28 March 2014

“Teen upstages adults” never gets old

Printing pages using the Garamond typeface will save money, and CNN is on it! This is a popular story, judging from the error message I got when I tried to go to the journal reporting this:

Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.

They are only, oh, about five years late to the party. Matt Robinson showed us that five years ago:

Other news organizations have pointed out that good typeface choice can save money before, too.

Why is this making the news rounds today? Because the person pointing out the savings, Suvir Mirchandani, is a teenager. News agencies, and the public, love “teen genius” stories. See Jack Andraka (cancer test), Boyan Slat (ocean clean-up) and Aidan Dwyer (solar power).

(Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many teenage girls who have achieved similar press coverage).

All of these teens put out a flashy claim that... well... remains to be seen if it will yield anything interesting. But I see their stories circulating in social media for years.

This is a great example of the power of narrative. People love underdog stories, and teens are underdogs in almost every way. People want to believe that teens can make big breakthroughs in science and technology, and I think a lot of critical appraisal is dialed down, if not shut off.

I doubt any of these stories would have received much media attention if the person making the claim was 20 or older.

Update, 1 April 2014: Oh, as I might have expected: the flashy claim from Mirchandani is being criticized.

External links

Journal of Emerging Investigators
Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions
Measuring type

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