Many people have said that one reason reporting on science is so dumb so much of the time is that the gatekeepers, let alone the reporters, at most publishers -- new and old -- have so little training in the subject that they don’t know how to assess what they’ve been handed. But seldom have I seen such a perfect example:

COUNTRYSIDE: Thank you for printing my “Astronomy on the Homestead” article in your March-April, 2006 issue. I wanted to report a transliteration error in the article. On page 115, in the left column, the original sentence in the second paragraph was “Although, theoretically, the gravitational acceleration constant of the earth is 980 gals each second …,” but it was printed as “980 gallons per second.”
The word “gal” was not an abbreviation, it was a word. It originally was short for Galilei unit, the metric unit of acceleration, but nowadays the short form is fully standard. It is a mathematical unit known as a gal, and it has nothing to do with gallons. In physics it would not make sense to measure acceleration in gallons, just as it would not make sense to measure temperature in pounds.

I found that at Regret the Error, which is always good for a chortle. The magazine Countryside does not appear to have included the letter online. But in a day that also saw the headline Scientists Identify ‘Intelligence GeneZ} -- complete with indemnifying scare quotes -- I’d rather have a little laugh than rant and rave.

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