Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf and Scientific Progress

The results of scientific research as reported in the media can often seem a little confusing. How many times have we read in the press that product X is good for us only to read the opposite opinion sometime later? How can the same set of results give rise to different views of its meaning? Is there something wrong with the science or the way it is reported?

In order to find answers to these questions I started thinking about the scientific process itself. Scientists build theories and then test them with experiments. The results of their experiments are used to build better theories which can be tested and lead to further improvements.

This process reminded me of the story of the three little pigs. The houses built by the pigs improved as the story progressed and became increasingly difficult for the big bad wolf to destroy. I decided to use the story as an analogy for the scientific process and wondered if any other characters from nursery rhymes could help in answering my questions. I turned out that they could (in my mind at least) and the following article was born.

With the help of the three little pigs, the big bad wolf, Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks I have attempted to explain why the reporting of science in the media gives rise to so many conflicting stories.

Originally published at Scienceray.com, the article now has a permanent home on this site.

Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf and Scientific Progress
What can characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales teach us about the relationship between science and the media? Why should the three little pigs be happy when the big bad wolf blows their houses down? And why should Goldilocks think hard about her options before choosing the right porridge?

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