A rant on the unlimited stupidity of the masses
Three weeks ago, I discussed a media storm following the publication of a lousy article by Ali and Das that was interpreted as a disproof of the big bang theory. Lots of the Czech media joined at that time.
However, what I didn't expect was that this insanity was going to continue for weeks. On Monday, when I opened the novinky.cz [translation of the name of the server: news.cz] app on my smartphone, it immediately impressed me by the article called There Has Never Been Any Big Bang, a New Study Claims. Holy cow. There was an easy way to save my life: to drag my finger from the left side of the screen to the right one. The terrible thing disappeared.
But it seems to me that while novinky.cz is copying similar junk from some Western "MSM" sources, there are many smaller news outlets in the food chain that similarly depend on novinky.cz.
So just minutes after I turned on the radio, Rádio Impuls, today in the morning, I *heard* the new gospel in the audio form, too. After half a minute, I had to turn it off and switch to another station.
Among the uncountable Czech commercial radios, Radio Impuls has the largest audience. They have their own traveler, George Kolbaba, to mention an example of their power, who has been to every country of the globe about 5 times in average. You may win lots of money and houses if you reply "Hello, this is the Impuls family" if they call your number.
And they also need to show how intellectual they can be, it seems, so their 1 million listeners (who listen to the radio at least at one point on a day) were offered this great news that the big bang was wrong, too.
I don't want to flood you with irrelevant data about a radio station in a foreign country. These details are not important, you are not interested in them, and you live in slightly different environments where the essence of the situation is similar.
My broader point is that at least when it comes to science, the public is ready to buy an arbitrarily stinky and random piece of šit, devour it, and smack their lips, and the longer the food chain that improves the šittiness of the "products" is, the better for the public.
The average people are staggering idiots. While they love to celebrate junk, the most valuable science gets completely unnoticed or is even deliberately attacked. And of course that the masses don't really distinguish science from religion or from the latest superstitions about "which food is healthy for you".
You know, the paper by Ali and Das is a bad paper and the authors would have virtually no chance to get a postdoc job at a good place these days. But their another bad paper – because of the "ambitious" interpretation it has been linked to – is able to convince almost all the mass media working for the average people that it is a game-changer in science.
In the hierarchy of the mass media, there are some influential ones, like Reuters or AP etc. What they wrote about that paper was already atrocious. (Novinky.cz seems to cite "Science Alert" as their source – that's also a bizarre source of information for the journalists.) But what's worse is that this stuff is getting even worse as it travels through the food chain, when the "story" is being copied from one place to another with additional mutations which are mostly making the story even "more popular" (i.e. more šitty).
97% of the people simply have no capability or no intent or no desire to distinguish gold from cr*p, not even in the most obvious situation. This problem isn't restricted to physics or cosmology. I can't resist to mention another thing I received by e-mail days ago – an e-mail about an April 2007 experiment by the Washington Post.
Joshua Bell, one of the top U.S. violinists, was placed to a subway station in Washington D.C. for 43 minutes, during the rush hour, and played 6 classical pieces that he routinely plays in concert halls. He used an instrument produced by Antonio Stradivari himself, one whose price is about $3.5 million.
A ticket to his concert costs about $100. How much did he earn among those 10,000 or so passengers of the U.S. capital? 27 people – virtually none of whom spent too much time with the virtuoso – gave him money and in total, he collected slightly over $32. Thirty-two damn dollars. Couldn't they hear that this one wasn't just another homeless guy begging for money?
Some of these people must be the same ones who pay the $100 tickets in Boston's Symphony Hall and elsewhere. I think that the average people's evaluation of the reality – and of music and science, among other things – depends on group think and hype to an overwhelming extent.
I think that most of the people go to the concerts of classical music in order to improve their image. They don't give a damn about classical music itself. In the same way, most people talk about the big bang in order to look smart. They don't give a damn about science or the Universe and they have no clue what is likely and what is almost certainly rubbish. And they don't need to care about the actual science because the only arbiters of their "science" are similar uneducated morons as themselves.
Almost universally, cr*p is gold and gold is cr*p for these people. A little bit of P.R. work would probably be enough to sell the Czech "Annie Dido" ["Dajdou", to be more precise] as one of the greatest musicians of all ages.
Another similar story that I found in the mailbox today – one combining human stupidity and corruption in a proportion that is hard to measure – is about the Czech public spending. We may often ask why the roads in Czechia are more expensive than those in Germany and Austria – even though the salaries in Austria and Germany are significantly higher than ours.
The hamster (Cricetus cricetus) is to blame.
Last September, they were going to build a new speed highway in Moravia – but it was found out that there were hamsters over there. So an "environmental" company called Ekoteam (which is really one person, Mr Vladimír Ludvík) was hired to count the burrows of hamsters between two villages (named Třebětice and Alexovice). His result was that there were 73 burrows including 45 active ones.
The research was summarized in this 9-page preprint. The document is really composed of 3 or so pages of text combined with lots of easy-to-create images – pieces of maps with a few symbols added. It's in Czech but you may have a look and see what's roughly inside and how hard it is to produce such a preprint.
Now, the question is how much "Ekoteam" was paid for this "research" by the Director Bureau of the Roads and Highways in the Czech Republic, a state-controlled company attached to the Ministry of Transportation. You may leave a comment with your guess how much you thought it was, and you may also say how much it should cost. If you would be able to count 73 holes and write a 9-page Word file with a few paragraphs and several images with maps, how much would you want as compensation?
The answer is that Ekoteam received $100,000. One hundred thousand damn dollars (well, 2.4 million Czech crowns which is the same thing). Look at the invoice. Can you imagine that? Think how much hard work and very complicated pages of research a HEP physics postdoc has to do per year to remain in the business.
Instead, if he or she were connected to some easier sources of money, he or she could have counted 73 holes near a village, write a simple crackpot-like Word document, and guarantee income which would be enough for two or more years.
I think that such things would probably not happen if the Director Bureau of the Roads and Highways were a private company. Individual people and, to a slightly lesser extent, companies may understand the value of their money. But if one is deciding about other people's money, it's not difficult to be generous – especially if the recipient is a friend or if he has something else to offer elsewhere.
A rant on the unlimited stupidity of the masses