> 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
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