“Give me my jetpack, and give me my x-ray goggles”

I know I told Steorn not to come back until they had actually done the science but, having asked why the Guardian hadn’t sent Ben Goldacre to do the interview last year, I feel obliged to point to his Bad Science column today where he makes a couple of good points, as usual, including one about the media coverage.

Almost every newspaper gave it lavish coverage in return for this modest expenditure. Steorn has claimed that its machine is validated by eight independent scientists and engineers “with multiple PhDs from world-class universities” (although sadly it declined to name them, citing mutually binding non-disclosure agreements). It now also has a panel of 22 scientists on a “jury” recruited from the ad.

I should therefore like to posit the first law of bullshit dynamics: “There is no imaginable proposition so absurd that you cannot find at least one person, somewhere in the world, with a PhD or professional post, who is happy to endorse it.”

As we’ve already seen with the long history of perpetual motion claims you only need one or two experts, and as far as the media are concerned, there’s a story. And when the negative evidence comes in – like this week with Steorn, say – there is a deathly silence. Shh.

As Ben says

Look, I’m with everyone else in the media, and indeed the world. I want fish oil pills to solve complex social problems in education. I want one injection to be a major reversible cause of autism. I want one invention to solve the world’s energy problems and I want my jetpack. It’s 2007 for God’s sake. Give me my jetpack, and give me my x-ray goggles. This future is rubbish.