Getting it wrong every single time

Sometimes, that is what I think news reporters do. There are occasions when you know the story and have the opportunity to watch them spew out incorrect information. Sometimes you do not know the story but you can watch them getting it wrong and see that happening while they appear to remain oblivious to their own clumsy ineptitude.

Several years ago Minnesotans watched in horror as the bodies of a dozen kids where pulled out of a cave where they had suffocated, a cave in a Mississippi River bluff in Saint Paul. Or was it six kids? Or was it a mine and not a cave? Or was it eight kids?

The cave/mine distinction is important in this case. The holes in the earth into which the children had gone, set a camp fire, and suffocated on the carbon monoxide from that fire, were dug as mines by a company once known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacture, now known to you as 3M (Scotch Tape, Scotchguard, Post-Its, and more importantly, sandpaper). The fact that the reporters were early on as the story developed randomly switching between calling the holes caves or mines, mentioned early on during the multi-hour ordeal that they were 3M mines, then stopped talking about 3M and referred to them thereafter only as caves, causes me to guess (but I do not know) that influential voices in the reporter’s ears directed them towards discretion and away from truth. That could just be me not trusting enormous wealthy corporations.

But never mind that. It was the count of the dead bodies that were being taken from the mines that relates to the present discussion. To make a long story short here is what I saw happening as I watched the live news reports on three different channels:

The bluff was heavily wooded, with pathways leading up to the mines from a road down below, and down to the mines from above, with streets and structures both above and below the steep bluff face. Police had the area closed off to everyone, including reporters, at the top and bottom, and there were emergency vehicles all over the place. Reporters, including camera-operators, were therefore all stationed in a ring around the cordoned off zone, watching rescue workers going in and out but not seeing what was actually happening in the mine or at the mine’s entrance. But they could see first responders dragging stretchers in and out. On more than one occasion, a stretcher with a body on it was seen being carried out of the woods. But, it was seen by more than one reporter, one above the bluffs and one below the bluffs. So it went, roughly, like this:

News Anchor: “Joe Carpenter, you’re above the action there, what do you see from the residential neighborhood above the caves?”

Joe: “That’s Right, Mary, I’m looking down on the site of this tragic event and I am seeing right now …. our camera is showing it, I think …. emergency rescue workers taking … carrying … a stretcher with what looks like a person on it.”

News Anchor: “Joe, can you tell us what else you see … oh wait, hold on a second Joe, Gladys Day is down with the Sheriff below the cliff and has something to report … Gladys, what have you got?”

Gladys: “That’s right, Mary, I’m standing here near the Sheriff’s operation’s center and the Sheriff is not telling us anything yet, but I can tell you that moments ago a stretcher with a person on it was pulled out of the woods and put in an ambulance, but the ambulance is not going anywhere, and the form I saw on the stretcher was totally covered up. I think that means, sadly, that a deceased person has been recovered from the cave.

News Anchor: “For those just tuning in, we are witnessing, a ‘Get More on News Four’ exclusive, as two individuals have been removed from the cave on the Mississippi River Cliffs in Saint Paul. One is believed to be deceased, and the other, we are not sure of…”

Thusly, one body was counted as two, one dead, one perhaps alive. And this sort of absurd mixup continued as the body count went up and down and all over the place for several hours. At one point, if I recall correctly, a handful of empty stretchers were carried out by rescue workers … they were done taking out bodies and had no need of them … and the death count shot up temporarily by that number.

You’ve seen this happen.

The Breaking News this morning in the Twin Cities was showing on all three news stations that I was cruising for a weather report:

Channel 5: “An armored car has been robbed in the 900 block of University Avenue….”

Channel 9: “An armored car has been robbed in at the corner of Rice and Larpentuer….”

Channel 12: “An armored car has been robbed in on Energy Park Drive….”

Holy crap! Three armored car robberies, in three different locations in Saint Paul! Wow!

All three, of course, were the same car, and in this case, Channel 12 had it right.

Today, someone bothered to write a story about how astrological signs were all wrong, that the planets were not really in the constellations astrologers claim them to be in, and there really are 13, not 12, constellations. The main point is that the stars have moved continuously in relation to each other and the earth (as expected) and the cosmic geometry that underlies Astrology never accounted for that movement. It is as though all the astrologers are waiting for a bus but unaware that the bus schedule has been radically altered.

So, Astrology, as it turns out, not only can’t work, and doesn’t work, but it’s being done wrong anyway.

I’ve always wondered why Astrologers didn’t bother to adjust for the actual movements of the planets and stars. I’ve asked some of them. They don’t know either. I know they know that the actual movement of heavenly bodies is not what the ephemera show. There must be some reason they haven’t fixed that. Of course, if they do fix it, if they do add the 13th constellation and take account of the actual movement of stars and planets, maybe it will work!!! That would totally make me LOL. I might even ROFL. But I’m not betting on it.

Anyway, it was interesting to hear the following coming from a national news reporter this morning: “It turns out that due to a wobble in the earth, a thirteenth constellation has moved into the Zodiac, and this has caused all of the other Astrological observations to go off and require adjustments.”

So, the Astrology can’t work. And it doesn’t work. And, it’s broken. And, the news reporters can’t get straight how it’s broken right. Not that it really matters that we understand exactly how something like Astrology does not work. But still….

Comments

  1. #1 Cavanaugh
    January 14, 2011

    Astrologists have known about the difference in position of the constellations since before astrology and astronomy were called different things. That’s why they divide astrology into sidereal vs. tropical systems—one focuses on the constellations as they’re actually seen in the sky now, and one on where the constellations have traditionally been placed.

    None of that makes astrology science, obviously. But to people who know a smidgen about what astrologers think, it looks a bit stupid to pay so much attention to this remarkable new discovery that was actually made by astrologers long before anyone had invented a telescope.

  2. #2 The Science Pundit
    January 14, 2011

    What’s your new sign, baby?

  3. #3 Chris Lindsay
    January 14, 2011

    I read this that says nothing changed at all.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/no-your-zodiac-sign-hasnt-changed/

    I don’t know what to think.

  4. #4 feralboy12
    January 14, 2011

    “I read your chart right, but you were standing under the wrong sky.”

  5. #5 Eric Lund
    January 14, 2011

    Today, someone bothered to write a story about how astrological signs were all wrong, that the planets were not really in the constellations astrologers claim them to be in, and there really are 13, not 12, constellations.

    None of which is news, as Cavanaugh @1 states. I remember reading an Asimov essays from the 1970s which made these points. Asimov noted that the term “Age of Aquarius” derived from the fact that the point in the sky where the sun was at the vernal equinox would soon be crossing into Aquarius from Pisces (if you assume the constellations of the zodiac are of equal size, as astrologers do). His take: Astrology is BS anyway, whether or not you take the precession of the equinoxes into account (the astrology columns published in US newspapers do not).

  6. #6 Warren
    January 14, 2011

    “That could just be me not trusting enormous wealthy corporations.”

    Well see, there you go being all unreasonable and liberal and stuff. Didn’t you know the extraordinarily wealthy are all very honest? That’s why they always win lawsuits against them!

    “So, Astrology, as it turns out, not only can’t work, and doesn’t work, but it’s being done wrong anyway.”

    That’s Babylonian astrology. The Chinese version is invariably accurate.

    There are at least three astrology systems I know of – Tibetan, Chinese, and Babylonian – and none of them agree with one another. You’d think that if they were studying something that objectively exists, that wouldn’t be the case.

    Also, I believe the reporter was wrong about Ophiuchus (the 13th constellation). It’s not precession that drew it into the lineup; it was actually deliberately kicked out by the Babylonians, who were fixated on the number 12. More here:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/0113/New-zodiac-signs-2011-Why-astrology-is-even-sillier-than-we-thought

    What precession caused was the shifting of the dates when the Sun is located in one of the zodiac. Turns out the dates are off by about a month. This means my sun sign, Sagittarius, is wrong – I’m actually Scorpio!

    Which explains why my day has never gone as predicted in the astrology column.

  7. #7 Warren
    January 14, 2011

    “Also, I believe the reporter was wrong about Ophiuchus…”

    Oh, duh, you knew that, didn’t you? Oy. Long damn week.

  8. #8 joemac53
    January 14, 2011

    When I was in seventh grade I complained to anyone who would listen that “The damn Sun isn’t in that constellation at that time anyway, for cryin out loud!”
    No one cared then, no one cares now.
    One of my physics students who was also on the school paper used to ask me what to put into the horoscopes for the next issue. That was fun. I hope I didn’t ruin any lives with my BS.

  9. #9 anandine
    January 14, 2011

    Astrology “works” because it has nothing to do with the stars. By “works,” I mean you can go to a competent astrologer and learn true things about yourself that you didn’t know.

    It’s cold reading, of course, a carnie trick used by psychotherapists, too. The horoscope is a mandala, to get the conversation started. It is effectively random, so it doesn’t matter if precession is taken into account or not. A good cold reader should get you to the same point using any horoscope taken off the top of a pile.

  10. #10 richardrob
    January 14, 2011

    So astrology is based on the position of the sun relative to arbitrary groupings of stars not as they were when you were born, but in some arbitrary year in ancient history. It’s a good thing people don’t base important life choices on this stuff.

  11. #11 Vic
    January 14, 2011

    And most astrology critics were wrong as well. When they were saying that the position of the sun in the constellations when you were born doesn’t affect you, they should have been saying arbitrary associations of the date range in which you were born don’t affect you.

  12. #12 Doug Alder
    January 14, 2011

    Interesting about the cave/mine thing because where I live there are a lot of old gold mines from the 1890s on when the LeRoi mine was founded on Red Mountain and a massive gold rush to here was on. Today Teck Cominco owns all those old mines and every year in winter at least one cave in takes place and they dutifully go out and pour tons of cement in to seal the shaft up then rope a safe area off (Red Mountain is a major world class downhill ski area) as the mountain is littered with hiking, snowshoeing, xcountry ski trails etc – signs up every where don’t go off the trails.

  13. #13 gwen
    January 14, 2011

    @RichardRob; But they do…Ronald Regan used to make decisions based on what his astrologer said was most auspicious. But of course, he also had Alzheimer’s.

  14. #14 csrster
    January 15, 2011

    I read one report that the change in constellations was due to the year not being a whole number of days. I guess nobody told that particular journalist about the Gregorian Calendar Reform. Sigh.

  15. #15 6EQUJ5
    January 15, 2011

    This news of astrological signs being wrong, and that there are thirteen, not twelve, is a repeat from the 1960s. I remember laughing about it then, and I still find it funny.

  16. #16 Jessica
    January 17, 2011

    Just found this blog. Love it! So true, so true, on getting it all wrong.

  17. #17 Ed
    January 18, 2011

    BBC online has run this story in a quite moronic style:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12207811

    Not one but two astrologers weigh in to reassure the gullible.

    (BTW Since this is maybe my first comment after reading for over a year: Thanks for this blog Greg, it regularly makes my day!)

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