11.07.2009

Concerning Bodies Floating in a River

An article in the NY Times from March 1882 reads thusly:
The Moniteur Scientifique Quesneville publishes these alleged statemens of a Parisian ravageur concerning human bodies floating in the river: "I always know beforehand if it is a man or a woman. If the body has the face upward, it is that of a woman; if it floats on its belly, with the nose in the water, it is that of a man. I have remarked that a man who has been thrown into the water after being assassinated reappears on the surface much earlier than one who has fallen in by accident or has drowned himself. The time the body remains beneath the water shows whether it is a case of suicide or of murder." These curious pieces of information are valuable in proportion to their truth, and they would appear to require verification.
I applaud the New York Times for their skepticism. "Valuable in proportion to their truth" is my new catch phrase when arguing with Intelligent Design proponents. Yet I feel a note to their editor of the Journal of Science and the Times is warranted with their uncritical reporting of Mr. Varley's latest invention:
"Mr. C. E. Varley, the eminent physicist, has patented an improved divining rod for ascertaining the presence of metallic veins underground."
I shall send a telegraph straight away.

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