Hype in science?

Let me give start with an example: I saw in nanotech wire this report. The headline screams:

Princeton’s Group Nanotechnology discovery by could have radical implications

Let’s look at the underlying paper that has led to this screaming headline: It is this paper (pdf),that was recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters (22, 228301, November 25, 2005). It actually has a much more sober title:

Optimized Interactions for Targeted Self-Assembly: Application to a Honeycomb Lattice

Read both the ‘nanotech wire’ report and the broad features in PRL paper, and compare the tone and tenor in them! Let me give you the last paragraph of the PRL paper:

The optimization scheme proposed here is only one approach to the inverse problem, and we expect that others will be needed to search for interactions (isotropic or not, additive or not) that stabilize general systems. Apart from any particular algorithm, however, a central point of this Letter is to propose the use of powerful inverse statistical mechanical techniques to exquisitely control self-assembly from the nanoscopic to microscopic scales.

And this is what ‘nanotech wire’ says:

Now Salvatore Torquato, a Princeton University scientist, is proposing turning a central concept of nanotechnology on its head. If the theory bears out � and it is in its infancy — it could have radical implications not just for industries like telecommunications and computers but also for our understanding of the nature of life.

In concluding that this work is terribly hyped up in ‘nanotech wire’, am I being clueless?



3 thoughts on “Hype in science?

  1. Abi, A few weeks back I too wrote on this topic (in my tamil blog), this was about the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Even if you still have problems in reading Tamil, have a look at this entry (the quotes are in English),


    It is now common to see

    Hubble reveals cosmological secret. California scientist unravels the myth of creation Number theorist cracks your credit card, Quantum entanglement could make you disappear within microsecond, Scientists surf at the heart of the cyclone”

    in newspapers everyday.

  2. Hmmm, some of the news outlets do overdo such things! I picked this example from a relatively unknown source; do you think established newspapers (NYTimes, Guardian) do this too?

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