Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WWWTP? C'mon, TIME Magazine!

Update, 18:00 GMT - TIME has removed the stock photo,  fixed the strange "Period Table" language, and appended a correction. Kudos to the editorial staff for fast turnaround.

You can't go anywhere on the Internet today without hearing the clamor surrounding newly-confirmed element 115. Fantastic achievement, and another stepping stone towards the long-predicted "island of stability" - super-heavy atoms rumored to have longer lifetimes and higher stability (somewhere north of 118).

But the reporting surrounding the feat? A little less excellent.

Take, for example, this snippet from TIME's Science & Space desk. It hits all the high points, culling quotes from Lund's press release and explaining in plain English how the element came to be. But there's two glaring errors in the first inch of column!

Source: Time.com
1. Where on Earth did that stock photo come from? And who vetted it? First, no one uses the term "Joliotium" for Element 105 anymore; that's been Dubnium since 1997. Even when Joliotium was in play, no one abbreviated it as "Ji" (they used Jl). And Rutherfordium (Rf) isn't 106, but 104. 106 honors Glenn Seaborg, and shortens to Sg.

2. I've never heard the Periodic Table called the "Period Table" before. Are we describing atoms and elements, or 18th-century furniture?

C'mon, TIME, you can do better than this!

14 comments:

  1. now days, time cannot do better than that.

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  2. It's TIME, the magazine that ran a "Cure for Cancer" cover a few months ago. What do you expect...

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    1. Is that a serious question? It's a major news magazine!

      Let's see their pieces pass by some editorial staff, at least...

      [sigh]

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  3. They already changed the article. They did note the error for periodic but they didn't say anything about the stock photo change. I looked at the Getty Image database and that particular image is on page 5 so they had to look hard to find. Also of note, until about 1997 those particular elements names were disputed so this may have been made then or using old information.

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    1. Thanks for the detective work! I've appended an update to the top of my post to reflect their changes.

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  4. Why is nobody commenting on Element R2O7?

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  5. Maybe the stock photo is intentionally wrong. I've heard of this being done in other industries, for instance mapmakers inserting tiny, nonexistent islands, or reference books having fake entries. That way they can prove that another piece copied their work. The artist might have assumed (correctly) that most people wouldn't notice the inaccuracies. It seems a little unnecessary for a photograph though.

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  6. In the corrected article, they have incorrectly stated that "Iron has 77 protons", It would appear that a non chemist has looked at the periodic table and seen Ir (iridium) and mistaken atomic label for Iron.

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  7. It's an old photo. Dubnium for 104, Joliotium for 105, & Rutherfordium for 106 were the names originally proposed by IUPAC.

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