APS News

November 2001 (Volume 10, Number 10)

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

Secrets of Clichés Uncovered

Science writers are nearing a breakthrough, perhaps a major breakthrough, in their age-old quest to unlock the secrets, even the ultimate secrets, of cliché-free prose, researchers reported yesterday.

Using cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, high-tech, and other dash-laden methodologies, the science journalists sifted obscure clues to reach their tentative conclusions. "This is statistically significant," one senior research said. "It is an important step forward," said another. "This is science in action," they agreed.

The research was reported in Science magazine, a prestigious journal, and also in Nature, a leading British journal. Other researchers welcomed the report, but were cautious. They called for more research. Science writers covered all the (usual) bases, quoting John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists, climatologist Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, bioethicist Arthur Caplan, live astronomer Steve Maran, dead astronomer Carl Sagan, outspoken physicist Robert Park, and neo-Luddite anti-technology gadfly Jeremy Rifkin. Stephen Jay Gould would have added class, but was unavailable for comment.

Clichés are a window into the past, even if they are red-shifted like the whistle on a passing train that changes pitch when it goes by, an analogy that itself is a window into the past. They offer a glimpse of the future, too. They add to the growing evidence of the cataclysm that may have killed the dinosaurs. Debate is sure to continue. And while the latest results do not offer a cure, they point the way to better understanding of the underlying basic cellular causes to the ancient affliction. "We may never know all the answers, but this is an important piece of the puzzle," said everybody.

-Charles Petit, U.S. News and World Report
Reprinted with permission

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

November 2001 (Volume 10, Number 10)

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Articles in this Issue
APS Members Elect Helen Quinn as Society’s Next Vice President
APS Teachers Prep Program Gets Full Funding from NSF
APS News Survey Tracks Chinese Student Visa Problems
TSAI Program Winds Up Successful Seven-Year Run
Happy Birthday Enrico!
Physicists Honored at Fall Unit Meetings
Meeting Briefs
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Focus on Committees
Spotlight on the Profession of Physics
The Back Page