Log in

Sloppy Science
Recent Entries 
25th-Jan-2007 08:22 am - Rectangle?
There's a BBC News article here about a new non-lethal weapon being developed by the U.S. military. It says:

"A beam was fired from a large rectangular dish mounted on a Humvee vehicle."

Not exactly sloppy science, but...take a look at the first picture in that article. How many sides does the dish on the Humvee have? How many sides does a rectangle have? Hint: they're not the same.
26th-Oct-2006 09:34 am - The laws of probability
pensive me
Some British mathematicians and tutors at Bradford University somehow managed to win the lotto jackpot.

Maths theory bags lotto jackpot

Shame on you, mathematicians.

The existence of the lottery is bad enough as it is. A form of regressive taxation, it's been shown that the poor play the lottery at a substantially higher rate than the rich. Amongst some of the poor, playing the lottery is even considered a viable retirement strategy.

The only way that the lottery can be predicted is if the assumption that all 49 numbers will come up equally cannot be made. If indeed there are patterns (some numbers never come up, numbers come up disproportionately often during full moons, etc), then there will be a mathematical advantage to "picking" numbers.

The mathematicians should know this as well as anyone. The fact that the article touts their success as vindication of their mathematical method is wholly wrong. Even if they managed to "choose" their numbers carefully, the article never mentions that like anyone else, they just plain got lucky.

Not surprisingly, the story gives very few details as to the algorithm. I'd love to see it if they publish it, but I'll bet it's nothing groundbreaking.

This is no more newsworthy than someone playing the same numbers for years, who finally wins. That happens hundreds of times per week all over the world.
23rd-Oct-2006 04:47 pm - GM's water
An ad for GM Canada shows a water molecule completely backwards. Apparently the person who drew the ad thought that "H2O" meant "An H, and two Os".

Not only that, but the drawing shows the H in between the Os. In other words, the hydrogen atom somehow has two bonds, even though it only has one electron with which to form bonds.

If this is what GM Canada thinks water is like, I'm afraid to ask what they fill the wiper fluid reservoir with.

(Hat tip to The Daily WTF.)
13th-Oct-2006 11:15 pm - Classic comicbook bad science
Silver Surfer issue 6 (from back in the 60's but not sure of the date as I'm reading a re-print).

I guess this is cheating a bit because comics are such a rich source of bad science, but this seemed more sloppy than the usual 'radiation + person (via bite, bomb, truck, random mutation)  = super powered crime-fighter'.

In an attempt to escape the Earth, where he has been trapped, the Surfer decides to use the nature of space-time to his advantage and travel to the future. In a military base three men manning a radar-like screen notice a blip shoot across the screen and one of them declares the object (the Surfer of course) is approaching, then passing the speed of light! (that's a damn good radar they have there. Especially considering the Surfer's in space at the time!) The surfer arrives in the future and eventually returns to his starting point in time by once again flying faster than the speed of light, but in the opposite direction. This, *obviously*, would result in him travelling backwards in time.

By the way, the super villain he fights in the future is a mutant who's father was caught in an explosion in an 'atomic experimental centre'. The father was fine but he had a son who became a giant impervious to all weapons. The Surfer defeats him with a time paradox by going back to when the explosion happened and preventing it so that the villain was never born. Classic!
11th-Oct-2006 09:53 pm(no subject)
Hi. New. First time posting here.

I have a question regarding gravity. I once heard/read that the deeper mysteries of gravity (those which I believe may be one day explained by discoveries in multiple extra-dimensions, string theory and branes) can be demonstrated by simply throwing a tennis ball into the air. The oddity being that we are held fast to the surface of the planet yet can throw a ball away from it, pick up our feet to walk etc. To me this has the air of bad science about it but perhaps it isn't. Or perhaps I've remembered it wrong. Any thoughts anyone?
21st-Aug-2006 04:28 pm - Another nonsensical chart
PZ Myers rips into a graph that looks meaningful on the surface, but isn't.
21st-Jun-2006 11:53 pm - What's wrong with this picture?
This story was posted to the CBS News site yesterday. For the record, the headline is correct.

What's wrong with this picture?

By my count there are four things. Three of them are science-related.

the answersCollapse )

One little picture, one huge mess.
From CNN: Cloned mules' race times nearly identical

    Idaho Gem covered his 350-yard sprint Saturday in 21.817 seconds, winning by 1-1/4 lengths over five rivals. Idaho Star was less than three hundredths of a second faster, finishing in 21.790 seconds to win by a half length over four competitors.


    The clones were born three years ago and carry identical DNA, taken from a fetus produced by the same parents that sired a champion racing mule.

    Researchers on the cloning team said Idaho Gem and Idaho Star have been separated for two years and trained separately, so watching how they perform against each other will offer insight into the role played by environmental variables, such as diet and training regimens, in developing mules.

It's a neat thing to test, but it's not news yet. A single race doesn't prove anything. The science may be worthy of a headline, but the result is meaningless so far.
28th-May-2006 10:47 pm - Seen on a Scale in a Mall Bathroom
"People who weigh themselves once a week are more likely to lose weight than those who don't."

Sourced, apparently, from the Annals of Behavioural Science, and I assume the original research didn't leave it as open to interpretation as that pithy little sentence did.

For example:

If the sample was taken from a random group of people, then maybe the ones who weigh themselves weekly are the ones actually on a diet!

Even if the sample was from a group of people already on a diet, maybe the ones who weigh themselves are the ones who already know they'll be pleased with what they see ...

Of course, it's also quite possible that the original research actually involved getting two groups of people to go on diets, and telling one to weight in regularly and the other to avoid the scales, but that would be far too much information for a bright scale designed to make people spend their money.
17th-May-2006 03:29 pm - Radioactive?
There's a gem on MSN's front page today. It's the second link in the rotating graphic-promo, but because it'll probably change here's the image:

Curious, I checked out the article. I was hoping they could tell me the amount of alpha-, beta-, and gamma-radiation emitted from my phone, and the number of curies/becquerels of radioactive or unstable isotopes within.

Funny, they're talking about radiation. As in, electromagnetic radiation. Light. Gamma rays are E-M radiation, but they're very, very high frequency light (and hence, high energy light. Gamma rays have an energy of at least 10,000 eV.

Most cellular phones emit photons at a frequency no higher than 2 GHz, which a quick calculation (learned in any high school chemistry or physics class) will show you is an energy of 0.000 008 3 eV.

Although there are guidelines for the amount of RF signal from a phone which will be absorbed by the body, no causal link between this radiation and any health problems has been shown. So not only have the radiation hazards of cell phones never been proven, but then MSN tries to tell us that the energy of the photons coming out of my phone is 109 times worse than it really is.

Good job, MSN. Way to keep people freaked out about something that scares them and they don't understand. And, obviously, something you don't understand: radiation and radioactivity are not at all the same thing.
This page was loaded Feb 27th 2017, 2:14 am GMT.