2015-08-25

I Don't Get It, And It's All Stephen Hawking's Fault!

This is how reporters cover science:
Hawking’s idea isn’t entirely new: In fact, t’ Hooft made a similar proposal nearly two decades ago. It’s still unclear just where the differences lie, but it may be that Hawking has resolved some previous difficulties with the theory.
It's not "still unclear." It's perfectly clear. I bet Hawking and t' Hooft both understand exactly what the difference is between their two theories. It's only "still unclear" the reporter, who tried and failed to understand the difference between their ideas.

The reporter uses language to magically turn the phrase "I don't know what these guys are talking about," into "Maybe one day science will understand this better." The latter statement is certainly true, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the reporter doesn't get it. That's his problem. He makes it sound like his inability to understand is due to unclear theorizing on the part of the most brilliant physicists in the world.

How can a science reporter be incapable of admitting what he doesn't know, i.e. owning up to the cornerstone of scientific inquiry? Worse, how can he blame Stephen Hawking for the fact that he doesn't understand?

To be clear, there is absolutely no shame in not understanding theoretical physics as well as the leaders in that field. I would expect that most people, myself included, fail to grasp the cutting-edge ideas in physics. What bothers me, though, is that the reporter doesn't simply acknowledge that he can't understand it. Instead, he pretends that the matter is "still unclear," as if the question here is that maybe Hawking and t' Hooft are the ones who aren't sure about their own theories.