Why is this bad? Mostly because typical English majors stay as far away from science classes as they can. As a result, press releases written by them have tendency to mislead readers. Case in point, today a press release was put out by University of Alberta informing the public that researchers there had shown that "Mobile Animals Could Have Evolved Much Earlier Than Previously Thought."
So far, so good... but then the lead paragraph went on to say:
A University of Alberta-led research team has discovered that billions of years before life evolved in the oceans, thin layers of microbial matter in shallow water produced enough oxygen to support tiny, mobile life forms.
Now forgive me for being picky but how can microbial matter exist billions of years before life evolved? Isn't microbial matter alive? That's rhetorical---microbes are indeed alive.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Now in the actual article, Possible evolution of mobile animals in association with microbial mats, written by scientists and published online in Nhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifature Geoscience (May 15, 2011), the language is a little more accurate:
Complex animals first evolved during the Ediacaran period, between 635 and 542 million years ago, when the oceans were just becoming fully oxygenated. In situ fossils of the mobile forms of these animals are associated with microbial sedimentary structures and the animal’s trace fossils generally were formed parallel to the surface of the seabed, at or below the sediment–water interface. This evidence suggests the earliest mobile animals inhabited settings with high microbial populations, and may have mined microbially bound sediments for food resources.
The science article isn't as pithy as Brian Murphy's press release, Life gets a little older, but it's a lot less idiotic. And I like that. They really need to have intelligent people look over those publicity blurbs before they're released to the press.