Monday, November 22, 2010

Aargh-and diagrams

While eating lunch I was browsing the BBC News website and started reading this article by Marcus du Sautoy on how diagrams have aided and furthered our understanding of scientific concepts. All fine.

Recently the BBC have become quite good at providing hyperlinks within their articles (potentially in part due to Ben Goldacre), but in this article they seem to have let themselves down a bit in the choice of links. About half way down the article there is a section about visualising complex numbers - these are numbers that consist of a real part (a standard number between -infinity and +infinity, like 1, 4, 1097890624 or -0.78524385 say) and an imaginary part (a number that is a multiple of the square root of -1, or i, e.g. plus or minus the square root of any real negative number). It describes that you can plot these complex number on something called an Argand diagram, but the link it provides for this is bizarre - true that the linked to page does have an Argand diagram on it, but the rest seems to consist of bizarre pseudo-science nonsense about the nature of consciousness! Now I don't know how whoever was editing the article (presumably not du Sautoy) found that page, but a quick google search for "Argand diagram" provides some slightly more reputable sources that they might have chosen. After noticing this I didn't actually get to the end of the article and instead wrote a comment to get the link changed, so I'll see if that worked.

But, anyway enough petty pedantry for today.