Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Same Paper, But Two Entirely Different Emphasis

See, this is essentially what is different between this blog, and the outlandish stuff they have elsewhere that tries to capture people's attention by drawing onto something that's improbable.

Last week, I highlighted a paper in PRL on the estimate made on the lifetime of photons based on current measurements. This upper limit also is related directly to the upper limit on the mass of photons, if any. In that blog post, I tried to highlight what is well-known and well-established, rather than try to make extrapolations on things that are still up in the air.

But that is not what is done here. This news report, also reviewing the same publication, decides to go with a different route, which is highlighting the speculative, attention-grabbing possibility, no matter how remote, how unlikely, and how improbable it might be. It focuses a lot on the minute possibility of photon decay, and decaying into "lighter" produced that could travel faster than the photons themselves.

If photons do break down, the results of such decay must be even lighter particles, ones that would travel even faster than photons. Assuming photons have mass, "there is only one particle we know from the Standard Model of particle physics that might be even lighter — the lightest of the three neutrinos," Heeck said.

It is sad that, rather than emphasizing the result that was published, news account on something like this would venture into citing remote possibilities and highly speculative conjectures. The result itself got buried. Rather, an improbable consequence of a possible outcome is the one that was brought to the forefront! This is a shameful attempt at sensationalizing a result! It is no different than the sensational front page news from supermarket tabloids.


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