Sat Apr 23 08:55:24 PDT 2011

wherein despicable me copies wikipedia, poorly

So I just watched Despicable Me, since I enjoy wasting my time, and because the SA review wasn't entirely negative.

I didn't like it, of course, but then again, I don't like most things. The movie wasn't bad enough to waste a couple hours writing a bad transcript for it; but a background detail in one of the shots jumped out at me.

Pan right and pull in. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46.

Gosh, that sure looks like scientific notation, if someone left off the exponentiation.

The explanation is simple. If you copy and paste HTML-styled text to a plain text document, then it'll strip off the formatting. This is harmless enough when the formatting is presentational, italics or bold, but superscript is semantic, it conveys information. Wikipedia uses superscript to indicate that one number is the exponent of another. And, coincidentally, the Wikipedia article on the Moon lists the mass as 7.3477 x 1022.

If the clipboard were a human, then of course it would know that there's a difference between one thousand twenty two, and ten sextillion, but computers, like movie studios, are dumb. Alas.

EDIT: Nerds have been nitpicking my assertion that they lifted the number from Wikipedia. This assumes that there is a single authoritative number for the mass of the Moon, which, surprisingly, isn't the case. Let's try a Google search:

Or you could look at this list of ten numbers from ten different sources, none of which agree with each other, and none of which match the Wikipedia number.

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