Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beryl, the Dummy Version (Minerals Week 5) - The Freelance Files MXLIX

not all beryl crystals are gems
Not all beryl crystals are gems
It's Thursday, and the Antisocial Network researchers still find themselves awash in bogus information about rocks, minerals, and crystals. The editorial board, however, remains convinced that it wouldn't be wise to expand Minerals Week to Minerals Year, even if it seems quite possible. Instead, we'll finish up our last three entries and move on to other subjects in which freelancers contribute to the stupidification of the internet. Speaking of which, here's today's nominee: Tiffany Garden and her Sciencing.com post, "What Is the Mineral Beryl Used For?"

OK, Tiff, short answer: beryl is the chief ore of beryllium and, when found in gem form, is known as emerald and aquamarine. Unfortunately, that's only nineteen words, and DMS¹ only paid for answers meeting a minimum word count of 300 words. That's why "Garden" padded her answer to 400-plus words. The problems with those 400 words include, among others...
"Beryl is a well known mineral, although you most likely know it as one of the many gemstones that is formed from this beryllium aluminium cyclosilicate. Aquamarine and emeralds are two of the most popular forms of beryl, although there are several other varieties depending on the chemical inclusions in the stones. Modern uses for beryl tend to focus on jewelry and art applications. The varieties are very beautiful, and there are six in total."
Ummm, sure: Garden's bio says that she runs a "handcrafted jewelry business," and apparently her only exposure to beryl is in gem form. On the other hand, we use a hunk of a large hexagonal beryl crystal weighing about fifteen pounds as a doorstop at AN HQ, and we're quite sure it isn't gem quality. Oh, and Tiffany? It isn't the "chemical inclusions in the stones" that result in different colors of beryl, it's the presence of impurities in the crystal lattice; metals besides beryllium and aluminum.
We spotted a few other misstatements and misconceptions, such as
  • "Beryl contains a very rare [sic] element called beryllium, which is only found in about 100 minerals." – We wouldn't say, "called beryllium," ourselves, and it's not very rare. Beryllium abundance in Earth's crust ranks 48th out of the naturally occurring elements, making it more common than tin, molybdenum, and iodine (among others).
  • "That makes it very significant to the scientific community, although they have also used beryl in a few other applications." – WTF does this mean?
  • "Like many gemstones, the varieties of beryl have various holistic and magical properties associated with them." – Greetings from woo-woo land...
  • "There are three different types of rock that beryl is commonly formed in. The first and most prevalent is granitic pegmatites. You can also find it in mica schists as well as limestone. This type of rock can be found in Colombia, home of the most famous emerald mines, as well as South Africa, Brazil, and the central and western United States." – Limestone? Uhhh, no!
     Apparently this is the kind of "science" you get when you let jewelry designers post information about minerals. Perhaps Garden garnered this expertise while getting her certification as a computer technician – or while gaming. It's for sure she never read a mineralogy book, because if she had she wouldn't be our Dumbass of the Day. Probably.

¹ DMS, or Demand Media Studios, is the former name of Leaf Group. They owned, among other properties, eHow (the original home of Tiffany's content).

SI - MINERALS

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Minerals for Dummies (Minerals Week 4) - The Freelance Files MXLVIII

kidney stone composition
If the reader has more than a passing familiarity with the topic, it can be quite easy to spot a freelancer spreading around the bull. That's one reason why we're running Minerals Week: we have a couple of rockhounds on staff and it's easy for them to spot fakery from the misstatements and misinterpretations our candidates have published. We're talking misstatements such as those made by Gwen Nicodemus in her EzineArticles post, "What's the Difference Between Rocks, Crystals, and Minerals?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Quartz and Calcite for Dummies (Minerals Week 3) - The Freelance Files MXLVII

conchoidal fracture in quartz
Just like mineral grains are (usually) "little things," our research team members are finding that it's often the little things that trip up the freelancing fools to whom we award the DotD. Whereas real freelancing journalists (e.g., Mary Roach) investigate their topics in depth, our candidates often merely skim a wikipedia article or two and reword realistic-sounding phrases¹. It's those details that caught our staffer's eye while perusing "Physical Properties of Calcite & Quartz" at Sciencing.com, the article that earned Patrick Strothers Kwak a nomination.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Clay for Dummies (Minerals Week 2) - The Freelance Files MXLVI

structure of clay mineral illite
Oops, Elizabeth: I see iron...
It doesn't matter what the subject of a content-farm post is, there will eventually be someone who reads it and reacts. The reaction depends on both the stimulus and the person who reacts, but it can range from mild amusement to inchoate rage. Today's DotD candidate, an eHowian claiming the name Elizabeth Jennings, managed to stir a fairly mild reaction – "Whaaaaa?????" – in the Antisocial Network staffer who ran across the content she wrote at OurPastimes.com under the title, "What Is Primary Clay?"

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Arizona Gems for Dummies (Minerals Week 1) - The Freelance Files MXLV

gemstone prospecting
Some people prospect for gems, Bob!
A surprising number of posts about minerals have come across our desk in recent weeks, enough that the staffers decided that it was time for another "theme week." This time, it's Minerals Week, Here to show that some freelancers will say anything just to collect a few pennies, even if they can't tell a mineral from a hole in the ground, is eHowian Robert Adams. Robert's post "How to Find Gems in Southern Arizona" (OurPastimes.com) was of particular interest to our staff geologist, a graduate of the U of A: Bear Down, Wildcats!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Divergent Margins for Dummies - The Freelance Files MXLIV

Rift cross-section with sedimentation
Your grandmother may remember the long-ago quiz show called "Name that Tune," where contestants tried to identify a popular song from just the opening notes. Well, every once in a while one of the Antisocial Network staffers who patrol the internet can spot a DotD candidates in just one word. That's the case today, compliments of eHowian Rebecca C. Jernigan and her Sciencing.com post "Type of Rock Found in Divergent Boundaries." As always, any grammatical and logical errors in the title belong to the OQ: eHow only changed (some) spelling errors...

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dueling TV Antennas for Dummies - The Freelance Files MXLIII

Two antennas one output
The eHow business model was simple: pluck search terms including the word "how" from the internet (later, they also included "what" and other interrogative words) and let a contributing writer answer the question. The problem was that, too often, that contributor knew nothing about the answer and merely found what appeared to be a good answer somewhere on line, then reworded that text. In other words, a sort of online version of the game "telephone," in which the answer came out garbled - just like the answer Alexander Callos gave at niche site Techwalla.com to "How to Hook two Antennas to One Coaxial Input" (any violations of AP guidebook rules for capitalization are eHow's).