Wikipedia:External peer review/Nature December 2005/Errors

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Errors found during the Nature review process; this list of errors was made available on 22 December 2005 (the original 14 December 2005 article only provided the number of errors in each article). All reported errors were corrected by 25 January 2006.

The reviews are excerpted from the supplementary information (.doc) (.pdf) document posted on the Nature web site; we believe that it is fair use to quote them in order to respond. See also the blog on the Nature website.

  • If an error has been corrected, please add a sub-bullet (#*) under the item giving the date of the correction and linking to the diff. (See e.g. #Vesalius, Andreas.)
  • Simply provide the facts in an neutral manner and do not in general sign your edits; reserve your personal commentary for the Talk page.
  • If there is any dispute about the error, please link to the article's Talk page for discussion.
  • Please do not edit the reviewer comments themselves, except to add links.
  • When all the concerns have been addressed please add the {{done}} template next to the title in the section header and in the table below.

In general, please don't just delete disputed statements. Do some homework so that you can replace them with a more accurate description. First, this will prevent someone else from ignorantly re-inserting the same misconception in a year or two. Second, the Nature reviewers are fallible (see below). Third, you may be attacking the symptoms and not the disease, if there are deeper problems with the passage in question than the referee describes.

Error table[edit]

42 articles corrected out of 42 = 100% corrected

Article name
(link takes you to the relevant section)
Completed? Errors identified # corrected before 14 Dec. # corrected before 22 Dec.
Acheulean industry  Done 7
Agent Orange  Done 2
Aldol reaction  Done 3
Archimedes' principle  Done 2
Australopithecus africanus  Done 1
Bethe, Hans  Done 2 0 1
Cambrian explosion  Done 11
Cavity magnetron  Done 2 0 1
Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan  Done 0 N/A N/A
CJD  Done 5
Cloud  Done 5
Colloid  Done 6
Dirac, Paul  Done 9
Dolly the Sheep  Done 4
Epitaxy  Done 2
Ethanol  Done 5
Field effect transistor  Done 3
Haber process  Done 2
Kinetic isotope effect  Done 2
Kin selection  Done 3
Lipid  Done 0 N/A N/A
Lomborg, Bjorn  Done 1 1 N/A
Lymphocyte  Done 2
Mayr, Ernst  Done 3
Meliaceae  Done 3
Mendeleev, Dmitry  Done 19
Mutation  Done 6
Neural network  Done 7 0 5
Nobel prize  Done 5
Pheromone  Done 2
Prion  Done 7
Punctuated equilibrium  Done 0 N/A N/A
Pythagoras' theorem  Done 1 1 1
Quark  Done 0 N/A N/A
Royal Greenwich Observatory  Done 5 0 0
Royal Society  Done 2 0 1
Synchrotron  Done 2
Thyroid  Done 7 2
Vesalius, Andreas  Done 4 0 3
West Nile Virus  Done 5
Wolfram, Stephen  Done 2 0 0
Woodward, Robert Burns  Done 3 0 0

Acheulean Industry[edit]

  1. Cro-Magnons (early Homo sapiens) did not use the Acheulean!!
  2. Date range is off, its about 1.5 my to 200 ka
  3. The following statement is inaccurate and poorly written: 'The period during which these these tools were innovated is usually thought to be the early Paleolithic era or the beginning of the middle Paleolithic era.'
  4. I have no idea what this following statement means: 'However, the Acheulean industry continued to be used by some primitive hominid cultures up until 100,000 years ago.' It’s not correct.
  5. This is an awful set of sentences: 'by efficient scavengers, who were still preyed upon frequently by larger animals and often bewildered by their environment. Adversely, Acheulean tools gave their masters the ability to hunt and defend themselves successfully and gave them the distinction of being equally as deadly as the greatest predators of the prehistoric Earth.' Early hominins were probably hunting and scavenging. Acheulean hominins also likely scavenged and hunted. Acheuelean tools are often associated with large carcasses, suggesting that they had access to large quantities of meat. The sentence about Acheulean hominins abilities is overstated.
  6. Regarding Asia, I would say West and Southern Asia. Acheulean hominins did not spread to Eastern Asia.
  7. The statement 'It flourished roughly 400,000 to 100,000 years ago in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.' has nothing to do with the Acheulean, I am not sure what it means.
rewritten article swapped in 24 December 2005

Agent Orange[edit]

  1. This entry implies that it was the herbicides that are problematic, which is not the case. It was dioxin, a byproduct of manufacture of 2,4,5-T that is of concern. Dioxin is persistent in the environment and in the human body, whereas the herbicides are not. In addition, there was a significant amount of dioxin in Agents Purple, Pink and Green, all of which contained 2, 4, 5 - T as well. However, we have less information on these compounds and they were used in lesser quantities.
  2. The entry is on the verge of bias, at least. By use of the word "disputedly" in the second sentence there is at least an implication that the evidence of harm to exposed persons is in question. That is not the case, and the World Health Organization has identified dioxin as a "known human carcinogen", and other organizations such as the US National Academy of Sciences has documented harmful effects to US Air Force personnel.

Aldol reaction[edit]

  1. The mechanisms of base and acid catalysed aldol reactions should have every step as an equilibrium process
  2. The acid catalysed process should include the dehydration step, which occurs spontaneously under acid conditions and, being effectively irreversible, pulls the equilibrium through to product.
  3. The statement that LDA is avoided at all possible as it is difficult to handle is rubbish. Organic chemists routinely use this reagent – which they either make as required or use commercially available material.
Corrected, see Talk page

Archimedes Principle[edit]

Prof. Timothy J. Pedley, G. I. Taylor Professor of Fluid Dynamics, University of Cambridge, UK.
  1. In the section on acceleration and energy, which discusses how a body moves when it is not neutrally buoyant, it is rightly stated that the acceleration of a body experiencing a non-zero net force is not the same as in a vacuum, because some of the surrounding fluid has to be accelerated as well. However, it is implied that the mass of fluid that has to be added to that of the body, in using Newton's Law to calculate the acceleration, is equal to the mass of fluid displaced. This is not in general true - for example, the added mass for an immersed sphere is half the mass of fluid displaced.
    • 1st concern corrected [1], mostly by removing the example. It strays too far into hydrodynamics. See talk page.
  2. The entry is rather imprecise. In line 3, for example, the object is said to "float" if the buoyancy exceeds the weight, so here "float" must mean "rise" and not "stay at the same level", which is probably not what was intended because the word has the other meaning in the second paragraph of the section on "Density".

Australopithecus africanus[edit]

  1. The contribution of Broom in the 1930s should be mentioned.
See a discription of Broom's work in the section: Australopithecus africanus#Mrs Ples.
It still has only 1 sentence about his work in the 1930s. Anyone know what other significant things Broom did re A. africanus in that decade? Remove the done until then?

Bethe, Hans[edit]

  1. It is not really accurate to say that Bethe discovered "stellar nucleosyntheis" He showed now nuclear reactions accounted for the energy output from stars.
    • Changed from "his discovery of stellar nucleosynthesis" to "his work on stellar nucleosynthesis" on 17 Dec. 2005. Note that every version of the article has also included an explanatory statement of the form: "He postulated that the source of [stellar energy is] thermonuclear reactions in which hydrogen is converted into helium."
  2. Robert Wilson was not at Cornell before WWII; he came in 1947

Cambrian Explosion[edit]

(Note: massively rewritten 15 December 2005 by User:Dragons flight before this critique was available)

  1. “Prior to the discovery of the Burgess Shale ….”. Absolutely wrong! The existing fossil record clearly demonstrated the existence of triploblasts, e.g. trilobites.
  2. Diploblasts are much more complex, and to write “every cell …[is]… in contact with its watery mineral-rich environment” is basically wrong.
  3. Diploblastic/triploblastic; actually refers to germ layers, not “layers” in adult animal.
    • See previous.
  4. Diploblasts have “internal organs” e.g. gonads.
    • See previous.
  5. Evidence for Ediacaran triploblasts was available long before discovery of phosphatized embryos.
  6. Ediacaran fauna is known to span c. 565-540 Ma, i.e. much more than 10 Ma before Precambrian-Cambrian boundary.“
    • Note: Ediacaran goes back father than that; at least to 600 Ma.
    • Removed. 25 January 2006
  7. “Sexual reproduction” almost certainly evolved long before “Snowball Earth”.
  8. Ediacaran faunas are no older than c. 570 Ma; no convincing trace fossils occur at 600 Ma (or earlier)
    seems to have been corrected in rewrite 15 December 2005 (please double-check)
  9. Cloudina is misspelt.
    "Cloudina" eliminated from article in rewrite 15 December 2005
  10. Cloudina is effectively Ediacaran in age, and is not know to extend into the Tommotian.
    "Cloudina" eliminated from article in rewrite 15 December 2005
  11. Cambrian fish “unlike any fish alive today”: highly misleading.
    eliminated from article in rewrite 15 December 2005

Cavity magnetron[edit]

  1. Microwave ovens were not completely unanticipated before World War II. Radio-frequency heating of foods had been tried on an experimental basis, and I have heard anecdotally that Germans were experimenting with microwave cooking before 1940.
    • Sentence rephrased to avoid incorrect implications December 22.
  2. While the mass production of magnetrons was of great benefit to the Allies, German and Japanese radars were also developed. If the history section contains material on the Allied effort, mention should be made of the Axis work (at least a sentence).
    • Information related to German 1930s microwave work added December 17. Note that original article did have implied mention of Axis radars when it noted that Allied radars were an advantage over them.

Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan[edit]

No errors identified

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)[edit]

  1. The hereditary forms are always associated with mutations of the PrP gene. The sporadic forms are by definition not associated with mutations.
  2. The risk from HGH was only removed when this was medication was withdrawn in the USA in 1985.
  3. The original case from Jakob's papers have been re-examined and two were judged to have been suffering from CJD and at least two from other conditions. This did lead to confusion about definitions but it is wrong to state that the patients all had a different disorder.
  4. Although recent work has shown that PrPSc can be found with highly sensitive methods in some cases of sporadic CJD in muscle and spleen, the important point is that these tissues are negative using conventional tests in contrast to variant CJD in which LRS tissues are uniformly positive. This distinction is critically important for public health.
  5. The section on pentosan polysulphate gives an overly optimistic impression of the efficacy of this treatment.


  1. Under 'Cloud formation and properties', cloud formation happens when air is cooled below its saturation point, not to its saturation point.
  2. Under 'Cloud formation and properties': 'The air stays the same temperature but absorbs more water vapour into it until it reaches saturation'. No. Droplet or ice particle formation requires supersaturation. Water vapour can only be added to bring the air to saturation.
  3. Omission: Cloud can however be formed by the mixing of two subsaturated air masses. Examples of this are “breath” condensation on a cold day, arctic sea-smoke and aircraft contrail formation.
  4. 'This method of raindrop production … typically produces smaller raindrops and drizzle'. Tradewind and tropical cumulus clouds are capable of producing drops of several millimetres in diameter.
  5. Under 'clouds in family A': A contrail is a long thin cloud which develops as the result of the passage of a jet airplane at high altitudes. (any type of aircraft is capable of forming a contrail – not just jets. They result when mixing of the engine exhaust which contains unsaturated water vapour mixes with the unsaturated environmental air to produce a mixture which becomes temporarily saturated).


  1. 'In general, a colloid or colloidal dispersion is a two-phase system of matter'; No, a uniform dispersion of particles in a liquid is a one-phase system of two or more components, no matter how large the particles are. A two-phase system requires there to be two distinct phases separated by an interface. If all the colloidal particles coalesced into one large particle, only then would it be a two-phase system, and the original colloid would be considered to have been in a meta-stable state
  2. In a phase colloid, small droplets or particles of one substance, are dispersed in another substance, the continuous phase. In a molecular colloid, macromolecules are dispersed in a continuous phase (or dispersion medium). I’ve never heard of this division of colloids into phase colloids and molecular colloids.
    (this division no longer appears in the article)
  3. Misconception: van der Waals forces: These are due to dipole-dipole interactions (permanent and/or induced). Even if the particles don't have a permanent dipole there could be are always quantum mechanical fluctuations of the electron gas giving rise to an instantaneous a temporary dipole. So these types of forces are always present.
    (reiterate the poss. of instantaneous dipole moment)
  4. Omission in 'interactions' section: * Steric forces between polymer-covered surfaces or in solutions containing non-adsorbing polymer can modulate interparticle forces, producing an additional repulsive steric stabilization force or attractive depletion force between them.
  5. The charge on the dispersed particles can be observed by applying an electric field: all particles migrate to the same electrode  Only if the sign of their charge (positive or negative) is the same and therefore must all have the same charge.  The same sign, not necessarily the same charge. The logic of this sentence is backwards.
    (don't see how "logic is backwards", but maybe version has changed; emphasise not "same charge" by "same sign".)
  6. Colloids can be classified as follows:  Inconsistency: What follows is a very different classification than given in the opening two paragraphs. 
Dispersed phase material
Gas Liquid droplets Solid particles
Dispersing phase medium Gas None: all gases are mutually soluble Liquid aerosol, Examples: fog, mist Solid aerosol, Examples: Smoke, dust
Liquid Foam, Examples: Whipped cream Emulsion, Examples: Micelles, milk, mayonnaise, hand cream, vesicles, blood Sol, Examples: Paint, pigmented ink
Solid Solid foam,Examples: Aerogel, Styrofoam, Pumice Gel, Examples: Gelatin, jelly, cheese, Opal Solid sol, Examples: Cranberry glass, Ruby glass

(the inconsistency no longer appears as the intro has changed; made minor correction (phase -> medium))

Article corrected in response to peer review 5 January; tag removed. Many thanks to "our" referee.

Dirac, Paul[edit]

  1. Dirac never worked as an engineer for a living (all he did was a few weeks’ research one summer, directly after his engineering degree).
  2. His PhD thesis did not mention Schrodinger’s quantum theory, so the characterization of Dirac’s early QM is not correct.
  3. Dirac first became interested in general relativity as a student in Bristol, not at Cambridge.
  4. His role in the discovery of field theory is not mentioned.
    • Fixed December 22. (The article could still use more information on this subject, though. -- Eb.hoop)
  5. Nor is his extremely important work in the least-action formulation of QM, now very important in modern field theory.
  6. I was surprised to see nothing at all about Dirac’s large number hypothesis (1937)
  7. Dirac did speak publicy about his early family life in his interview to the Archives of the History of Quantum Physics.
  8. He did not ‘derive’ the Dirac equation – he guessed it.
  9. He was not a committed atheist in later life. I’d describe him as agnostic.
    • Statement on Dirac's religious views has been removed December 22; not yet replaced with a more accurate description.

Dolly the Sheep[edit]

  1. Somatic cell nuclear transfer involves transfer of an intact cell into an enucleated egg and subsequent fusion of the cell within a cell rather than transfer of the nucleus per se.
  2. Cloning ‘will not bring back to life replicas of pets’.
    • Removed.
  3. Work is not progressing on cloning the mammoth or other prehistoric animals and will not be possible –shades of Jurassic Park here.
    • Removed.
  4. Similarly portraying the prospects for making the ‘controversial practice of genetic engineeering of children more acceptable’ perpetuates several media myths.
    • Removed section - seemed to have nothing to do with cloning, probably original research (the one "source" did not mention cloning).
Corrections on 23 Dec. 2005


Max G. Lagally, Erwin W. Mueller Professor and Bascom Professor of Surface Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.
  1. Third paragraph: I’m not sure that “outgassing” is the proper word. I think “diffusion” is meant.
  2. The big problem with this one is that it really hardly says anything about epitaxy, but more about manufacturing the starting point for Si device manufacture. It fails to mention epitaxy in GaAs and other III-V compounds, where it is much more important, and it fails to mention why epitaxy occurs at all and in what systems it is possible.
I have restructured by moving the "silicon" paragraphs to the chemical vapor deposition article. I am not an expert, but I have tried to demonstrate the large fan-out than occurs with the subject of epitaxy via a long-ish "See also" list to the existing W pages. -- Pinktulip 09:48, 2 January 2006 (UTC)


  1. Para 6: It is said of the traces of benzene in purified alcohol that ‘consumption by humans lead to distinctive liver damage’. Such industrial alcohol is never drunk by humans and I think the author is confusing this with cirrhosis of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption over many years.
    • The article specifically talks about the harmful effects of benzene, and a pattern of liver damage which is apparently distinct from cirrhosis. I've added {{fact}}, as I don't see any sources for this claim. --MarkSweep (call me collect) 22:48, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
  2. Para 9: the name of the ‘unpleasant’ agent is denatonium benzoate, better known as Bitrex.
    • An older version of the article did say "denatonium benzoate"[2], but this was changed to "denatonium"[3]. The denatonium article explains that denatonium is an unpleasant substance and that it is available in the form of certain compounds, including denatonium benzoate. That article also mentions the tradename Bitrex. I don't think the ethanol article needs further corrections; this is just an issue of following the relevant links to get to more detailed information. --MarkSweep (call me collect) 22:22, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
  3. Page 10: the term antifreeze is generally used for ethylene glycol not ethanol. Ethanol has a low melting point but this is not given.
    • The reviewer appears to be simply mistaken. The article does not equate ethanol with antifreeze (again, the reviewer appears to be confused about the fundamental nature of Wikipedia, which occasionally requires readers to follow links to other articles for more information). [Mark: The reviewers did not know it was a Wikipedia article and all links were removed. Dan100 (Talk) 10:35, 23 December 2005 (UTC)] The melting point of ethanol has been there since early 2003. Here's the timeline of relevant edits:
      • 2003-03-13 — addition of: "Its low melting point of -114.5° C allows it to be used in anti-freeze products."[4]
      • 2004-07-17 — infobox is added[5]
      • 2004-08-01 — information about melting point is removed from body text, since it's already mentioned in the infobox; body text now reads: "Ethanol is used in antifreeze products for its low melting point."[6]
    • The reviewer is also mistaken about the meaning of "antifreeze" – this term doesn't denote any specific mixture of chemicals, it simply refers to certain additives that, when mixed with water, lower the freezing point of the mixture. It's just as wrong to equate ethylene glycol with "antifreeze" as it would be to equate ethanol with it, which we don't do. --MarkSweep (call me collect) 23:18, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
  4. Para 12: Ethanol is not commonly used as a disinfectant, although it has disinfectant properties.
    • I believe that ethanol swabs are used before all medical injections to disinfect the immediate area, are they not? 22:03, 26 December 2005 (UTC)
    Ethanol is certainly used as a disinfectant. The information panel on the side of Purell (tm) hand sanitizer lists the active ingredient as 62 percent ethyl alcohol.
      • Actually, the things commonly designated "alcohol swabs" and used by diabetics and hospitals before injections generally contain isopropyl alcohol, not ethanol. (It's also arguable as to how much "disinfectant" effect they have, especially as generally used without allowing drying time, but that's neither here nor there). - Nunh-huh 06:19, 28 December 2005 (UTC)
    • It definitely is used as an antiseptic (AFAIK, you use a "disinfectant" on drains and sink; you use an "antiseptic" on the human body). If you look at the back of any Purell hand-sanitizer bottle, you'll see that the only active ingredient mentioned is ethanol as an antiseptic, while isopropyl alcohol is mentioned as an inactive ingredient. Shameer 22:08, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
      • Ethanol is commonly used as a disinfectant in scientific laboratories where it is used to maintain sterility of gloves, cell culture hoods, cell culture tools, incubators, etc... Debivort 18:20, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
  5. Para 26*: Seems rather jumbled, mixing alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, and unproven claims that alcohol consumption is linked to various forms of cancer.
    • I added {{fact}} to one sentence. It should be noted that the relevant section is merely a summary of the article on effects of alcohol on the body. Any corrections should be applied to the latter article first, and the brief summary in the ethanol article should be revised or rewritten accordingly. --MarkSweep (call me collect) 23:08, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
    • The Dec 14 version of the article simply said:
    • Ethanol within the human body is converted into acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase and then into acetic acid by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. The product of the first step of this breakdown, acetaldehyde, is more toxic than ethanol. Acetaldehyde is linked to most of the clinical effects of alcohol. It has been shown to increase the risk of contracting cirrhosis of the liver, multiple forms of cancer, and alcoholism. The characteristic flushing reaction in some Asians is due to the accumulation of acetaldehyde in individuals who have a relative deficiency of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase.
    • which is probably what the reviewer was referring to. This was expanded to the present summary between then and 12/22. Shimmin 03:36, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Field effect transistor[edit]

  1. In the section on USES, CMOS is the acronym for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor.
  2. The first sentence of the section “FET Operation” mentions a “potential voltage” which is misleading. In electrical terminology “potential” and “voltage” tend to mean the same and hence both are not normally used together. It is best to use the word VOLTAGE alone for the purposes of describing how the FET works.
  3. There are many types of FET but the section on FET Operation describes a “normally-on” or “depletion mode” type of MOSFET. However, it is usual to employ a “normally-off” MOSFET for CMOS devices which are described in the section on USES.

Haber process[edit]

  1. The statement "The process was developed by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch in 1909 and patented in 1910." is slightly misleading. There are early patents, one in 1908 by Haber meant to protect his process, which was discovered independent of Bosch by Haber and his co-workers, one of whom was Le Rossignol. To be honest, the word "developed" does cover this aspect since it was Haber who "discovered" the process while it was Bosch as BASF who made it industrially viable.
  2. In the last sentence, 'about half' is vague enough to be misleading.
  • Corrected December 23.
    • It is not clear that replacing "about half" with "half" (without giving a source) is an improvement. {{fact}} added to this line; please fix with sourced information.
Corrected January 2.

Kinetic isotope effect[edit]

Daniel Singleton, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA.
  1. When it says "In still other cases, the rate change may be due to subtle differences in the electronegativity of the two isotopes," the best scientists in the area would say that there is no convincing example of this. The statement is controversial at best, and I believe it to be simply wrong.
  2. The final part of the discussion regarding relative mass versus absolute mass confuses issues. The discussion ultimately gives the wrong impression that the issue is the use of reduced masses rather than the fact that (1/1)^.5 differs from (1/2)^.5 much more than (1/12)^.5 differs from (1/13)^.5 Still, I find that the discussion is useful for the facts it presents in building its misleading argument.

Kin selection[edit]

Chris Barnard, Professor of Biology, University of Nottingham, UK.
  1. It’s not true to say kin selection was first suggested by Darwin. Darwin certainly recognized the problem posed by altruism, specifically in the form of sterile castes, but his solution owed more to group selection than kin selection. The modern concept of kin selection stems from informal comments by Haldane, later formally refined by Hamilton (but, to be pedantic, Hamilton did not use the term kin selection - he defined inclusive fitness; it was Maynard Smith who coined the term ‘kin selection’)
    • I tried to rework it to remove Darwin from the first paragraph. Probably could use some revision. Broken S 23:40, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
      • Alright it's back. It seems that Darwin's comments did refer to kin selection. See talk for more details. Broken S 05:36, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
  2. On the gene selection/individual selection issue, this starts off on a better footing than the previous definition, but slips a bit where it says ‘…siblings share 50% of an individual’s genes…etc’ – should say ‘has a 50% chance of sharing the individual’s gene for self-sacrifice etc’
  3. In the third para from the bottom, I’d change the text from the second sentence on to: ‘This may be through recognizing some attribute of an individual that correlates with kinship, such as familiarity through having grown up together, or it may come about indirectly; for instance young tiger salamanders avoid cannibalizing other young salamanders and their eggs until they have left their natal vicinity thereby reducing the damage they would do to the survivorship of their kin.’ As it is the text perpetuates distinctions between forms of ‘kin recognition’ that have been shown to be misleading in the critical literature.
    • Why does this need changing? Both sentences seem to make as much sense as each other.. Speh 14:26, 4 January 2006 (UTC)Speh
      • The behavior does not protect "all eggs" in the lake -- Pinktulip 13:33, 24 January 2006 (UTC)
    • corrected -- Pinktulip 13:33, 24 January 2006 (UTC)


Stephen High; Reviewer: Stephen High, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK.

No errors identified

Lomborg, Bjorn[edit]

  1. The Copenhagen Consensus project is mentioned but with no explanation of what it actually was.
    • Corrected on 4 Dec 2005: a section on the Copenhagen Consensus was added, along with a wikilink to the main article. Previously, Copenhagen Consensus was wikilinked, but there was no further explanation as to what it was. Further clarification was added to lead on 22 Dec 2005.


  1. Lymphocytes are larger than red blood cells and plasma cells have a large cytoplasm to nucleus ratio, not vice versa.
    • Article has always stated (correctly) that the nucleus of a lymphocyte is roughly the size of a red blood cell. (The entire lymphocyte including the cytoplasm is of course therefore larger than a RBC.)
    • Statement about nucleus/cytoplasm ratio was removed 17 Nov. 2005. It was moved to plasma cell, where it was corrected on 22 Dec..
  2. The function of T cells is omitted and there is no mention of cytokine secretion.

Mayr, Ernst[edit]

  1. The entry says that Mayr solved the species concept - but, take it from me, there are still dozens of people arguing about it: this is a bit misleading.
  2. Mayr was not sent to PNG by Rothschild, but by the American Museum of Natural History.
    I don't think he was sent by the AMNH. In Mayr's obituary in Science, Jerry Coyne writes that Mayr's trip was "underwritten by his mentor Erwin Stresemann and the Berlin Museum". --MayerG 08:36, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
    I've checked: according to Mayr's own account, both Rothschild and the AMNH sponsored the expedition. I've revised the article accordingly. Stresemann helped set it up. See Talk:Ernst_Mayr--MayerG
  3. The statement that "He continued to reject the view that evolution is the mere change of gene frequencies in populations, maintaining that other factors such as reproductive isolations had to be taken into account" is a bit odd; in that reproductive isolation presumably depends on the evolution of a genetic barrier - ie a change in gene frequencies.


  1. Actually flowers are usually cryptically unisexual although they do indeed look bisexual and much of the literature refers to them as such.
  2. Most species are evergreen, only a minority are deciduous.
  3. Inaccurate geography (e.g. S. macrophylla is not the Honduras mahogany and it does not occur in C America, just in S. America; the Honduras mahogany is S. humilis and that is what occurs in C. America; Khaya ivorensis is the "Ivory Coast Mahogany", but this is not a trade or common name that I have ever come across.
    • Swietenia corrected to Nature's statement for now, but further checking in progress (may be disputed); reference for Khaya provided on talk page 23 Dec
      • The Danida Seed Leaflets (pdf files) Swietenia humilis and Swietenia macrophylla treat Swietenia humilis as a strictly Pacific Coast species, not occurring on the Caribbean side of Central America, and S. macrophylla as present in at least the Yucatan (Caribbean Mexico) as well as South America - this differs from what Nature are saying MPF 21:51, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
      • More sources are needed to be sure of this. —Steven G. Johnson 18:58, 27 December 2005 (UTC) Note that the disputed statement has been moved to Swietenia.
        • The Danida Seed Leaflets are more than adequately well referenced and sourced. I see no reason to doubt them - MPF 12:15, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
          • The reason to doubt them is that they have been challenged by a specialist, albeit an anonymous one. Perhaps Danida miscopied from their reference and the error was duplicated in all of their leaflets. Why not just go to the sources cited by Danida in order to double-check? —Steven G. Johnson 00:16, 6 January 2006 (UTC)
    • Corrected 26 Dec

Mendeleev, Dmitry[edit]

Michael Gordin, Assistant Professor of History of Science, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.
  1. They say Mendeleev is the 14th child. He is the 13th surviving child of 17 total. 14 is right out.
    • Corrected Dec. 14, and further clarified on December 22. Even futher clarified, following a New York Times piece on the subject, on January 3. Factual correction to January 3 clarification on January 4.
  2. Between 1859 and 1861 Mendeleev spent no time in Paris beyond a brief visit. He was in residence the entire time in Heidelberg.
  3. He also did not work on gases at all, but instead the capillarity of liquids in this period.
  4. He did not study the spectroscope with Kirchhoff.
    • Mention of Kirchhoff was deleted December 22. (Not yet replaced by more detailed discussion.)
  5. He got the job at the Technological Institute in 1864, not 1863.
  6. His first wedding is in 1862, not 1863.
  7. Mendeleev was not actually dismissed from the University because of political activities. This contention has been invalidated by recent research.
    • Statement deleted December 22, but not yet replaced by any more recent explanation.
  8. M did not work out the 40% by volume standard for Russian vodka (it was established earlier by the British for gin), and he certainly never patented it.
  9. Newlands published his work first in 1864, not 1866.
  10. Mendeleev's work was also produced in the course of writing a textbook, and not originally a classification of the elements, as Newlands was. The classification emerged by accident, not as the result of a deliberate search for a system.
  11. Also, Meyer's table was indeed a categorization by both weight and valence in 1864, not just by valence alone. (All 2-dimensional tables include weight as one axis in the 1860s.)
  12. In the paragraph on the chemical ether, they make it sound like the lighter of the two proposed new elements was meant to be chemically inert. Actually, the other proposed, slightly heavier element (coronium), was *also* supposed to be chemically inert.
  13. The paragraph on solutions research gets M's position exactly backwards: he is trying to show that Dalton's laws *don't* apply, not that they do.
    • Fixed (some verbiage deleted) 25 jan 2006
    • NOTE: We should try to get a better understanding of what the expert means!
  14. M's version of gunpowder is "pyrocollodion," not "pyrocollodium."
  15. It was not in fact adopted by the Russian navy, which commissioned it.
  16. Omission: No mention at all of his importance as a public intellectual in late Imperial Russia. There is also no discussion of his role as an economic thinker, his work on the theory and practice of protectionist trade, his work on agriculture, etc.
  17. In the first paragraph, the entry states that there were two competing versions of the periodic table. There were at least five competing variants by different people during the 1860s. Throughout the entry, there is a collapse to just M's and Lothar Meyer's. These are the last two and the most complete, but it is an unfair reduction of the historical picture, and it tends to overdramatize the story (as this entry often does).
  18. This first paragraph also makes it sound like the correction of the atomic weights was more radical than the prediction of new properties of elements. It was the latter which was far more controversial. Essentially all periodic systems proposed revisions of existing accepted atomic weights, which were much less fixed than the entry suggests.
  19. M's weddings are presented a bit misleadingly. He was indeed married to two women, but for a period of time (a few months) was married to both of them, leading to accusations of bigamy -- although no prosecution.


  1. “Neutral mutations do not affect the organism's chances of survival in its natural environment and can accumulate over time, which might result in what is known as punctuated equilibrium, a disputed interpretation of the fossil record.” Evolution at DNA sequence and phenotypic level have been seriously confused here.
    Corrected on 20 December 2005
  2. “+ silent mutations: codes for the same amino acid, so has no effect”: “so” not justified; a silent mutation could e.g. affect the splicing and if so, could even be lethal.
    Corrected 23 December 2005

Comment: As of June 8, 2010, the last sentence of the section on Silent Mutation is inconsistent. Assuming that the definition in the first sentence is correct, the last sentence, which mentions 'changed protein' would by definition not be a silent mutation. The comments from the Nature review in 2005 on this topic would be more consistent with the statement 'A silent mutation in the intron/exon border may lead to alternative splicing by changing the splice site, possibly resulting in alterations in the expression of the protein, but not in the sequence of the protein itself.'

  1. “; C → U, or A → HX (hypoxanthine).” This is not the full story, because e.g. a U in DNA would be recognized by the cell’s repair system and eliminated. But now the U pairs with A … (imagine replication). Or, the C is methylated, then you could get mC  T indeed.
    at least partially corrected 26 December 2005
  2. “There are three kinds of point mutations, depending upon what the erroneous codon codes for:” This applies only to coding regions (open reading frames), but only a very small fraction of e.g. the human genome represents coding regions.
    Corrected 23 December 2005
  3. “Most insertions in a gene can either alter splicing of the mRNA, or cause a shift in the reading frame (frameshift),” How do the authors get to the “most”; my feeling is that this is not correct. The statement may also depend on the definition and composition of a gene; e.g., if it has large introns, it might be quite robust towards insertions or deletions.
    Corrected 23 December 2005
  4. “* Loss-of-function mutations are the result of the protein encoded by the gene having less or no function.” Genes encoding only RNA, or nothing, can also lose their function.
    Corrected 23 December 2005 (though: how can a gene encoding nothing lose its function?)
    Possibly nothing refers to mutations in regulatory regions? Especially those that could influence chromatin structure. It all depends on how one defines a gene. David D. (Talk) 00:54, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Neural Network[edit]

  1. The term "linearly independent" has a specific mathematical meaning, and the author has misused it. He/she appears to mean "linearly separable", which is a different concept entirely.
  2. It is claimed that in connectionism neurons compute a monotonic function of the sum of products of their inputs with weights. This is not always the case. In fact the article mentions radial basis functions, which are a perfect counterexample.
  3. Neural networks are divided by the article into supervised and unsupervised. No mention is made of reinforcement learning.
    • Corrected on 15 Dec 2005 with further corrections pending.
  4. It is claimed that the Cognitron was the first multilayered neural network. While one might make the case for it being the first with a training algorithm, it is very likely that one could find a proposal for a multilayered neural network considerably earlier.
    • Rephrased 22 Dec 2005 to "an early multilayered neural network with a training algorithm".
  5. It is claimed that backpropagation is the most common learning algorithm. While this might be true in terms of its frequency of appearance in textbooks, it is in fact a very problematic algorithm in its simplest form, and it is probably misleading to suggest that it is the most commonly used algorithm in actual practice.
  6. It is misleading to suggest, in presenting AI and cognitive modelling, that "approaching human learning and memory is the main interest in these models". In fact much work in AI has no interest in this whatsoever: the aim is to better solve certain technological problems.
  7. It is misleading to suggest that what real neurons do is "simple". Similarly, the question of whether the brain is Turing-equivalent is at present entirely unresolved.

Nobel Prize[edit]

  1. “The prize is occasionally awarded to those who preserved through critical moments in a process despite the risk of failure.” Not sure what this is supposed to mean, but if it implies that the committees take this criteria into account when deciding upon who shall get a prize, there is no evidence for this. This is part of the mythology and relates to Nobel’s own romantic vision, but not to the actual working of the prizes.
  2. The reasoning for why no mathematics prize with respect to mathematics not considered a practical science is historically wrong. We do not know why Nobel chose not to include mathematics; evidence points to issues not mentioned in the entry, which repeats popular mythology and not work of those who studied the issue in detail.
    • Changed to "it is not known why..." 22 Dec 2005; not yet supplemented by a more detailed discussion of the evidence.
  3. Final date for receiving proposals is 31 January not 1 February.
  4. Unclear/misleading: Those invited to nominate is unclear. Process of evaluating is unclear. The discussion of criticisms seems haphazardly slapped together; where useful information was found, it was included, but no clear thesis or vision for what should be included seems present. No perspective on why the prizes became significant; no perspective on general use of NP or other prizes for determining the alleged ‘Best’.
  5. Omission: The location of the ceremonies has changed over time.
    • Noted, with 3 locations for the peace ceremonies listed on 25 Dec 2005.


Olle Anderbrant, Professor of Ecology, Lund University, Sweden.
  1. One might get the impression that a pheromone is a substance, while it usually consists of several in a blend.
  2. 2nd paragraph. The fact that the confusion acts on the ability to find a mate, not to lay eggs per se, is missing


  1. It should first be clearly stated that prions replicate through conversion of the host normal prion protein (and not any other host protein).
  2. It is untrue that prion domains are flexible and lack a defined structure. On the contrary, prion domains are fold into structures called alpha helices in the normal conformation and are stretched into flat structures called beta strands when in the "prion" state.
  3. Unclear: Regarding the normal cellular prion protein, its precise location is at the surface of all cells. It is untrue that its function is not known, rather it is not completely resolved.
  4. Unclear: Concerning propagation of prions, it is not the disease which is propagated but the infectious agent (prions).
  5. The sentence linking prions to memory and cellular differentiation is extremely misleading. The normal function of cellular prion protein in mammals is not fully understood, but it may take part to cell adhesion mechanisms, cell signaling, copper homeostasis, and protection against insults such as oxidative stress.
  6. Bias; A very (too) long part of the entry is about yeast prions, as compared with mammalian prions. The occurrence of prions in yeast is interesting in so far as it gives credence to the protein only hypothesis.
  7. It also has allowed to shed some light on the prion domains (i.e. regions in the protein involved in the conversion) and on the mechanisms of conversion. However, it is untrue that prion-like proteins are found in "many" plants or animals (we just do not know). The word "useful" is also confusing, while it is true that not all prions are associated with a "disease" state.

Punctuated Equilibrium[edit]

Professor Henrik Jensen, Department of Mathematics, Imperial College, London, UK.

No errors identified

Pythagoras’ Theorem[edit]

Geoff Smith, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Bath, UK.
  1. “This means that knowing the lengths of two sides of a right triangle is enough to calculate the length of the third-something unique to right triangles." is misleading. If you know two sides of a triangle and the included angle then you can always calculate the length of the third side.


No errors identified

Royal Greenwich Observatory[edit]

  1. ‘The last time that all departments of the RGO were at Greenwich was before World War II. Many departments were evacuated along with the rest of London to the countryside (Abinger, Bradford, and Bath) in 1939.’ – in fact, Magnetic & Meteorological Dept moved to Abinger in 1924 after the arrival of the railway at Greenwich which affected readings. Then in WWII many of the instruments were put into storage for their safe keeping, with work at Greenwich scaled back to the bare minimum.
  2. 'The castle now houses the International Study Centre …' – Herstmonceux Science Centre is housed in the Observatory buildings next to the castle, on the castle grounds, not in the castle itself.
  3. ‘built as a workplace for the Astronomer Royal’ - not really, it was built to provide data for navigators, the AR was appointed to use the observatory as a means of creating that data.
  4. ‘the Prime Meridian, to which longitude refers, went through the observatory’ suggests the Prime Meridian existed before the Observatory, when in fact it is a creation of the observatory.
  5. The meridian line in the courtyard is marked by a stainless steel strip now, not brass.

Royal Society[edit]

  1. Sprat’s name misspelt in References.
  2. The timeline implies that the Society stayed at Arundel House from 1666 to 1710, whereas in fact it moved back to Gresham College (not mentioned), where it was based from its foundation till 1666.


  1. Motivation for building the things in the first place - no mention of high energy particle physics, although synchrotron light sources are mentioned.
  2. electron acceleration power should be electron beam energy


  1. Calcitonin production is not regulated by TSH.
  2. The thyroid is not enlarged during menstruation but does vary in size through the menstrual cycle.
  3. C cells do not fill the spaces between follicles, they are scattered through the gland, there is also connective tissue in the intra-follicular space.
  4. The description of radioactive isotopes is biased. They are very useful in the diagnosis and treatment of adult thyroid dysfunction, including cancer. The increase in thyroid cancer after Chernobyl was restricted to children.
  5. Thyroid is described as ....largest endocrine gland... and quite large for an endocrine gland.. which?
  6. Does not contain the information that most thyroid hormone is in the form of thyroxine and this is how it is most easily transported e.g. across the blood/brain barrier. However T3 is the biologically active form of the hormone and is produced, partly directly, but also by de-iodination of thyroxine which occurs in tissues.
    • Added to article 24 January 2006.
  7. The description of thyroid disorders should include hyperthyroidism (overactivity), hypothyroidism (under activity) and the fact that these are common affecting about 2% of the population.

Vesalius, Andreas[edit]

Neidhard Paweletz, German Cancer Research Centre (retired), Heidelberg, Germany.
  1. Jacques Dubois (or better Jacobus Sylvanus ) did not teach at the university of Leuven (Louvain) but in Paris where Vesal went after the studies at Louvain.
    • Corrected 16 Dec. 2005. Note that Dubois' Latin name seems to have been Jacobus Sylvius rather than Jacobus Sylvanus [8] [9] [10].
  2. In the summary: Brussels at that time belonged to the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, Belgium was not yet existent.
  3. Vesal did not study at Venice but at Padua which at that time belonged to the Republic of Venice.
  4. It is mere speculation that Vesal belongs to the Italian School of Anatomy rather than to the French.

West Nile Virus[edit]

  1. Stiff neck or meningismus is actually a very rare finding with WNV
    • Statement removed 22 December. Not yet replaced with any descriptions of how often meningismus is found with WNV.
  2. Blood banks in the US are routinely screening for WNV in their donor pools during epidemic season.
  3. In the diagnostic assay, although cross-reactive antibodies are a problem for the ELISA, the diagnosis can be secured by an additional functional (neutralization) test
  4. 2nd Par in 'History' - Many birds are infected. Corvids are more suscectible to lethal infection
  5. The bit about immunohistochenistry staining is misleading – the virus shows up brown because of a substrate-enzyme reaction

Wolfram, Stephen[edit]

  1. Paragraph 6, line 1: Change “The initial reviews” to “The reviews”. Why? Because the way it is written implies only initially were there negative feelings.
  2. Paragraph 6, line 3: Delete “its ambitious self-image” and replace by “lack of correctness”. i.e., the work was criticized for being wrong, not because SW is ambitious.

Woodward, Robert Burns[edit]

Roald Hoffmann, Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.
  1. Roald Hoffmann was not a student of Robert Burns Woodward, but an independent researcher at Harvard
  2. Misleading: Wilkinson was British but working at Harvard.
  3. Omission: Co-winner of Nobel Prize with Wilkinson, EO Fisher is not mentioned.