Start: "Every week, I see headlines in the mainstream media (as well as the “social” and online media outlets) that say something like “NASA Scientists Baffled at….” or “Scientists Bewildered by…”. It’s annoying and tells me that the writer and/or the headline writer is a) lazy and b) doesn’t have a clue about science or scientists. "
Or, c) they interviewed a scientist doing the research and literally reported the fact:
> "We still don't know," he says. "I'm still kind of baffled."'
Scientists are baffled. It's what gets us out of bed. If we knew everything, we'd be called oracles or something. If we stuck to the comforts of the known, applicable facts, we'd be called engineers.
Humans are curious beings. We enjoy the trivia at the forefront of science, even if we won't read the boring details of the precise scientific answer. Mulling the questions that scientists are investigating is a delight. And yeah, sometimes it's a lazy editor who exploits that curiosity, editorializing without verification, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
> if we stuck to the comforts of the known, applicable facts, we'd be called engineers.
seriously? you are showing off your knowledge of science by displaying an ignorance of engineering... engineers don't live in emotional comfort, and the best experimental scientists are engineers or they'd never create novel equipment to test ideas.
I agree with your general thought about this, but in this specific article one of the scientists was quoted saying he was "baffled", but only "kind of". Maybe the title should be "Herd of Fuzzy Green 'Glacier Mice' Kind of Baffles Scientists". I would be more likely to read that!
In their general "journalism" pool (i.e. aside from Nova and Science Friday), NPR/PBS journalism has a really low bar for science knowledge.
There's a new PBS science show hosted by a "journalist" (rather than a scientist) called "H2O: the molecule that made us".
When talking about the atmosphere of the early Earth, she referred to it as "mostly CO2". That's so egregious an error, I rewound and rechecked it five times. The highest CO2 content we know of was 0.04%. "Mostly"?! This means that nobody with fairly basic science knowledge (I don't even have a degree in hard sciences, and this hit me like fingernails on a chalkboard) reviewed the script, or caught it in production, or caught it in previews.
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I would go with the experimental approach: cover a few glacier mice from the sun and see if they change behavior relative to the others, cover a few from the wind and see if they change behavior, paint a few with heat resistant paint, and so on.
What interesting about these 'glacier mice' is the moss forms into a ball that somehow roll around which is why the moss on the bottom of the ball doesn't die. So far they can't figure out what makes them roll.
>The researchers considered several possible explanations. The first, and most obvious one, is that they just rolled downhill. But measurements showed that the moss balls weren't going down a slope.
"We next thought maybe the wind is sort of blowing them in consistent directions," says Bartholomaus, "and so we measured the dominant direction of the wind."
That didn't explain it either, nor did the pattern of the sunlight.
"We still don't know," he says. "I'm still kind of baffled."
"It's always kind of exciting, though, when things don't comply with your hypothesis, with the way you think things work," says Gilbert.
The work has charmed other glacier scientists who dote on the adorable moss balls.
"I think that probably the explanation is somewhere in the physics of the energy and the heat around the surface of the glacier, but we haven't quite got there yet," says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute.
The "Terms of venery" section of the Wikipedia page for collective nouns will probably answer some of your questions.
In German, as far as I'm aware, we don't have that many different collective nouns for groups of animals (or at least they are never used outside of hunting circles). We have "Schwarm" for fish and birds, "Rudel" for pack animals, "Herde" for farm animals and most herbivores, "Schule" for whales/dolphins (and possibly some other animals). Those are the ones I can thing of off the top of my head, but there certainly must be a few more. Not eveb close to the variety in English though.
Japanese has counter words. So you get san-mai tickets for people arriving in san-dai cars. In English that's just three tickets for people arriving in three cars. Note that 'mai' doesn't mean ticket and 'dai' doesn't mean car, it's just a counter so you also have to add in the noun in your sentence.
That seems unbelievable to me but they just go around happily saying that easily.