Some Things We Know – Says Fooyah

Before I start I want to question whether Diego Maradona dying warrants this much attention from the news. BBC Radio 4 have done ten minutes out of the last twenty five including on-the-scene reporters in Argentina and Naples. There could be a number of reasons why I feel antipathy towards this, none of them good! Firstly I don’t care for soccer. Secondly I’m not sure we should celebrate someone who fell so greatly from grace. Lastly, I’m not sure I can get over the “hand of god”, and that’s bad as I honestly don’t care about soccer, but apparently I did back in the 80s.

This communication is about the news because, while browsing the apple news app I saw the following:

Headlines Like These
Headlines Like These

Now, I know almost every headline is clickbait, but this once got me annoyed. The fashion these days for telling the story in a headline without telling the story is rather irritating and seems quite immature to me. I’d be more likely to click on a link if they actually told me what the story was about. I can’t be bothered to look through all the adverts and shitty webpage design to actually get to the point that I wanted to know.

“These are the areas of Kent with the highest corona cases . . . . “

That’s the kind of headline that is driven by the need to get people eyes-on the adverts on your page. I should get back to the problem with the Jupiter story.

“Double Planet” is in quotes. I mean they could just say that Jupiter and Saturn will align for the first time in 600 years. They aren’t a double planet. You don’t need to mention double planet. Just say they will be aligned. More importantly is that they will be aligned relative to the Earth, but maybe that bit doesn’t need to be explained.

The bigger issue for me is the “astronomers say” part of the headline. I know some people struggle with the idea that some scientists have opinions and we’ve seen that a lot over this last year. When science doesn’t know the answer different people will come up with different interpretations of what it means. Essentially the data aren’t that good. The more data we have the more science works out what is going on and the more scientists agree about what it means. Some data are notoriously fuzzy, such as coronavirus transmissions and a lot of the social sciences, but that doesn’t mean that with more data we won’t figure things out. Interpreting fuzzy data is hard and it means there are going to be problems. For example, give the same set of data to 100 economists would probably end up with 100 different hypotheses. That’s partly because economics is not a solid science but the main problem is that the data are fuzzy and there are too many variables to be controlled for.

Of the experiments and things we have data for the motion of the planets is one of those that is pretty much locked in with certainty. The variables are minimal and although we have corrected the original Newtonian motion with general relativity the four hundred year old ideas of Newton still work the vast majority of the time. Jupiter and Saturn WILL be close to each other in the near future. FACT. You don’t need astronomers to tell you that. Anyone can work that out. We know where the planets are and where they have been and where they are going to be. We are that good.

I do wish that headline writers had more cahunas to tell it like it is. I feel that copywriters hide behind the use of quotes as a “get out of jail free” card for if they get sued. OK, time for me to leave you to the delights of clickbaity headlines. Enjoy.