Feb 2008

Media hyperbole in a microcosm

An item on the BBC website caught my eye. It’s under the headline “Giant palm tree puzzles botanists“, and is an interesting little piece about an obscure species of palm tree that literally kills itself in the act of flowering. It’s a floral form of autoerotic asphyxiation. Quite mad.

Tahina Spectabilis: So big it can be seen on Google Earth (or so it is said)

But the silliness isn’t restricted to the behaviour of the tree (surely destined to become a cautionary tale for monks all over the world), but extends to the caption that the BBC have added to the image… “The plant is said to be so big it can be seen on Google Earth”. Wow. Just think about that for a second. So big, it can be seen on Google Earth. Seen from space! It must be fricking enormous!

Well. No, actually. It can be seen from space alright. But only with the aid of a very powerful telescope. This makes it like every other tree on the surface of the earth. Here, for instance, is the tree in the grounds of Trinity College, under which I sit and have lunch when the weather’s fine.

Another tree: So big it can be seen on Google Earth (or so it seems)

So big it can be seen on Google Earth!

Posted in: Opinion