Harmless Drudge: Science Journalism
Posted: 27 September 2010 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Humorous, but unfortunately true.

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Posted: 27 September 2010 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published.”

If you’re lucky. Often enough a website will fail to present the name of the journal, the paper, or the institution.

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Posted: 27 September 2010 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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and usually contains some nonsense phrase such as “kilowatts per hour”. It always annoys me that an organisation as large as The Times can’t keep some half-scientifically literate person on staff to give their few science articles a once-over to check for clangers.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Kilowatts per hour isn’t all that bad. It’s not “nonsense” (it actually is clearer than the standard term kilowatt-hour, which some might mistake for a measure of time). If that’s what you’re complaining about, you haven’t found much wrong.

I’m not sure what Times you are referring to. The New York Times Style Guide has kilowatt-hour, although this doesn’t mean that reporters and editors don’t screw it up. But it does indicate that at least someone there is sensitive to standard nomenclature.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’m not sure what Times you are referring to.

Or why you bring up the Times, since the linked piece is making fun of the BBC, which has the worst science journalism in the English-speaking world.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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"Kilowatts per hour isn’t all that bad. It’s not “nonsense” (it actually is clearer than the standard term kilowatt-hour, which some might mistake for a measure of time). If that’s what you’re complaining about, you haven’t found much wrong. “

Well ... gotta say, I disagree strongly. A kilowatt hour is a kilowatt times an hour: energy is power multiplied by time. It is a perfectly conventional formulation, both in and out of scientific contexts. Compare with man-hour.

A kilowatt per hour, if it meant anything, would be a kilowatt divided by an hour.

EDIT: on the other question, I was referring to the Times of London ... I opened it recently and a bee flew out directly into my bonnet.

[ Edited: 28 September 2010 06:50 AM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 28 September 2010 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Kilowatts per hour isn’t nonsense.  It just doesn’t mean the same thing as kilowatt-hours.  If a journalist uses “kilowatts per hour” when he means “kilowatt-hours” he should be roundly mocked.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I love it when two of my favorite websites converge.  Wordorigins and Slashdot.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Kilowatts per hour isn’t nonsense.

Well, it isn’t necessarily nonsense, but the occasions when it can be used meaningfully are much rarer than the occasions when it is used nonsensically.  To be meaningful, the user has to be talking about a rate of change of power (power being rate of energy (used or generated) or work, and thus already containing the element of “per unit of time"--the watt, a unit of power, is a joule per second).

So you might reasonably say something like “The electricity generating capacity of Lichtenstein is growing at so many kilowatts per hour,” or “The output of the failing reactor is declining at so many kilowatts per hour.”

However, one more often hears it in the form of “The reactor can produce so many kilowatts per hour” (or “… per day"), which is nonsense.

It is certainly not just another way to say “kilowatt-hour”, as OPT and RH have already pointed out, and confusing them really is “all that bad.” It’s like treating “feet per second per second” and “feet” as synonymous.

[ Edited: 28 September 2010 10:48 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 28 September 2010 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I stand humbly chastened and corrected.

But, while its science reporting is exceedingly poor, the BBC does not have the “worst science journalism in the English-speaking world.” That laurel clearly belongs to the Huffington Post. (Although you could certainly choose not to classify the Huffpo as “journalism.")

(And my favorite part of the parody piece is the image of the triceratops in space. That’s just perfect.)

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Posted: 28 September 2010 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Although you could certainly choose not to classify the Huffpo as “journalism.”

Such is my choice, and the same goes for various other purveyors of content one might come up with.  I’m talking about otherwise serious news sources.

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Posted: 28 September 2010 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dr. Techie - 28 September 2010 10:28 AM

Kilowatts per hour isn’t nonsense.

Well, it isn’t necessarily nonsense, but the occasions when it can be used meaningfully are much rarer than the occasions when it is used nonsensically.  To be meaningful, the user has to be talking about a rate of change of power (power being rate of energy (used or generated) or work, and thus already containing the element of “per unit of time"--the watt, a unit of power, is a joule per second).

So you might reasonably say something like “The electricity generating capacity of Lichtenstein is growing at so many kilowatts per hour,” or “The output of the failing reactor is declining at so many kilowatts per hour.”

.

Fair comment, though I don’t think I have ever seen “kilowatts per hour” actually used to mean kilowatts per hour.

Here’s another one likely to set me off.
http://www.abc.net.au/rural/qld/content/2007/s2312281.htm
“Strong winds along the Queensland coast are expected to increase to 40 knots per hour this afternoon and tomorrow morning. “

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Posted: 29 September 2010 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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OP Tipping - 28 September 2010 03:58 PM

Here’s another one likely to set me off.
http://www.abc.net.au/rural/qld/content/2007/s2312281.htm
“Strong winds along the Queensland coast are expected to increase to 40 knots per hour this afternoon and tomorrow morning. ”

MW Online has “one nautical mile” as sense 7b of “knot.” So one could defend “knots per hour” as using “knot” in this way.  But MW also notes that this sense is “not used technically,” exposing the defense as mere handwaving.

One of the few peeves I allow myself is the use of “epicenter” when what is meant is “center,” but with more syllables.  Normally I just wince to myself, but I once saw a news report of an earthquake which included the information of how far underground the “epicenter” was.  That merited a hoot of derision.

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Posted: 05 October 2010 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I have seen “knots per hour” used in a C19th letter written by a Royal Navy navigation officer.  Considering the “knot” in question to have once been a real knot in the logline, then this usage makes sense, although it seems unlikely that loglines were over one nautical mile in length.

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Posted: 06 October 2010 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The original Guardian writer adds more to the original article and the surprising response to it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/28/science-journalism-spoof

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