Here at Language Log, we've been known to complain from time to time about language-related reporting in the popular press. But a couple of days ago, when I clicked on a link in the science section of Google News and hit John Brandon's "Freaky Physics Proves Parallel Universes Exist", Fox News, 4/5/2010, I was reminded that things could be worse.
Look past the details of a wonky discovery by a group of California scientists — that a quantum state is now observable with the human eye — and consider its implications: Time travel may be feasible. Doc Brown would be proud.
The strange discovery by quantum physicists at the University of California Santa Barbara means that an object you can see in front of you may exist simultaneously in a parallel universe — a multi-state condition that has scientists theorizing that traveling through time may be much more than just the plaything of science fiction writers.
A bit of web search turned up Matt Springer's blog post "The Worst Physics Article Ever", which confirmed my reaction:
Every word in the title is wrong but "physics". It's not freaky, doesn't prove anything we didn't already know, and has nothing to do with parallel universes nor does it shed any light [on] the question of their possible existence. [...]
I know complaining about science journalism is a staple around ScienceBlogs, but really this is just astonishing malpractice. This would be an embarrassment in a Star Trek episode. For it to appear in a news story is beyond words.