Andrew says:


> You thought NASA's metric-vs-English mistakes were boneheaded?  In 
> those cases, numbers were off by a factor of 4.45, but when the 
> mu-to-m error occurs, everything gets multiplied by 1000! 
> Microseconds become milliseconds, microamps become milliamps, 
> micrometers become millimeters... And there's NO WAY TO TELL that the 
> error happened unless there's a LOT of context that happens to look 
> self-contradictory.

Yes -- and microliters become milliliters. I was once hired to proofread 
product inserts for a major PHARMACEUTICAL company . . . yes, those 
densely-folded tinily-printed single pages tucked inside the box 
containing your MEDICINE . . . and those inserts were done in Framemaker 
and printed God knows where and by whom. I found multiple instances of 
mus becoming ms, and plus-or-minuses becoming plain minuses.

These symbols indicated dosages and storage temperatures. The team of 
contract proofreaders I was part of was this company's last defense 
against errors in these inserts. Since no one knew why the symbols were 
getting corrupted, no one had any confidence that our final corrections 
would make it past the printing process again. Can you imagine?

I was not comforted by the remark of a friend of mine with long 
experience in biotech: "Aaah, those inserts are just there to please the 
lawyers. Nobody relies on them!" I most certainly do rely on them. Don't 
you assume that those, at least, are accurate, when you pull them out of 
the box for something like, oh, your kid's medicine? Sure, your doctor 
has told you what dose to give, but still, don't you think that somebody 
has made sure that that little piece of paper is accurate?

And if people take such a cavalier attitude toward these inserts, who's 
to say that the PDF is any better?

To be perfectly honest, most of the inserts we reviewed were for 
laboratory testing kits, not end-user medicines. Still . . . if you're a 
guy nervously awaiting the results of your PSA test, wouldn't you like 
to think that the data sheet accompanying the assay materials is 
reliable?

--Nancy

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