Friday, July 27, 2012

The Daily Wha?

Those of you that have the pleasure of interacting with me on a daily basis know at least two things about me: 1) I do The Michigan Daily crossword religiously and 2) I bitch about the poor quality journalism just as often. Normally it’s little stuff like capitalizing “University” when the word appears by itself but refers to the University of Michigan* or writing editorials that are poorly thought out or terribly far from the scope of a college newspaper. However both of those mistakes betray a graver problem. The Daily seems to nurture an inflated sense of importance at UM. 

*It’s against AP style so it isn’t like they’re eating babies or anything, but for a newspaper that is composed mostly of AP wires, they should at least be nice enough to take the AP’s grammar recommendations, too.

Don’t get me wrong. School pride is great. It’s important. It’s definitely worth more than a couple burning couches or a vulgarity-laced chant at a football game. But it’s also important that that pride have at least some grounding in reality. Minnesota thinks it’s smart, but knows it’s not Cal Tech. Wisconsin thinks it’s good at basketball but knows it’s not Duke.

Michigan? Well Michigan is a great school – one of the best in the world. They are pretty much top ten in everything. They have a physics program ranked eleventh nationally and can claim something like nine Nobel Laureates. But they do not have a Large Hadron Collider, Ann Arbor is a long way from Geneva, and UM did not prove the existence of the Higgs boson just a few weeks ago. These facts seem to have escaped the kindly inquisitors at The Michigan Daily so we’ll address this the only way an inquisitive baseball fan with an internet connection in the late 2000’s knows how. Fire up the FJM machine! (Bold font is from The Daily.)

Nope, not making this up.

Elusive physics particle found at ‘U’
Really?? Hmm, I think I would have heard about this around campus. Well, sounds interesting anyways. I wonder if it has something to do with all that stuff going on in Europe.

Kane, researcher, wins bet over $100 with Stephen Hawking
Ah yes – Kane the researcher. He’s so famous people refer to him using the same name-the-job formula normally reserved for dignitaries like Atilla the Hun, Catherine the Great, and Jack the Ripper. So what’s Kane the Researcher’s first name? Benji? Patrick? Citizen? We’ll just have to keep reading to find out!

In collaboration with scientists from around the globe, University researchers believe they have found a particle similar to the elusive Higgs boson particle, a particle theorized to make gravity possible and give mass to the units that compose subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons.
Holy shit! We have an international consortium of scientists searching for the Higgs boson here? I hope they are effectively communicating with those folks in Switzerland doing the same thing.

The discovery of the Higgs-like particle was announced at a seminar hosted by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland early in July.
Hmm, that seems a strange thing to do… Why make the announcement in Geneva… Ah, I see! They are talking about the project going on in Switzerland. Glad we got that cleared up in the title subhead first second third paragraph. Hey, better late than never right? So, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, we went over to Europe, got a bunch of people to work with us, and totally discovered the shit out of the Higgs Boson. Got it? Good.

Gordon Kane, the University’s Victor Weisskopof Distinguished University Professor of Physics, was a key contributor to the study that brought on the discovery.
Oh, Gordon Kane. Two paragraphs, two critical questions answered. Good work Daily!

Kane said he has been conducting research on the theory of Higgs bosons and how to search for them for decades.
I bet he was a huge Command & Conquer fan.

“I have been pursuing this physics for a long time,” Kane said. “In 1989, I – and some collaborators – published a book called ‘The Higgs Hunter’s Guide.’”
Five paragraphs in and we finally get a quote! Wait, never mind. It’s actually a book plug. Sigh.

According to the University News Service, Kane bet Stephen Hawking – the renowned physicist –  $100 that he would find the Higgs boson particle. Though Kane said he has not spoken directly to Hawking since the discovery, Hawking acknowledged the outcome in a BBC interview.
Seriously, this article is like the frat boy of scientists: Whooo! Suck on that Stephen Hawking! Tell Patrick Kane to get over here and bring some champagne! We discovered the Higgs boson! Whoo! Go Blue!

Phyiscs Prof. Jianming Qian, another researcher involved with the discovery, said the project to find the Higgs boson was a huge effort between international scientists.
That can’t be! Qian must be mistaken; this discovery was made by UM researchers with a minor assist from some foreign dudes…Oh gosh bro, it looks like he’s right. Someone call Patrick Kane back and tell him we’ll just meet him at Rick’s later. And tell him not to take a cab!

ATLAS, one of the main detectors used in the LHC experiments, is run by a group of 3,000 people hailing from 38 countries and over four times as many universities. CMS, another detector has a research staff of over 4,000. Just for reference, UM’s physics program is about 200 people (professors and grad students). So in summary: 1) the LHC is in Europe, not Ann Arbor, 2) it is owned and operated by CERN, not UM, 3) pretty much every major US university is contributing to the project, let’s not get carried away, and 4) Patrick Kane is a bro king.

I know it’s summer and headlines are hard. I know it was probably late and the editorial staff had a date with two cases and handle, but clarity is important in journalism. Once the reader gets over their confusion they’ll probably assume you’re arrogant as hell – or just incompetent. Or they’ll write a bitchy blog post about the whole thing. Either way, don’t forget to check out Dr. Kane’s book!


  1. Joseph, this is why I heart thee... but I am confused, why Patrick Kane and not Gordon Kane, unless this is a Chicago - black hawks reference. And yeah, there is a quote somewhere in between the lines about not enough hands, and something something Michigan... I forget how that story goes

    Thanks for the good read sir!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. yup, hawks reference. tried to make kaner (who's kind of a notorious partier) a running joke w/ the links

  2. Joe, I'm pretty sure the Michigan Daily is just a rip-off of the Onion. Go 'U'!


Keep it civil.