Well, duh

By Phil Plait | February 13, 2010 8:00 am

In a report that doesn’t surprise me in the least, people online tend to send each other more science stories than headline news stories.

Well, read the title of this post.

The thing about people online is, geeks still run the joint. Sure, lots of normal people are online, I assume to buy pet products and find out if Abe Vigoda is still alive. (Yes). But geeks use the web. We share information on the web. We read stuff and send it around, and we like science.

The only real mystery here is, if all this is true, why do the Bloggie awards still not have a science category?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science

Comments (35)

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  1. The Mutt

    Abe Vigoda died in 1982. He said so himself.

  2. One Eyed Jack

    OK, maybe more people send science articles to each other, but there’s still a more popular use of the internet…

  3. G

    I have to say, the only reason I’d point out a specific headline news story (as compared to an interesting science story) is if the writeup is interestingly done or has pics I haven’t seen elsewhere, or otherwise that particular version of the news story is possibly unique. Otherwise I tend to assume everyone else online has as much access to news as I do, and they’d see it if they cared about the topic (whatever it is).

    Science stories, on the other hand, tend to be less widespread than headline news–and if they’re covered by the news media, the writeup is probably…well, I’ll be generous and say “not well understood by the journalist.” So finding a good writeup of a science article is more rare than the random headline news stuff that’s all over the place.

  4. TSnark

    I assume everyone will see the headline stories, whereas they wont find the interesting science stories without help.

  5. Non-geeks like science stories too!

  6. I think it’s very telling that one can pretty easily tell from a number of indicators that a user is new at the Internets. Things like searching for “yahoo.com” in Google.

    I also thoroughly enjoy it when you get a few drinks into geeks of a certain age and the conversation inevitably turns into vying for Internet O.G. status (“well, I was on ArpaNet back before Usenet! We used to MUD off the university’s mainframe!”)

  7. @ One Eyed Jack:

    I’d finush tat sontence, but typng wit one hand it kind fo diffcult…

  8. Jamey

    This may be one of those “Duh” things – but then, someone has to check those out. Science is a history of “Duh” things that turned out not to be so Duh! “The Sun goes around the Earth! Duh!” “OOoops… Except it doesn’t, other than in a very Einsteinian no-privileged-observer kinda way…” “Particles bounce off of particles! Duh!” “Except when they decide they’re going to be waves, and interfere with each other!”

    I’ll admit I hope not a whole lot of money was put into this one – but I have to say that I don’t think it was quite as Duh! as you paint it.

  9. I think the articles point was that the Awe factor of Science articles is what shoots them to the top. I don’t think its the geek factor. All though it would be cool if they could drill that data down to demographic.

    And to me the Awe factor is way more interesting. I used to be a Born Again Christian a long time ago. (its embarrassing. Please don’t mock) I remember that I loved getting that emotional surge from “AWE”. I think that captures and keeps most of the Theists.

    On our side, in reality, we have an even bigger Awe Factory. Science. We need to start a serious media campaign of cool science. Start to budge the ones who are wallowing in the God Awe and make them stunned by the Awe of Reality through Science. Evolution is awe inspiring. We need to make more of that.

    Did you you know if you say Awe and write Awe too often it starts to sound all weird and stuff????

  10. Randy Griffin

    Speaking as a geek, did anyone else notice that the wake-up call music for STS-130 yesterday was “The Ballad of Serenity?” And remember that the contest for naming the new node included “Serenity?” (It came in third behind “Colbert” and “Tranquility”, IIRC.)

    Coincidence?

  11. I used to be a Born Again Christian a long time ago. (its embarrassing. Please don’t mock)

    Awwwwwww….

  12. Kuhnigget…
    Picture my finger, its a middle finger….

    ; )

  13. Joe Bogus

    Sara —
    Welcome to the Real World. Glad you could make it — we could use your help here. And thank you for joining us.

  14. Joe Bogus

    Sara –
    Welcome to the Real World — we can use your help around here. And thank you for joining us.

  15. Katharine

    Welcome to Real Life, Sara! Bit late of a welcome, but people such as you give me hope that the idiots will reduce in number. I think part of their problem, too, is that they don’t want to admit that in the scheme of things, humans are totally insignificant and could be blown out of existence by a meteorite or something equally big and random and numerous. It is possible, in a way, for humans to gain a sort of significance through expansion and harnessing the forces of the universe for good. Our precarious existence in the universe should unite humanity through the intelligence, wisdom, hope, and compassion that is modern, relatively more enlightened civilization – the better, brighter side of it, not divide through fear, stupidity, and ignorance that is the nasty, stupid tribalistic, just-came-down-from-the-trees dark aspect of those who would claim to be civilized.

    We are not tribes, races, nations, or cultures, no matter how much some morons may think it. We are humans. We are part of nature. We are part of the universe. Use your brains so that humanity may be seen as one of its champions, as one of perhaps many, if there are extraterrestrial civilizations out there, who have worked for the well-being of all the denizens of existence.

  16. Gary Ansorge

    I’m always sending science articles to people I think might find them interesting(read: my kids or big brother). Thus we have a self-reinforcing process; nerds interacting with nerds. Occasionally I’ll find a more generally interesting article that goes to my other friends, the ones who rely on me to sort thru nerd talk(techno babble and math) and find the English.

    This is my life these days; websurfing for awesome info on the way reality really works and then forwarding it to folk to busy to search for it themselves.

    Retirement: what happens when you replace your tires,,,OR;
    Finally, I get to indulge my passion for knowing.

    GAry 7

  17. NewEnglandBob

    They have NEWS stories on the intertubes? I’ll have to check those out some time.

  18. T.E.L.

    Just because lots of people are swapping so-called science stories doesn’t tell us the caliber of their understandings of those stories. It doesn’t tell if people in general are any better educated after reading them than they were before. It doesn’t tell if people are criticizing those stories in a scientific manner, or if they’re even equipped to do so. In the event that they’re just looking to reinforce some prepackaged worldview, then they’re just as dogmatic as anyone else. Lots of people can rattle off such things as, for instance, “Earth travels around the Sun”. Few of them are prepared to explain how such a thing can be demonstrated, or at least shown to be a more productive model than some alternative.

  19. Ray

    @ Phil

    “The only real mystery here is, if all this is true, why do the Bloggie awards still not have a science category?”

    Because the people who run the Bloggies aren’t scientists. Duh.

  20. Mike Wagner

    I post science, atheist, and industry articles on my facebook account constantly. But at least 80% of the posts I see from everyone else are either FarmVille (a facebook app) related, or mainstream media fluff.
    It’s really sad.
    And a couple of people don’t talk to me any more because my stance against woo, and religion, is unwavering. (and they’re creationists)
    But it’s always worth it when someone says “Wow! I never knew that!” or “I never thought of it that way!”, and you get them thinking about things.

  21. T.E.L.
    Are you suggesting that there is some bad side to people reading and spreading Scientific Ideas and Studies? Because your statement can be applied to any body of knowledge including Hollywood Gossip.
    I inferred that you would prefer they only be read and reviewed by people who can critically understand them.
    If that is your position, I would have to disagree.

  22. Stargleam

    It’s sad that the science stories AREN’T headline news stories….

  23. T.E.L.

    Sara Said:

    “If that is your position, I would have to disagree.”

    Since that’s not my position, you don’t need to worry over it. What you seem to have taken from my comment is, essentially, that only children who already know how to read & write should be allowed in school. That would be self-contradictory.

    My point was that Phil read an article which said one thing and interpreted it to mean another. It’s still not evident from the article that a population with a tendency to trade science articles also tend to think in a scientific mode.

  24. T.E.L Phil wasn’t saying Scientists run the internet. He’s saying geeks run the internet and geeks tend to love sciencey articles more than gossip or headline news.

    I am no scientist but I love to read about scientific marvels, it’s why I read Phil’s blog. I can’t analyse and criticise anything in a strictly scientific way, but I do try to approach everything I read with a degree of wariness and skepticism until I am satisfied. I think that’s all Phil and his fellow skeptics want, and expect, from the average consumer.

  25. T.E.L.

    GuanoLad,

    Even if that’s what you think Phil meant, it’s not what the article was about. So why would he cite the article as evidence of his contention if he thought it doesn’t even support it? Phil did misinterpret the article.

  26. T.E.L. (24) That’s not at all what I was saying. Where did you get that? I was saying that people are interested in science. Whether they understand it or analyze articles scientifically is wholly a different topic.

  27. Jeffersonian

    As for geeks, I pine for the golden era when internet users spelled correctly, used good grammar and rednecks and religious nuts hadn’t bought PCs yet.

  28. T.E.L.

    Phil Plait Said:

    “That’s not at all what I was saying. Where did you get that? I was saying that people are interested in science. Whether they understand it or analyze articles scientifically is wholly a different topic.”

    The article does NOT demonstrate that people like science. It says something about what kinds of topics they think are interesting. It doesn’t say anything about what they’re doing with all those web articles once inside their heads. There’s one hell of a diff between what the articled called the “Awe Factor” and thinking scientifically. You of all people should know by now the difference between science itself and knowledge. You have a history of talking at length about how people need to be more scientifically critical of extraordinary claims. That’s what your whole career is about, isn’t it? So why do you now all of a sudden say it’s alright with you if they don’t tend to even understand much of it? Do you just want the stupid blog awards to have a Science category? (That was the punchline of your post.) That would be rather petty. Why would an adult with a doctorate give one rat’s ass about some arbitrary award?

  29. Vidar

    @ Phil Plait
    The only real mystery here is, if all this is true, why do the Bloggie awards still not have a science category?

    Because PZ Myers’ Pharyngula would win it each and every time. Mystery solved!

  30. Mitch

    Jeffersonain said:

    “As for geeks, I pine for the golden era when internet users spelled correctly, used good grammar and rednecks and religious nuts hadn’t bought PCs yet.”

    Yeah Jeffersonian, if we could just get rid of those pesky rednecks and religious nuts then the world would be a better place. Maybe, since apparently you are smarter than the average bear, you can come up with a “final” solution to those people that pollute your beloved internet.

  31. The *real* question is why more science isn’t considered “Headline News”…you know, what with affecting all of humanity and such.

  32. The Mad LOLScientist, FCD

    Yeah yeah, people keep saying Teh Innert00bz is for pr0n, but it’s really for LOLcats. All other uses are incidental (she said, running like hell to hide under the couch). =^..^=

    @Mitch: There’s simple and elegant “Final Solution”: Mske sure they get a real education. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

  33. Gary Ansorge

    29. T.E.L.

    “There’s one hell of a diff between what the articled called the “Awe Factor” and thinking scientifically. You of all people should know by now the difference between science itself and knowledge.”

    I have no idea what you mean by “thinking scientifically”. I do however, have a powerful understanding of AWE. It’s what I FEEl when something extraordinary catches my attention, like some of the pics(hey, MOST of them) that Phil includes here. AWE is what the article was talking about and when I experience that, I want everyone to have a chance to experience it too. The physical universe is awesome to me. THAT’S what I want to share.

    If by “thinking scientifically” you mean having knowledge of the scientific METHOD and the inclination to apply it then you may be right,,,most people don’t understand that simple philosophy. That’s not their fault. It’s because that methodology isn’t stressed in our educational system (but that’s another story).

    You might try clarifying your terminology.

    Gary 7
    PS: YOU should know there IS no difference between the word Science and Knowledge. Science is from the Latin “scientia”, which MEANS knowledge.

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