fourth sentences say the same thing. Sandwiching one meaty sentence between layers of faff is a symptom of writing for newspapers – where there is some space to fill for the sake of there being some attention to grab. At the same time, such writing is unthinkingly carried to the web because many publishers believe that staking a claim to ‘publishing on the web’ only means making podcasts and interactive graphics. What about concision?

The downward/laterward style in science writing

One of the first lessons in journalism 101 is the inverted pyramid, a style of writing where the journalist presents the more important information higher up the piece. This way, the copy sort of tapers down in importance the longer it runs. The idea was that such writing served two purposes:

  1. Allowing editors looking to shorten the copy to make it fit in print to make cuts easily – they’d just have to snip whatever they wanted off the bottom, knowing that the meat was on the top.
  2. Readers would get the most important information without having to read too much through the copy – allowing them to decide earlier if they want to read the whole thing or move on to something else.

As a science writer, I don’t like the inverted pyramid. Agreed, it makes for pithy writing and imposes the kind of restriction on the writer that does a good job of forcing her to preclude her indulgence from the writing process. But if the writer was intent on indulging herself, I think she’d do it inverted pyramid or not. My point is that the threat of self-indulgence shouldn’t disallow other, possibly more engaging, forms of writing.

To wit: my favourite style is the pyramid. It starts with a slowly building trickle of information at the top with the best stuff coming at the bottom. I like this style because it closely mimics the process of discovery, of the brain receiving new information and then accommodating it within an existing paradigm. To me, it also allows for a more logical, linear construction of the narrative. In fact, I prefer the descriptor ‘downward/laterward’ because, relative to the conventional inverted pyramid style, the pyramid postpones the punchline.

However, two caveats.

  1. The downward/laterward doesn’t make anything easier for the editors, but that again – like self-indulgence – is to me a separate issue. In the pursuit of constructing wholesome pieces, it’d be an insult to me if I had an editor who wasn’t interested in reading my whole piece and then deciding how to edit it. Similarly, in return for the stylistic choices it affords, the downward/laterward compels the writer to write even better to keep the reader from losing interest.
  2. I usually write explainers (rather, end up having tried to write one). Explainers in the context of my interests typically focus on the science behind an object or an event, and they’re usually about high-energy astronomy/physics. Scientific advancements in these subjects usually require a lot of background, pre-existing information. So the pyramid style affords me the convenience of presenting such information as a build toward the conclusion – which is likely the advancement in question.
    However, I’m sure I’m in the minority. Most writers whose articles I enjoy are also writers gunning to describe the human emotions at play behind significant scientific findings. And their articles are typically about drama. So it might be that the drama builds downward/laterward while the science itself is presented in the inverted-pyramid way (and I just end up noticing the science).

Looking back, I think most of my recent pieces (2011-onward) have been written in the downward/laterward style. And the only reason I decided to reflect on the process now is because of this fantastic piece in The Atlantic that talks about how astronomers hunt for the oldest stars in the universe. Great stuff.

Caution: This piece contains a lot of mentions of the word ‘jargon’.

When writing one of my first pieces for The Hindu, I remember being called out for using a lot of jargon. While the accusation itself may have been justified, the word my supervisor chose as an example of the problem was surprising: “refraction”. He wanted me to spell it out in 10 words or so (because we were already running out of print-space). When I couldn’t, he launched into a long tirade.

It’s easy to spell out the what of refraction in 10 words – just refer to a prism. But if you’ve to understand the why, you’ll end up somewhere in the vicinity of quantum mechanics. At the same time, there are some everyday concepts in our lives that are easier understood the way they appear to be than in terms of what they actually are. This is where I’d draw the line of jargon. While everything can be technically simplified to the predictions of a complicated theory like quantum mechanics, jargon is that which isn’t at its simplest in the most pragmatic sense.

Clearly, this line lies in different places for different people because it can be moved by specialized knowledge. Writing in Nature or Science, I can take for granted that my audience will understand concepts like resonance or Feynman diagrams. Writing in The Hindu, on the other hand, all I can take for granted is reflection and, hopefully, refraction. Then again, these are publications who (ought to) know what their target audience is like. So I ask: If you were writing for a billion people, where would you assume the line is?

To me, the line would be at the statistical mode.

What irks me is that – in India at least – the statistical mode for different topics lies at incomparably different places. For example, I would be able to get away with ‘repo rate’ and ‘tortfeasor’ but not ‘morbidity’. My first impression was to somehow peg the difference to the well-established lack of scientific temper. But then I realized what the bigger problem was: news publications in the country are in a state of denial about lacking the scientific temper themselves, and consistently refuse to subject financial and legal news to the same scrutiny and the same wariness with which science news is treated.

If editors really wanted to take responsibility for their content, they wouldn’t let repo rate go through the press, or tortfeasor, or short fine leg, or Brent crude, or fiscal deficit*, or the history of the BJP**. However, they have let these bits of information go through without any apprehensions that they might be misunderstood or not understood at all. And by doing so, they have engendered an invisible reading culture that enforces the notion that these words don’t require further explanation, that these words shouldn’t be jargon – rather, wouldn’t be jargon if not for the reader’s ignorance.

In this culture, business and politics news (henceforth: fin-pol) can be for the least common denominators among all readers while science news… well, science news isn’t for everyone, is it? While the editors have misguidedly but efficiently dejargonized fin-pol news, with the effect that while fin-pol content is considered conventional, science news is still asked to be delivered sandwiched between layers of didactic material.

Another problem – this one more subtle and less prevalent – is that fin-pol reporters can often bank on historical knowledge while science reporters, word for word, remain constrained by the need to break down jargon. In other words, the fin-pol writer can assume the reader knows what he/she is talking about but ‘Feynman diagrams’ have to be repeatedly laid out unless the article is explicitly specified as being one in a series.

*If I can’t use ‘refraction’, you can’t use ‘fiscal deficit’.
**If you refuse to learn from sources other than the media as to who MSR Dev is, I refuse to let myself be persecuted for not learning from sources other than the media as to who SP Mukherjee was.

Solving mysteries, by William & Adso

The following is an excerpt from The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco’s debut novel from 1980. The story is set in an Italian monastery in 1327, and is an intellectually heady murder mystery doused in symbolism and linguistic ambivalence. Two characters, William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk, are conversing about using deductive reasoning to solve mysteries.

“Adso,” William said, “solving a mystery is not the same as deducing from first principles. Nor does it amount simply to collecting a number of particular data from which to infer a general law. It means, rather, facing one or two or three particular data apparently with nothing in common, and trying to imagine whether they could represent so many instances of a general law you don’t yet know, and which perhaps has never been pronounced. To be sure, if you know, as the philosopher says, that man, the horse, and the mule are all without bile and are all long-lived, you can venture the principle that animals without bile live a long time. But take the case of animals with horns. Why do they have horns? Suddenly you realize that all animals with horns are without teeth in the upper jaw. This would be a fine discovery, if you did not also realize that, alas, there are animals without teeth in the upper jaw who, however, do not have horns: the camel, to name one. And finally you realize that all animals without teeth in the upper jaw have four stomachs. Well, then, you can suppose that one who cannot chew well must need four stomachs to digest food better. But what about the horns? You then try to imagine a material cause for horns—say, the lack of teeth provides the animal with an excess of osseous matter that must emerge somewhere else. But is that sufficient explanation? No, because the camel has no upper teeth, has four stomachs, but does not have horns. And you must also imagine a final cause. The osseous matter emerges in horns only in animals without other means of defense. But the camel has a very tough hide and doesn’t need horns. So the law could be …”

“But what have horns to do with anything?” I asked impatiently. “And why are you concerned with animals having horns?”

“I have never concerned myself with them…”

When I first read this book almost seven years ago, I remember reading these lines with awe (I was reading my first books on the philosophy of science then). Like a fool on whom common sense was then lost but somehow not their meaning itself, I memorized the lines, and then promptly forgot the context in which they appeared. While randomly surfing through the web today, I found them once more, so here they are. They belong to the chapter titled “In which Alinardo seems to give valuable information, and William reveals his method of arriving at a probable truth through a series of unquestionable errors.”

Is anything meant to remain complex?

The first answer is “No”. I mean, whatever you’re writing about, the onus is on the writer to break his subject down to its simplest components, and then put them back together in front of the reader’s eyes. If the writer fails to do that, then the blame can’t be placed on the subject.

It so happens that the blame can be placed on the writer’s choice of subject. Again, the fault is the writer’s, but what do you when the subject is important and ought to be written about because some recent contribution to it makes up a piece of history? Sure, the essentials are the same: read up long and hard on it, talk to people who know it well and are able to break it down in some measure for you, and try and use infographics to augment the learning process.

But these methods, too, have their shortcomings. For one, if the subject has only a long-winded connection to phenomena that affect reality, then strong comparisons have to make way for weak metaphors. A consequence of this is that the reader is more misguided in the long-term than he is “learned” in the short-term. For another, these methods require that the writer know what he’s doing, that what he’s writing about makes sense to him before he attempts to make sense of it for his readers.

This is not always the case: given the grey depths that advanced mathematics and physics are plumbing these days, science journalism concerning these areas are written with a view to make the subject sound awesome, enigmatic, and, sometimes, hopefully consequential than they are in place to provide a full picture of on-goings.

Sometimes, we don’t have a full picture because things are that complex.

The reader is entitled to know – that’s the tenet of the sort of science writing that I pursue: informational journalism. I want to break the world around me down to small bits that remain eternally comprehensible. Somewhere, I know, I must be able to distinguish between my shortcomings and the subject’s; when I realize I’m not able to do that effectively, I will have failed my audience.

In such a case, am I confined to highlighting the complexity of the subject I’ve chosen?


The part of the post that makes some sense ends here. The part of the post that may make no sense starts here.

The impact of this conclusion on science journalism worldwide is that there is a barrage of didactic pieces once something is completely understood and almost no literature during the finding’s formative years despite public awareness that important, and legitimate, work was being done (This is the fine line that I’m treading).

I know this post sounds like a rant – it is a rant – against a whole bunch of things, not the least-important of which is that groping-in-the-dark is a fact of life. However, somehow, I still have a feeling that a lot of scientific research is locked up in silence, yet unworded, because we haven’t received the final word on it. A safe course, of course: nobody wants to be that guy who announced something prematurely and the eventual result was just something else.