2023 The Screamers Science Hype Award goes to anti-aging media coverage

Every year I give out The Screamers Science Hype Award.

The point of The Screamers is to raise awareness about science hype and catalyze new ways to combat it. In that spirit, I award what I see as the most extreme examples of science hype. Sometimes in addition to the one main winner, I give “honorable” mentions too.

These awards are focused mostly on the biomedical sciences. However, I do sometimes award media issues in additional fields of science.

The Screamers Science Hype Awards.
The Screamers Science Hype Awards.

The Screamers Award winner: hyped media coverage of anti-aging

2023 was quite a year of science hype in many areas. What struck me the most was the ballyhoo in the longevity and anti-aging space.

Many media outlets gobbled up overstated or unverified claims about anti-aging regimens like so many fistfuls of supposed longevity supplements.

As a result, I had no trouble finding wild longevity headlines. They were often about folks like Bryan Johnson and David Sinclair but also others.

These media pieces were so ubiquitous and some of the anti-aging regimens intensive enough that I even began to wonder whether the most extreme anti-aging efforts might be a disease unto themselves. Potentially a fatal one. I also coined some neologisms like “health flexing” and “health celebrities”.

Here are some examples of hypeful longevity headlines in 2023. One is the overall winner, while the others are runners-up.

Given all this hype, it was hard to pick just one winner, but I did. The winner of the 2023 The Screamers Science Hype Award goes to The Daily Mail article (first bullet point above). The article has no balance.

Some common sense approaches to moderate anti-aging efforts

The irony about the article and its headline being so bad in my view is that much of Dr. Hyman’s actual routine makes good common sense, unlike the reported regimens of other prominent anti-agers.

His emphasis on a plant-based diet and exercise are two solid pillars of general health.

It’s unclear whether such practices can consistently stave off aging, but some data suggest it’s possible to a modest degree. It’s not going to knock 23 years off of your biological age though. Maybe a year? These practices are likely to improve your quality of life.

I have a post on potential natural stem cell boosts that could have longevity impacts. These are common sense things rather than extreme measures like snorting stem cells, DIY gene therapy, or swallowing massive amounts of supplements.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any steps to change your health.

The Screamers Runners-up

Miracle Gro?

In addition to the runners-up in the bullet point list above, I thought I’d mention a couple of others.

Miracle Regrowth: How Stopping an Aging Enzyme Can Repair Nerve Damage, SciTechDaily. True, the research paper that this news item is reporting on is kind of interesting, but where’s the miracle?

Aging miracle cure that isn’t: NMN

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) May Be the Miracle Cure for Aging, Healthnews. In contrast to the headline, from the article, “Animal studies suggest NMN does not help to prolong lifespan. However, it may produce some health benefits…” So, another non-miracle.

Understatement of the Year Award to The NYT SpaceX coverage

And, finally, a runner-up award goes to an NYT Science article about a recent SpaceX rocket mission in which the rocket blew up but the story was relentlessly spinning things positively.

SpaceX Makes Progress in 2nd Launch of Giant Moon and Mars Rocket. I love space travel and SpaceX has done some cool things, but this article was far from balanced.  This specific sentence blew my mind given that the SpaceX rocket blew up (emphasis mine):

Saturday’s flight of Starship, a powerful vehicle designed to carry NASA astronauts to the moon, was not a complete success.

I guess at least nobody died.

Here’s the part of the article that seems to finally face facts at least somewhat:

“Soon after stage separation, the booster exploded — a “rapid unscheduled disassembly,” in the jargon of rocket engineers. The upper-stage Starship spacecraft continued heading toward orbit for several more minutes, reaching an altitude of more than 90 miles, but then SpaceX lost contact with it after the flight termination system detonated.”


I’m trying to think if there’s an equivalent crock of baloney expression as “rapid unscheduled disassembly” in the biomedical sciences. Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “2023 The Screamers Science Hype Award goes to anti-aging media coverage”

  1. Just happened onto your website; thought I had found a gem…until I clicked on link “natural stem cell boost” and all credibility vanished with this statement: “ When you read this you probably are thinking of dental or chest x-rays or CT scans, but I think a far more important source of radiation for most of us is UV light from the sun.” Seriously? Not microwaves with their comical perforated little ‘shields’ at eye level, nor food’s knack for absorption? How about cell phones attached to our person 24/7? Interesting that plants and creatures thrive with sun…yet people are supposed to be the exception? Even indoor pets innately know to go out into the sun, AND it’s usually during the exact time of the day that people are warned to stay inside! Heck, even turtles and lizards kept as pets need a UV light to survive and thrive. Ever wonder if an entity might benefit monetarily from ‘the sun is bad’ narrative?

  2. Paul, I love you but I disagree about the SpaceX coverage. I thought it was a rare, fair treatment of Elon’s goals without the NYT’s typical negative spin on him. The Starship program operates under a ‘rapid iteration’ heuristic where prototypes are quickly built and the data from each hardware operation is analyzed & improvements are incorporated immediately into the production line, as opposed to traditional risk-averse engineering that employs extended design and modeling phases. This speeds up hardware development and allows them to simultaneously improve manufacturing processes, bringing down overall costs (currently it’s 10x cheaper in $/kg to orbit using falcon heavy vs nasa’s SLS).

    I think the stated goals of the last Starship launch were met, and the separate “rapid unscheduled disassemblies” of the booster and starship just meant they didn’t hit their “stretch goals”, plus they got a lot of data on how to prevent “RUD’s” in the future.

    Sorry for the rant, hope you had great holidays.


    1. @Brad,
      You might be right that I was too negative but I thought the article was too much like SpaceX talking points rather than independent journalistic coverage. Maybe my view is filtered by my experience with some media pieces in the stem cell arena just largely regurgitating press releases, etc.

      I hope SpaceX succeeds.

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