Media FAIL *again* (HuffPo and Apophis edition)

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 9 2011 5:20 PM

Media FAIL *again* (HuffPo and Apophis edition)

Oh for FSM's sake. Again?

First, let me be clear: the odds of the 250-meter-wide asteroid Apophis hitting the Earth in 2036 are extremely slim, like less than 1 in 135,000 (and I just heard 1 in 250,000 from another expert). This is less than the odds of getting dealt a straight flush in five-card stud poker. Those are teeny tiny odds.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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So then why oh why did The Huffington Post just put up an article about Apophis hitting us in 2036? With the headline "Apophis Asteroid Could Hit Earth In 2036, Scientists Say"? After I already posted that this original story was totally garbled by a Russian journalist, who grossly misquoted a Russian astronomer?

Sigh.

Now, they claim this info comes from a UPI article, but that article is pretty clear about the odds. While the HuffPo article also puts in the odds, they interlace it with a lot of doomsday stuff.

For example, they used a graphic illustration right at the top of a huge asteroid impact, just to make sure they scare their readers. They also include a video, saying "Watch a shocking visualization of what the event could look like,"... and the video shows what it would look like if the Earth were hit by an asteroid that was 800 km (500 miles) across.

That's a little bit bigger than 250 meters. By a factor of 30 billion (in volume, which is what counts in impacts). I actually wrote about this video a couple of years ago. While an Apophis impact would suck (if it happened, which it almost certainly won't), it would not rip the crust of the planet off and eject it into space, leaving behind a boiling, seething mass of lava and killing every thing down on Earth to the last bacterium.

OK?

Grrrrr.

So, nice going HuffPo. You've managed to once again mangle science and reality, adding to the already shameful articles about the Betelgeuse nonsense, and the nearly daily dangerous antivax and alt-med stuff.

Man. The least they could do is space this stuff out a little bit so I have time to breathe between debunkings.



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