...We don’t have a “fake news” problem, we have a media-literacy problem. Millions of people just can’t tell the difference between a made-up story and a factual one, and don’t know how to do so.
People need to learn the provenance of information: what is an accepted fact and what is not; what is a trusted source and what is not.
Richard Stengel, Time Magazine, September 26 2019.

A guide to educational degrees relevant to nuclear radiation

B.A.: Often not sufficient preparation for a job in the same discipline.  Superficial acquaintance with field.  May have taken introductory physical science courses, if required math background present.

B.S.: More likely to have had sufficient math. Physics: Possible exposure to nuclear physics as elective, or as examples in modern physics. Nuclear engineering: practical exposure, measurements.

M.S.: Practical degree, common for a technician in the physical sciences.  More familiar with math, physical sciences. In physics/nuclear engineering: exposure to nuclear physics theory and radiation measurement.  Not adequate for independent research.

Ph.D.: Often targets future academics, federal and research labs. Generally, needed for independent research in physical sciences.  Broad, deep exposure to field.  Generally has published several journal articles befor degree; thesis required.(In physics: nuclear physics issues commonly used as examples of quantum mechanics tools, in lab courses.

M.D.: Some exposure to epidemiology and statistics (often, first year); radiology (possibly as elective).


Download our pseudo-science and smell-o-meter document directly.

Researchers asked 24,525 people from 19 countries with advanced economies to rate the severity of threats from climate change, infectious diseases, online misinformation, cyberattacks from other countries and the condition of the global economy. Climate change was the highest-rated concern for most countries, with a median of 75 percent of respondents saying it is a major threat. Misinformation trailed closely behind, with a median of 70 percent deeming it a major threat.  See the results here.

As with every effective lie, there must be an element of truth to keep the issue open in the eyes of its victims.  BUT:

Hallmarks of pseudo-science practitioners

  • No legitimate credentials to make these claims
  • Claim their viewpoint is being suppressed by authorities (conspiracy theory)
  • Claim something is wrong with current standards
  • Deal with contradictory evidence by attacking those with evidence, not refuting evidence
  • Use anecdotal examples rather than published evidence
  • Cite Web sites, newspaper reports, self-published books rather than peer-reviewed articles in established journals or government reports (U.S. or international)
  • Appeal to false or discredited authorities, often very out of date
  • Fail to consider or categorically reject alternative possibilities

Hallmarks of legitimate research

  • Author possesses credentials in the research area, acknowledged by peers
  • Author affiliated in some way with the research community (Generally: universities, government labs, etc.) 
  • The debate is about validity via professional channels (not social media, web sites, etc.)

The Mighty Smell-o-Meter for pseudoscience

Ad hominem attacks
Attack the messenger, not the message

Argument from authority
Relies on identity of the `authority', not the argument itself

Appeal to ignorance
If something not known to be false, must be true

Claims of incompleteness of information about nature, rather than on what is known at present.
No claim can possibly be supported by lack of information.

Observational selection
Look only at positive evidence, ignoring negative (“cherry picking”)

Indifference to facts, criteria
Instead of bothering to consult reference works or investigating of valid evidence directly, advocates simply spout bogus “facts” where needed. [QW]

Dependence on anecdote
Anecdotes only ever apply to individuals or individual experiences. It is impossible to say that an individual anecdote is representative or to actually detect the real cause of an outcome. [RW]

No proposed concrete tests
Pseudo-scientists never carry out careful, methodical experiments themselves—and they also generally ignore results of scientists. [QW]