Sunday, December 31, 2006

Science breakthru of the year

Science magazine declares the breakthru of the year (it was evolution in 2005):
To mathematicians, Grigori Perelman's proof of the Poincaré conjecture qualifies at least as the Breakthrough of the Decade. ...

While bringing new results to topology, Perelman's work brought new techniques to geometry. It cemented the central role of geometric evolution equations, powerful machinery for transforming hard-to-work-with spaces into more-manageable ones. Earlier studies of such equations always ran into "singularities" at which the equations break down. Perelman dynamited that roadblock.
At the end of the article, it mentions how the New Yorker magazine generated some artificial controversey by publishing a misleading article with distorted quotes.

I've wondered how the New Yorker magazine can brag about their meticulous fact-checking and still get this story so completely wrong. I think I just got the answer.

I just listened to a lecture from science journalist K.C. Cole (given to Annenberg school on Sept 30, 2005). She said that when she wrote for the New Yorker, she had to sign a 35-page contract forbidding her to consult with any experts about the correctness of what she was writing. She said that science writers sometimes do it secretly out of necessity, but that they can get fired if they get caught.
Q. To what extent do you use scientific consultants in your writing, to look over your articles and make sure they are scientifically valid.

A. [Cole] Well, the law is that you are not allowed to do that. You are not allowed to show the article. When I worked for the New Yorker, you had to sign a 35-page contract that assures you are not going to do that.
That explains a lot. I've noticed journalists with a reluctance to show their work in progress, but I had always assumed that it was a matter of personal pride or objectivity. I had no idea that they might be contractually obligated to turn in unchecked work.

No comments: