Friday, March 11, 2011...9:24 am

Media scientific illiteracy: John Humphrys and the 8.9% Tokyo earthquake

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Heard this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme: John Humphrys expressing the magnitude of this morning’s Tokyo earthquake as a percentage – “8.9%”.

The Richter earthquake scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale (ie, it has no unit as such, and each unitary value greater than the one before is actually 10 times more powerful). So 9.0 on the Richter scale is 10 times more powerful than 8.0.

It’s not a percentage – or anything else. Scale fail.

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