Tabitha M. Powledge writes about the overly credulous coverage of a questionable claim that signs of life have been found on the comet where Philae landed: "This claim of cometary aliens is one of the finer examples of the story that’s too good to check. So most of the persons who wrote the initial reports failed to look even briefly into the recent activities of one of the claimants." Also, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his big plans for brain-to-brain communication.
Jonathan Peters discusses a half-dozen court cases in which the government has sued someone who filed a public records request. The cases could have a chilling effect, Peters writes: "In some of these cases, the government feared being sued itself, and initiated litigation to try to force the court to decide whether the records were public. Still, in each case, there was a risk that the free flow of information would be chilled because of the government’s actions."
Cambridge, Mass., isn’t simply the home of top research universities like MIT and Harvard. Acre for acre, the Kendall Square area around MIT boasts the highest density of academic, corporate, and startup R&D activity in the world. The Brookings Institution calls Kendall Square “today’s iconic innovation district.” All of which makes it the perfect setting for ScienceWriters2015, coming to MIT Oct. 9-13. Also, NASW and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing will host the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in fall 2017 in San Francisco.
Sam Leith bemoans the current state of non-fiction publishing, with its fondness for sweeping "big ideas" books: "We have a flock of books arguing that the internet is either the answer to all our problems or the cause of them; we have scads of books telling us about the importance of mindfulness, or forgetfulness, or distraction, or stress." But he identifies a silver lining in "what looks like a golden age of publishing for, of all people, the university presses."
Shadi Rahimi writes that the news media and the public at large are using fewer hashtags in social media. She attributes the shift to their overuse and the ethical issues they sometimes pose: "You might have thought that by tweeting #CallMeCaitlyn last week you were guaranteed engagement. Perhaps, as the hashtag was trending up. But a quick glance at Topsy near the end of the day showed 'Caitlyn Jenner' as a keyword set on Twitter was trending higher than the hashtag."
Edward Abbey took a job at Arches National Monument in the late 1950s and a decade later produced Desert Solitaire, a meditation on the external and internal landscapes he examined that summer, Maria Popova writes: "Abbey’s writing is both a form of spiritual sustenance and a feat of conservation — for, being human and thus solipsistic, unless we appreciate the value of these experiences to our inner lives, we are rarely moved to honor their sacred value to all life."