Tired, not wired

Wired, the magazine, has a promotional spot for their Team of Experts. I hate it.

Bill Nye, James Cameron, Ken Jeong, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and neuroscientist Anil Seth answer the most interesting science questions from Twitter.

Let me count the ways this is bad.

  1. It’s all men. Did you notice? Let’s foster the impression that cool science nerds are only boys.
  2. These are all men who are comfortable with pontificating on science — that seems to be the primary criterion for their selection. James Cameron, for instance, is not good at engaging with an audience of learners. Bill Nye’s answer to a stupid question isn’t at all insightful, and is somewhat wrong, because he’s not an evolutionary biologist.>
  3. The format is stupid: those are not “the most interesting science questions from Twitter”.
    In fact, I’d say that if you’re going to Twitter for science questions, you’re already fucked. If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? Just shoot me now.
  4. What’s with the sciencey toys scattered on the desk? They don’t use them. They’re only there because someone thought a scientist’s desk would be covered with toys. Nope. My desk is covered with books and papers and computer cables. So many cables…
  5. Getting bad questions from Twitter means you’re going to get short, glib answers. It’s blipvert science. They’ve taken a complex process and boiled it down to a game of snappy answers to stupid questions.
  6. The worst thing to me — that women are ignored would be the worst, except that it’s a blessing to women that they aren’t associated with this crap — is that this is exactly the attitude that wrecks TV, YouTube, and other media as tools for education. It encourages the idea that the purpose of learning about science is to enable you to crush fools with your witty erudition. The people who rise to the top are those best able to punch down, which turns the whole thing into an aggressive hierarchy. That’s not science, although it may reflect the ugly side of the social institution of science.

You know what might make for a good science show? Go to scientists, and ask them what difficult questions are bugging them. Then have them explain the background to the question, what’s been done so far, and speculate about what the answer might be, and how they’d know it if they saw it and how it would affect their perspective on the field. Unfortunately, that’s hard and wouldn’t give you snappy blipverts that make people feel smarter than the rubes. It would require a goddamn conversation.

But this Wired thing? It’s a vision of science as an authoritarian cult as imagined by a libertarian who learned his science on Reddit.


  1. lotharloo says

    It’s just clickbait science. I immediately closed after the first horrible question and equally horrible answer.

  2. ridana says

    Is Ken Jeong actually a physician? I can’t imagine going to someone that obnoxious and condescending for health care.

  3. says

    Another thing that’s really bad:
    It looks like they#re using real tweets that were not sent to them as questions without ever hiding names and Twitter handles.
    Holy shit, what do they think is going to happen, especially with small Twitter accounts that read female?
    Apart from the fact that some tweets like the tweet I can see in the still about punching yourself do not seem to be an actual question, more like those ironic tweets people write when they are frustrated about something, but anything to let the guys feel smart, you know?

  4. unclefrogy says

    well who are they trying to sell the magazine too?
    though the headlines are often eye catching the articles seldom bring very much depth and much off the bulk are kind of soft adds for trendy reviews “innovative” products.
    uncle frogy

  5. says

    As bad as this is, it’s better than any economic or legal analysis that has ever appeared at Wired. Anyone want to debate “the long tail will support artists and creators forever”? That one can be defeated by adverse-excursion considerations, monetary quantization, thermodynamics, the consequences of the so-called “law of large numbers,” and/or defining “support” realistically before even examining any data (which thoroughly refutes the theory under any theoretical context).

    Wired epitomizes the “pseudo” in “pseudointellectual” — editorially and in its target audience. And the less said about hidden agendas, the better.

  6. PaulBC says

    “Wired epitomizes the “pseudo” in “pseudointellectual” — editorially and in its target audience. And the less said about hidden agendas, the better.”

    Is it possible Wired is really just Omni with a new cover slapped on? Has anyone ever seen them on the same newsstand together?

    More seriously, when it was founded in 1993, being “wired” meant being connected to the Internet, which was then nearly as cool as having an early digital watch had been 20 years before that (the kind with the red LEDs where you had to press a button just to see the display). It’s kind of remarkable that it still exists at all.

  7. says


    Of course not! Omni was the articles and fiction that Penthouse would have published if Penthouse hadn’t been trying to look less like Playboy.

    No, really.

    So Omni, being an offshoot of a porn empire, has no relationship to Wired at all. Wait a minute…

  8. DLC says

    Top reply tweet there is now Wired saying “we heard your complaints about the lack of diversity and we are going to do better going forward. ” So, it seems at least someone is trying to listen and respond. I think it’s possible to do some science education on Twitter, if that was ever their motive, but you have to provide links to actual discussions, not just one-off replies and junk like “wrong, Dickhead!” or whatever. I’m not saying Wired is going to do anything worthwhile, but I think it’s possible to do so, for someone at some future time.