Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sensationalist headline writers

I'm watching for news on the recent earthquake swarm at Yellowstone, so this headline caught my eye:

Scientists: Yellowstone Park volcanic eruption probable

Whoa, I thought, better check that out. Which I did, wondering if there was some one geologist who was going around making such predictions. And it turns out that ... no, no one is predicting anything of the sort. The person writing the article isn't claiming that anyone said anything of the sort. And it appears that some editor isn't paying attention to how much the headline writers are embellishing stories, in this case to the point of actual falsehood.

Here are the relevant quotes:
Scientists studying this most recent movement wonder if last month's swarm of tremors, the most numerous and intense in the area in many years, might be a harbinger of a larger event.

Experts claim a supervolcano eruption in the future is inevitable with 100 percent probability. Eight supervolcano eruptions are known from the geologic record, and there could be even more.

Although nothing, including the recent earthquake swarm, points conclusively to an imminent eruption, the researchers note that Yellowstone erupts about every 600,000 years.

I suppose not everyone knows that when a geologist tells you something is going to be happening, he doesn't necessarily mean in the next 500,000 years.

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