Thursday, April 30, 2009

Usage tip: i.e. vs. e.g.

Short and sweet:

i.e. means "that is" or "in other words". e.g. means "for example".

Vaccine safety and creationist nonsense

Todd W at AntiAntiVax has an excellent post up addressing some of the most common "arguments" against vaccination. Check it out.

(h/t Phil from Bad Astronomy)

I also recently found an excellent source for refutations to creationist "arguments" against evolution. It's quite comprehensive in scope, although each specific anti-argument is a bit brief.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Usage tips (double dose!): insure vs. ensure and tenets vs. tenants

The use of insure vs. ensure might seem fairly straightforward, but I've found multiple instances of its misuse even in that bastion of copyediting, fact checking, and solid writing, The New Yorker. So here we go again:

To insure something means to agree to provide payment to the owner of the thing if something happens to it. You insure your house, your car, and your health. Unless you're talking about something an AllState agent would sell you, you shouldn't be using insure.

To ensure something means to guarantee or make sure that it happens. You insure your health in case you get sick, but you try to ensure good health by eating right and exercising.

incorrect: We hope that the investment in science research today will insure advancements in quality of life in the future.
incorrect: You're required to ensure your car in most states.

I've also seen multiple incorrect uses of tenants to mean tenets. A tenant is a resident of a building. A tenet is a fundamental principle. Thus, religions have tenets, but (one would hope) not tenants.

incorrect: The tenants of Buddhism include rejection of dukkha, or desire.
incorrect: The tenets of the building sued the landlord for negligence.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On the importance of aspect ratio in estimating canine dimensions

I have a challenge for anyone who reads this post (all two of you):

Here is a picture of my dog, Sandy.
Using only this picture for reference, please answer the following questions:

1. How tall is Sandy (floor to top of shoulder)?
2. How long is Sandy (tip of nose to base of tail, assuming her neck is stretched out)?
3. How much does Sandy weigh?

You may give your answers in Imperial or metric units. Estimates are fine. And if you have the urge, feel free to explain where your estimates came from. I'm especially interested to know if you have ever owned a dog, and if so, what kind(s).

If I get enough responses, I'll post an analysis (highly scientific and rigorous, of course). If I get only a few responses, I'll still post an analysis, but it'll be less interesting.

Regardless of the number of responses I get, in a week or two I'll post again explaining the rationale behind this challenge.