Exposing PseudoAstronomy

December 1, 2013

Podcast Episode 94: Error and Uncertainty in Science

Episodes. Hopefully not
A boring topic?

Another unconventional episode, this one focuses on terminology and what is meant by “accuracy,” “precision,” “error,” and “uncertainty” in science. And, especially, different sources and types of error.

The episode also – surprisingly given my time constraints right now – has all of the other usual segments: Q&A (about asteroid Apophis), Feedback about the Data Quality Act, and even a Puzzler! (Thanks to Leonard for sending in the puzzler for this episode.) And the obligatory Coast to Coast AM clip.

I also talk a bit about meetup plans in Australia, especially the Launceston Skeptics in the Pub on January 2, 2014, where I’ll be talking about the Lunar Ziggurat saga, not only from a skeptical point of view, but from an astronomical one as well as from a more social science point of view — dealing with “the crazies.” I have not yet started to write the presentation, but I personally think it’s fascinating, how it’s playing out in my head.



  1. I’m glad you brought this up Stuart: regarding “the very precise measurements of Apophis taken during its close flyby six months ago …. ” and error, precision, accuracy and so forth:

    Did you happen to notice that during those “very precise measurements of Apophis taken six months ago” that earth scientists happened to up their previous incorrect guess-assertions of Apophis’s size from 250 meters to 325 meters or very close to the 350 meters put forth by Ptaah 5 or 6 years ago? How does that fit in with error, precision, accuracy and so forth?

    Regarding ” that the uncertainty ellipse of its (Apophis) orbit, and where it will be in 2036, is such that there is less than 1 in a billion chance of it hitting, which is why it is no longer listed on watch lists for that year, though Michael Horn is still trying to scare people by saying that Billy Meier says it’ll hit. ” :

    I guess you’ll just have to excuse Michael Horn for warning people, I mean “scaring people”; because just as earth scientists got the size of Apophis wrong by some 25-30%, if they happen to also be wrong regarding the orbital path of Apophis, such an error in precision and accuracy and so forth, could be catastrophic.

    Comment by Bruce — December 2, 2013 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you for the good scientific work, Dr. Robbins.

    Comment by Jennifer — December 3, 2013 @ 6:38 am | Reply

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