Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Checking the Facts

By Peter Bowditch

How much can you rely on what you read without checking the facts yourself?

Peter Bowditch is a former President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (www.skeptics.com.au).

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I am often referred to “scientific” papers that supposedly prove such matters as the efficacy of homeopathy or the dangers of vaccines. Sometimes these papers don’t actually exist, sometimes they are irrelevant, and sometimes they are full of “facts” which can be hard to check. I invite you to consider how long it would take you to check all the facts in the following story. Hint: the number of facts is not zero.

The greatest natural enemy of the Newne’s antelope is the Burragorang sabre-toothed bogan moth. As the weather warms in March with the coming of spring to the Blue Mountains, millions of the moths hatch and leave their breeding caves in the limestone pinnacles near Katoomba and Leura and go in search of food.

The antelopes generally come out of hibernation about 2 weeks before the moths start hatching, giving them adequate time to feast on the newly-sprouted Wollemi pine seedlings and then migrate south to their breeding grounds in the Weddin State Forest near Hornsby on the NSW–Victoria border. Stragglers, antelopes with illness or injury and the old and weak provide a feast for the moths, but in most years the majority of the herd arrives safely at their destination, which is beyond the flight range of the moths.

In 2006 a change in weather pattern brought on by global warming disrupted the life cycles of both animals,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.