If you’re reading a science story today, chances are you’re going to see the name Australopithecus sediba in it. That’s the designation of the hominid fossil discovered in South Africa in 2008, which is making its debut in tomorrow’s edition of Science. And now that the embargo has been lifted, you’re also likely to see another two-word phrase: “missing link.” As Brian Switek of Laelaps ably attested to when “Ida” was the fossil-du-jour, the phrase is a crutch for science writers tackling human evolution, but one that obscures the complexity of our gnarly family tree. After reading his posts on the discovery and what this hype means for science communication, check out Ivan Oransky’s Embargo Watch for an inside look at how a hype machine gets built.
Also check out Laelaps on Ida, the “missing link” that assuredly wasn’t:
And since posting the Buzz on the homepage, Ivan Oransky’s Embargo Watch post on Science‘s handling of this story has been updated with responses from Ginger Pinholster (of AAAS’s Office of Public Programs) and Richard Gray (who wrote the Daily Telegraph that essentially broke the embargo on Sunday).
If you’re not already familiar with Ivan’s blog, it really is a great look at the inner workings of science communication. At the very least, you’ll see where the quote in this CNN article about not using the term “missing link” comes from.