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Putting 'Errors' In Perspective

Early cartographers, without the luxury of an aerial view of their surroundings, did their best to map expanses of land based on expeditions and, of course, on previous maps. Although quite helpful, they and their maps were often less than perfect. Cartographers sketching the layout of the American colonies, for example, might map a lake or a mountain that simply didn't exist. Subsequent maps might then incorporate the make-believe landmark, sometimes even "moving" it several miles from its pre

Eugene Russo



Early cartographers, without the luxury of an aerial view of their surroundings, did their best to map expanses of land based on expeditions and, of course, on previous maps. Although quite helpful, they and their maps were often less than perfect. Cartographers sketching the layout of the American colonies, for example, might map a lake or a mountain that simply didn't exist. Subsequent maps might then incorporate the make-believe landmark, sometimes even "moving" it several miles from its previously reported location.

The same could be said of science and scientists' efforts to map out the "truth." Errors of observation and interpretation inevitably creep in, and corrections must be made. But it's difficult to overcome well-established maps of science drawn by well-established scientists. Investigators, perhaps prone to the all-too-human tendency to see what they want to see, may confirm findings that simply aren't valid.

At an American Association for the Advancement...

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