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Caveat lector: This blog is where I try out new ideas. I will often be wrong, but that's the point.

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8.8.14

The language of science

The Washington Post has a headline that reads, verbatim, "A toddler squeezed through the White House gate and caused a security alert. Seriously."


Isn't the Washington Post a "real" newspaper with like, journalistic standards and stuff? Does the headline really need the "Seriously." part, just in case we all thought they were just kiddingsies?

Given how little actually annoys or bothers me, I'm surprised at my own internal response to this. I'm all for the evolution of language, but this seems weirdly out of place.

If I tried to write a scientific paper titled, "Oscillations are fucking rad and you wouldn't believe the four behaviors they control!" it might more accurately capture my personal feelings and excitement, but I wouldn't do it because it's such a culturally-narrow, biased way of talking about the topic.

What I mean by that is that, the language we use conveys information not just through the words, but through the combinations of words, their structures, and so on that provide context about when they were written and their emotional content.

Science papers are often (rightly) criticized for being dry, but that "blandness" is a cultural artifact of an attempt at impartiality and a recitation of facts with minimal emotional bias.

The fact that major news outlets are dropping even the pretense of this is what bothers me, I guess?