Tag Archives: Physics

What does the Challenger disaster tell us about the meaning of “evidence”?

I’ve just been watching the excellent new BBC/Open University movie, The Challenger, starring William Hurt, telling the story of how Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman uncovered the truth behind the 1986 space shuttle disaster.

As a former physicist with a passion for science stretching back as far as I can remember, I’m getting increasingly concerned about the way the the meaning of the word “evidence” has been subtly changing over the last 40 odd years, to the point where it now means the opposite of what it originally meant.

Language is, of course,┬áconstantly evolving. There are many words which now mean something very different to what they originally meant. For most of human history that’s been a natural, organic process. But ever since Edward Bernays combined the science of crowd psychology with the psychoanalysis of his uncle, Sigmund Freud nearly a hundred years ago now to create the ‘science’ of Propaganda’, the practical applications of Public Relations, Messaging and Language Management have been going from strength to strength.

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30 kg plutonium missing from Sellafield nuclear plant

30 kilos of plutonium went missing from the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in 2003/4 according to the BBC News this morning. That’s enough to make 7 atom bombs! So where did it go?

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