64. On getting your units right

64. On getting your units right

The incident of the Mars Climate Orbiter, described in the previous post, shows that it pays to check your units, and get them right. One spectacular miscalculation, which fortunately ended with no loss of life, was when Air Canada Flight 143 ran out of fuel on a...
63. On spinach and spacecraft

63. On spinach and spacecraft

What do spinach and spacecraft have in common? Well, they both contain a lot of iron, right? Wrong. The myth that spinach is a good source of iron goes back to the 1890s, when the first analysis was performed in Germany. Unfortunately, when the data were published, a...
62. An addendum on dragons

62. An addendum on dragons

Just a day after I wrote the last post, an article “Here be dragons” appeared in Nature online (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v520/n7545/full/520042a.html). The theme: That dragons are merely asleep, and are likely to be reawakened by climate change, and the...
61. The science of dragons

61. The science of dragons

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons For you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. That advice from an anonymous author sounds pretty good to me. Yet many scientists have meddled in the affairs of dragons. Which is odd, considering that they don’t exist (dragons,...