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No Shortage of Lazy Journalists



    Greetings. And arghh.
    Your perpetuation (deliberate word choice ... hint hint) of this morning's "Oregon Man's Invention: Commute Generates Electricity" in the Bend Bulletin is yet another example of how high energy prices makes reporters and editors stupid. Okay, perhaps not stupid ... but certainly it seems to render them so un-critical that they fail to recognize a perpetual motion machine when they see it - or that they simply assume their sources are telling the truth or have a clue what they're talking about.
    Other recent horrid examples: (1) A New York Times reporter's acceptance without request for explanation of a hybrid land yacht owner's claim that she goes twice as long between fill-ups as with the old behemoth, even though the new one only gets 50 percent better gas mileage. (2) A different Bend Bulletin reporter's acceptance last week without apparent skepticism of a scooter salesman's quote about "average" drivers of four-wheeled vehicles spending $120/week on gas compared to $6 per week for drivers of scooters - when even the most generous look at the math shows the salesman has assumed for his audience's sake that the "average" driver gets just 5 miles per gallon and that the average scooter gets 100 mpg.

     My grandmother taught me long ago what happens when one assumes, and it ain't pretty. (She also taught me how to change wheel bearings and stretch fence, but those are different stories altogether.)
    The math isn't hard; it's all linear - simple enough that even third-graders understand it. The physics isn't even that hard - middle-school stuff. Just one question in any of these examples would have made the stories much more informative - and much less worshipful of the perpetual-motion-hybrid-scooter miracle that will surely soon lift us from certain disaster to the land of promise and peace and organically produced honey.
    Disclaimer: I was a physics major for one and a half years (entered at sophomore level) and for a decade operated a company called Perpetual Motion; when I was in fifth-grade, I submitted a drawing of an electric car powered by pedaled generator to Ford Motor Company. Nevertheless, I still know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and I sincerely believe my math and physics claims will hold up to even the most diligent scrutiny.
    Take care and be well,

Mike Van Meter

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