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Credit where due

the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

            — Michael Crichton, “Why Speculate”


When you read an article about your subject in the NYT Tuesday Science section, and realize they got it all wrong. Then you read the next article and think, “Wow, how cool that they figured that out.” Even though you know that those scientists are also tearing their hair out about how the NYT Science section got it all wrong.

            — BWare, “The NYT Tuesday Science effect”
I knew I couldn’t have been the first person to observe this effect, though two points:

  •  I came up with this in grad school sometime between 1988 and 1995.  Silas Beane or SWorm might remember me holding forth. The Crichton talk is from 2002, so I didn’t hear it from him, though you’ll have to take my word for it.
  • It’s slightly different – the G-M Amnesia effect is that you forget;  the BWare NYT Tuesday Science effect is that you become aware.