General Mistakes in our World

Visit my Misconceptions Page to see some of the things we have to fight on a daily basis to beat back the shrouds of scienctific illiteracy!

Take a look see at the following. Sometimes it's no wonder we grow up believing all this wrong stuff.

  1. NASA Flight Patches ; Check out the errors in the designs of a sampling of the NASA Flight Patches actually worn by the astronauts on mission.

More Stuff

These next 4 mistakes are current, borrowed with permission from the website "Blunders and Mistakes of Science and Engineering" compiled by Dr. Donald Simanek , Professor of Physics at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.

  1. Take a look at the 'new' British TWO Pound coin in honor of the British Engineering Industry. It has 19 interlocking gears around the silver rim. As most Engineering students should know, this would lead to the immediate destruction of the mechanism the gears are trying to run or at least a massive shattering of gear teeth at the flick of the switch!

    (Dr. Simanek asked me via email to "supply a conclusive and rigorous proof that an even number of gears with parallel axles, meshed in a closed loop, will turn no matter what the gear sizes or number of teeth. But an odd number in such a loop will not turn." Well, my brain must have an odd number of gears, because I can SEE the result imperically, but as soon as I try to PROVE it, my head shudders and I have to take a nap... When I wake up, I'll try again. See his website if you can prove it!)

    Why? An ODD # of gears would force turning the last one in the OPPOSITE direction as its initial gear tells it. Follow the path and see for yourself! (Just so your head doesn't explode, try the 3-gear set-up below instead of all 19 on the coin...)

    Oddly enought, an EVEN number of gears WOULD work.

  2. Look at the ruler handed out by the Pennsyvania State DEP.

    Seems someone in the government can't count... Centimeter #14 is missing! You'd think SOMEONE in Pennsylvania wooda noticed... As Dr. Simanek says, this would explain the student's error during Labs, huh?

  3. How about the back cover of the classic Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album?
    Notice, at 1st glance it looks like the spectrum is combining BACK into white light. Well, as all good Fizzoids know, that ain't happnin'! However, since it COULD just be a perspective sorta thing, the light could be coming from the right and dispersing into its components to the left. Turn the picture upside-down like I did below and have a look. No roblem, yet. However, like I said, all good Fizzoids will see that the spectral order is all SNAFU'd! The 'blue' (violet) end must refract, or bend, more than the 'red' end. So, the violet should be at the top of the original picture and the red at the bottom. Hmmm.... Why, don't they just call me BEFORE publishing?

  4. A literary goof. In William Golding's (1911-1993) novel Lord of the Flies (1954) one character, Piggy, is teased by the other boys because he is fat and wears glasses to correct nearsightedness. Later (Ch. 2) they use Piggy's glasses as a burning glass to start a signal fire. What is wrong here?
    Nearsightedness is corrected with negative (diverging) lenses. A positive (converging) lens is necessary to focus sunlight. Therefore a burning-glass must be positive. Piggy's negative eyeglass lenses would not work.

Bicycle Magazine ERR!

Ti Bike
A colleague, Cindy Johnson, gave me this article from the June 2002 issue of Bicycling magazine. It's a stupid question first of all (Yeah, that's right! There ARE stupid questions! See my list of them!), but the "Test Editor" of this mag, Andrew Juskaitis, has a stupider answer! If you can't read the scan, the question deals with a guy who has a titanium rod in his leg and he wants to know if he now NEEDS a titanium bicycle. Following me so far? Scientist Andrew answers, "...[a friend of his] found out the hard way that certain combinations of steel and titanium will attract each other with powerful magnetic forces. He was unable to to remove himself from the bike for almost three days and nearly died of dehydration. ... his doctor prescribed a Litespeed UltimateTM." This happens to be a $4000.00 bike, according to Sounds to me like this Andrew guy is a saleman for Litespeed! I find a coupla problems with his story...
  1. First, titanium and steel both exhibit magnetic properties just like all metals to one degree or another. Titanium is a Transition Element, #22, just like iron, #26, the main component of any steel! However, they DO NOT attract each other like one is a magnet and the other just having strong magnetic properties! Look it up! Geez! These guys certainly weren't paying attention in High School Chem! Well, neither was I, but...
  2. Why was this guy stuck to his bike for THREE DAYS? How dumb is he? If I were stuck to a bike, I'd chew my way thru the darn frame or even my own leg before I'd let it beat me and I'm confident that a bike ain't gonna weigh me down to the point where I can't go somewhere for help.
  3. If this magnetic force was strong enough to hold a man's leg immobile, it would have squished the skin and muscle to the point where the titanium rod was in contact with the frame of the bike! YUCK! Dehydration would have been the LEAST of his worries... Try attracting two magnets thru flesh by having them on each side of your hand or even just the webbing of your fingers! You need a tremendously strong SET OF magnets to do that, like Neodymium permanent mags, Nd2Fe14B. They are almost as strong, but much cheaper than samarium cobalt magnets.
  4. What would happen when he drives a car? You have 2 or so TONS of steel! If he were standing on a street corner and a car drove by a little too close, he'd get sucked right onto the bumper!