Nina Di Cara

I'm a PhD student at the University of Bristol, who likes data science, social work and volunteering.

Why We're Going to Die #2

13 Jan 2019 » blog

As predicted, there are more reasons we’re going to die. The tabloids just can’t resist a bit of fear and provocation in the science section.

Today, a Daily Express headline tells us…

This one actually made me laugh out loud (okay, it was a mild chuckle).

As an unsuspecting citizen reading and trusting the Daily Express you might be led to think that an asteroid is actually going to hit Earth. That’s exactly what the headline wants you to believe. Click-bait at its finest.

You shouldn’t be surprised that we are not about to be wiped out by an asteroid – especially since if you read the full article it clarifies that:

“NASA does not expect the space rock to hit the Earth anytime soon”

“Thankfully, Asteroid AG3 is expected to miss the Earth by more than three million miles (4.9 million km).”

Are they oblivious to the idea that mis-reporting news and deliberately trying to cause panic is ethically wrong and irresponsible? Not only that, but this was also published over the weekend:

This makes it sound as though NASA is having to employ drastic measures to save us all from early extinction. If we take a closer look, a calm and reasoned scientist gives us some real information, right at the end of the article of course:

“Since DART is the first test of the kinetic impactor technology applied to a target that resembles the type of asteroid it would be used for, the results of that test will teach us a lot and make us better prepared for the next steps in any overall planetary defence approach.” Dr Nancy Chabot

What’s really happening is that there’s a NASA programme which is testing the efficacy of using technology to redirect asteroids that might be dangerous to the Earth (very cool), and they’ve found a good asteroid to test it on.

Not that that’s easy to interpret after the article has chopped up the statement and interspersed it with highly emotive language that seems determined to induce panic in everyone reading.

For clarity, NASA is not intervening to save us from an Earth-killing asteroid (right now anyway). We are not going to die from an asteroid passing Earth over 3 million miles away tomorrow.

And could someone please ask the Daily Express to STOP USING CAPITALS FOR EMPHASIS. It is tedious.