Steve Miller causes students studying Scientific Communication to reflect on the death of dinosaurs

University College of London’s astrophysicist Steve Miller, expert researcher on planets in the Solar System, in communication (Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility) and scientific reporter (The Chemical Cosmos- A Guided Tour), gave the opening conference at the 21st edition of the Master in Scientific, Medical and Environmental Communication at UPF Barcelona School of Management.

Miller has carried out in-depth studies, and recently published the analytical work The public impact of impacts: How the media play in the mass extinction debates in the Geological Society of America Special Papers. Miller presented this work to the students, in which he analyses journalistic coverage on “the death of dinosaurs” between 1980 and 2008. Miller explained that the presence of the world of dinosaurs in mass media dates back some 200 years, and their extinction has been the focus of numerous studies and theories.

Among the most accepted theories are that their extinction was caused by the impact of an asteroid or comet with Earth some 65 million years ago, a great cataclysm that caused a “nuclear winter” and gradually made the existence of this species inviable. In his study, however, Miller points out that between 1991 and 1995 there was a critical change in public perception about this popular subject when the great comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter in 1994. This meant that for the first time in the history of humanity, the scientific world had access to live coverage of the consequences of a great impact between two stars in the Solar System. Miller analyses the impact that this debate had, not only on the scientific community but also on mass media.

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