Science

Brickbats

|


Twelve of the most widely used middle-school science textbooks are riddled with errors, according to a study funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In one text, a map showed the equator passing through the southern U.S. In another, a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt was labeled as a silicon crystal. "The books have a very large number of errors, many irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations, experiments that could not possibly work, and drawings that represented impossible situations," said one researcher. About 85 percent of U.S. students use at least one of the books.

Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch just held a contest for wacky warning labels. First place went to the warning in a pair of athletic shin guards: "Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover." A runner-up prize was found on a power drill: "This product not intended for use as a dental drill." And an honorable mention went to this message on a rock garden set: "Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth."

Denver police arrested 147 people in no-knock drug raids in 1999, according to the Rocky Mountain News. But just 49 of those people were ultimately charged with felonies, and only two were sentenced to prison time. By comparison, 21 percent of all felony defendants in Denver that year were sentenced to prison.

Laura Howard was an honors student who had never been in trouble at school. When she was called to the principal's office at her Selma, North Carolina, high school, she thought she might have forgotten to display her parking pass. Instead, she was told the sheriff's office had conducted a drug sweep of the school and a drug-sniffing dog had found a cigar in her car that they thought contained marijuana. Under the school's zero-tolerance program, she was suspended immediately. Four months later, the school got the lab results back from the state Department of Justice; the cigar contained no illegal substances. The lab report was dated some six weeks earlier.

The French government has forbidden civil servants from using the terms "startup" and "e-mail." The goal, they say, is to limit the spread of English words through the Internet.

Meanwhile, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, junior high school students walked out of class to protest a strict no-touching policy. The students say the policy bans even innocent contact, such as hugs, back slaps, and high-fives.

And in Valencia County, New Mexico, Richard Pitcher and Kimberly Henry have been charged with cohabitation, a violation of a state law banning unmarried couples from living together. The charges were filed by Pitcher's ex-wife.