Bad science reporting

  • #1
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There was a thread called "PF'ers Against Bad Science In Journalism", but it's locked. If there is a replacement thread, I couldn't find it, but surely this should be merged into it. See if you can spot the errors in this Reuters report.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/us-space-blackhole-idUSTRE75F6W120110616" [Broken]
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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It fails to mention if the dying star transmitted any images of its weiner.
 
  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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For one, it won't be a million years before we see this happen again; just for this black hole.

Not all collapsing stars produce a GRB

The distance is off by a factor of a billion [miles].

Black holes are not invisible
 
  • #4
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For one, it won't be a million years before we see this happen again; just for this black hole.

Not all collapsing stars produce a GRB

The distance is off by a factor of a billion [miles].

Black holes are not invisible
Those are the scientific errors that I found. In addition, to being scientifically incorrect, the following doesn't say what it means.
"a strangely long-lasting flash of gamma rays that probably won't be seen again in a million years"
It should have been:
"a strangely long-lasting flash of gamma rays the likes of which probably won't be seen again in a million years"

One more thing. I expect that there are two kinds of black hole, a single collapsed star on the one hand and the millions of stars in a black hole at the center of a galaxy on the other. I also suppose that the probablility of a star falling into a black hole depends sharply upon which kind of black hole it is, but I could be wrong about that. However, if I am correct, then the figure of "once per black hole per million years" in the article is meaningless.

Finally, there is something strange about this particular gamma-ray burst. It is long lasting. That is the crux of the story. That is probably why we won't see the likes of it for a million years, not because of the probability given in the story. I expect the entire story is boloxed up.
 
  • #5
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This kind of behavior is different from what active black holes generally do, which is to suck in everything their vast gravity can pull in, even light. Most galaxies, including our Milky Way, are thought to harbor black holes in their hearts.

Also, the inactive black holes aren't "behaving differently" than their active counterparts, nor do black holes really "suck in" anything. The only difference is what's near the black hole and what it has the opportunity to pull in. I wouldn't say a tornado going across a fallow farm "behaves differently" than a similar tornado going through a suburban neighborhood.
 
  • #6
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I am surprised nobody mentioned this one:
[PLAIN]http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/us-space-blackhole-idUSTRE75F6W120110616[/PLAIN] [Broken] said:
As it did so, the black hole emitted powerful gamma ray jets from its center as bits of the dying star were turned into energy.

So we reportedly got gamma ray emissions emitted from the center of a black hole... That would rewrite a few physics books.
 
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  • #7
Ivan Seeking
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Finally, there is something strange about this particular gamma-ray burst. It is long lasting. That is the crux of the story. That is probably why we won't see the likes of it for a million years, not because of the probability given in the story. I expect the entire story is boloxed up.

I doubt there is anything that we spot after just a few years of looking that we won't see happen somewhere for a million years.

Haha, good one my_wan.
 
  • #8
rhody
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Jimmy,

The link is toast.

For clarification, is this the event Reuters was referring to ? BTW, once this spring I e-mailed a reporter at this fine establishment, asking him to verify a story dubious data, and never heard back from him. So I am not not a bit surprised it continues to happen at Reuters. They have poor quality control there, at least some of the time, IMHO.

In any event, this http://arstechnica.com/science/news...s-see-jets-as-black-hole-swallows-a-star.ars"
Gamma ray bursts are produced by some of the most energetic objects in the Universe, such as stars collapsing into supernovae. NASA's Swift observatory is designed to catch these rare events as they unfold, with hardware and software that detect sudden spikes in high-energy photons and respond by pointing the main hardware at their source. In March of this year, a somewhat unusual object set off the observatory's gamma ray trigger, and then did something that the scientists running the hardware called "unheard of"—it set it off three more times in less than 48 hours.

Normally, things catch the Swift's attention by exploding, which is a one-time-only event, so the multiple triggering was already unusual. But looking through previous sweeps of the region showed that the source, called Sw 1644+57, was already present several days before setting off the trigger, and the source continued to emit prodigious X-rays for more than two weeks afterward. Also unusual was the variability of the emissions; the X-ray flux varied by a factor of two on timescales as short as 100 seconds. Running the numbers on an unprecedented event

But the truly eye-popping figures came when researchers calculated the amount of energy released by Sw 1644+57. The brightest X-ray flare they detected pumped out over 1048ergs/second, and the total output during the first 11 days is estimated at over 1053ergs. For those of you not up on your ergs, that's over 1030 megatons or, as the authors put it, "equivalent to ~10% of the rest energy of the Sun."

Is this the story you referring to with bad reporting ?

Rhody...
 
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  • #9
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Is this the story you referring to with bad reporting ?
No, it was different. It was about a grb that persisted for an unusually long period of time.
 

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