Saturday, June 09, 2012

Laser Beam May Replace X-ray?

The quality of science reporting in the news has taken a new low. Just when you think it can't get any worse, it did!

This "news" report from CNN, no less, has way too many things wrong with it, I don't even know where to start. For posterity, I'm going to copy it wholesale, and I'd love to have someone from CNN tells me to take it down so that I can tell them what a stupid job of reporting they have done.

Laser beam may one day replace X-rays

Researchers at the University of Colorado have made a breakthrough that may one day help doctors detect disease earlier and with more accuracy.

Based on the hypothosesis of Dr. Tenio Popmintchev, researchers have created a laser beam by adding 5,000 photons together. Previously, two photons were typically used to create laser beams. This is the first time so many photons have been successfully added together.

The result is a more efficient and easier to set up X-ray, according to Dr. Margaret Murnane.

"If we can push this further, and we don’t know how far into the X-ray region we can push this technology, there's a chance we can change your doctor or dentist's X-ray device to a laser version." Murnane said.

"The image would be much crisper. It could really get high resolution X-rays so you could detect disease much earlier."

But that is still a while away - possibly around 10 or 20 years guessed Murnane.

In the meantime, the breakthrough sheds light on how heat flows in very small devices, which may allow scientists develop more energy efficient data storage devices, better understanding of solar energy harvesting and better nano electronics, "so your laptop doesn't heat up so fast," Murnane said.
I mean, where do you even begin? The title itself is glaringly wrong! "Laser beam" can be any EM radiation. This means that even x-ray can be a laser. That's what has been done at SLAC's LCLS, where they have generated x-ray lasers using FELs! Oy freaking vey!

Read the comments accompanying this article. They are unanimously condemning the horrible quality of this article.

CNN should be ashamed of  themselves for putting out such garbage in plain sight.


Edit: If you want to more a more accurate report of this work, check out this link.


Douglas Natelson said...

Wow. 5000 whole photons, eh?

Jacob Mazor said...

When reading articles like this, you really begin to doubt the accuracy of any news article. If someone hadn't studied physics, they wouldn't have realized mistakes in this article, and would have accepted it as true. Similarly, the news reports on a variety of subjects of which most people aren't experts on. I'm beginning to question how accurate any news might be.

ZapperZ said...

I'm the last person who will want to defend news media. However, we should know that there's varying degree of sloppiness in the news that's reported.

It all depends on how important a topic a news agency considers something. Science, and science reporting, has always been one of the lowest, if not THE lowest of emphasis. CNN, for example, fired all of their science news staff a while ago. So you can already tell that (i) they don't put too much emphasis on science news and (ii) the quality is going to suffer, as evidenced by this sloppy report.

Now, would they do such a sloppy job in reporting political news? I would find that hard to believe, because that occupies a prominent portion of their reporting. And they know that they will get bashed not only by the public, but by other media outlet and also by the affected public figures. So the amount of negative publicity in such bad reporting is significantly greater than bad reporting of a science that the majority of the people would not even understanding, much less realize that it is a bad report.


Cool Physics said...

It would appear journalism has become its own antithesis: “yellow,” and that the Halcyon days of Walter Cronkite: “and, that’s the way it was,” are a deliberately forgotten memory! 5,000 photon absurdities any freshman physics major could pick off! It may be the reason for letting the science staff go would have been their insistence on accuracy – their adherence to the Scientific Method did not fill “enough space” allotted for the section; sensationalism, not precision rules journalism now, AKA Winston Smith and the “Ministry of Truth.”