Science & Technology

How Clinical Trials Work

Prescription medications undergo rigorous rounds of testing and approval before hitting the consumer market. The Onion breaks down the steps involved in this process

Scientists Develop New Extra-Sloppy Peach

DAVIS, CA—Explaining that the latest strain of the fruit was far softer and runnier than previous varieties, agricultural scientists at the University of California, Davis announced Thursday the successful development of a new extra-sloppy peach.

SpaceX’s Plan To Colonize Mars

SpaceX founder Elon Musk continues to lay the groundwork to attempt the human colonization of Mars. Here’s a step-by-step guide to his plan:

The Pros And Cons Of Self-Driving Cars

With Uber’s robot cars debuting this week in Pittsburgh, many wonder whether driverless technology will improve or endanger our lives. The Onion weighs the pros and cons of self-driving cars

How Animals Go Extinct

With an estimated 40 percent of species on earth now considered endangered, many wonder how it’s possible for these animals to be wiped out. The Onion provides a step-by-step breakdown of how species go extinct

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.

Team Of Vatican Geneticists Successfully Clone God

VATICAN CITY—Describing the groundbreaking work as a major step forward for theological research, a team of Vatican geneticists held a press conference Tuesday at the Apostolic Palace to announce they had successfully cloned God.

Dad Shares Photo Album Through Never-Before-Seen Website

SECAUCUS, NJ—Wondering aloud how the father of three even managed to find the online image-hosting service, family members of local dad Phil Yates told reporters Monday the 57-year-old had shared a photo album with them through a never-before-seen website.

NASA Discovers Distant Planet Located Outside Funding Capabilities

WASHINGTON—Noting that the celestial body lies within the habitable zone of its parent star and could potentially harbor liquid water, NASA officials announced at a press conference Thursday they have discovered an Earth-like planet located outside their funding capabilities.

‘DSM-5’ Updated To Accommodate Man Who Is Legitimately Being Ordered To Kill By The Moon

ARLINGTON, VA—Saying they were committed to ensuring the influential reference text accurately represented all known psychological conditions, leading members of the American Psychiatric Association announced Monday they would update the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to accommodate a man who is legitimately being ordered by the moon to kill those around him.

NASA Launches First Cordless Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—In what experts are calling a breakthrough achievement that is poised to revolutionize American space exploration and telecommunications, NASA announced Friday it has successfully launched its first cordless satellite into orbit.

What Is Pokémon Go?

Since its debut last Thursday, the augmented-reality smartphone app Pokémon Go has been downloaded millions of times and has grown publisher Nintendo’s stock by 25 percent. The Onion answers some common questions about the game and its unprecedented success.

Factory Robot Working On Some Of Its Own Designs After Hours

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC—Saying it had been mulling over the “fun little side project” for a while, an Electroimpact Quadbot reportedly put in some extra work after hours at the Boeing assembly plant Wednesday to try out a few of its own original designs.

Books Vs. E-Readers

Though e-readers have increasingly supplanted books in the digital age, many bibliophiles defend the importance of physical texts. Here is a side-by-side comparison of physical books and e-books
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Stephen Jay Gould Speaks Out Against Science Paparazzi

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Paleontologist and author Stephen Jay Gould spoke out against the increasingly aggressive tactics of the paparazzi Tuesday, railing against "the reckless throngs of photographers that relentlessly hound America's top scientists."

Physicist Dr. Richard Kinder is mobbed by paparazzi outside his University of Chicago office.

"The time has come to place limits on these photographers," said Gould, speaking from Harvard University, where he is a professor of geology and zoology. "They are disrupting my life, as well as those of my colleagues, my family, and my friends."

According to Gould, photographers stand poised around the clock at the entrance of virtually any facility where research is being conducted, including such science hotspots as the Mayo Clinic, labs at MIT and Princeton, and the Center For Astrophysical Research in Antarctica. The situation has gotten so bad, Gould said, that scientists are often forced to slip in through alternate entrances, and increased security is required at any conference they attend.

"It doesn't matter if you're in the lab developing semiconductor heterostructures for high-speed opto-electronics or just going out for coffee, someone is always ready to shove a camera in your face," said Gould, who rose to science stardom in 1972 when his theory of punctuated equilibria made him a household name. "As for field studies, I may as well forget them, unless I'm prepared to bring a full team of bodyguards along with me to the dig site."

Brian Greene, whose The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, And The Quest For The Ultimate Theory spent 32 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list last year, is also fed up with the media.

"Yes, I want people to read my work, but my personal life is my own business," Greene said. "Just because I'm a scientist doesn't mean I have to completely surrender my privacy. The public doesn't have the right to know everything I do every second of the day." Greene recently sued the German magazine Stern for publishing nude sunbathing photos of him and his girlfriend, Stanford University physicist Dr. Aileen Wang.

The latest issue of <i>Science World Weekly.</i>

Members of the paparazzi say they are merely responding to public demand, providing a service to the millions of Americans who closely follow the careers of the world's top physicists, mathematicians, and botanists.

"In this country, people want to know about scientific discoveries the minute they happen," said New Haven-based freelance photographer Lance Evans. "It's only natural that the public would be interested in the personal lives of the men and women behind these discoveries."

Gould insisted that the adoring public is not the problem.

"The paparazzi are far more forceful and disruptive than they need to be," said Gould, who on Aug. 5 pleaded no-contest to a March incident in which he attacked an intrusive paparazzo with a broken graduated cylinder. "I realize they have a job to do, but there is such a thing as taking it too far."

According to Gould, paparazzi often use illegal means to secure photos for such notoriously disreputable tabloids as Science World Weekly and Starz, which bills itself as "your most trusted source for astronomy celebrity news."

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that paparazzi photos often accompany stories that are inaccurate or outright libelous.

"The tabloids make little effort to ground their stories in reality," Gould said. "A recent Science World Weekly story claimed I was starting a project in organic stereochemistry and conformational analysis, which is preposterous. Another tabloid recently ran a contest offering the winner a romantic evening carbon-dating fossils with me in my lab. I never agreed to any such contest."

Gould is urging lawmakers to impose stricter standards on trespassing photographers and implored the public not to purchase tabloids that print "these ill-gotten photos and ludicrous stories."

Many science fans are torn, saying that, while their favorite researchers have a right to privacy, they still crave the latest gossip on them.

"I love Stephen Jay because he's not afraid to take on the historical genesis and broader implications of biological determinism, focusing on the question of the numerical ranking of human groups by measures of intelligence," said Tanya Bymers, 20, of Decatur, GA. "I know I shouldn't, but if I see a tabloid rag with him on the cover, I have to buy it."

Some fans felt less sympathy for celebrity scientists.

"Oh, come on, Stephen," said Trace Leefold, webmaster of, a site that prints rumors about soon-to-be-awarded research grants. "No one put a gun to your head and forced you to enter the field of evolutionary theory. You chose that life."

Alan Heeger and Alan MacDiarmid, co-recipients of the 2000 Nobel Prize For Chemistry, said Gould and his fellow tabloid opponents are too thin-skinned. Dubbed the "Plastics Pals" for their discovery and development of conductive polymers, the researchers are among the few scientists to enjoy a good relationship with the paparazzi, arriving at meetings flanked by a phalanx of photographers.

"If it weren't for all this publicity, it's possible that far fewer people would support our work," Heeger said. "We scientists could actually be in the position of needing to scrape pennies together to complete our vitally important research."

Diehard science fan Jill Krause agreed.

"These scientists are the most important people in America," Krause said. "Our very future depends on them. They are enabling us to live longer and better, discovering the history of the planet we live on, and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. There's no way we'd ever let them work in obscurity. It's laughable."


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