Still Not a Hoverboard

“Synonyms for the word hover include to hang, to levitate, and to float. So no, hoverboards weren’t banned and you didn’t report on hoverboards.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Photo by Daniel Pockett
Photo by Daniel Pockett

In response to a recent article about “Hoverboards” published in CBS Minnesota, I posted this short response along with the article to my Facebook feed

Daily Dose of Science Journalism: Still not a Hoverboard

The definition of hover is to, “remain in one place in the air.” Synonyms for the word hover include to hang, to levitate, and to float. So no, hoverboards weren’t banned and you didn’t report on hoverboards.

As we can see from the photo and definition above, and Back to the Future II, these technological devices are not “hoverboards.” Is it false advertising? Yes. Does it demonstrate a lack of basic scientific awareness by consumers? Definitely. Is this an example of terrible science and technology journalism? Absolutely.

Data courtesy of Slice Intelligence
Data courtesy of Slice Intelligence

If we do a quick Google search of “hoverboards,” we surmise that they are extremely lucrative. For example, the first four links are ads by Smart Wheel Balanced Board, Hover Shop, Electric Empire USA, and Swagway. These ads are followed by http://www.hoverboard.com, the parent company and creator of the device that doesn’t actually hover, hang, levitate, or float. But this fact doesn’t seem to bother buyers as the data from Slice Intelligence indicates.

And as we scroll down, we see the page is full of articles about the “wheel-board,” a more proper name for this piece of technology, and why we should buy it and how it will eventually start on fire. Great investment!

I see terrible science journalism everyday. Some of it is more blatant than others. However, this takes the cake of what I have seen lately. No matter how much these companies spin this and no matter how many times these things are called “hoverboards,” they will not be hoverboards. I’m not sure how to be any more explicit about this fact. And make no mistake, this is a fact.

To recap, we are dealing with three issues. First, the lack of basic scientific knowledge by the general public. Second, “charlatans” are taking advantage of this lack of scientific knowledge. And third, mainstream journalism is perpetuating charlatanism through terrible science journalism.

Here’s a video of an actual hoverboard. Well, it isn’t real. But it’s more hoverboard than the “wheel-board.”

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