This is quite fun

I’m working on a proper post, I promise, but it’s taking forever to get it finished.  I don’t really know why, although it is requiring me to do a little reading of scientific papers, which is always a struggle, given my very limited scientific literacy.  I don’t really know why I’m persisting with it, either, as it’s become about as little fun as homework in a subject you hate.  I suppose I don’t want it to become one of the 100+ posts I have on my hard drive that are half-finished, and I think it might have the potential to be at least slightly interesting to a few people.  I’m still working away on it, anyway, and will post it eventually – possibly later today, maybe tomorrow, but don’t hold your breath.  (I also notice that every sentence in this paragraph has started with the word ‘I’.  I never knew I was this egotistical, but it would appear I am…)

Anyway, as a temporary stopgap, this seems quite fun.  Yes, I realise it’s an article in The Telegraph, but it doesn’t get political, so your blood pressure should be safe.  The article is a compendium of some of the factual errors made by Dan Brown in some of his novels.  I presume most people don’t actually think Mr Brown’s books are anything more than entertaining page-turners, and so finding errors in them is a fairly pedantic thing to do.  But then again, this is being typed by a man who has read more nit-picking books about TV Sci-Fi shows than he can remember, so being described as anal about the small stuff isn’t really going to bother me.

Some of the ‘mistakes’ I’m not convinced by – when Brown has a character say that the Swiss Guard killed a lot of people in crusades centuries after the last crusade took place, I think I’d be prepared to see that as artistic licence.  If you’re writing a book which is based in fact but ultimately launches off into wild fantasy, there are always going to be things that seem a little odd at the moments that the plot is taking off.  Others, though, are just the result of lazy research, like this one:

Brown describes walking north from Sacré-Coeur across the Seine. Sacré-Coeur is north of the river: you would need to walk south.

30 seconds with a map would have fixed that error, as it would this one:

Langdon and Neveu take a Tube train from Temple Station to King’s College, London. The nearest Tube stop to King’s College is in fact Temple Station – any Tube journey would take them further away.

Anyway, yes, give the article a read, if you’d like to, while I keep trying to dig myself out from under an avalanche of my own dull-as-ditchwater prose…

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5 Responses to This is quite fun

  1. NiroZ says:

    I assume you’re stuck with abstracts for many studies? Feel free to email me with a link to the abstract and I’ll see if I can get the full version for you, having a uni connection and all. Abstracts can be VERY misleading.

  2. Lucy McGough says:

    “Vittoria asks someone ‘Hanno conosciuto l’uomo?‘, meaning ‘Did you know the man?’ By saying ‘l’uomo‘ without specifying which man (for example, by saying ‘quell’uomo‘, “that man”), it means ‘Have you known manhood?’, or to put it another way, ‘Have you had sex?'”


  3. lsnduck says:

    I am always surprised by just how many people do take Dan Brown novels as fact. I keep my copy of ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ (Baigent and Leigh) on my fiction shelves as revenge.

    I might be able to lend a hand on the papers bit as well if you wanted, working for an academic institution has its advantages.

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    NiroZ – Thanks for the offer of the full texts, it’s very kind of you. :o) I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the full versions of the papers i’m interested in, so the problem i was moaning about yesterday was more to do with understanding them. I’ve realised since i wrote this post that the main points of the papers are actually pretty straightforward, and all that was melting my mind was trying to understand the statistical methods the authors had used to assess how reliable their findings were, so i’ve just decided to ignore that aspect of them. It’s kind of a shame, as one of the things i’m interested in is the reliability of the findings, but there are probably good reasons besides my own inadequacies to keep things at more of a layman’s level. Plus it should reduce the chances of me saying something really stupid… ;o)

    Lucy McGough – yes, that one made me laugh, too. :o) As did the one where Dan Brown meant to have a character tell another one to ‘sweep [the building] for bugs’, and instead had him say ‘sweep [slang term for penis] for bugs’… ;o)

    lsnduck – i guess there are always going to be people who will believe any conspiracy theory, sadly. I have to say, i’m very impressed you have fiction shelves. All of my books are just jumbled up in a big heap underneath a table, where they’ve been for the last almost-five-years, despite my occasional ‘I should really buy a bookcase’ moments… ;o)

    Thanks, as well, for your offer re the papers – it’s just as kind of you as it was of NiroZ. :o)

  5. NiroZ says:

    I haven’t done much statistics, but I can help you with that too if you want. You can always try the internet, but it’s not particularly helpful for the layman.

    The most important thing to know is the meaning of statistical significance. If something is described as this, it means that it has less than a 5% (sometimes seen as P<.05) or 1%, depending on the sample size, chance that there differences between the two numbers is being produced by random variation. Often seen when trying to confirm that it has an effect greater than the placebo, or that the differences in two groups are worth paying attention to. If it is not statistically significant, it's safe to assume that there was no difference between the two numbers.

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