Headlines blare some version of: READ THIS AMAZING ARTICLE—NOW!!!!!
And then the article itself must satisfy the reader’s emotional needs.
After all, no one wants to read an article that basically says, “Here’s something out of the ordinary, but we have no clue what it is nor do we understand a darn thing about it!”
Combine this with the human (this includes scientists) need for certainty, plus the human (this includes scientists) need for honor and acclaim, plus the tremendous competition for grant money to fund projects, and you can get a very skewed view of the Universe.
Let’s take Venus, for example.
It's a Very Large and Prominent...Something!
For more than 5 days, Venus had a 10,000 km/6214 mile-long swath running through its atmosphere.
Bizarrely, the swath remained stationary amid a riotous, fast-moving atmosphere. (Venus’s atmosphere rotates around the planet much faster than the planet itself rotates.)
If you look up articles on this swath, you’ll see declarations of it as “a gravity wave,” accompanied by copious explanations and images describing gravity waves and how grav-i-ty waves differ from grav-i-ta-tion-al waves.
You’ll also see a lot of quotes by scientists saying, “We think it might be this, we think it might be that,” along with statements declaring that the gravity wave must somehow be linked through the crazy atmosphere to Venusian mountains.
Even the original article in the highly regarded Nature magazine features the headline:
Large Stationary Gravity Wave in the Atmosphere of Venus
But then you read the actual abstract:
“Here we report the detection of an interhemispheric bow-shaped structure…”
Why call it a “structure”? I thought it was a gravity wave!
“We suggest that the bow-shaped structure is the result of an atmospheric gravity wave generated in the lower atmosphere by mountain topography that then propagated upwards.”
(Also, notice that within the actual abstract, they correctly continue to call it a “structure,” and nothing else. Why? Because they have no clue what it actually was.)
Then the article states that “numerical simulations” lend credence to their proposed suggestion.
However, simulations are not proofs. Or even indications, necessarily.
Furthermore, despite hoopla to the contrary, much of Venus remains a mystery. So what are these simulations based on? After all, there is nothing to stop scientists from just feeding a computer the “right” numbers to make things add up. After all, it’s a simulation.
Then the abstract admits:
“…but the formation and propagation of a mountain gravity wave remain difficult to reconcile with assumed near-surface conditions on Venus.”
(BTW, I’m starting to gag on the number of times I hear or read the word “assume” within scientific discussions, especially regarding complex theories built on the phrase, “Well, we assume [fill-in-the-blank], so it stands to reason that…”)
Anyway, if you’re dealing with assumed conditions, then really, how are you calculating "numerical simulations"?
Within the body of the article, they state that the knowledge available regarding Venus's atmosphere don't really allow mountain-caused gravity waves.
The article’s abstract concludes with:
“We suggest that winds in the deep atmosphere may be spatially or temporally more variable than previously thought.”
[Emphasis mine - MR]
In other words, they don’t know. They don't really even have a clue.
All anyone knows is that a very big “something” hung around against all odds in one place within Venus’s atmosphere.
Now, the scientists behind the article deserve credit for their honesty and precise language. They’re not presenting anything but the facts of their research and they even rightly refuse to slap any kind of definitive label to the “structure.” (Likely, the headline was picked by editors and not the authors.) They’re also very clear that they are offering suggestions and assumptions. They don’t pretend to know.
And yes, many reports quote this abstract correctly, state that these were suggestions, and so on.
However, because of the massive filler in all the reports, you the reader will come away from any of these reports certain that a gravity wave anchored to Venusian mountains was hovering in Venus’s atmosphere.
And you’ll also feel smart now that you know the difference between "gravity" waves and "gravitational" waves.
But it's all just not true.
- There was no mountain-propagation of anything.
- There was no gravity wave.
- There is no further knowledge or information about this "structure."
And by the authors own admission, all suggestions appearing in the article are impossible.
They outright state that a gravity wave in Venus's atmosphere is impossible.
(Well, impossible based on what is currently known—or assumed!—of Venus.)
And gravitational waves have nothing to do with anything on this subject! In fact, it’s doubtful whether gravity waves could have anything to do with this!
So why does every single report on this Venus anomaly dedicate most of the report to gravity waves and gravitational waves when there was
- no gravity wave
- no evidence of any gravity wave
- and there was no possibility of this "structure" to have been a gravity wave!
So reading these reports just gives you a whole brainful of—well—fake news.
And this kind of thing happens all the time.
(For a fun summary of the Nature article, please see Scientific Anomalies Continue to be Discovered on Venus.)