On Covering Science News

Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft, was discovered this week to resemble a snowman (upside down in this image). This is the best-quality photo currently available.

I feel like I’ve been pretty lax about talking about science news stories here. This blog is called Science Meets Fiction, but lately, when I have time to post at all, it only seems to be about fiction. Part of this, I think, is because the big science news stories get covered by a hundred other major newspapers and blogs, and I don’t feel like I have anything new to say about them. I’m trying to find a niche in that field, but it’s difficult.

This past week, I was going to write a post on New Horizons’s flyby of Ultima Thule, but it didn’t really happen for several reasons. First, I’ve been traveling; I was visiting family for the holidays, and I’m now in Seattle for the American Astronomical Society Conference, and I haven’t had time to put together a thoughtful analysis. Second, there wasn’t all that much information released about Ultima Thule, given the difficulty of sending signals back to Earth from that far out, Earth going behind the Sun, and the limited resources available to receive them. (Maybe I should write a post on the state of the Deep Space Network next.) And third, what news there was has been pretty well covered by the media. I could talk about the results, but I feel like I don’t have a lot to add.

I like to think I’ve developed a good voice here for media reviews, and I’ve been pushing a little more into the analysis side with my recent posts on Fantastic Beasts and Mortal Engines. I don’t think I’ve yet developed that voice for news stories, and I been having trouble coming up with my own unique take on them amid the noise. I tried to do that a little with the SpaceX story a couple months ago, but I still feel adrift on that front.

I’m hoping I can do better in 2019. One thing I could do would be to take a science news story and explain what the media missed—what cool thing was left out, or why that new study is overhyped. Of course, that takes more in-depth reading if it’s not in my field. I’m not sure what direction to take it, and I welcome suggestions.

For right now, I’ll be writing at least one post on the AAS. Probably not every day. I tried that once, and it was a bit much, but we’ll see. This is the year’s biggest astronomy meeting, so there’s sure to be plenty of exciting results.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
This entry was posted in Current events, Science, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.