And while we are on the subject…

While I’m wimbling about science reporting, here’s, for me, an encapsulation of two key issues. First go and read this. Now I’m all in favour of people selling science and being cool and an opportunity to sell the merits of footprints is great. But the piece has got it all backwards.

“The Polish discovery reveals that the ancestors of all birds were small, light and four-footed”. No. We knew that already. If we didn’t know that already we would not be abel to work out what the footprints belonged to. This merely shows that these animals were present at the time these tracks dat from. This is a pretty big misstep – the sun does not come up because it gets light in the morning, but the other way round.

This should be pretty obvious from the paper and, well, common sense. You need the skeleton to match to the footprint or an odd print is just an odd print.

The second problem is the fact that this is an editorial in the Guardian. These, if any, are the best of the Uk newspapers for science reporting (home as they are to George Moinbot, Bad Science, the Lay Scientist) and others. I would hope for and expect better of them. If they can’t even run their own pieces past their own experts for error then one must wonder a little at how luck rather than intent might have played a part in getting as good a team as they have assembled. No one is perfect of course, but such simple errors belie the amount of work there is still to do to even the best up to scratch on some basics.


2 Responses to “And while we are on the subject…”

  1. 1 Doug Henning 07/10/2010 at 11:42 pm

    What does it say about me that I, upon first reading this, most objected to the lack of distinction between dinosauromorphs and dinosaurs? I guess I’m used to dumbed-down headlines.

    • 2 David Hone 08/10/2010 at 7:55 am

      Yes there is that too. I mean techncailly they are right since the birds are dinosaurs and they are also by definition dinosauromorphs, but ti does give the impression that birds popped straight out of dinosauromorphs which will confuse some people I’m sure. The phrase ‘which gave rise to the dinosaurs and later, birds’ coulkd easily have been slipped in there.

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