1. Horses cannot vomit. Not even if they're poisoned. This is one reason why they're so likely to die from digestive problems or, for that matter, poisoning.

2. You cannot "fillet" a jerboa for dinner. That goes sextuple if you're cooking for six people. Jerboas are this big. If you tried filleting one, you would get two slivers of meat the size of a quarter. I'd believe catching a bunch of them and cooking them more-or-less whole in a stew, if there was nothing better available.

3. If someone has a head injury, keeping them awake is not a form of treatment. It will not, by itself, save their life, stop them from going into a coma, or do anything else to help their condition. It is an old-fashioned form of diagnosis. If the patient is asleep, you can't tell if they're actually unconscious or in a coma. If they're supposed to be awake and they pass out, or you can't wake them up, then you know something is seriously wrong. Note that 1) this is only useful information if you have the facilities to do emergency surgery, magical healing, etc, 2) it's not necessary if you can do a CAT scan, magical scan, etc.

What common (or uncommon but hilarious) factual errors have you come across recently, or come across frequently and wish would die?
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movingfinger: (Default)

From: [personal profile] movingfinger


Did not Queen Mab had filet of jerboa just last week, with Sauce Papillon! And it was delicious, she said.
londonkds: (BLOOD AND TITTIES FOR LORD CHIBNALL!!! ()

From: [personal profile] londonkds


If your story is set at any point after, roughly, 1900, breaking a coupling in a passenger train will not cause either part of it to derail, but instead to slow down and safely stop. That one irritated me in a Kim Newman short story.
sholio: Berries in the sun (Autumn-berries in sunlight)

From: [personal profile] sholio


JERBOA FILLETS. That is my new favorite thing!

Allen Steele's "Coyote" novels -- about colonists on a new planet -- drove me wild with the author's complete and total inability to understand what scarcity (of supplies) really means and the way it affects people psychologically. I grew up in a scarcity situation (rural Alaska) -- nothing like as severe as theirs (where technology is literally irreplaceable) but you got it through your head really young that everything you own has to last and make do, because you can't just buy another one. The books violated this at least once per chapter. The example that still sticks in my head is one scene in which a teenage character, the daughter of the original colonist generation, has a fit of temper and throws a radio -- one of their rare, precious, irreplaceable radios, which I think they only have 3 or 4 of at that point -- into a swamp and then, after scolding her, everyone goes on about their business. NO! Bad author, no biscuit! No one in that situation would ever do something so frivolous, temper or not, and if they actually did, everyone around them would scream in horror and spend the next few hours dragging the swamp to get it back.

(On the flip side, Ursula Le Guin has a generation ship story that does get it in a way Steele didn't. There's one bit in there where a worker doing EVA loses a soldering gun -- he accidentally lets go and it sails off into space -- and The Tale Of The Lost Gun is told for decades afterwards as a cautionary tale to horrify schoolchildren....)
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)

From: [personal profile] vass


Horses cannot vomit.

Ditto rats and guinea pigs and mice. The tragic thing is when vets don't know that, or rather don't think about it and operate on autopilot. Unless you're actually operating on an animal's digestive system, the point of withholding food before surgery is so they don't vomit and then aspirate it. But if their species doesn't vomit and is very small with a high metabolism, then withholding food actually makes the surgical outcome worse.

Other common ones:

- YOU CANNOT SHOCK A FLATLINE. Or rather you can, but it'll just cook the person's heart, it won't resuscitate them.

- slapping people is not a useful mental health treatment, it is assault. Unless they're a Vulcan.

- schizophrenia and dissociative identify disorder are NOT THE SAME THING.
pauraque: bird flying (Default)

From: [personal profile] pauraque


Rabbits can't vomit either! It can be a problem for wooly breeds, because they end up ingesting a lot of fur when they groom themselves and aren't able to just cough up a hairball like a cat.
skygiants: Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing holding up a finger and looking comically sage (explaining the logics)

From: [personal profile] skygiants


This one was in an anime -- there's a scene in Eden of the East where the male and female protagonists are in the male protagonist's personal movie theater, and he's all "I'll go to the projection booth to load up the film and then come back and watch it with you!" The problem is, if you are watching a full-length film using 35mm film projectors, one reel of film will last you about twenty minutes and you need to start loading the next one several minutes in advance, which is why projectionists NEVER LEAVE the projection booth. Also, if someone is not on constant watch, you are probably going to destroy the film or your projector or both.
pauraque: bird flying (Default)

From: [personal profile] pauraque


If a society splits into two groups, and they don't have any interaction whatsoever with each other for thousands of years, when they meet again they will NOT still speak the same language! If you want a plausible way around this, you can say that they both have a tradition of studying the (by now ancient and dead) parent language and scholars can communicate that way, but their everyday speech will definitely have diverged beyond mutual intelligibility. The amount of time it takes for that to happen does vary (500-1000 years is a reasonable ballpark), but the same spoken language simply does not persist for millennia. Ever.

This one's quite frequent. I've seen it in books, TV series, movies, and video games. Writers throw around "thousands of years" far too readily and rarely consider the changes that would actually take place in that huge timespan. It's not just languages, but that part irks me the most because it's what I know the most about.
Edited Date: 2013-11-04 02:33 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

From: [personal profile] staranise


Were your examples from the same book or different ones, Rachel?

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rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rosefox


I just encountered a Regency romance that starts with a scene in which the heroine's best friend comes running in, thrusts out her left hand, and exclaims "Look!", and the heroine sees a diamond ring on her hand and naturally concludes that her best friend's beau has proposed.

That's a book-flinging level of historical error for me. I'm willing to put up with a lot of ahistoricity in "historical" romances, but not an opening scene that's so egregiously off.
Edited Date: 2013-11-04 05:56 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Not in novels, but nobody in movies or TV ever does CPR right, ever ever -- even when they're supposed to be a DOCTOR (like Scully on the X-Files). It's always rescue breathing first (wrong), then compressions at a rate of about one per six seconds for like thirty seconds, and then "He's dead."
genarti: Me covering my face with one hand. ([me] face. palm.)

From: [personal profile] genarti


Every time anyone betrays a modern understanding of germs and the precise mechanisms of how diseases spread before, oh, 1850ish at minimum. (Unless there are magic scans or alternate history or some other mechanism for the characters to have gotten this mental framework.)
Edited Date: 2013-11-04 03:33 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)

From: [personal profile] legionseagle


Oh, God, yes: in Joseph Connor's Star of the Sea a ship's doctor diagnoses syphilis in 1847 by looking at a sample from an ulcer under a microscope by the light of a hurricane lantern in mid-Atlantic and then tells his patient that the disease doesn't represent the patient's moral degradation, "it's just a living thing doing what living things have to do to survive."

The same book also has a message getting to America about who is aboard a particular vessel sailing from Liverpool to New York(said vessel happening to be the fastest vessel on the seas) before the vessel itself makes port, someone injecting laudanum, and some bits about inheritance, broken engagements and divorce which would have looked a bit laissez faire in the 1950s, let alone 1850s

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legionseagle: (Default)

From: [personal profile] legionseagle


There's an hilarious one in Thor about the London Underground, but though the geography makes no sense whatsoever (it's the equivalent of someone getting on the Washington Metro at Dupont Circle, asking the way to Alexandria and being told "three stops") it's so brilliantly observed as to the psychology of Londoners on the Underground I'll give it all sorts of free passes. OTOH, I understand one of Connie Willis' books has characters during the Blitz (1940-1) waiting for trains on the Jubilee Line. Long wait; the line was commissioned to celebrate the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977.

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mme_hardy: White rose (Default)

From: [personal profile] mme_hardy


I just started the jerboa book (thanks, I didn't know it was out). The fleeing party block a stable door with hay bales. No, no, no.

Haybales are a product of the middle Industrial Revolution, like mechanical reapers. That's why bales are rectangular and have square sides. A baler is taking the hay, cutting it to shape, and tying it with twine. Before the hay baler, you had haystacks. You did not have convenient twine packages by which you could drag hay from place to place.

I'm also very suspicious of abundant hay in what is reported as a Southwestern-style desert ecosystem.

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From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com


I may have mentioned this one before, but a friend of mine complained vociferously about a recent fantasy novel in which a freshwater river bisects an island in the ocean.

The one I hate, but don't see very often any longer, is historical novels in which someone just happens to discover that mold is good for wounds. Like, any mold. Um, no, I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to rub random molds into your cut and hope they're penicillin, and anyway you have no idea of what dose you're getting.
lenora_rose: (Default)

From: [personal profile] lenora_rose


People eating the flesh of a pomegranate and spitting out the seeds....

I do know people who spit out the white seed bit, though I can't imagine why you'd bother, so I can give a pass if it's at least obvious that the author understands how a pomegranate looks on the inside. (Though, in one case like that, I can't imagine a street urchin as a likely candidate for spitting out an edible part.) But I've seen at least two cases of obvious "insert vaguely more exotic fruit and treat it like an apple." If you're going to do that, at least use a quince, where it works.

Do these writers not recall that in the legend of Persephone, she eats the seeds?

From: [identity profile] serialbabbler.livejournal.com


I keep coming across murder mysteries where people get stabbed to death or otherwise damaged with palette knives. How come nobody ever gets killed with a butter knife or a really long toothpick? It'd be just as plausible. *grumble*

From: [identity profile] steepholm.livejournal.com


I read a Roman book not long ago in which slaves free themselves in a matter of minutes by using kitchen knifes to cut through their manacles. Later, an elephant is freed from its chains using the same method.

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From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


Hemophilia is a sex-linked genetic disease. If you're going to include hemophilia as a major plot device in your novel, you need to know what that means.

Specifically, you need to understand that in a society with very little medical technology you are EXTREMELY unlikely to encounter a seven-year-old girl with hemophilia. Because her father would actually have hemophilia and in a society without medical technology he probably would have died long before becoming a father.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


I've run across other misunderstandings of what a genetic disease is and how it works, but that one drove me particularly crazy.

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From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Please! Get started!

ETA: I generally give a pass on the "getting hit over the head produces total amnesia but no other symptoms" trope, since that's not really trying to be realistic - it's a trope that knows it's a trope. Ditto a clearly non-realistic private eye story where the hero is getting knocked out cold every chapter.

I find it more aggravating when everything else is realistic EXCEPT people getting knocked unconscious for hours at a stretch, then picking themselves up with nothing more than a headache. Or, as I have now repeatedly encountered, the author clearly researched actual concussion symptoms but just recalled the "keep people with a concussion awake" thing without ever looking up the reason for it.
Edited Date: 2013-11-03 10:38 pm (UTC)

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From: [identity profile] angevin2.livejournal.com


I've been proofreading a friend's recap/snarkblogs of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, and am thus way too familiar with the content. There are way, way too many to count (in the books, I mean, not the recaps). One of them is so egregious that the author (I use the term lightly) actually engages it in her afterword, although the explanation is basically "He's a billionaire, he can do whatever he wants." Including, apparently, withdrawing five million dollars in cash from a Federal Reserve bank (of which he is somehow the main client) with no advance notice.
Edited Date: 2013-11-03 10:36 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] veejane.livejournal.com


Ha ha, maybe they ran the presses just for him. Or drowned him in a vat of quarters. I think that would be a great way to murder someone (although probably he'd be crushed before he drowned).

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From: [identity profile] adrian-turtle.livejournal.com


Naomi doesn't want to get started on fictional head injuries, so I'll do it. My favorites are of the general type, "He was knocked out for a few minutes, but don't worry--he doesn't have a concussion." And then they all pick themselves up and do complicated and strenuous things.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


Amnesia!

So, blows to the head don't actually produce amnesia that works that way but there are things that do.

I heard this absolutely fantastic radio piece on This American Life some time back by a guy who suffered a Fugue State while in India. In his case, it turned out to have been caused by Larium (given to prevent malaria). Authors should clearly make better use of drug side effects and less use of head injuries if they want someone to forget who they are but otherwise be basically functional.

(Larium is PROFOUNDLY NASTY STUFF that has caused all sorts of weird mental illnesses in some people who've taken it. In my case, it just gave me extremely vivid dreams and a complete loss of appetite. I'm glad I only took it for a week.)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


More authors should use interesting drug side effects to produce plot complications, in my opinion. I mean, other than Bujold. People react a lot more individually and unpredictably to drugs than they do to head injuries, generally speaking, so you can fudge a lot more.

I actually love global amnesia as a plot device, but it's up there with "discover that you're the long-long heir" in terms of real-world likeliness.

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From: [identity profile] emluv.livejournal.com


Several years ago I read a book in which the characters finished a tour of the United Nations and proceeded to exit and promptly board the Staten Island Ferry, which docks absolutely nowhere near the UN. The author was English, but still, that's an easy to find fact. Hello, web search. Also, the editor was based out of NYC, so glorious fail all around.

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From: [identity profile] mme-hardy.livejournal.com


Poisons. Don't. Work. That. Way. "Guy takes poison, slumps neatly over onto table, and is dead before his head hits the silverware"? Doesn't happen. The people who take cyanide and die instantaneously are crushing ampules that release the gas; people who take the pills die slower.

In general, oral poisons take hours to days to kill you. Lots of the classics, notably arsenic, kill you by destroying bits of the digestive system so that you slowly die of vomiting and diarrhea. The one thing poison isn't, is tidy.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


Did you like how they kind of covered this in the latest James Bond movie?

(I mean, they don't work that way, EITHER. But I still liked it.)

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ext_115: great white shark looking over several small fish with an intelligently hungry gleam in its eye (Default)

From: [identity profile] boosette.livejournal.com


Computers don't work that way. Doesn't matter what "that way" is in any given canon, if the source was produced by a writer who is not intimately familiar with the kind of computery situations they are writing, computers do not work that way.

O'Hare International Airport is not anywhere near downtown Chicago. It is in fact 30-60 minutes away by freeway in moderate traffic, or 90+ minutes on surface streets in moderate traffic.

(I remember being incredibly confused when I moved here, having picked up that piece of errata from the Left Behind series*, which I read in my youth. I swear it a fundamentalist child's gateway drug to harder substances, like post-apocalyptic science fiction.

*Indidentally Jerry Jenkins, who wrote the damn books, is a local. And thus has no excuse.)

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


Oh my god, there's a "searching on the computer" scene in The DaVinci Code and when I hit that scene (in the novel; I didn't see the movie), which is near the end, I instantly lost all faith in anything the book was telling me about grail lore or Templars or the city of Rome or basically anything, because HOLY SHIT DUDE HAVE YOU NEVER EVEN USED GOOGLE?

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From: [identity profile] anglerfish07.livejournal.com


I read in a science fiction book Vortex, by S J Kncaid): that hitting someone's nose with your palm kills people. Not necessarily true...my former Systema (Russian Martial Arts) teacher mentioned it depends on how strong you are and how much force is applied. That aside, it was an enjoyable novel. :)

People recovering immediately from head injuries is an annoying factual error I often see in fiction. UGH. Head injuries don't work that way! >_<

Language and historical errors in Mills and Boon romance novels annoy me too. :/ One novel mixed up Spanish and Italian words! There was another one with TERRIBLE errors regarding the French revolution ( it basically said that the aristocrats didn't commit much human rights abuses and rarely killed people. Um, untrue and unjust, much?).

From: [identity profile] wyrdness.livejournal.com


Desert cultures who use precious, precious water to put out fires instead of the abundant amount of sand at their feet.

I also find it silly that in fantasy/ sci-fi novels humans have the magical ability to procreate with anything remotely humanoid. I let that one slide though because pretty (space) elves.
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