Thursday, March 24, 2011

Corrections and Clarifications: Tardigrades

It has been brought to my attention that the recently published piece "Fact or Fiction: Tardigrades" contains an error. In the first sentence of the first section (not an ideal place for an error), I incorrectly state that "tardigrades are able to withstand 5,000 gamma rays of radiation." 


For a remarkably comprehensive explanation of why this is incorrect, please see the email I received from scientist-to-be Florent Dellanoy, reposted with permission below:


I'm writing to nitpick about your latest article on the Bygone Bureau about those lovely little creatures, the Tardigrades.

The thing that tickled me as a scientist (well, student for now, but geeky enough to call meself one) is the followoing:
"Tardigrades are able to withstand 5,000 gamma rays of radiation"


A gamma ray is not an unit of measurement. Saying this is akin to saying "I ate 12 food". Or "damn those midnight cravings, I'm off to get some delicious tacos. Thank goodness this Taco Bell is only at 12 distance!". It lacks information.

More precisely, the gamma ray is the type of radiation the experiment was conducted with (like, say, broccoli), but the actual unit of radioactivity was the Gray. Hence, you should say that Tardigrades are able to sustain 5,000 Grays in gamma rays (-> "I ate 12 pounds of broccoli, I'M SO FULL!"), or just 5,000 Grays. For emphasis, it's about a thousand times the lethal dose for us mere humans (thanks wikipedia!).

That little detail apart, this was a great article. And the Four-Hour Dentist was excellent- it was actually the article that first introduced me to the Bygone Bureau, so thanks! :)

Have a good day!


Florent Delannoy

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