Wired Calls Out Top Science Cliches, Gives Credit Where It's Due

By Allison Bond | July 21, 2009 3:20 pm

science magazineEven the most casual readers of science news may have come across a few phrases that get used over and over, to the point of becoming extremely annoying.

So Wired took it upon itself to compile an entertaining list of the top five worst science cliches—and called DISCOVER out for employing one of the dreaded phrases (along with pretty much every other science publication).

Here’s a few excerpted entries from the list, compiled by Betsy Mason:

1. Holy Grail: To me, this is the mother of all bad science clichés, the worst offender. And I recently learned I have back up on this opinion from the venerable journal Nature which has literally banned scientists from putting holy grails in their papers.

2. Silver Bullet: No more silver bullets, please. Apparently they are really only meant for werewolves, witches and the occasional monster…. Things that are not silver or magic bullets: antioxidants, carbon capture, disk encryption, GM crops, vitamins, and carbon dioxide mosquito traps.

3. Shedding Light: Why must everything always be shedding light on something else? In addition to the light I shed on dark matter in 2006, light has also been shed on virtually everything you can think of… Googling “shed* light” + science OR scientists OR research returns 6.66 million hits.

Thanks, Wired, for shedding some light on the shifting paradigm of science journalism, and filling in that missing link on our never-ending quest for media’s holy grail. Now all our field needs is a silver bullet (or a revenue model that actually works).

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Discoblog: The New Defense Against Despotism: Text Messaging

Image: flickr / moria

  • http://thesciencepundit.blogspot.com/ The Science Pundit

    I hate the Holy Grail metaphor!! Every time someone uses it, I’m tempted to say (and on a couple occassions I actually did say it) “You mean it’s something people have been searching for for years and years, but nobody will ever find because it’s just a myth and doesn’t actually exist?”

  • Albert Bakker

    It’s a revolution in science! (69 million hits) Absolutely brilliant, we should have a periodical review to see if it is necessary to invent other ways to say the same thing, like metadesignations. That way we are never going to have awful clichés ànd google searches will automatically be equipped with another time-index.

    I liked the light that was shed on the 6.66 million number though. Coincidence? Yeah, why not?

  • http://dkenney@mbl.edu Diana Kenney

    And let’s ban the word “breakthrough,” while we’re at it.


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