Everything is going according to my nefarious plans …

By Phil Plait | August 20, 2006 11:20 pm


[or some such evil laugh]

My league of minions is ever-growing…

I received an email recently from the author of the blog Omnologos. It seems he caught the National Geographic magazine in a scientific error, and one that was astronomy-based! A writer for the magazine got a little confused over the timing of the "midnight Sun".

So it appears I need not even be around for the debunking to occur.

[Burns’ voice]Exxxxcelent[/Burns’ voice]

OK, it’s not really a debunking, since the NatGeo article author wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, and in fact it’s a mistake I would have missed if I had read the article anyway. But see, that’s why I need minions.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Debunking, Humor, Science

Comments (24)

  1. Jamie

    Seems a strange mistake to make, since it isn’t too difficult to check your watch at sunset, and I’ll assume that she knew what day it was . . . too obscure to be intentional, but so simple.

  2. Jamie

    Your timestamp is 5 minutes fast, too.

  3. eddie

    If that’s the worst mistake NG makes, I can deal with it.

    In an ironic twist, I’ve spent the past couple of hours rehashing BA’s debunking of RCH’s nonsense, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

    So I’m in a pretty forgiving mood toward National Geographic right now.

  4. Tim G

    Maybe she had a really hard time balancing eggs that day and just assumed it was because of some kind of solstice. Since there was significant daylight, it had to have been the summer solstice.

    Seriously, the author probably thought that the midnight sun was poetic and therefore injected it into the story.

    Anyway, your minions are hard at work. No publication is safe.

  5. CR

    I, for one, welcome my nefarious overlord (reptilian or not)…

    CR, happy to be “just” a minion.

  6. Mike

    Ohhh, my dream is to be a minion! Just for one day.

  7. Up here in southeastern Alaska, it doesn’t get very dark at night at all for a couple of weeks surrounding the summer solstice. It’s really quite pretty (when the sky is clear).

  8. Aerik

    …it isn’t too difficult to check your watch at sunset…

    And if there’s anything you should’ve learned from all the astronomy debunking that goes on around here, it’s that people rarely look up… or down…

  9. In my area, I am always confused about the timing of the Sun. For instance, I have no idea if I see it today…that fog is really getting out of control.

  10. Irishman

    Phil, don’t look too closely at that blog page:

    I am still waiting for a single weather pattern to change due to Global Warming. Feel free to point that out when (and if) it happens


  11. Aerik

    How do you code them lil’ hearts, Fender?

  12. Well… copy-&-paste I guess, I didn’t cut anything really ♥

  13. Aerik

    You’re no fun. I only asked because when I looked at the source code for the page Fender’s name comes out as “eeeeeFendereeeee”.

  14. I must be the largest “minion” in the history of the Universe 😉

    And as for that weather pattern that has changed due to global warming, I am still waiting for any reference 8-). Please please please mail it over to me

  15. BTW…the particular mistake by the NatGeo writer is not the worry

    The worry is that I could spot there was something strange about it, and verify (deny) the claim

    How many other details does the reader have to take for granted since he/she does not have the tools to check them?

    It is a sad day when even National Geographic cannot be fully trusted. If they have even an unspoken policy of “augmenting” (ie embellishing) reality, they become just another news source

    I strongly believe that the world is no less beautiful if we describe it the way it is

  16. Aerik

    No organization can be “fully trusted,” foolish knaves!

  17. Troy

    I read the original article it says “Despite bitter cold in late March, the ice pans have shattered, making travel dangerous”. This doesn’t necesssarily mean that the author was visiting in late March. For example I could be talking about how spring flooding affects my garden and it could be the middle of summer–effects often ripple well beyond the actual time they occur.

  18. Troy: Ms. Ehrlich writes in NatGeo: “[…] March 21, the vernal equinox and our fourth day on the sea ice […]”

    It’s their fourth day, so the article deals with the period around March 18-21. There is no indication she had been staying there for a further 3 weeks, until April 12 when the sun behaved as she described

    Also, if I am not mistaken the “fading sun […] a red orb hanging at the horizon” is mentioned _before_ the March 21 text above

  19. Troy

    Ok I now see the point of contention. (I had skimmed the article earlier) I’d be curoius to hear Ehrlich’s explanation for the discrepency.


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