Historical research? Why, I once watched a TV show!

Another sad tale of crappy popular history of science related by Thony.

Here's the quote that I really love, when Stuart Clark "cites his sources":

"I first heard the story when it was told by Carl Sagan in his masterpiece TV series, Cosmos."

Clark is writing an article on the history of science, and his "research" into the accuracy of what he is reporting consists in having once watched a TV show where he heard this story.

Imagine someone doing a popular science show this way, and reporting, say, "Perpetual motion machines are perfectly possible: I saw one on a TV show once!"


  1. To be fair, he does write that he "first heard the story" on Cosmos, which I took to mean that he probably has heard or read it elsewhere. There are undoubtedly more reputable sources he may have consulted that also get the story wrong.

  2. Well, I was taught that story, more or less, in grade school which alas was well before 1980, so Sagan didn't invent it. That tale probably goes back a long way. I knew none of the history Thony recounts.


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