Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Worst Science Headline Ever

This has to be the strangest pairing of headline and story I've ever read:

The headline: "X-Men May Be Closer Than You Think."

The story: A group of Japanese geneticists have found small damages in genetic sequences that cause evolutionary changes in our DNA. Not only is that a bit of a duh story (things change in the genome, we pass them on for generations, evolution happens), but of course, those changes (unfortunately) have nothing to do with us gaining supernatural powers (though I've longed for some since childhood).

The funniest thing is that the article itself is highly technical. An example: "8-oxoG is one of the main causes of frequent recombinations and SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in the human genome." Maybe it was so technical that the headline writer just didn't understand it. This is one of the strange things about writing for publications -- the writers almost never chose titles. We suggest them all the time, but they never stick (in my case, I think the only title I've ever written for a feature story that wasn't changed was Fixing Nemo for my goldfish surgery article -- I was so proud of that!).

(Thanks to Carl Zimmer for pointing this out!)



Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Oh, don't be a such spoil sport. I doubt many readers misunderstood the headline to be seriously asserting super powers were coming on line genetically. I agree bad headlines can misinform and that for those many occasions in which the do we need to make copyeditors the first against the wall come the revolution, but falsehoods don't misinform when an audience knows that they're jokes, or knows they're liable to be. Punning, like skateboarding, is not a crime.

4:53 PM  

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