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Inaccuracy in reporting astronomy and science
Stu
post Jan 9 2007, 03:50 PM
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QUOTE (ngunn @ Jan 9 2007, 01:32 PM) *
Yes I saw that ridiculous dark matter report on BBC news as well. Has anybody contacted the BBC about it?


Yep. I sent in a complaint last night. No reply yet.

I know, I'm amazed too.


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ngunn
post Jan 9 2007, 04:31 PM
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QUOTE (Stu @ Jan 9 2007, 03:50 PM) *
Yep. I sent in a complaint last night. No reply yet.

I know, I'm amazed too.


Well done. Too many of us (like me) just grumble silently.
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ynyralmaen
post Jan 9 2007, 04:42 PM
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QUOTE (ngunn @ Jan 9 2007, 02:32 PM) *
... It seems to be within the news team itself that the necessary science background is decidedly patchy. I wonder if anyone in news management actually comprehends how bad the howlers sometimes are?

Considering the reporter's academic background, I'm extremely surprised that this particular howler was broadcast.
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ollopa
post Jan 9 2007, 04:42 PM
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They've pulled it.

However............

............to enjoy this gem again, simply paste the following into your browser and it should open in Windows Media Player. Quick - while stocks last!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/avdb/news/vide...046_16x9_nb.asx



(Poor Andy Coates - NOT his fault, of course!)
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Guest_Sunspot_*
post Jan 9 2007, 05:33 PM
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The weird thing is, they must have deliberately played the animation of Hubble observing the universe in reverse. It shows Hubble "firing it's beam of light" lol When in fact the light should be shown entering the telescope.
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nprev
post Jan 10 2007, 03:49 AM
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blink.gif ...wow. Thanks for the clip, ollopa; now I fully understand the outrage.

My hypothesis: The unfortunate correspondent confused Hubble with the "Doomsday Machine" in the original Star Trek:

http://www.memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Image:...y_Machine_2.jpg

smile.gif


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AndyG
post Jan 10 2007, 08:55 AM
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Thanks, Ollopa, for posting the link.

I didn't see it live, and was trying to put off watching it until I'd summed up the courage: but now I see that it's one of those things - like moments in Fawlty Towers - which are just so embarassingly awful that I cringed while seeing it. Toe-curling, "please make it stop" comedy.

I rather hope there's been a dreadful misinterpretation of a more technical press release: perhaps with a title something like "Hubble shines light on the Universe's dark matter".

But flip. That's awful.

E- ...And I'm being generous.

Andy
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Stu
post Jan 10 2007, 09:12 AM
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QUOTE (AndyG @ Jan 10 2007, 08:55 AM) *
I rather hope there's been a dreadful misinterpretation of a more technical press release: perhaps with a title something like "Hubble shines light on the Universe's dark matter".


No, that's not going to wash. The guy was a "science correspondent", he gets paid for reporting science news stories. The story didn't break at five to 6, it was all over the net 24hrs earlier, so all he had to do was go online and read the info while having a cup of coffee. During the afternoon I put together a 30 slide Powerpoint presentation on the item for my astro society meeting that night, with consideably less resources than the BBC has.

Hubble has been up there since (gulp!) 1991, and there can't be many people who don't know that it takes pretty pictures, so is a CAMERA, and cameras COLLECT light, they don't shoot it out of their lenses.

This was lazy, poor and frankly stupid reporting, and it shouldn't be just dismissed as silly. The BBC is publicly funded over here through the licence fee, we have no choice - unless we want to sample prison food - but to pay the annual fee, even if we don't particularly want to watch so-called celebrities poncing around ballroom floors in acres of swishing taffeta, or standing beside has-been singers murdering our favourite songs, or sit through humour-free episodes of "My Family" or other shows. Every year the Beeb takes over £100 from me, and although I can't say it's not worth it - I get to listen to 5 Live while I sit here writing, and get to see The Sky At Dawn, and Spooks - it's episodes like this that make me genuinely angry.

I'm giving a talk to a Women's Institute meeting tonight in a tiny village hall in the wilds of Cumbria. There'll be maybe 10 people there, plus as many bourbons as I can eat and as much tea as I can drink. It's people like that who rely on the BBC and other broadcasters to inform them accurately. They were told that a telescope shot a beam of light out to the edge of the universe. Some will have believed it, because, well, come on, it was on the BBC News... I'll have to set them straight tonight, when they ask about it, as they surely will. I don't mind, but I shouldn't have to set them straight because it's not my job to, it's the science correspondent's job.

God help us when we finally find life on Mars, or receive a SETI signal.


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karolp
post Jan 10 2007, 12:56 PM
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Hello everyone,

I must admit that I stopped wathching ANY tv about 5 years ago. But a year ago I was still downloading the Polish headline news off the internet as an *.asf file. And in January '06 they told the 40 M people here in their prime time edition that the Stardust spacecraft sampled the comet by firing a probe towards it. And the name of the probe was... Deep Impact. How about that?

And similarly to the BBC, the ONLINE reports issued the same day were well researched and NOT inaccurate. I guess the "internet" people tend to have a better background in sci tech than the "screen" people they employ.

And by the way, to cheer up a bit - presenting sci tech on tv also has some positive aspects to it. I noticed that Polish TV resumed airing reruns of a 1980s French-made science cartoon series. I was wondering whether our members from France could recognise it by the appearance of the depicted character:

Louis Antoine de Bougainville

There was also another series about biology and about space science (the latter featured a flying character named Ordie or something close to that).

Best regards from Poland,

Karol P.


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ElkGroveDan
post Jan 10 2007, 04:00 PM
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This one has always been one of my favorites:



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dvandorn
post Jan 10 2007, 05:52 PM
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QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Jan 10 2007, 10:00 AM) *
This one has always been one of my favorites:
-image removed -

Yow!!!!! No wonder she broke up... I'm pretty certain that the airframe was never rated for exceeding C!

-the other Doug


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ynyralmaen
post Jan 10 2007, 07:37 PM
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My favourite was in print, not on the telly...

The Times a couple of years back had a report on an exoplanet I think around 10 times as massive as Jupiter. It was accompanied by the Times's own diagram, showing three disks of vastly different sizes, "to scale", to demonstrate to the reader that the exoplanet's diameter was 10 times that of Jupiter, and around 100 times that of Earth.

Maybe they had a flat-Earther in their graphics dept.
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nprev
post Jan 11 2007, 04:05 AM
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[rant mode]

You know, I'm still after all these years trying frantically to figure out why truly momentous events & sights like the journeys of the MERs, Cassini, the Hubble Deep Fields, etc., etc, just can't compete in the public's eye with the latest breathless update on Brangelina.

I've been blaming this on poor PR on the part of the space community, but clearly it's much more fundamental than that, and apparently global to boot. It's very easy to blame substandard science education, but again that begs the question: who really enjoyed the regimen of school for its own sake in any subject? Bottom line is what really guides whatever evolves into people's interests, and therefore attention to accuracy, demand, funding...?

It's paradoxical and quite bitterly ironic that fictional, usually puerile 'spaceoperas' flourish commercially while actual space research activities draw minimal media attention, most of which is inaccurate and/or equally puerile when reported at all (at least in the United States). The public's interest in space seems to be there, but tragically disconnected from reality...how to connect these vital dots????

[/rant mode]


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mchan
post Jan 11 2007, 07:04 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Jan 9 2007, 07:49 PM) *
blink.gif ...wow. Thanks for the clip, ollopa; now I fully understand the outrage.

My hypothesis: The unfortunate correspondent confused Hubble with the "Doomsday Machine" in the original Star Trek:


No, he wouldn't. Any correspondent would know that the Doomsday Machine fires an anti-proton beam, not a beam of light. Then again maybe he would if he though protons and photons are the same.
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edstrick
post Jan 11 2007, 12:29 PM
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".... just can't compete in the public's eye with the latest breathless update on Brangelina. "

Find and read Cyril Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" <classic sf short story or novellete from the 50's> and realize he made a simple numerical mistake. He put the story 300 years in the future and it was only 30.
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