I have a couple of EurekAlert feeds in my RSS reader, because they sometimes turn up interesting things– I got the Bill Wootters item there, for example, and they had a piece on strontium clocks that I keep meaning to say something about.
Of course, there’s also some total garbage, such as the kookery from the “Quantum Aether Dynamics Institute” that crossed the feed yesterday (though it appears to have been taken down, to their credit). This makes it difficult to really trust anything I see there that claims to be a really new development.
Such as, say, this press release from Buffalo claiming the discovery of axions:
After decades of intensive effort by both experimental and theoretical physicists worldwide, a tiny particle with no charge, a very low mass and a lifetime much shorter than a nanosecond, dubbed the “axion,” has now been detected by the University at Buffalo physicist who first suggested its existence in a little-read paper as early as 1974.
The finding caps nearly three decades of research both by Piyare Jain, Ph.D., UB professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and lead investigator on the research, who works independently — an anomaly in the field — and by large groups of well-funded physicists who have, for three decades, unsuccessfully sought the recreation and detection of axions in the laboratory, using high-energy particle accelerators.
The paper, available online in the British Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics at http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0954-3899/34/1/009, will be published in the January 2007 issue.
Results first were presented during a two-day symposium held in October at UB that celebrated Jain’s 50-year career in the physics department in the College of Arts and Sciences.
During that symposium, the world-renowned and Nobel Prize-winning scientists in attendance expressed astonishment and delight that the axion finally might have been found.
My inclination is to think that this is a bunch of crap. There are a number of kook signifiers in the text of the release, and if there was really anything to this, I’d expect to find it published somewhere with a higher profile than J. Phys. G. And, as we’ve previously established, EuerkAlert doesn’t exactly have a sterling peer-review system…
There’s a cautionary message here about doing science by press release. This release looks fairly convincing, if you’re coming from outside the field, but then, the Aether Dynamics thing looked pretty slick, other than being batshit crazy. There’s really not a good way to judge the credibility of anything you find on this site, because anyone with a bit of writing skill can write a convincing-sounding press release. But it’s out there as a science reference, and a lot of people pull news items off it.