According to an article on BBC News one in ten UK children thinks the Queen invented the telephone. One in twenty think that Luke Skywalker was the first man to set foot on the moon. And an amazing 60% of nine and ten year olds think that Sir Isaac Newton invented fire.
I think not.
What this survey shows is that children have a sense of humour. What it shows is that, when presented with a bunch of boring questions, the average 10 year old will have a laugh and choose the stupidest answer. I probably would too.
The real story here is the poor quality of the BBC reporting. Without even considering the plausibility of the results the reporter presented the results of an online survey as fact.
May I suggest an alternative story:
Gullible BBC reporter outsmarted by a bunch of 10 year olds
When presented with a survey showing that “60% of nine and ten year olds thought that Sir Isaac Newton invented fire” a gullible BBC reporter naively presented this story at face value. The reporter did not consider the plausibility of this factoid, nor did they seek a second source to verify the factoids.
Which is more likely: the ten year olds were having a laugh by giving stupid answers to a boring survey, or the ten year olds were genuinely ignorant? I think the children proved themselves smarter than at least on BBC reporter.
It’s not surprising that Pat Robertson doesn’t understand the nature of earthquakes. But it is surprising that he doesn’t understand the nature of pacts with the Devil. An expert on the subject wrote an open letter to the Minneapolis St Paul Startribune
Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher.
The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake.
Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.
You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
Lily Coyle, Minneapolis
Eric Faden asserts fair use to cleverly and humourously explain copyright. He mashes up clips from Disney in his film A Fair(y) Use Tale:
Just after World War II a number of cargo cults started in the South Seas. During the war they had seen airplanes arrive with cargo to equip the troops. Once the war ended the troops left and the cargo stopped arriving. Seeking to remedy the situation they created airstrips. They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in bamboo control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways. But it didn’t work. No airplanes landed. These cargo cults followed all the apparent precepts and forms of aviation, but they missed something essential, because the planes didn’t land.
A similar thing is happening in Afghanistan. There is a cult that has created ballot boxes and ballot papers. They’ve created polling stations and electoral registers. They’ve even created an electoral commission. And they think democracy will magically come to Afghanistan. But it’s not working. They’ve missed something essential.
She made some brief comments at the end of her remarks, where she took on copyright, noting that it is a government granted monopoly that deserves antitrust scrutiny. She said, “Let’s face it, copyright extension these days is ‘limited’ to the life of Mickey Mouse.” And yes, there was sarcasm in her voice over the word “limited.” The guy from Disney shuffled uncomfortably at these remarks. Lofgren went on to say that copyright is being used to put up barriers to competition and innovation and is an issue that antitrust regulators really should be scrutinizing.
Tom Bell took this up on his blog and produced an amusing graph showing the astounding extensions of copyright in the United States and the way in which they track potential expiration dates of the Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie.
I’ve reproduced the graph here:
Mickey had a couple of close shaves in 1976 and 1998. But never fear, with Disney’s takeover of Marvel, Mickey has enlisted the help of the likes of Captain America, Spiderman and the Fantastic Four to help him defeat the evil pirates who want to expand the public domain and free our culture. Mickey even has Jack Sparrow, who I assume must be some sort of pirate double agent, on his side.