To The Moon, Alice!
The ever-watchful eyes of the blogosphere continued to gaze upon the graphic on the left, which we wrote about yesterday. Here's a quick recap: The original graphic, which accompanied a story about China's plans for a lunar landing, represented a picture of the moon with a Japanese flag planted upon it. After the mistake was pointed out by a well-read blog, the error was noted and corrected. All done, right? Not really. As pointed out by our commenters and Little Green Footballs, there was something just not right about that moon.
(AP / CBS)
Yes, as it turns out, the flag wasn't the only part of the graphic that was incorrect. The moon represented was actually Dione, a moon of Saturn, not our familiar lunar globe. That has also been corrected and the moon you see in the graphic is the one belonging to our planet's orbit. OK, now it's all fixed, right? What's that you say, the shadow of the flag is wrong? As one former CBS News correspondent was famous for barking, "Time Out!"
First, let's make certain everyone understands that this is a graphic representation. That is not an actual flag planted in the moon's surface. The use of the Japanese flag in a story about China was a clear error in the graphic. The use of a moon other than the one discussed in the story was also an error, although not so clear to those of us who tend to be astronomically challenged. But I have to draw the line at quibbling over the angle of a shadow in a graphic where that element has absolutely no bearing on the story.
In a positive way, this minor flap demonstrates both the importance of accuracy and the Internet's communal ability to serve as a corrective mechanism for inaccuracies. Using the wrong nation's flag was an error that may or may not have gone unnoticed had it not been for a blog. It's important that was caught and even more important that it was corrected. Accuracy counts in the picture of the moon, too, although a much less obvious mistake. But it's also worth warning against drawing any broader conclusions from such mistakes and trying to find hidden messages in shadows that don't exist. Sometimes a graphic representation is just a graphic representation – and a mistake just a mistake.