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Kaptain K
2004-Oct-23, 06:56 AM
In the November issue of Discover (yeah, the one with Planet X on the cover), there is an interview with Lord Robert May. In response to the question:

Which countries are better at science?
May answered:

... the Americans win more medals at the Olympic Games. But in relation to population size,medals per citizen, the United States isn't even in the top 20. In science, if you count citations in relation to population or gross domestic product, Switzerland is number one. But the United States is exceptionally strong.
In the sidebar quote ithe middle of the page, this is reduced to:

'In relation to the size of the population, the United States isn't even in the top 20 in science. If you count citations in relation to population or gross domestic product, Switzerland is number one'
Amazing how changing the punctuation slightly can totally change the meaning! :o

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Oct-23, 11:07 AM
I had to read it three times before I realized that the difference was that "in science" wasn't referring to The Top Twenty. Did the article actually say what rank the US did have, in science, according to population or gross domestic product? That quote says it was exceptionally strong.

Of course, that little island hideout in the Pacific, which will produce nothing next month except an article in an obscure journal that cites one of its previous articles, will vault to the top of that listing.

Ut
2004-Oct-23, 02:39 PM
Just plain removing "medals per citizen" sort of changes the meaning, there, too.

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Oct-23, 03:17 PM
Yes, it hides the information that would have made it obvious that the Top Twenty remark was to Olympic medals not science.

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Oct-24, 11:28 AM
I found the magazine last night (the November 2004 issue, the interview, by Jocelyn Selim, is on page 24, the question is on page 25).

It goes on to say "And if you look at the world's top 1 percent of the most highly cited papers, then the United States, in relation to population size, is slightly behind the United Kingdom but well ahead of the European Union."

Probably still in the top twenty, by the sounds of it. :)

PS: Have you notified them, Kaptain K? Here's the contact info (http://www.discover.com/contact-us/).

Kaptain K
2004-Oct-25, 07:43 AM
I found the magazine last night (the November 2004 issue, the interview, by Jocelyn Selim, is on page 24, the question is on page 25).

It goes on to say "And if you look at the world's top 1 percent of the most highly cited papers, then the United States, in relation to population size, is slightly behind the United Kingdom but well ahead of the European Union."

Probably still in the top twenty, by the sounds of it. :)

PS: Have you notified them, Kaptain K? Here's the contact info (http://www.discover.com/contact-us/).Not yet! :oops: #-o

edited to add

I don't know if I'll bother. I only read it to fill time between issues of magazines I like enough to subscribe to. I haven't even looked at it since the latest issue of Sky & Telescope arrived.

kucharek
2004-Oct-25, 07:57 AM
Isn't that "medals in relation to population" thing silly? The number of athletes a country sends to the Olympics isn't a fixed percentage of it's population. Not wanting to hijack this thread, but can someone just give the rules how many atheletes a country can send to the Olympics?

Harald

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Oct-25, 10:19 AM
I don't know if I'll bother.
OK, I did then. Hope you don't mind that I linked to this thread. :)

I expect the BA to make Discover magazine's top five list of websites, as soon as they read this.

Isn't that "medals in relation to population" thing silly? The number of athletes a country sends to the Olympics isn't a fixed percentage of it's population.
I think the idea is that if you have twice the population, then you would expect to have twice the brain power, or twice the number of PhDs, and so would have twice the citations. For the Olympics, you might expect to have twice the number of talented athletes, and so twice the medals. There are a lot more factors involved, but by norming the results to population size, those other factors might become more visible.

Fram
2004-Oct-25, 10:42 AM
The rules for athletes per country on the Olympics depend on the sport, and change almost every Games. Athletics and swimming, you get three athletes max per discipline, except team relay (1 per country). Team sports (soccer, basket, ...), only one team per country. Combined team and individual sports (gymnastics, horseriding), one team, many individuals (gymnastics = 6 persons). Cycling 5 persons, time trial two persons. Other sports have 1 person per country per category (judo, boxing). Still other sports have very silly admission rules, where some countries get fixed numbers of competitors, and the other countries have to qualify (like fencing).
Bottom line is that if you don't have (or can have) three persons or teams in a sport (or four if there are two bronze medals, like in judo), you cannot get all the medals you might have gotten based on your strength in that discipline. So every comparison of medals per capita is rather unfair, but of course fun to do. You could only compare the gold medals, because every one at least has one chance for gold. But tradition has it to count all three medals.

TriangleMan
2004-Oct-25, 11:30 AM
I loved Fram's post as this is a point I always have to bring up with other Canadians whenever the Olympics are on. A lot of Canadians like to compare medal standings to Australia (similar size, similar population) and we find that Australia consistantly gets more medals than we do, more than Canada's combined Summer + Winter medals. Even news programs in Canada sometimes discuss this and usually point to poor government funding of sports. I tell them that Australians have a passion for competitive swimming and other sports where there are tons of events and you can enter multiple athletes, while Canada's favourite sport, ice hockey, the maximum medals Canada can win is two. To look at medals/capita is a poor comparison as it does not take into account the potential medals won in specific sports.

If each of the events in the NHL skills competition were separate Olympic events Canada would have tons of medals . . . 8)

swansont
2004-Oct-25, 04:58 PM
...Australians have a passion for competitive swimming and other sports where there are tons of events and you can enter multiple athletes, while Canada's favourite sport, ice hockey, the maximum medals Canada can win is two. To look at medals/capita is a poor comparison as it does not take into account the potential medals won in specific sports.


It would be slightly more reasonable to count all players on the roster as having won a medal for such a comparison. I would imagine maximum roster size is fixed for each sport.

Kaptain K
2004-Oct-25, 05:09 PM
I don't know if I'll bother.
OK, I did then. Hope you don't mind that I linked to this thread. :)

Not at all! Thanks. =D>

A Thousand Pardons
2004-Oct-28, 06:42 PM
I don't know if I'll bother.
OK, I did then. Hope you don't mind that I linked to this thread. :)

Not at all! Thanks. =D>
Update: just received an email. Although it was addressed to me, it really should be addressed to you, and even the entire BABB:

Thank you for your sharp reading of Discover! Our dedicated copyediting staff genuinely regrets this mistake, and we are indebted to readers like you for keeping us on our toes.

Yours sincerely,
Michele Kogon
Copy chief, Discover

PS: here is the entire text of the email that I'd sent to them:


The sidebar quote on page 25 of the 11/2004 issue completely distorts
the material in the article.

The sidebar says "In relation to the size of the population, the United
States isn't even in the top 20 in science."

In the article, the words "in science" are part of the next sentence. The
"top 20" remark is actually about Olympic medals, not science ranking.

The interview goes on to say that the United States is ahead of the EU
in that regard--and would probably be in the top 20, contrary to your
sidebar.

This error was discovered and reported by poster Kaptain K at the
Bad Astronomy Bulletin Board:
http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=17172