The Sun's Shadow

Stumbling to find a light switch in the dark

Yahoo News Headline Wrong

I have to take yahoo news to task for their shoddy headline writing today. On the yahoo main page they have current headlines. The one that caught my eye was the article regarding deadly rouge waves.
Rogue wave can come from nothing, really?

Rogue waves can come from nothing, really?

      I take one look at this and all sorts of bells start going off in my head, research find the waves come from nothing, on it face I find this incredibly hard to believe. I clicked the link  trying to imagine how a huge wave would just form from nothing. The link opens and what do you think the title of the article is Secret to Towering Rogue Waves Revealed I am willing to bet that the secret is not nothing.

For centuries these killer waves had been dismissed as myths – towering walls of water blamed for mysterious disappearances of ships. But on New Year’s Day on 1995, a wave that reached more than 80 feet high was detected with scientific instruments at an oil platform in the North Sea, confirming the existence of these legends.

The waves are real and not just a myth and seemingly unconnected to the surface weather. What does the research say on how these waves come from nothing?

Previous work had suggested that it requires hundreds of miles of open sea for the waves to appear and disappear. Now scientists find that such waves could rapidly form without such buildup.

To investigate these waves, the researchers experimented with liquid helium in a cavity just an inch wide, whose fluid properties they could readily tinker with, far more so than attempting to do the same at sea. “The basic principles remain the same with both,” said researcher Peter McClintock, a physicist at the University of Lancaster in England.

Normally a large wave breaks up into smaller and smaller waves over time, until the viscosity of a fluid damps out these small waves. Now the scientists demonstrate the opposite can happen in fluids – tiny waves can concentrate together to become abnormally large waves “that emerge surprisingly quickly,” McClintock told LiveScience. “I’m pretty sure this is how rogue waves come about.”

Notice here where they reported the scientist believes the waves come from nothing? yeah I didn’t see it either, so how could the headline writer get this completely wrong to claim the research is saying the waves come from nothing? Well for both answers we only need to look at the first line of the article which is possibly the only thing the headline writer did.

Deadly rogue waves 100 feet tall or higher could suddenly rise seemingly out of nowhere from the ocean, research now reveals

Seemingly (emphasis added in quote) out of nowhere and actually out of nowhere mean two different things, as do nowhere and  nothing… but I am not sure the headline writer knows the difference. The basic model for rouge waves is that smaller waves basically combine and form the larger rouge wave. This is not nothing, it is in fact something.

 What bothers me here is that in science reporting this is how people get confused, between the headline and body their is a blatant contradiction. The research is clear and according to the researcher they have a good model by which these rouge waves could arise.  If only yahoo could have a model by which accurate headlines arise.


August 4, 2008 - Posted by | Nature, Science, Skepticism | , , ,

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