Streams

Why WNYC Practiced Bad Science: In Other Words, Don’t Try This at Home

Friday, July 23, 2010

A real scientific experiment requires consistency. You have to take repeated samples. And you need to use the same equipment each time.

WNYC set out to see if we could find the type of temperature differences at Bensonhurst and East Flatbush described in the report by the Earth Institute researchers.

If this was a real science experiment we would have gone to those two locations several times over a period of weeks or months, not just on one afternoon between 3-3:30 p.m.

But even worse, we brought along two very different types of thermometers! I had asked to borrow them from WNYC’s office services department. One thermometer has a regular air sensor like any other outdoor thermometer. Our intern, Daniel Tucker, took that one with him to East Flatbush. But the other had an infrared sensor, and I didn’t realize that was its only option until I was on the subway headed for Bensonhurst.

I came up with an unusual way to work around this. I figured a piece of paper would be a pretty neutral surface, likely to have about the same temperature as the air so long as it wasn’t in direct sunlight. So, I held a piece of white paper under a hat to shield it from the sun. I then pointed the infrared beam at the paper and took the temperature. I did this several times and it was always around 91-92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Disappointed in WNYC’s methodology? Well, we’re much better social scientists. And we were never doing a real experiment anyway, so consider it just a fun demonstration.

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [1]

LBC

Are you following up on the NY Post story re. NYCDOE flubs $600M in Medicaid funding for special education services?

Apr. 28 2011 02:41 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

Latest Newscast

 

 

Support

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public

Feeds

Supported by