Thursday, 3 September 2015

The headline game


2006: Evidence is mounting: the next solar cycle is going to be a big one. Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 "looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

2013 “Not only is this the smallest cycle we’ve seen in the space age, it’s the smallest cycle in 100 years,” NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center research scientist David Hathaway said during a recent press teleconference conducted by the Marshall Space Flight Center.

This an old screw up which doesn't necessarily reflect badly on NASA or Dr Hathaway. Scientists make mistakes and admitting them is the best way forward. Betting on natural or political events seems to be a popular way of hitting the headlines though. If the headline makes more of an impact than subsequent failure then it's a winning strategy.

In this case, the failure became another minor headline. I don't know if that was the intention or not, but pumping up a story into headline material then quietly dropping it later seems to be an extremely common tactic by the publicity people who seem to control everything these days. The headline is remembered while subsequent caveats or retractions are not. It's a bet but the dice are loaded and they know it.


Demetrius said...

At least all these asteroids are predicted to miss Earth. Give or take a margin of error or two.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - one day...