The grocer's apostrophe strikes again

A week of IT

Grocer's apostrophe strikes online

It's an open secret that while many arty types can't do maths, many nerdy types can't spell. It seems some geeks are grammatically-challenged, too, if the Government's education website is anything to go by. It features a fine example of what is colloquially referred to as "the grocer's apostrophe", or the placing of an apostrophe where none is needed. A story on the site's news section proudly proclaims: "Encouraging results for NZ students in Math's [sic] & Science".

Of course, an apostrophe-challenged arty type could be responsible for the grammatical hiccup. The teaching of grammar has long been unfashionable in certain educational circles as "inhibiting creativity". Maybe, but its lack can certainly inhibit the proper expression of creativity.

Waters of the Sahara

Art and science aren't always at war. They can meld beautifully, as in the stunning images captured for NASA's Earth Observatory. Taken by the Landsat Thematic Mapper, the top image is of the waterless sandfields of the Sahara as they are today — beautiful, but arid as a complimentary beer stand after an All Blacks versus Lions game. In contrast, the bottom radar image shows the water-carved rock underneath, with sinuous black channels cut into the rock by an ancient river that once meandered through the area of Eygpt's Safsaf Oasis.

The image was taken by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, which uses radar to penetrate the thin sand cover. By studying ancient river beds, scientists can reconstruct the climate of the past and, hopefully, learn how to predict future climate change.

London's mobile terrorazzi

It's rather a serious topic for E-Tales, but we felt some kind of comment on the recent London terror bombings was called for. From a techie point of view, what has been notable is how the net and mobile technology was used to communicate during and after the terror.

First, there were the amateur mobile terrorrazzi ambulance chasers, pointing their mobile cameras in the direction of the victims both on the stricken trains and, later, above ground, vying with the tabloids to capture the horror. A cruel but possibly useful activity — the UK police later appealed to anyone with useful photos to contact them.

Then there was the London Blitz spirit 60 years on, which has perhaps been best captured by the defiant www.werenotafraid.com website. Samples include a message from the cubs — little scouts — "Prepared ... Always! Afraid ... NEVER!" — and jokes made by commuters minutes after the blasts, such as: "I know the French are bad losers, but ..."

Net cures all ills

Patients have long used the net to fill in the gaps in information conveyed to them by doctors. An Italian woman has gone one better and diagnosed her own illness — which had her wheelchair-bound for 23 years — while surfing the net.

Ananova, the online news site, reports that Stefania Vanoni has now gone trekking in Nepal after finding her illness, Ataxia, on the net. Neurological experts had failed to help her, but the DNA test she requested showed her diagnosis to be correct.

We know some doctors, especially GPs, are overworked, but the story does confirm E-tales' suspicion that the myth of the all-knowledgable doctor really is that — a myth.

E-tales is edited by Jo Bennett. Send your tales of wit and woe to etales@computerworld.co.nz

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