Often times, when science news is reported in the mass media, while the reporting might be somewhat accurate, the implications that it leaves behind, especially when read by someone not trained in that area, may lead to a horribly wrong idea. This might be the case here.
This news report
is covering a paper out of the Princeton's Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) on a new theoretical model to explain a plasma physics phenomenon. Nothing wrong there. However, I have a lot of issues with this part of the report very early on:
Researchers at the Princeton
Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a new way to
explore some of the most extreme environments in the universe by
combining three separate branches of physics: High energy physics
(which describes charged particles traveling at or close to the
speed of light), quantum mechanics (which describes the motion of
subatomic particles), and Einstein’s theory of special relativity
(which describes the propagation of matter and light at high
“People haven’t done this before,” Yuan Shi, a graduate student
in the PPPL and lead author of a paper published July 29 in the
Physical Review A, told Business Insider. “Nobody really
wanted to cross the boundaries between the disciplines to see
what other scientists are doing. The difficulty was mostly that
there’s no communication between these fields.”
Now, I'm sure that if you are a physics, or even a graduate student in physics, you can already spot something odd here. The existence of quantum field theory (QFT) is already evidence that Special Relativity (SR) has already been incorporated inside quantum mechanics (QM). And high energy physics (HEP) is a field that makes use of QFT!
But if you don't know that, then reading this news report will give you the impression that this isn't known till now, and that this is all new!
And the statement made that "People haven't done this before
" with regards to crossing boundaries between disciplines in physics is blatantly false, especially with all the brouhaha surrounding the discovery of the Higgs within the the past couple of years. Anyone following the history of the Higgs field will have seen how the idea originated out of a condensed matter system, and how Phil Anderson, a condensed matter physicist and a Nobel laureate, was himself a strong candidate to be considered for the Nobel prize when the Higgs was finally discovered.
I know that press releases can sometime over-glorified the importance and significance of something. But there really is an important mission here to make sure that one is conveying a message that is clear and unambiguous to the audience that can easily be misled. What you mean may not be exactly what they understand!