Sunday, August 17, 2008

For the lack of an editor . . .

One thing

. . . leads to

. . . another

. . . and this morning I bump into a page on the Discovery Channel website

that says HDTVs are speeding up climate change due to the Nitrogen Trifluoride used in their production:
According to University of California researchers, the gas flat-panel displays exhaust is 17,200 worse for the planet than carbon dioxide.

That's because the gas in question - Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3) - is 17,200 better at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a hundred-year period than the much-maligned and best-known greenhouse gas, CO2.

Well, the lack of a unit of measure for that number--17,200--made me pause. Did the author mean 17,200 TIMES or 17,200 PERCENT? There's a 10,000 percent (or 100 times) difference between those two units!

As it turned out, the author offered readers a clue later on:
Today, researchers say production of NF3 has reached 4,000 tonnes a year. If this year's entire output was released into the atmosphere, it would have a warming effect equivalent to 67 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

I posted a comment on the page:
Where's the editor for this article? "17,200 worse" doesn't make sense! Is that "17,200 TIMES worse"? "17,200 PERCENT worse"? . . . I guess I can calculate it. 67,000,000/4,000 = 16,750. So the missing word is "times."

But it is too bad no editor was there to catch the grammatical error (repeated twice) that left out the vital word.

On the other hand, then, too, it would have been nice if the author and/or an editor would have done a FACT-check to determine if "16,750 times" is really the correct number (rather than the [apparently] "17,200 times" reported), or whether the idea that 4,000 tonnes of NF3 produces the same warming effect as 67 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is really accurate.

I wonder where that 17,200 number really came from? And why it doesn't match the 67 million tonnes/4,000 tonnes comparison?

I'll be curious to see how Discovery Channel handles my query and comment. Are they going to quietly correct the error(s) and leave my comment unpublished? Or . . . ???

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