Are blogs more reliable than mainstream media?

As information becomes more widely distributed and available thanks to the internet, the question often arises of what role regular TV-broadcasts or newspapers will play in public news consumption.
I rarely watch news on TV anymore, but when i do, i experience a contrast compared to online news-sites and blogs, manifest in the ‘one way’ communication of mainstream media with its audience. With no ability to comment, react, share one’s viewpoints or provide links to primary sources, presentations on TV or in papers lack both interaction and transparency. The prospect of writing in or calling the producers is far more rare than commenting on their website, and way less convenient too.

Perhaps my personal distrust with mainstream media is unwarranted, but a video with Ben Goldacre made me decide it’s a point worth making; that websites, through their interaction and transparency, provide a more reliable flow of information, at least if you care to examine the sources.

”I think blogs are potentially more reliable than mainstream media ever was, mainly because you can check for each individual blog author how credible they are, because bloggers link to primary resources.”

I’m sure it requires more effort than reclining on the couch a friday night, but carefully reading articles, links and other peoples arguments, pays off by means of increased insight in issues of interest to you. And even though all pieces of news cannot be scrutinized by a single person, the collective effort invested by millions, makes it possible to know more than ever before.

I have yet to come across a method for unambiguously judging how reliable a piece of information is, and where the best places are to look for specific things. But my idealism in regards to the internet still remains, and is hopefully not entirely unrealistic.
As i’m still new to WordPress, i clearly have A LOT more to discover here. But as an example of what i mean by ”transparent and interactive” distribution of information, let me recommend this blog to anyone interested in physics, and wants a comprehensible explanation of what’s known about the alleged ”God Particle” (excuse me for spreading this awful term). And even if you’re not that familiar or interested in the subject matter, i still encourage you to check out something new.

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Lawrence Krauss in Stockholm

This weekend i had the privilege to attend a lecture by renowned cosmologist Lawrence Krauss.
After briskly re-reading his most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, and coincidentally finding some debate-stirring news from University College London, (where Krauss apparently entered a gender-segregated debate about atheism vs. islam with an islamic organization) i was armed for an exciting event in my home country, Sweden.

I won’t try to address all the interesting concepts, empirical findings and their implications, presented in both LK’s book and his talks in this post. That would be both presumptuous and redundant, since i am neither in the position to educate nor any better at explaining things than has already been done.

Instead, this post merely  reflects my own view of the event, hosted by Kungliga Vetenskaps akademin, and the thoughts it spurred in my generally apathetic mind. As opposed to reading popular science literature in general, it is a different thing entirely to see the author in person, with all the charisma and ability to amuse and provoke a crowd. It would be unfair of me to call Krauss arrogant or obnoxious, but his words were indeed provocative, as was likely the intention. It made me think that a communicator of science doesn’t necessarily have to be a good teacher, but more of a crowd-pleasing and articulate comedian, with a knack for explaining the universe.

The question still remains though, whether the explanation given by Krauss was sufficient. As some of the critics have pointed out, it lacked a proper definition of ”nothing”, and the hype surrounding the book placed it in the light of false advertising. Although criticism is important, it is often prone to being reiterated to the point where the person being criticized develops automatic replies. I’m afraid this is what’s happening in regards to Krauss, and it’s unfortunate, since it reinforces conclusions already arrived at, both by speakers and listeners, and their opinions are likely to remain as perceived truths without further critical scrutiny.

On an even more pessimistic note, the two key points to take away from the talk, was the insignificance of mankind, and our miserable future. The reasons being the lack of purpose given by a divine intelligence, that the majority of energy resides in empty space, and the fact, as explained by Hubble’s law, that as the expansion of the universe approaches the speed of light, the possibility to find out about our past diminishes.
Supposedly a humbling notion, the idea of insignificance was already an integral part of my (and assumingly many other’s world view and/or self-perceptions) before attending the event and produced no feeling of enlightenment. There is nothing more self-evident to a depressed individual than the thought that you don’t matter at all, whether rationalized by a scientific world-view, or not.

Despite reading A Universe from Nothing twice, i was still not able to comprehend some of the leaps during the talk, as we journeyed through schematic drawings of galaxies moving apart, the geometry of our universe, dark matter, and ultimately, the energy of empty space. A fascinating animation depicting the inside of a proton still puzzles me, and remains an abstraction yet beyond the experimental reach of particle physics (although please correct me if this turns out wrong). Same goes for the proposition of multiverses, spontaneously created from quantum fluctuations in the vacuum of empty space. But an even more exciting and intimidating notion was that not only matter and space can arise from ”nothing”, but also that the laws of physics themselves may be accidental. How this squares with the epistemological question of the ability of science to answer ‘how’-questions about the origin of the universe, remains a mystery to me, and a question i would’ve liked to ask Krauss himself.

Posterior to the talk, was a panel discussion with a few swedish academics, including a philosopher, a theologian, an astronomer and a science journalist. Needless to say, the debate became quite intense. Most of the issues raised were of an epistemological nature, with Krauss often alluding to the futility of academic philosophy. Yet the philosopher did seem to get one of her points across; that philosophical thinking is applied by scientists as well, and can be very useful for asking critical questions.

The astronomer present, Bengt Gustafsson, seemed bit more skeptical based on experience with observations not agreeing with most theoretical predictions in the field, a very pragmatic reflection. And also the depiction seen in Krauss’s book, of the romantic ideal of individual scientists making breakthroughs with their heroic discoveries. In reality, however, science is a collaborative enterprise and the contributions are mostly made by groups of people (leading to the suggestion by Gustavsson of a Nobel prize for research groups).
That said, not many individuals were mentioned in Krauss’s talk, among them were mainly Einstein and Hubble (although i anticipated a mention of Henrietta Leavitt, who lead Hubble to discover that the universe is expanding by measuring luminosity and periods of variable stars).

After a stimulating evening, a raspberry fudge drink, and whirling peaceful snowflakes, i’ll finish this post with a yawn. There. Good night, whoever and wherever you are.

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A First Attempt

Before deciding to turn the idea of writing a blog into practice, i went through much deliberation. Mainly, this on-and-off thought process consisted of attempting to justify the activity itself, and the content i would provide it with.
Not too long ago, i reached the conclusion that i could not possibly add anything to the seas, mountains and wastelands of personal introspection, creative writing, jabber about music and celebrities (and all other imaginable topics) that encompass the blogosphere.
 
Discouraged by my own intuitions, the lack of motivation persisted and i thought my ranting on the internet was enough already. And admittedly, while simultaneously doubting that anyone would browse intensely enough to come across my little node, i was afraid of exposure. Of controversial opinions raising conflict or characteristics being falsely or unfairly  attributed to my personality. And while these among other fears still remain, i can’t help but feel encouraged by people who seem to be in a similar situation as i am, yet capable of expressing themselves in a harmless and even inspirational manner. Maybe, if i develop a comfortable relationship with expressing myself in this format (or in any format at all for that matter), i will provide links to posts that have inspired me. 
 
When trying to choose a name for a blog, i googled some ideas to see if they were already used. I settled for ”Insigniff”, since it seemed so far only attributed to some lonely man’s profile on Okcupid (which is not me, i’m an 18 year old girl just to provide the contrast. Yet nonetheless lonely)…
I might change it soon though, if a more attractive name or description strikes my mind.
 
It remains unclear to me what finally changed my nebulous mind, but at certain times and quite often lately, the possibility of sharing or at least saving what i write seems worth a try.
 
As of yet, i have a few ideas of topics that certainly are of interest to me, and hopefully also to someone else out there.
In order to avoid false hopes however, i won’t elaborate on those in this post, but i can promise you this. I will make a conscious effort to retain my commitment to this blog, and if reasons arise for why i cannot do so, i shall post them and never return. My ideal is honesty, and one of my many fears are exposure. This post is mainly a reflection of a personal development process trying to reconcile the two.
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