On Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times, betrayed by a computer, issued a retraction that ranks with the most hilarious retractions ever penned:
The Times has an automatic algorithm that writes stories based on alerts like these, thus it was misled by an alert sent by a Caltech staffer saying an earthquake had occurred. The Times immediately noted that it was the computer’s fault:
A human being might have noticed the date on the alert clearly indicated the date referred to for the earthquake was the year 2025:
The alert went out by email at roughly 4:51 p.m. Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson said scientists at UC Santa Barbara had noted earthquakes from the area were actually located roughly six miles from where records showed. A staffer on Hauksson’s team made a change, triggering an email from the U.S. Geological Survey’s email server that normally sends alerts of new earthquakes.
The USGS apologized:
When the original earthquake occurred, the Los Angeles Times reported that thirteen people were killed, up to 200 people were injured, and damage was estimated at $8 million.
There were some amusing tweets in response to the Times’ error: