Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to succeed as a popularizer of technical material without knowing anything

The problem with financial journalism: journalists
[T]his is the formula for selling middlebrow “popular science” books. Flatter the reader that he is a smart monkey privy to the secrets of the universe; so much smarter and better informed than those people who actually work in the field. Popular science writers don’t sell actual popularizations of science like they did when Asimov used to write them; modern popular science writers now sell smugness. Modern upper middle class over-educated people love smugness, and use it as a sort of barter currency in social interactions with the fellow enlightened.
A perfect description of the genre and its audience. Applies equally to all technical material: science, technology, engineering, economics, business, management.

I continue to ask my kinetic energy question to people who want to "talk science" to me, and still find that most of them can't answer it. And don't get me started on "analytics" or "big data" advocates (as opposed to practitioners) who don't understand -- sometimes know -- Bayes's formula.