Associated Press Carelessness Reaches Boiling Point

from the forget-fact-checkers,-we-need-laugh-testers dept

Recently, we were all very proud when the Associated Press finally figured out how to use hyperlinks (sort of). But perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised that it took them so long to master such advanced technology, since it turns out they are still struggling with thermometers:

Northeast braces for temps near boiling point

NEW YORK (AP) ? The extreme heat that’s been roasting the eastern U.S. is only expected to get worse, and residents are bracing themselves for temperatures near and above boiling point. Weather service heat warnings and advisories have been issued Friday from Ohio to Maine.

The high temperatures and smothering humidity will force up the heat indexes. Boston’s 99 degrees on Friday could feel like 105 degrees; Philadelphia’s 102 degrees like 114 degrees and Washington, D.C.’s 103 degrees may seem the same as a melting 116 degrees.

I guess the AP never passed AP Chemistry, because as you’ve probably noticed, they have made a small conversion error. As it turns out, cheesesteaks are still the meltiest things in Philadelphia, and the Gulf of Maine has not turned into the world’s biggest lobster bisque. In fact, here in Toronto we’ve been enduring similar temperatures for the past week, and the only damage is to our beer budgets.

(Since the AP is fond of making un-noted corrections, here’s a screenshot)

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Comments on “Associated Press Carelessness Reaches Boiling Point”

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102 Comments
Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh please. Are you two going to stand there and claim this article was just innocently talking about some other element, or using the term “near and above boiling point” as a casual expression? Read the article over again and tell me that’s what you honestly think.

It was clearly a stupid mistake on the AP’s part, and to claim otherwise is just ridiculous.

chris says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“a melting 116 degrees”

Are you telling me that the same article is claiming water melts at 116 degrees?

I don’t know, maybe the guy is obsessed with phase change metaphors. I think he probably didn’t know enough to tell when it sounded like scientific usage like it does in the phrase you quoted. But reading the whole article gives me a different impression.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I think that’s the perfect example. “A melting 116” is entirely casual, “near and above boiling point” is entirely not.

But whatever. There’s no clear answer unless the author speaks. A lot of people have picked up this story though (and not through me), so I’m afraid you’re in the minority.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You might want to take a physics course before commenting on stuff like this.

Actually, this is factually correct

No, it isn’t.

the humidity of an area can drive up temperatures

Sorry – what? The temperature of an area is not affected by humidity. 35C is 35C regardless of whether the humidity is 0% or 100%.

The humidity can affect how hot or cool the air feels, because it changes how effective the body’s cooling systems are. But that doesn’t change the actual temperature.

a heavy Southerly wind can drive it down

No. The wind can make the temperature seem cooler, because it can affect the body’s cooling system, but it doesn’t change the actual temperature of the air.

Remember, it looks like they’re using the Fahrenheit scale, rather than the Centigrade/Celsius scale.

Yes, and they don’t understand that 100F is not the same as 100C. That’s the joke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let me bait a bit

I blame the USA’s crazy measurement system. Notice that nowhere they mention the units, so any sane person would assume they are in the standard unit system everyone in the world uses.

Of course, then any sane person would think “100 degrees ambient temperature? This cannot be right, oh wait, it is just that crazy USA temperature unit again, what was that conversion formula again…?”

</troll>

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Let me bait a bit

Of course, then any sane person would think “100 degrees ambient temperature? This cannot be right, oh wait, it is just that crazy USA temperature unit again, what was that conversion formula again…?”

Yeah, that’s the part that got me. I don’t care how bad you are at math or how little you know about temperature scales, if you’ve ever spilled coffee on your hand you should know that “boiling point” temperatures would be a globally reported natural disaster, not a quirky weather report…

Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Let me get out from under this bridge here...

If you’d take a second to read the article you would notice that the author/editor included the location being reported from/at/whatever NEW YORK (AP) and any SANE person would assume that the unit of measure would be the STANDARD unit of measure in the country being reported from, which just happens to BE Standard.

Enjoy your silly non-standard unit of measure.

Gwiz (profile) says:

The copyright notice at the bottom of the AP post (emphasis mine):

Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

I am glad that copyright is keeping this particular post from being “rewritten”. Wouldn’t want anyone else writing about “boiling” temperatures in the Eastern US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's just a future headline

there was an explosion of panic today at the local pool as ‘climate change’ struck at the very spot a young boy was swimming. bystanders claim ‘the water turned very warm as i swam by him’ ‘i think he was breathing too hard, letting out all sorts of CO2’ others claimed that the water around the biy didn’t get warmer, but the rest of the water dramatically cooled.

several deaths have been attributed to the event, and leading climate change skeptics have been tarred and feathered

ShellMG says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's just a future headline

“there was an explosion of panic today at the local pool as ‘climate change’ struck at the very spot a young boy was swimming. bystanders claim ‘the water turned very warm as i swam by him’ ‘i think he was breathing too hard, letting out all sorts of CO2’ others claimed that the water around the biy didn’t get warmer, but the rest of the water dramatically cooled. “

You sure he didn’t just pee in the pool?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's just a future headline

Actually, global warming is not really a problem, the Earth has gone through much hotter periods. And if you think about it glacial ages and warm periods keep alternating so it’s more like we are nearing the next glacial age.

Which takes us to the article: they are probably talking about the temperature in Kelvin!

freak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's just a future headline

Global warming isn’t an issue due to the temperature change, but because of the speed of the temperature change. Change that normally takes centuries and millenia is taking only decades …

But even then, the earth will be much the same, a lot of bad things will have happened because we, nor any of earth’s species, will have enough time to adapt, but we’ll survive. After enough time, nature will even adapt to humans using so much carbon.

The thing is . . . we know droughts and other disasters are going to happen, and we can make everyone in the future richer than they otherwise would be by avoiding this calamity . . . so why not avoid this global calamity?

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's just a future headline

It isn’t a given that humanity will survive. We know from the example of Venus right next door that a runaway greenhouse effect is physically possible. We know from Earth’s own history that climate change induced mass extinctions are also possible (as the less temperature change tolerant components of the foodchain die off, causing serious problems for critters higher in the foodchain that can themselves tolerate the changes in temperatures, but starve due to the depletion of their food sources).

Now, such dire outcomes may not be *likely*, but they’re definitely possible. We can see the oncoming train – it makes sense to step off the tracks.

mdpopescu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's just a future headline

Because, even assuming you’re right, we would make ourselves poorer to do it. Since the future generations are by definitions going to be richer than us anyway (they have all the capital we had, plus what we and they produce), you’re asking the poor to make the rich even richer. Which is dumb.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's just a future headline

In the last ice age much of the northern hemisphere was under miles of ice. I guess you better get ready to move to Brazil. πŸ˜‰

When the Earth gets hot, the poles become tropical and the tropics become in hospitable dry desert wastelands where anything that can burn generally does. … It won’t get that bad.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh please. Yeah, if it was used as a casual expression I suppose, but when you use a phrase like “temperatures near and above boiling point” you clearly mean it in a literal sense.

It’s obvious that whoever wrote this article stupidly and carelessly mistook Fahrenheit for Centigrade and never actually thought it through. Then nobody gave it a second thought all the way through the editorial chain, and it got pushed out across the wire with a hilarious error.

RobShaver (profile) says:

Re: Re: I think your overreaching here

I think they typed exactly what they meant thinking that their readers would be smart enough to know they were using a metaphor.

I like TechDirt and don’t care for AP but, knowing TechDirt’s past reporting on AP, this reads like petty editorial bias. Please stick to items with some some substance.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I think your overreaching here

I think they typed exactly what they meant thinking that their readers would be smart enough to know they were using a metaphor.

Really? I’m sorry, but I honestly just don’t see that at all. They say boiling point twice, both in ways that suggest they mean it very literally – and they happen to be talking about temperatures crossing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It seems entirely clear that they made a very stupid error. How is it a “metaphor”?

RobShaver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I think your overreaching here

Okay, let’s say you’re correct. It still wasn’t worth mentioning and, in my opinion, makes TechDirt look petty. Just my opinion. Clearly you think differently.

So the only value in my comment is to let you know that one of your (non-paying) customers thinks it’s a waste of time … and I’m wasting your’s and mine so I’m going to close this thread and not comment any further.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I think your overreaching here

If this was a metaphor, why is it phrased as if it were a factual statement?

“Temperatures reach a boiling point.”

That’s a metaphor.

“…bracing themselves for temperatures near and above boiling point.”

That just sounds badly written.

But the headline?

“Northeast braces for temps near boiling point”

Unless this story has something to do with a bunch of pissed off employees from Kelly Services, I think someone just flat out fucked up.

Gracey (user link) says:

Is the boiling point of water the same as the boiling point of a human being (er, I suppose the blood/water in a human)?

Actually, I think it is, or at least within a few degrees (100 C or 212F) so perhaps they’re a little off.

On the other hand, at what temperature would you begin to boil? Me…probably long before that. I get crabby when it’s 100F…a few more degrees and I’d be boiling mad.

Sam (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Human Tempature limits

Humans are capable of regulating their own temperature; a slice of bacon isn’t. Were the internal temperature of a human to hit 75C or whatever, you’d be very dead. You only need a fairly low internal temperature rise to hit hyperthermia (not to be confused with a fever, which is the body raising its own internal temperature to fight infection) – I believe it’s only about 40C that’s considered a medical emergency for hyperthermia.

And as someone else mentioned, the boiling point of the water in you would be higher than 100C because you’re a solution, not pure water, but by that point you’d be much too dead to worry about it.

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

Math FAIL

LOL! Gotta love the HUGE MATH FAIL….

Assuming….

100 degrees Celsius equals boiling point of water (fact) and the temp in Boston is approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (also fact) it does NOT follow that thetemperature in Boston is approaching the boiling point of water — HUGE FAIL!

Well technically at least, I’m sure 100 degrees Fahrenheit may be A boiling point for something (or someone), it’s not THE boiling point they are talking about. πŸ˜‰

Anonymous Wow says:

anonymous trolls

Wow, I thought the AnonTrolls had reached a low before… actually arguing that such an article put out by a supposedly reputable news agency, that allegedly employs standard fact checkers and editors, let alone writers who can actually write beyond a 6th grade level, might somehow be a metaphor and fence with any other rational person who read this story… just wow. It’s even more lulzy than the original AP gaffe.

It’s certainly related to Mike’s work, in that a lot of “press coverage” is about as factual and well-researched as the opinion of Pastor Blowhard and calls into question the entire “factual” basis of these “news items.”

It’s also about a news organization putting out a story through multiple layers of editorial handling and review that would get you an D or F on an 8th grade writing assignment. That this type of mistake is made my “professional reporters” is exactly the type of thing Mike points out and documents in the articles he chooses to deal with.

Is that helpful, Anonymous Trolls? I hope so. Because you finally crossed the line from crabby provocateurs into ludicrious self-mockery. Or maybe that was your plan?

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Offshoring Work.

The most probable explanation is that AP, in its relentless pursuit of profits, has jobbed some work out to India, or maybe somewhere else. In newspaper practice, writing headlines is a separate business from writing articles, along with “unburying the lede,” etc. If you look at the way the thing is put together, it looks as though one of the minor New York papers, either the New York Post or the New York Daily News, sent a photographer out to the neighborhoods to take pictures of kids playing in front of fire hydrants. It’s an annual ritual at the end of July, the same as photographing Christmas decorations. They put those pictures on file, on the computer system, waiting for a story to hang them on. And when the weather advisory from the Weather Bureau came in, someone hastily grabbed that, and the pictures, and said, in effect, “turn it into a story of X inches,” and the request, together with the materials, was automatically e-mailed to India, and the copy was cut-and-pasted together by someone who thought in terms of Centigrade. Furthermore, this anonymous employee did all of this real fast, in thirty seconds or so, doing hundreds of similar items per day, for many different American newspapers.

There is a genre of jokes about people trying to operate in a language not their own. One of my favorites, in Maria Von Trapp’s autobiography, concerns a German immigrant who told a New York grocer (in the 1940’s): “Behold your asparagus! For twenty-five cents, I can become asparagus around the corner.” (German: Behalten = Keep, Bekammen = Get, Obtain).

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