He has famously said that nowadays, the state of being informed is a sign of the lack of education because people are being mass-fed by distorted, irrelevant, and bogus stories. Students at schools are no longer able to think or debate. A cacophony of meaningless monologues has superseded a thoughtful dialogue. The Internet search engines have amplified the problem because especially young people are increasingly copying whole sentences and answers verbatim. They're no longer able to build any framework in their minds that could be used as a starting point for generating conclusions, predictions, or opinions.
When he was saying these things, I would think he was exaggerating. I have seen journalists who have written deep and sometimes even true and important things before, haven't I? However, since Wednesday or so, my impression has changed. I've been totally overwhelmed and repelled by the Internet and the media. The amount and intensity of recent junk and pure lies has exceeded some episodes I vaguely remember from the past.
Of course that this feeling was partly supported by various trolls – an Italian religious nutcase called Giulio has posted about 30 offensive comments from no less than 5 sockpuppet accounts. Jo Nova would hysterically respond my blog post explaining why David Evans' "notch filter" solar model of the climate is wrong. Like most alarmists, she is simply not willing to discuss science in the calm, matter-of-fact way. Some emotions, demands for compassion, and ad hominem references always seem to be more important for her than the truth.
(I wrote a new, clear mathematical blog post explaining why the notch-filter-shaped response function can never occur as the Fourier transform of any causal function but I am trying to reduce the exposure to this stuff because Jo reacts more emotionally than some alarmists I have met.)
And I am generously overlooking the obsessed fascists who need to come here and rewrite all the facts including the history of Europe that is as old as 1,100 years – just in order to defend ethnic cleansing against Russians in Eastern Ukraine (and perhaps Slavs anywhere and in general).
But the key part of my disgust by the journalists and writers since Wednesday has been caused by the insane wave of negative reporting about the publication of the BICEP2 discovery in Physical Review Letters.
The actual story is a non-event. As expected, the important discovery claim was published in the most prestigious physics journal. The title announcing the discovery remained unchanged, and so did over 90% of the paper and 90% of the abstract. The two anonymous referees didn't allow the BICEP2 Collaboration to present some calculations of the confidence level that was based on the reverse-engineered PDF file informally released by Planck.
So this particular calculation of the "confidence level with the Planck estimate of the dust taken into account" was changed from 5.9 sigma to an undetermined number. That's really the only major enough well understandable change that has occurred. And the reason why it has occurred has pretty much nothing to do with any evidence – it has something to do with stupid bureaucratic rules (well, harassment not supported by any rules) about what kind of files may be used as the source in a scientific paper. The paper still contains lots of other methods to argue that the signal is extremely likely to be of cosmological origin.
Most of the media have turned this vindication of the BICEP2's discovery into a near-collapse of the BICEP2 claim and perhaps even the cosmic inflation or the Big Bang Theory. I am not exaggerating. The concentration of virtual reality – and truly unhinged virtual reality that the inkspillers were apparently frantically copying from each other – was absolutely insane.
In reality, the evidence is not crumbling. Moreover, it was never evidence relevant for the validity of the big bang theory. The big bang theory has been completely established for something like half a century and only 100% cranks are disputing it these days. This discovery wasn't even relevant for the validity of the cosmic inflation, a new layer on top of the big bang theory, that has been less solid than the big bang theory but pretty much certain, anyway.
The discovery was only relevant for the validity of some exciting versions of the cosmic inflation, those that produce strong gravitational waves. And the discovery is as real as it was in March, with the same uncertainty that existed in March.
Moreover, it's not even true that if there were a problem, and there is no problem, it would be "astronomers" who have this problem. Astronomers are looking at specific localized objects in the sky. The things like the primordial gravitational waves are studied by cosmologists which isn't quite the same thing as astronomers.
The outrageous Czech text also declares that BICEP2 shouldn't get a Nobel Prize now and lots of similar, absolutely indefensible speculations.
It would be way too annoying to list all problems with the text. There is no sentence in the article that would be truly kosher. You should understand that I picked a Czech story only because I am Czech. There is nothing special about the insanities published by the Czech media. You may see pretty much the same stuff in almost all the Western media.
The following list of titles hasn't been cherry-picked in any way.
Scientists hedge earlier claim of big-bang signal (The Courier-Journal)The BICEP2 scientists are not hedging anything. They were just not allowed by two referees to publish several specific sentences in their paper that was otherwise published almost without any changes.
BICEP2 Physicists Hedge Bets on Big Bang Inflation Findings (NBC News)
Controversial Big Bang Finding May Have Been Mistaken, Scientists Acknowledge (AP/Huff Post)They "acknowledge" it enough to reduce their risk of being eaten by unhinged wild dogs like Paul Steinhardt. In reality, there has been no new evidence of a mistake in the paper or new evidence not known in March against the validity of their discovery and the BICEP2 folks now it. They are "acknowledging" things only to the extent that they're under pressure to "recant" by bigots who are not unsimilar to the geocentrists in the Galileo epoch.
Big Bang evidence now being doubted by scientists (Tech Times)Again, like in the Czech media, this is not even about any evidence for the big bang. The big bang theory has been settled for half a century and the idea that the evidence supporting this ordinary pillar of the modern cosmology cannot realistically be undone. Ever. Otherwise scientists always doubted everything, including the big bang theory itself (although it's mostly the stupid scientists who do so). The BICEP2 claim was already doubted by people during the press conference in March and even days before that. Nothing has changed about these things whatsoever.
The BICEP2 discovery may still turn out to be non-cosmological in character but there has been no recent event that would significantly change the odds in this direction which is why the stories are lies even in the case that the BICEP2 signal will turn out to be due to some mundane physics.
In science, what matters isn't whether some people "doubt" something. Such "doubts" may be important in religion where they can bring you to Hell. In science, "doubts" are not important by themselves. In science, what matters is the evidence. The BICEP2 team has evidence – that they have seen the primordial gravitational waves and that their observations aren't due to dust. Except for some vague arguments and spectacularly incomplete calculations, their critics only have "doubts" which is too little in science.
Big Bang scientists say they may have got it wrong (The Asian Age)John Kovac et al. haven't really said this sentence. But more generally, I am amazed by the journalists' obsession with the theme of recanting. Even if someone recanted something, it just doesn't matter. Charles Darwin is often said to have recanted his theory of evolution – a claim that some advocates of Creation like to emphasize. But even if it were historically true, it just doesn't matter. Whether or not he recanted and whether or not he was already senile when he did so, the theory is right and we know it because of the rock-solid evidence and arguments that show that.
BICEP2 Big Bang 'Discovery' Team Urges Caution (Phys.ORG)They have always urged caution but they have never urged caution to the extent of claiming that they're about equally likely to be right and wrong. They insist that they have extremely strong evidence for their discovery claim.
Big Bang Discovery Researchers Backtrack On Original Claims (Gizmodo)
Big Bang breakthrough team back-pedals on major result (Nude Socialist)
Again, it isn't a "big bang discovery".
Big Bang Signal Barred by Dust (Maine News)According to the evidence published in PRL, it is very unlikely that the discovery is barred by dust.
Gravitational-wave team admits findings could amount to dust (Nature)
Cosmic inflation: Confidence lowered for Big Bang signalThere has been no particular numerically expressed measure of the confidence level that was lowered in the PRL paper relatively to the March 2014 draft. Instead, one of the numerous figures quantifying the confidence level was turned from a specific number to "undefined". But there are many other ways and figures in the paper that quantify the confidence and they haven't been changed.
Researchers claiming evidence of Big Bang foiled by dust problem (Tech Times)It's probably not foiled by the dust problem. And independently of that, it's totally wrong to pretend that there is a "new problem" with the dust. The dust has been discussed by BICEP2 (and others) for years and a significant portion of their work has always been to decide whether their signal could be due to dust. Their answer – which was kept in the PRL paper – is "the dust explanation is very unlikely".
From Big Bang breakthrough to a damp squib: Researchers admit 'less confidence' in results of experiment to look at the birth of the universe (The Daily Mail)The Daily Mail should be a tabloid but except for the colorfully damp wording, this is actually one of the most accurate, tolerable titles (plus the subtitle bullets are pretty OK, too) in all of media. The other newspapers have been turned into much more manipulative tabloids than the Daily Mail. This is not the first time when I "relatively praise" The Daily Mail in a similar way.
Some additional ones:
Grand Cosmological Claim Crumbles? (National Geographic)I could go on for hours. Some titles are really insanely, stupidly wrong. They are more outrageous than others. But none of the titles are really OK.
Did the big bang happen? Scientists call theory into question (City A.M.)
Well, one could find some "potential" upward flukes but otherwise the quality of the reporting is absolutely scandalous. The situation isn't that I would be disappointed that none of the writers could get an A or a B. The problem is that all of them get an F. All of them were seemingly inspired by the PRL publication of the discovery which, according to all non-conspiracy-theory interpretations, means that the discovery has surpassed another sociological hurdle in its journey towards more or less universal acceptance.
Of course that the ambitious interpretation of the work may still turn out to be wrong. But there's been no "real story" that would make this much more likely – especially not in relation with the publication in PRL a few days ago – which is why it's dishonest to write about such a (non-existent) "story".
Instead of the truth, readers get this uniform, insane, upside down reporting of something that hasn't happened, something that is supposed to mean 50 things that it surely doesn't mean. One can't really find a journalist whom we could call "relatively reasonable". The journalists are a whole new class of dishonest demagogues, mindless copy-and-paste clipboards, sloppy non-thinkers, cowards, chimps jumping in between banana trees, and hunters for sensations who never hesitate to sacrifice the truth for a second.
I am disgusted by these people as individuals. I am disgusted and scared of these people as a mindless mob, too. You may point out that these people represent the free press. Unfortunately, as we're being reminded every day, there's no law of physics that would imply that being free guarantees that you're more than a pile of šit.
BTW Joseph S. sent me this 4-days-old article about BICEP2 by Lawrence Krauss that is so nice and reasonable relatively to virtually everything else. It may a priori be so unlikely for me to praise Lawrence Krauss – but here you have it! ;-)
Or maybe I am in a "wrong age" again, as this cutely funny song by Xindl X says. Yesterday, my age was too low, today it's too high. I haven't been in yet and I am already retro. This guy is sort of funny, I think. ;-)