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Half life.

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Stefan Linnemann
834802.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:09 am Reply with quote

In the series "the Event", a few episodes ago someone was tagged with some substance, that the spy people could track. By tagging numerous random people she was made to be untraceable again, and when all those people were supposed to have been identified, the question arose:

"Can we track her again?"

The answer was something like:

"It's past the half-life time, so there is nothing left to trace."

The bold-ed clause reveals some major general ignorance (salutes General Ignorance), I believe:
"half life" (time) denotes the time it takes for half of the original matter to decay into something else. So after one half-life time, there is still 50% of the original amount around, and after two half-life times . True, it may then be diluted enough to be undetectable by whatever equipment is used, but that is not what is stated.

I've heard this fallacy often enough to fear it qualifies as "General Igorance" (salutes).

Like decimation, which is nowadays used to mean annihilation, whereas is actually means the cold-blooded killing of every 10th person.


834804.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:20 am Reply with quote

Is conceivable that they actually meant "there is nothing that we can trace." Whilst still actually there the material would be below the detection limits of the tracing equipment However, on the whole I think your explanation is probably right, there is an appalling lack of understanding or familiarity with even basic scientific concepts in the general population.

Sadurian Mike
834837.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:04 am Reply with quote

Iz radiashun innit. Theyd trak her coz sheed hav all mutatshuns an stuff. An sheed b dead coz itz radiashun an that kilz peeple.

834838.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:06 am Reply with quote

I'm not defending the programme itself, but I wonder if they were using "half life time" to denote the time it took to complete the activity being measured?

It reminds me one of the very early episodes of Primeval, where they come across a skeleton whch one of the characters is worried may have been his wife, but he then counts the ribs and says "no, it was a man". It's actually amazing that it's still accepted knowledge to many people, including many qualified in medicine, that men have one less rib than women.

834840.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:10 am Reply with quote

Are you sure he counted the ribs and didn't just look at the pelvis?

834849.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:34 am Reply with quote

Stefan Linnemann wrote:
Like decimation, which is nowadays used to mean annihilation, whereas is actually means the cold-blooded killing of every 10th person.

Actually specifically a punishment for cowardice, and it wasn't necessarily every 10th person, despite the etymology of the word. According to legend, which must be taken with a pinch of salt, the Thebian Legion was decimated out of existence: the process was simply repeated until the whole legion was dead.

Although it shouldn't be used as a synonym for "annihilate" or in contexts where precise figures are given, "decimation" has been used since the 17th century to mean large proportions, even the majority, being killed. Since the military application of the word is no longer of any use to us, we might as well say "the population was decimated" as a much more elegant and concise way of saying "a large [but otherwise unspecified] proportion of the population was killed".

834853.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:46 am Reply with quote

CB, I didn't know anyone actually thought that about ribs any time in the past century (or more), save a few whackadoodles.

Indeed, I've got fewer ribs that my husband. But I'm a mutant. Meh.

834866.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:25 pm Reply with quote

Believe it or not, I was taught at one school (granted, 25 years back) that men have one rib less than women and it was in Biology!

I also remember that when Primeval was first shown, no one seemed to notice this glaring error until someone whote a letter to a newspaper to complain about it.

834871.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:49 pm Reply with quote


The first time I remember studying the skeletal system (and thus ribs) was 14 years ago and our teacher was/is, to put it delicately, a hardcore Christian. She brought a cake to school on the last day before winter break for us to sing happy birthday to Jesus. :| And even she got it right about ribs. And my limited doses of biology since then were accurate, as well.

Maybe a bible belt education wasn't so bad after all. ;)

834875.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 12:56 pm Reply with quote

Hardcore Christian doesn't necessarily mean blind to science. I have a colleague who is a member of a fairly strict church but she has no trouble teaching evolution. She has a brain and has quite simply come to her own conclusion that evolution does not contradict creation.

834894.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:23 pm Reply with quote

True true, but if you knew the specific teacher to whom I referred . . . oh my.

834902.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:50 pm Reply with quote

sjb wrote:
CB, I didn't know anyone actually thought that about ribs any time in the past century (or more), save a few whackadoodles.

Hello, I'm a very recently ex-whackadoodle. well, one one point that is.

834917.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:02 pm Reply with quote

Efros wrote:
Hardcore Christian doesn't necessarily mean blind to science.

It probably depends on your definition of "hardcore Christian"; some people might want to restrict the phrase to those who reject science where they believe it conflicts with religion, while others might extend it to include anyone who regularly attends church.

Sadurian Mike
834934.  Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:35 pm Reply with quote

On these forums it generally refers to those for whom the word of their religion supercedes science and common sense.

Or possibly the C19th Irish Catholic navvy gangs.

835196.  Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:54 am Reply with quote

I think Catholics generally have less of a hard time reconciling science and religion than Protestants do, as they seem to read the Bible less and therefore don't get hung up on Biblical literalism the way some fundamentalist Protestants do.


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