Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Woo and not-woo

In my capacity as chief* blogger at Blogstronomy I get the odd bit of communication now and then. Most often it's a question, which is good, as that's what the point of the blog is: to answer questions about space and everything in it. Sometimes I get offers of syndication that never materialise. Sometimes I get woo thrown at me.

'Woo', in case you're not familiar, is gibberish. Specifically, it's gibberish that tries to claim some kind of credibility in the scientific community but falls flat on its face when tested as it does not predict successfully (or even flatly contradicts) real life happenings. Examples of popular woo include homeopathy, astrology and intelligent design. I've even been sent 'evidence' that the Earth is, despite buckets of evidence to the contrary, the physical centre of the universe. The fact that this 'evidence' was poorly written**, poorly referenced and ignorant of pretty much all of physics beyond the 'apple falls when dropped' stage, seemed to be pretty far from the mind of the guy who, probably frothing at the mouth, sent this stuff to me.

So I was woefully underprepared and more than a little cynical when I received a note from a PR company asking me if I'd like a review copy of a new book about the Higgs boson. "Yeah, yeah," I thought, expecting another frothing, foaming, inflammatory, apostrophe-abusing, fact-deficient twelve-page .pdf file about how the Higgs boson was actually God's fingernail clippings; or that it was an abomination and the evidence for it has been placed by that most evil of all creatures - the scientist; or that believers in Higgs were destined for the same circle of hell as homosexuals, the unmarried and maths teachers for reasons left unspecified, to land in my inbox.

Imagine my surprise when, having accepted the offer of a copy of this new book to review, I actually received a review copy of a new book. A real book. A book with a cover and pages and everything. I was there when the postman pushed it through my letterbox and it went "whump" on the mat. After recovering from this shock I actually dared to look inside and found that it wasn't woo! It had references and diagrams, imaginative chapter headings and even the odd Beatles lyric.

When I picked myself up off the floor, I read it. And then I reviewed it, and posted that review over at Blogstronomy.

* Read: only.
** Anyone who is my 'friend' on Facebook will have experienced my passion with regards to the mistreatment of the common apostrophe.