Why you need an Information Professional – Checking your Sources

I watched an episode of CSI a few nights ago, # 180 – The Theory of Everything.

The episode itself is pretty amusing, for a former physics geek like me the name-dropping of famous scientists was a lot of fun. The big issue with this episode (and it’s huge) is their choice for the portrayal of certain small, ground dwelling animals. The ground squirrels were miscast.

The first image is the ‘ground squirrels’ depicted in the CSI episode. This is a Grey Squirrel. It lives in trees.

Grey Squirrel

Below, is the ‘Ground Squirrel’ I grew up with in Alberta. This particular variety is called the Richardson Ground Squirrel.

Richardsons Ground Squirrel

There are a great many species of ground squirrel around the world. None of them looks like the Grey Squirrel. Bushy tails are of little use underground.

I’m confused as to the reasons for this error. There are times when the ground squirrels appear to be CGI, and some where they appear to be trained animals. Perhaps it was an executive decision to use the cheaper trained Grey Squirrels with the assumption that very few people would notice.

Have businesses done the ‘squirrel swap’ thinking no one is going to notice? When are two products interchangeable? Even more important, when are two sources of information interchangeable?

In the knowledge economy, simple errors in information like this can have significant implications. Take the example of the Mars Climate Orbiter. Lockheed Martin used English measurements to program the Orbiter. NASA has been using metric since the 1990s. When the two systems tried to communicate, an error happened an a $125 million dollar project became an example in textbooks.

Solving these problems is what Information Professionals do.

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