Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Nuclear power panic – why we need to protect UK nuclear plants from earthquakes. Or not

In response to the containment breach at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a predictable flurry of panicky “safety” measures elsewhere. According to the Metro: Tests will be carried out on Britain’s nuclear plants as part of a safety crackdown in the wake of the radioactivity leak in earthquake-hit Japan Because, of course, a nuclear disaster […]

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Media scientific illiteracy: John Humphrys and the 8.9% Tokyo earthquake

Heard this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme: John Humphrys expressing the magnitude of this morning’s Tokyo earthquake as a percentage – “8.9%”. The Richter earthquake scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale (ie, it has no unit as such, and each unitary value greater than the one before is actually 10 times more powerful). So […]

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

OU assessment deadlines loom

Things will be quiet on Freelance Unbound for a few more days, as I have a couple of OU science assessments to work on, on top of the usual day job and dog. This is all giving me a fresh perspective on why my journalism students leave everything until the last minute, let me tell […]

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

My first OU science project

My bid for scientific credibility has finally got off the ground with my very first Open University science experiment. You can see the high-precision, high-tech equipment I’ve been devising to help me undertake Activity 2.1: Measuring Precipitation – part 1. It’s all a bit primary school – but actually quite instructive. After cutting down the water […]

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Ladybird Junior Science: ideal grounding for the Open University

Further exploration of my exciting new Open University Exploring Science course material reveals its true pedigree. Its progenitor is the wonderful Ladybird Junior Science series, which used to edify and entertain the youth of yesteryear, before they discovered Miaow Miaow and Asbos. The pack contains an intriguing box of small rocks and a magnifying glass, which […]

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The appliance of science

Regular readers will be aware that Freelance Unbound has a habit of taking the modern media to task for being, basically, scientifically and statistically illiterate. Clearly though, the blog risks ending up a hostage to fortune, as I inevitably make the same mathematical and scientific errors that I castigate others for. For this reason, I […]

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Orwellian prize for journalistic misrepresentation

Via the ever-dependable Soilman comes news that an Oxford academic has set up a prize for the most inaccurate reporting of a piece of academic work. It sounds like a one-off joke – but the nominations process is outlined comprehensively enough, so it might take off. The project is the brainchild of Dorothy Bishop, a […]

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Drivers, Legionnaires' Disease and windscreen washers

Lots of excitement about today’s report that using plain water in your car’s windscreen washing system could expose you to deadly Legionnaires’ Disease. Key reminder: Correlation is not causality This has been a public service announcement…

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

11 key ways for journalism students to improve their employability

It’s a tough world out there in the media – what with grinding recession, a skillset that needs updating by the hour and a revenue model that’s been turned upside down by the web. It doesn’t help that more students than ever before are being turned out by the UK’s journalism courses. That makes it […]