The greatest newspaper correction ever written (49 years too late) | io9

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In 1920, rocket scientist Robert Goddard wrote up an article postulating how we could use rocket fuel to launch a ship into space — perhaps even all the way to the moon. His ideas did not meet with a warm reception in the media, where he was roundly mocked. 49 years later, Apollo 11 took-off to the moon, triggering The New York Times' to print the greatest newspaper correction ever to run.

This correction has everything: scare quotes, an elaborately roundabout slam on rocket scientist Goddard's high school education, and, notably, no reference at all to Apollo 11's launch to the moon that had occurred just the day before, spurring the correction in the first place. The correction, printed in the July 17, 1969 edition of The Times reads:

Written By: Ria Misra
continue to source article at io9.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. There is a moderately well-known aerial photo of a WWII U.S. Battleship, similar to the one in the article linked below, taken just as she fired a broadside of her main guns. There is quite an effect of the blast on the water alongside the ship. and the comment was made “See how this great ship is blown sideways by the recoil of her guns.” No one bothered to calculate the mass of the ship (45,000 tons) compared to perhaps nine 16-inch shells weighing perhaps 1,000 kg at speeds of 820m/s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battleship

    • In reply to #1 by rod-the-farmer:

      There is a moderately well-known aerial photo of a WWII U.S. Battleship, similar to the one in the article linked below, taken just as she fired a broadside of her main guns. There is quite an effect of the blast on the water alongside the ship. and the comment was made “See how this great ship is…

      I am not quite sure of the point you are trying to make here, nor in the Wiki link did I notice (and I admit I could have missed it, it is a long article) the reference to “See how the ship is thrown sideways.”

      The picture of the USS Iowa does show shock wave interference from the muzzle blast. Had the photo been taken a second later, it would probably have shown a definite roll to port, and some measurable lateral displacement. I have served on similiar albeit much smaller vessels (Daring class, 3,800 tons, 6 x 4.5″ guns) and trust me, while most of the recoil is absorbed by roll, the ship does go sideways some, certainly enough to knock your feet out from under you if you are not hanging on.

      • In reply to #2 by Sheepdog:
        The word ‘similar’ was used to indicate it is not THAT photo, but one similar. Since you served on a destroyer, you have far more experience than I, but my reading/understanding of the effects on topside crew is that the blast pressure does most of the work. I wonder if there is a movie showing any roll, or testimony from someone high up on the mast, to say you can feel a roll of however many feet/degrees, when all the main guns fire. In the same direction, of course, 90 degrees to the centreline ! As for ‘measurable lateral displacement’ on the Iowa, I am sorry, but I cannot believe that happens. Not only must the mass of the ship move, but the water it displaces has to be taken into account. F=ma. There are numerous mentions of equipment that could not be installed on the Iowa class ships due to blast pressure damage when the main guns fired. Anyway, enough about this, we are off-topic.

        • In reply to #6 by rod-the-farmer:
          >

          There are numerous mentions of equipment that could not be installed on the Iowa class ships due to blast pressure damage when the main guns fired. Anyway, enough about this, we are off-topic.

          The mass of the propellant gasses would have a greater effect per kg than the projectile, because they are expelled at a higher velocity, thus increasing the recoil thrust at the breech.

          (Thrust from propellant gases is of course the issue which the journalists @ the OP failed to understand.)

  2. What would a snooty New York editorial-writer know about astrophysics? I wonder whether anyone wrote to the editor to correct the opinion stated in the editorial. More likely most people took no notice.

  3. I have long suspected that the optimum comprehension for someone in the mainstream media, to be the most productive generator of the most popular material, is to be tucked just under the Dunning Kruger line.

    • In reply to #4 by phil rimmer:

      I have long suspected that the optimum comprehension for someone in the mainstream media, to be the most productive generator of the most popular material, is to be tucked just under the Dunning Kruger line.

      And I have long suspected that being a pompous ass is the second most important ingredient in the recipe for popularity in the mainstream media. The gifted author of the 1920 Times article seems to have been graced with both traits.

  4. Doesn’t it seem like we’ve come a long way in less than 100 years? The remark from 1920 makes me think of a “Flash Gordon”-like understanding of rocketry… smoke going up and sparks falling down.

    Steve

  5. This correction has everything: scare quotes, an elaborately roundabout slam on rocket scientist Goddard’s high school education,

    The “Nothing to push against in space” fallacy, was regularly trotted out by the Dunning-Kruger ignoramus journalists, quite comically mocking a leading scientist, with their own failure to understand Newton’s laws of motion, or the functioning of rocket engines.

    For “nothing to push against”, to be an issue, they would have had to be stupid enough to try to use aircraft-style propeller-driven spacecraft!

    They were the spaceflight-deniers of the 1920s and 1930s who were the equivalent of modern YECs, IDers and AGW deniers. – Scientifically illiterate journalists full of pompous pseudo-science, while misleading the public and making fools of themselves laughing at real science.

    “That Professor Goddard …does not know the relation of action to reaction, and the need to have something better than a vacuum to push against… Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

    Perhaps they were taught Newton’s laws by creationist “pseudo-science teachers”???? Sad but comically incompetent!! They have still learned NOTHING by the time the “apology” was written.

    (Rocket engines are more efficient in space than in an atmosphere! – The clue is in the word “propellant”!)

    The greatest newspaper correction ever written (49 years too late) | io9

    Nope! – Probably one of the greatest failures at attempting to make a correction.

  6. I can’t find the reference, but the most brilliant correction I ever saw was the one in The Times of London between the first and second world wars. They intended to respectfully refer to a general as ‘battle scarred’ but misprinted it as ‘bottle scarred’. They corrected it the next day saying it should have read ‘battle scared’.

    It may have been made up, and is only slightly relevant to this topic. I think I overdid it last night.

    • In reply to #9 by headswapboy:

      I can’t find the reference, but the most brilliant correction I ever saw was the one in The Times of London between the first and second world wars. They intended to respectfully refer to a general as ‘battle scarred’…

      I think I overdid it last night.

      Know what you mean. The morning after a recent full rehearsal for New Years Eve, I woke up tremulously hugging my new porcelain best friend, afraid of falling off the planet. At that point I could have reasonably been described as Bottle Scared.

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