For the Force of Fascination, the News Fails at Science

There are now several news articles going around generally spouting “Zealandia? Eighth continent! Betcha didn’t know!”.

Most of these articles bother to go into what a geologic definition of a continent looks like, and shows that Zealandia would be categorized as such, but two of the ones linked above never manage to take a step back and realize that it’s completely preposterous for Europe and Asia to be considered geologically the same continent, despite many of them actually including a map that says ‘Eurasia’ (and the others mostly mention this as just a convention, and not something that is as geologically decidable as the topic they are bringing forward).

(I’m particularly saddened that my favorite bastion of journalism, The Guardian, one of very few media sources I actually respect, joined in on this train. At least it mentioned Eurasia.)

If they actually bothered to consider Eurasia beyond mention, they would realize that Zealandia really wouldn’t be the 8th continent, but the 7th. (Rather ironically, the first article is the only one that manages to get to this, despite being written in the most flippant tone.)

But beyond this, not a single one of these articles managed to point out that Zealandia is not the first proposed submerged continent. I’ve ran Ctrl+F through all of them for Kerguela. None of the articles return finds. Some of the maps on the articles point out Kerguela, but evidently none of the authors of these articles decided that was something they might want to take note on when they chose to include that map. This news, that Zealandia is a new continent, really isn’t that earth-shattering when one considers that this idea isn’t new. And since among these articles the demotion of Pluto has been mentioned, this is like how Pluto’s demotion from planetary status isn’t really that unprecedented given this happened to (to give one example) Ceres prior.

And really, this is what most news on science is like. Much of it just exists to catch people’s attention at the cost of any semblance of scientific legitimacy. It turns out most the public is too ignorant on science to realize lacks of background that really change what articles on science are putting forward. This is why ‘Science’ is usually one of my least favorite categories of news.


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