Maybe you've heard: Alien panic sweeps the internet. You can not go for more than a week or two without…
Maybe you’ve heard: Alien panic sweeps the internet.
You can not go for more than a week or two without a new and ridiculous story of life, maybe out in the universe that goes viral, spawned by coverage and debunks alike. It’s exhaustive.
This week, all the strange panic hovered around a story referring to a Harvard astronomer who claims that the first interstellar asteroid or comet ever discovered as “Oumuamua” could actually have been sent by foreigners from remote space. It’s sensational! It’s perfect for the internet! It’s also something you should be completely skeptical about.
Start with the motto “It’s Never Aliens” and work back from there. But it is easier said than done.
Here are just a few things to consider next time you try to detect a strange panic (or aliens) on the internet:
This is the big one. Always ask where a story comes from ̵
1; with aliens and with something else.
In the case of the interstellar asteroid piece that runs around this week, the story is based on a guess scientist from Harvard, who gave NBC a quote that speculates that the asteroid can be a strange ship sailing on the sun’s radiation.
The point was linked to a new study that has not yet been reviewed, which briefly mentions the idea that foreigners could have sent the asteroid in space based on how it is.
Effectively, this entire alien panic coverage was moved from a quote from a researcher. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Offhand comments do not make new stories.
If the bite as a foreigner was strongly procured to more than one astronomer and had plenty of peer-reviewed evidence behind it, it might be different.
You can learn a lot about a story based on how it was written. When it comes to a good story about foreigners, you want more than one source, or at least a lot of context.
For example, a quick search shows that researchers actually kept an ear for radio signals sent by “Oumuamua when it passed through the solar system last year.” But they did not find anything. It’s the kind of context that needs to be in any news article about it Here’s the find.
Make a quick Google search to find out exactly what’s said about the story. If you find a debunk – as there are many for “Oumuamua” – it’s a pretty good indication that maybe the more
Always be careful about appealing authority in journalism. If history (and headline) is highly dependent on just one researcher from a high-profile institution, history is probably not news at all.
While the story is written, The most important tool you can use to judge a strange news story, a look at which publication is running The story can also help you evaluate if the news is something to get excited about.
Question about the publication has a history to cover science in a reliable way. (See places like The Verge, Ars Technica, Major Newspapers like New York Times and Washington Post The Atlantic and yes, Mashable for really consistent good science coverage.)
It is probably best not to rely on a tabloid when it comes to scientific writing as a rule. If scientific publications do not write about this, or if they are more skeptical, be skeptical too.
You can calculate a lot about a foreign story if you know why it is published when it is.
NASA is the commander of inducing alarming panic with a clear momentum. Usually, the space agency will announce a press conference for either 1 pm. ET on a Wednesday or 2:00 ET on a Thursday under the direction of some exciting message related to “Life in the Solar System” or any other exciting news key.
While the agency will not give away what the actual news is, the knowledgeable observer can actually figure out a bit about the story.
If the press conference is announced for one of the specific times, it will correspond to an embargo study released in one of two major scientific journals – either Science Science or Nature . (We know this because journalists have embargoed access to these magazines each week.)
It’s likely that the story will be convincing, but probably not definitely proof of foreign life.
The truth is if you hope for some kind of “we have found the little green man’s message,” then the White House will almost certainly be involved. Cool incremental science points about the microbial life out there in the universe, however, are likely to come through the magazines and NASA.
I do not want to be a buzzkill. It is fun to think of aliens. It’s fun to wonder if we are alone in the universe.
But at least it’s just a thought experiment. Just remember one thing: It’s never aliens … until it’s.