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Tuesday, 06 April 2004

Bad Reporting Catalyst

I admit it. I can't abstain from reading bad reporting.

In today's BBC News story titled "Chemical 'bomb plot' in UK foiled":

Alastair Hay, Professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said osmium tetroxide was a rare catalyst - a chemical that speeds experiments - and could potentially make an explosion occur more rapidly. [my emphasis, Chemical 'bomb plot' in UK foiled; BBC News Online; 2004/04/06 12:47 GMT]

Now I'm willing to put this one to sloppy fact checking at the BBC and not, say, the eminently quotable Alastair Hay making a rather silly mistake, but even so - my knowledge of chemistry may only be limited to an A Level, but the fact remains that a more apt (and let's go out on a limb here--accurate) description would be that a catalyst such as osmium tetroxide in general speeds up chemical reactions and doesn't possess the necessary intelligence (or even sentience?) to selectively speed up "experiments". If that were the case, though, I imagine we can rest a little more easily in the UK and not worry about an osmium tetroxide based bomb going off in a public place and instead make sure all our laboratory environments are secured.

Right. So not The Times, and increasingly, not BBC News Online, either. My subscription to the Economist is looking more and more likely.

2 comments and trackbacks

Channel 4 News gave the story a proper dissing tonight. They are the news source of champions (esp. John Snow)

Posted by: Stephen Fulljames on April 6, 2004 08:53 PM

Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio Apr 6, 2004 9:14 PM
Ext/Circ : "...

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