If Newspaper Headlines Were Scientifically Accurate

There are not enough pixels in the world.

1. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

We wrote about this one here, but the basics are: the new research technique is interesting but doesn’t necessarily say anything about ‘hardwiring’, despite the researchers saying that in a quote in the press release, and the map-reading stereotype might not even be true.

2. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

Plenty of newly discovered alien worlds get called Earth-like when really they are anything but. KOI 314c is actually somewhere between a rocky planet (like Earth) and a gas giant (like Jupiter), and blurs the previously thought clear line between the two. Addmitedly that’s not as catchy as “Earth-like”, though.

3. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

The participants in the study reported here didn’t do any psychological tests after the brain scans so its not clear whether their brain was “boosted” or not. Basically there’s much more nuance in scientific studies than can be conveyed in a headline.

4. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

The paper in which Stephen Hawking makes his claim about black holes was uploaded to physics pre-print repository arxiv.org, a place for researchers to put papers before they undergo review by other scientists. While peer review isn’t perfect, even Stephen Hawking’s work needs to go through it.

5. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

This study was done in mice, not humans, so to promise a potential new treatment is to oversell it quite a bit. It may well lead to a new drug for humans with PTSD, but that’s likely to be a long time away.

6. What the papers say:

A more accurate version:

Saying “according to research” is almost meaningless. If you’re going to say where the finding came from, why not go all the way?

A more accurate version:

This study was interesting, but the sample size was pretty small. And the study can only claim to have “debunked” a specific type of sixth sense, namely being able to tell whether something about a person had changed (as we said in the story).

Clearly, strict scientific accuracy and catchy headines don’t always go together very well. But there’s no harm in trying, right?

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Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
 
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