Saturday, June 02, 2012

Notes and Notable Links

* Robert McHenry has a good piece on journalistic distortions of science:

What happens is this:

1. Some scientists publish a report of their work.

2. An alert PR guy who works for the university or institute notices some potentially hype-able words in the report.

3. He writes up a release, under the impression that he is Arthur C. Clarke.

4. J-school grads at a number of media outlets, whose science education ended in 8th grade, pick up the release, change three words to make it their own, and it is published to an unsuspecting public.

5. The unsuspecting public, which is not as dumb as the PR guy believes, dismisses the story as bushwah and blames the scientists.

Scientists aren't always quite so innocent (Carrie Figdor notes this with regard to psychologists in a guest post at "The Splintered Mind," although psychologists are not the only ones who sometimes do this), but they do generally have to restrain themselves in ways that journalists apparently don't, and that makes a big difference. (ht)

* Jason Zarri experiments with a different way of representing quantification in predicate logic.

* It is now official: Pope Benedict XVI will decree that St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen be given the liturgical title 'Doctor of the Church' on October 7. I had thought that had already happened with St. John, but no doubt that was just due to bad reporting; as we've seen with St. Hildegard, journalists often botch the details.

* Virgil's Aeneid on Twitter

* The Plan of St. Gall (Codex Sangallensis 1092). This is an architectural plan for a monastic complex, extremely detailed, that was made in the ninth century. The actual St. Gall layout is not exactly the same as that on the Plan, and, in fact, there is no way that the entire Plan could have been built on the site of St. Gall, so some have speculated that it's actually a generic or idealized architectural plan for a monastic complex, to be adapted to particular circumstances. An interesting puzzle, actually. It's a beautiful piece of work, and you can see it in good detail.

* A Cleveland waitress named Virginia Hopkins was supposed to receive a $754 tax refund. Instead, the IRS sent her $434,712. She gave it back, of course, but the charm of the story is really the personality of Virginia Hopkins, which comes through very nicely in the story.

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