Tonight, I saw this Twitter message from Carl Zimmer, a science writer journalist and reporter for whom I have great respect:
MT @BadAstronomer: Media FAIL *again*. This time, it’s HuffPo and Apophis.. http://is.gd/OwyJxk CZ: That’s $315 million of AOL FAIL now!
While I remain a dedicated HuffPost blogger, I’m the first to recognize that giant news media organizations can be prone to error sometimes in their zeal to garner a wider audience. After all, provocation is a proven method to get someone’s attention.
My Scibling, “Orac” over at Respectful Insolence might appreciate this one.
But here’s my pledge to readers: anything I submit to The Huffington Post, or ScienceBlogs, or any other news media outlet, will be backed up by peer-reviewed scientific literature, unless it is written expressly as my opinion, in which case I will inform you as such. Deal?
My current readers may note that I have maintained this pledge since my first posting. Simply put, The Huffington Post would be better served to cover stories focused on science and technology if they had more writers who are practicing scientists or are bone fide science writers.
I am disappointed with this story:
According to the posting on Discover magazine:
Oh for FSM’s sake. Again?
First, let me be clear: the odds of the 250-meter-wide asteroid Apophis hitting the Earth in 2036 are extremely slim, like less than 1 in 135,000 (and I just heard 1 in 250,000 from another expert). This is less than the odds of getting dealt a straight flush in five-card stud poker. Those are teeny tiny odds.
So then why oh why did The Huffington Post just put up an article about Apophis hitting us in 2036? With the headline “Apophis Asteroid Could Hit Earth In 2036, Scientists Say”? After I already posted that this original story was totally garbled by a Russian journalist, who grossly misquoted a Russian astronomer?
Now, they claim this info comes from a UPI article, but that article is pretty clear about the odds. While the HuffPo article also puts in the odds, they interlace it with a lot of doomsday stuff.
For example, they used a graphic illustration right at the top of a huge asteroid impact, just to make sure they scare their readers. They also include a video, saying “Watch a shocking visualization of what the event could look like,”… and the video shows what it would look like if the Earth were hit by an asteroid that was 800 km (500 miles) across.
That’s a little bit bigger than 250 meters. By a factor of 30 billion (in volume, which is what counts in impacts). I actually wrote about this video a couple of years ago. While an Apophis impact would suck (if it happened, which it almost certainly won’t), it would not rip the crust of the planet off and eject it into space, leaving behind a boiling, seething mass of lava and killing every thing down on Earth to the last bacterium.
So, nice going HuffPo. You’ve managed to once again mangle science and reality, adding to the already shameful articles about the Betelgeuse nonsense, and the nearly daily dangerous antivax and alt-med stuff.
Man. The least they could do is space this stuff out a little bit so I have time to breathe between debunkings.