Monday , December 16 2019
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Hole-d On!

Summary:
My son, Thomas, is home for the Thanksgiving break from his graduate studies in astrophysics. Just yesterday he told me that an unusual black hole has just been discovered. This newly discovered black hole is unusual because it is of a size that has not so far been observed: its mass is much greater than many known black holes but much smaller than other known black holes. It is (my word here) of an intermediate size heretofore unobserved. So check out this headline on today’s Washington Post site: “Scientists find ‘monster’ black hole so big they didn’t think it was possible.” When I read it to Thomas, he immediately replied, “Well, that headline is highly misleading.” Had my son not already told me about this newly discovered ‘intermediate’-sized black hole, I would have concluded

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My son, Thomas, is home for the Thanksgiving break from his graduate studies in astrophysics. Just yesterday he told me that an unusual black hole has just been discovered. This newly discovered black hole is unusual because it is of a size that has not so far been observed: its mass is much greater than many known black holes but much smaller than other known black holes. It is (my word here) of an intermediate size heretofore unobserved.

Hole-d On!So check out this headline on today’s Washington Post site: “Scientists find ‘monster’ black hole so big they didn’t think it was possible.” When I read it to Thomas, he immediately replied, “Well, that headline is highly misleading.”

Had my son not already told me about this newly discovered ‘intermediate’-sized black hole, I would have concluded when encountering this headline that this newly discovered black hole is larger – indeed, likely much larger – than any black hole ever before discovered. But that conclusion would have been mistaken. At best, what scientists might not have thought “possible” is a black hole of this intermediate size. But a more accurate headline would not have been as attention-grabbing.

If you read the Washington Post report you eventually encounter accuracy, but not until paragraph ten.

….

Apparently, misleading headlines are not unique to reports on economic matters.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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