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A silly story

Today a co-worker was telling me about a buddy of his who was telling him that we lost a whole hour of daylight because of the earthquake in Chile. We both laughed that a person could be that credulous. At the same time, I wonder what he could have heard that he would have misinterpreted in that way.

Now I know.

I think the above news story just goes to prove that an ignorant hillbilly is no dumber than your average college-educated journalist. Computer models have failed us time and time again. They can’t predict the weather and they have helped cause the current financial crisis. Yet some journalist thinks that it is news that a computer model predicted that the earth’s rotation got 1.26 microseconds shorter as a result of an earthquake.

It would be one thing if this could be verified by observation. But the article comes right out and admits that it cannot be verified. So why pay any more attention to the computer model than some random guy spouting off on the street?

But much to my disgust, a lot of people think this is somehow newsworthy. Computer models are one the of the idols of our age. No matter how many times they demonstrate their uselessness, people still think that computer models can tell us things that we simply can’t know.

Maybe the earthquake did make the day shorter. Maybe it did not. All we can do with with the tools that we currently have is speculate. And the fact that one guy speculated in the form of a computer model does not make that speculation carry any more weight than if he had written it out on paper.

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