Scientific reports and articles do not intentionally promote fear, especially those that present information about the universe. Unfortunately some in the media delight in using highly descriptive and generally frightening adjectives such as “monster” “vicious”,”voracious” “evil”, etc to increase the drama of what they consider as otherwise dull information. For many of the public these dramatized, fear-inducing presentations, succeed. The net effect is an unintended emotional reaction to many important scientific revelations.

Yes, many scientific reports do present and discuss dangerous situations within our environment, our lifestyles, and the universe. When these concerns are presented they are done so in a careful and informative way that alerts but generally does not alarm the reader or viewer. Most importantly there is no malice in science or the universe. Malice is totally a human failing.

In the image above, the Space Tweep Society’s mascot, Meco is quite safe where he stands; however should he venture toward the event horizons of those two merging Black Holes,  he would be in danger. This would be true for an unwise boater who carelessly heads directly into a swirling whirlpool. In the case of either the Black Holes or the whirlpool neither are malevolent. They are doing what, for them, comes naturally and hold no vicious intent toward either Meco, the inattentive boater or the rest of us.

Yes, science needs a continuously growing presence in the public’s eye, but it needs at the most to impart caution, but ideally most cases impart amazement and delight. To ensure this, the scientists, must step forward and, for example, object to the media depicting a Black Hole as “viciously devouring a star.” Though descriptive, the phrase imparts aggressive behavior that can be frightening. Most importantly the scientist needs to help the media keep a high public interest in science by providing them with descriptive phrases that both inform and delight; not alarm and discourage. Ideally this occurs in special, science journalism courses. If it doesn’t now, it would be highly useful if it became part of the curriculum.

Lastly, maybe humankind continues to adhere to ancient fascinations with horror and human brutality and this presents the media and science with a challenge to refocus the public’s fascination toward the awesome and beautiful. Importantly, both of those values are inherent in a large majority of scientific revelations about all that surrounds us from microbes, to Black Holes, and to the entire Cosmos. Humankind becomes enriched and science gains new friends and supporters; a necessary relationship for our continuing evolution.

As and added example, the video below is a relaxed, easy-going but informative explanation of some of the facts around NASA’s space exploration program. Astronaut Walter Cunningham, an Apollo 7 pilot, provides the narrative. Informative, awesome and heartwarming science.

Publication Code: 88GMF5BV7HTW


Image of merging Black Holes : courtesy of NASA/ESA and their powerful terrestrial and space telescopes.

Image of Meco the mascot of the Space Tweeps Society, created by the society’s founder, Jen Scheer and used with her permission.