Before the internet, there was the night editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s from this week’s New Yorker. (More cartoons here.)

It’s not all that accurate, though. In real life, the next frame would be one of them on the phone — usually with a few more empty wine glasses on the table — to the night editor at the local newspaper saying, “I need you to settle a bet. Who played the super on that TV show from the early Seventies? The one with the three veterinarians.”

And the night editor would know the answer because that’s what night editors know. Either that or he — invariably male — would tell the caller to screw off and hang up. Or maybe both.

Update: In addition to the comments from Lex and Steve below, I have a few from Facebook and Twitter friends. They are mainly along the lines of, “The Internet? Son, please. Still happens.”

Shannan Bowen: “I guess there are some people who don’t know how to use the Internet, because I swear I get calls like that all the time! Today someone called me to ask what kind of parking permit she needed in a particular area. I gave her the parking department’s number, because I just didn’t know the answer.”

Lorraine Ahearn: “We were just talking at dinner about the Google effect, no one has to remember trivia anymore. Like we were trying to remember the name of the guy who cleaned OJ’s pool. But we didn’t bother Googling him. That’s the Kardashian effect. When it’s not worth Googling…”

Buffy Andrews: “For me, it was the information desk at the library.”

John Cole: “The news desk at an afternoon daily where I worked decades ago routinely took calls from a woman who needed help with that day’s crossword puzzle.”

Cindy Loman: “I remember people from other states calling sports night desks to check on Nascar.”

David A. Johnson: “We’re still Google for old people.”

R.L. Bynum: “I settled bets many a night on the desk. Also got calls from parents who should have sent their kids to library!”

 

 

(Hat tip to John Cole.)

Blinding me with science

Gallup: Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

I’ve always been interested in why so many people prefer to ignore science and go with their own beliefs. As a journalist, I routinely engaged with reasonable people who firmly fought for their position, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t just issues of science — evolution or gender selection or climate change — but also politics. But mostly it was science.

Jonah Lehrer at the New Yorker explains why. Essentially, we start out with assumptions about how the world works and we have trouble unlearning them.

For instance, people naturally believe that heat is a kind of substance, and  that the sun revolves around the earth. And then there’s the irony of evolution:  our views about our own development don’t seem to be evolving.

This means that science education is not simply a matter of learning new  theories. Rather, it also requires that students unlearn their instincts,  shedding false beliefs the way a snake sheds its old skin.

Not encouraging.