A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Scooby Doo Moment

There's a scene in Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders where a nutty old local tells the gang he has pictures proving that aliens are hanging out in the area. The "pcitures" turn out to be paintings the old coot has done of what he supposedly has seen. Faintly amusing in the manner typical of Scooby Doo for all but 5-9 year olds.

So, when exactly did Reuters lower their editorial standards to the level of Scooby Doo? Check this article out, paying particular attention to the image on the left "showing" the black hole eating the star. Note the caption:
Reuters Photo: An artist's concept chronicles the star being ripped apart and swallowed by a black hole...
Reuters Photo of an artist's concept? They've got Picshures!

Rat's right, Raggy.

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Well, the problem is they DON'T actually have pictures of a black hole swallowing a companion star. What they have is physical evidence based on measurements of ultraviolet light which can best be explained by a black hole eating a star.

Now I don't know about you, but personally I much prefer the cool looking artist's conception over a real photo of the graph or spectrometer readings, or a bunch of dots on a chart measuring ultraviolet peaks.

Photo's of spectrometer readings do nothing to get people excited about science...cool art showing black holes might at least get them to read the damn story.

Leave the spectrometer readings where they belong, in the actual science journals. The public has enough time remembering that earth is the third planet from our sun let alone being expected to be interested in hard, raw, astronomical data.
I don't disagree with your point, Craig. I disagree with touting the artist's conception as a "Reuters Photo." It is no such thing, and it lends an authority to the conception of what the event might look like that it completely d/n deserve.
...Supplied by the Reuter's Photo department, and clearly labeled as an artist's depiction.

If they're trying to fool people, Nick, they certainly have a low opinion of their readers.

Actually, the article you link to is a Yahoo News article. So I kind of think it was transferred from Reuters news service, and some Yahoo yoink was trying to supply attribution for the image...and was used to writing "Reuters Photo"

I know that the right wing has decided Reuters is completely and totally unreliable since the smokee photo, but I think you're reaching for rationalizations here, friend.

Besides, there's nobody to pull a rubber mask off.
Well, the problem is actually not with the "artistic" rendering (though it is pretty dumb looking I must admit). The problem is that the whole thing is pretty much bunk. I made my husband (an astrophysicist who works on black holes) read it and he basically said it's BS. There's no real way to determine if the signature they saw coming out of the black hole after "eating" the star was a burp, as it were, from that
"meal". BHs swallow lots of stuff, and the star could have been in a position which was optically deceptive. The correlation is shaky at best.

So, despite the cheesy-assed art work, the real problem here is that you have some goon scientist who decided to publish his ApJ letter as a press release and the press, always hungry for science-fiction (rather than science FACT) ate it up.

Mama H. now steps down from the soap box.
It's a shame the way they have to dumb down science to make it understandable to the norm....

burping black holes, indeed.
Interesting, Mama H. Thanks for the details.

tc-- I had no idea that the "right wing" viewed Reuter's as unreliable. Guess I missed that memo. And I'm not really all that upset about this-- I found it half amusing and half annoying, and I still don't see how "Reuters Photo" got through the editors.

Thinking about it, part of the reason I even wrote about it got lost in my post and is Yahoo News fault, not Reuters. For a while, Yahoo had the Pickshure up as one of their 4 "headline" stories, and the link tag was something along the lines of "Astronomers capture BH eating star". There was no indication whatsoever that said Pickshure was an artist's rendition.

So, you're right that it may well be Yahoo that stunk up the place. And, as usually, you're wrong to attribute "right wing" motivations to me based on overly broad generalizations of all conservatives. ;->

Been an interesting discussion though. Funny-- you guys like talking about stupid paintings more than my deathless prose. I'll try not to be offended.
C'mon. of course people have more intrinsic interest in BHs than the settlement of Caledonia. It's not your (or your writing's) fault. People would rather watch "animals in the womb" or whatever that bizarre animal planet/discovery channel thing is than a docu. about this country's relationship with Iran. Not sure you can blame them ...? Not that I am dismissing your project. I think it is an excellent project. It's just perhaps not meant for this audience, thus the lack of response?
Oh fine, go and use logic and reasoning on me. No, you're right Mama H, and I wasn't serious about being grumpy about the lack of response any more. Just a small little jibe.

Black holes are fascinating things, no doubt. I remember being introduced to them in like fifth or sixth grade and trying to wrap my head around the concept. Awesome stuff.
logic AND reasoning... a powerful duo. :)
Hey- I was on vacation.
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