More math illiteracy September 1, 2008Posted by dorigo in internet, news, physics, science.
Tags: black holes, LHC
In my previous post I complained about the utter inability of many italian reporters to pay attention to numerical figures in their pieces, as if the hard data they sometimes have to unwillingly report was a nuisance.
Today, upon reading the news on the site of the other main italian newspaper, Repubblica, I saw another example of that effect. And it is an even more annoying one, for several reasons. First, because Repubblica is the newspaper I prefer among the two. Second, because it appears in a science-related piece, written by a reporter who is supposed to pay attention to the data he produces. Third, because it concerns the LHC.
In a piece titled “Fermate il test sul Big Bang o la Terra sparirà” (Stop the Big Bang test or Earth will vanish) Enrico Franceschini wrote a rather sloppy account of the issue of micro-black-hole production by the LHC. For instance, sloppiness is apparent when he writes:
“…ci sono scarse possibilità che l’acceleratore formi un buco nero capace di porre una minaccia concreta al pianeta…”
(there are slim chances that the accelerator creates a black hole capable of posing a concrete threat to the planet)
Slim chances… Oh well. I am rather more pissed by the following statement:
“Vero è che il nuovo acceleratore ha suscitato attenzioni e polemiche perché è il più grande mai costruito, con una circonferenza di 26 chilometri e la possibilità di lanciare particelle atomiche 11.245 volte al secondo prima di farle scontrare una contro l’altra a una temperatura 100mila volte più alta di quella che esiste al centro del sole.”
(.…the possibility to launch atomic particles 11,245 times a second before having them collide one against the other at a temperature 100 thousand times higher than the one existing at the center of the sun.)
Atomic particles ? Was “protons and heavy ions” too technical for the piece ? And where the hell is that 11,245 Hz figure coming from ? “Launching atomic particles 11,245 times a second” does not even make any sense. The right figure, however, is 40 million times a second. This time the mistake is by 3.55 orders of magnitude. Darn, the explanation suggested in the thread of the previous post does not even apply here.