Tabloids Twisting Science News Into Pop BS & Fads

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
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#1
This seemed like a good item to use in establishing a thread addressing the distortion of science news into outright bullshit. Some such bullshit in turn motivates Internet fads, urban legends, and the like.
People Are Dipping Their Testicles in Soy Sauce, So Here's Some Science

You didn't misread that headline. People have been putting soy sauce on their testicles to see whether their nether parts can detect the salty condiment, and recording their reactions for the benefit of social media, particularly Tik Tok.

How did we get here in the year of our lord 2020, you ponder? In short, the internet has been playing telephone with some actual science, originally published in PNAS in 2013.

When Bedrich Mosinger and colleagues from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia published a mouse study on taste receptor involvement in male fertility, they probably didn't expect it to launch a Tik Tok trend seven years later.
Yet here we are.

Now, male testes do have taste receptors. According to various sources, Tik Tok user Regan kicked off the trend upon discovering this fact, asking people with testicles to "dip your balls in something, it's for science and I must know."

Unfortunately, the source she cited was Daily Mail, whose report on the original study made some ballsy claims. ...

The distinction here is that testicles don't have tastebuds (clusters of taste receptor cells) and they can't taste soy sauce. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/people-are-dipping-their-testicles-in-soy-sauce-so-here-s-some-science
 
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#3

ChasFink

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Actually, the problem is not limited to tabloids (in either the "deliberately sensational" or "half the size of a broadsheet" sense). For example, take the story of the Kelly twins, both astronauts, who were part of an experiment to see the effects of space travel vs. staying on Earth. It was widely reported that - after spending nearly a year in space - seven percent of Scott Kelly's genes didn't match those of his earthbound identical twin, Mark. In truth, the seven percent difference related to gene expression, a very different thing. Even NASA misstated the facts in one of its detailed postings, and the distinguished journal Fortean Times got it wrong as well. (No one corrected FT until yours truly did so several months later.)

I think part of the reason is that news organizations generally don't see the need for reporters with good general science knowledge or the ability to explain it all to the laity. I noticed from a very early age that if TV news needed a scientific perspective on a story they would turn to their meteorologist, or at best a "science and health" reporter whose main education was in medicine or a related field. (You don't see a lot of physicists, astronomers, entomologists, mathematicians, etc. employed by the media.) So stories about anything but weather and medicine get written and edited by people who don't really understand them well to begin with.
 

gordonrutter

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#6
Actually, the problem is not limited to tabloids (in either the "deliberately sensational" or "half the size of a broadsheet" sense). For example, take the story of the Kelly twins, both astronauts, who were part of an experiment to see the effects of space travel vs. staying on Earth. It was widely reported that - after spending nearly a year in space - seven percent of Scott Kelly's genes didn't match those of his earthbound identical twin, Mark. In truth, the seven percent difference related to gene expression, a very different thing. Even NASA misstated the facts in one of its detailed postings, and the distinguished journal Fortean Times got it wrong as well. (No one corrected FT until yours truly did so several months later.)

I think part of the reason is that news organizations generally don't see the need for reporters with good general science knowledge or the ability to explain it all to the laity. I noticed from a very early age that if TV news needed a scientific perspective on a story they would turn to their meteorologist, or at best a "science and health" reporter whose main education was in medicine or a related field. (You don't see a lot of physicists, astronomers, entomologists, mathematicians, etc. employed by the media.) So stories about anything but weather and medicine get written and edited by people who don't really understand them well to begin with.
Those news outlets that did have a sciecne correspondent had one person to cover it all but at least they tried. Nowadays due to budget cuts in most places not even that one person is left.
 
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