Tuesday, December 30, 2008

240 mile deep water?

Listening to NPR news this morning, I heard of a break in an underwater fiber-optic cable between Europe and the Middle East, just off the coast of Alexandria in "240 mile deep water."

It struck me as odd that this was such a minor news item. After all, the previous record for deepest water on earth was only seven miles (held by Challenger Deep, off the Marianas Islands.) NPR has just increased the deepest water on earth by 3328%, an astonishing accomplishment.

I am not sure what the message was supposed to be. Perhaps the water was 0.24 miles deep? The break was 240 miles from Alexandria? There are a great many plausible options.

To anyone to whom numbers communicate anything "240 mile deep water"just off shore in the relatively shallow Mediterranean should be instantly absurd. Unfortunately, basic competence in subjects such as science and math are not expected of those in the news business. If I were king...

2 comments:

pbossut said...

Heard the same thing and had a good laught alone in my car. The funny thing is that her voice didn't even twitch when saying that. FWIW, the space station is orbiting the Earth at 190 miles so 240 miles is a lot of water :D
That makes me think that when the same journalists are talking about a 700 billion dollar bailout, they really have no clue about what that means either...

Dan Levitis said...

Exactly. She actually stressed it slightly to impress upon the listener how deep that was, but without any hint of doubt.

I emailed NPR and they said they would announce a correction.