Friday, April 24, 2009

The case for better interns

The only explanation I can come up for for this is that it must have been written by an unpaid intern on Friday afternoon after all of the editors had snuck out early for the weekend. This is slide twelve of a slideshow at MSN entitled "Monsters that people believe exist." For reasons I can't explain, the slide show in on their Environment site. The slideshow itself is pretty lame -- three of the twelve slides are variations on Bigfoot and one is a picture of a python in a zoo. But this is the topper. No wonder it was put in the finale position.

This is Ötzi, the mummy of a Chalcolithic hunter who died in the Alps sometime around 3300 BC. In 1991, Ötzi was discovered thawing out of the Schnalstal Glacier on the Italian/Austrian frontier. The MSN caption reads "The iceman is believed to be the ‘missing link’ between apes and humans that roamed the mountains, encased in ice." How many things are wrong with this?

Let's start with the low hanging fruit and mock their grammar. How do you roam the mountains, encased in ice? At best you might slide or tumble downhill, but roaming is definitely out when you're encased in ice. Don't take my word for it, ask Lyuba the baby mammoth. He'll back me up on this one.

"The iceman is believed to be the ‘missing link’ between apes and humans..." Really? It's believed by who exactly? The scientists who examined and named Ötzi are all agreed that Ötzi is a completely modern human and not a Yeti, despite the similarity in their names. I can't find an example of even the most credulous cryptobiologist who thinks Ötzi is a missing link. Real scientists don't even use the phrase "missing link" except when talking down to reporters.

Next, what is Ötzi even doing in a slideshow on "monsters that people believe exist?" There is no "believe" involved here. Like the python, he does exist. He's carefully stored at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. He is also not a monster, he's a normal guy who happened die in a place where his body was preserved for over five millenia.

I realize that there is constant pressure for commercial sites to keep putting up fresh content, but I could have put together a better slideshow on this topic when I was in the seventh grade. If anyone at MSN is interested, I'm available at a resonable hourly wage.

Postscript: Apparently after being soundly mocked by PZ's Legion of Doom, a grown-up took charge and removed the slide from the show.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I think ignorance is almost as much perpetuated--and created--by "legitimate" media as by more fringey sources.
Since I was a kid who was very interested in science and nature as a kid, I noticed that all the time in my grade-school books.
This item, obviously, takes the cake.
I, too, would gladly work for any of these media outlets at a reasonable hourly wage. Say, $20/hour.