The Great Kersten Blunder: was it real?

In the mid-1980’s, long before there was widespread public access to the Internet (and long before there was much there other than plain-text documents), there was a document kicking around on Usenet called “Famous Bugs”. It was a compendium of smaller discussions that had been kicking around about noteworthy software bugs of the era.

You can find this document on-line to this day at http://www.discord.org/~lippard/misc/famous-bugs.txt and perhaps other places too. The above-mentioned story about the FORTRAN punctuation error mentioned there. I think some version of the hyphen story is there too.

Here’s a good one:

This document is a fun read. You can see what “famous bugs” were “going viral” in those days.

Article about “Kersten Blunder” myth http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/09/05/urban_legend_about_a_venus_probe_lost_due_to_unit_conversion_error.html that cites this thread (!)

Not too surprising, since Phil Plait used to post here. I guess he still lurks occasionally (Hi, Phil!).

Just came across this thread from Phil’s article. It seems it was Troutman’s inquiry to him that made him aware of this, and sadly not his lurking. I’d love if he was still active here, but he’s a busy bad astronomer these days.

As so often happens, xkcd has beaten us all to the punch. Or the cite in this case. :smiley:

But in this case we’re now part of the citogenesis process.

Even less surprising seeing as TroutMan sent the email to Phil that prompted him to write the article.

Yeah, Phil emailed me a month ago back asking if he could use my name. At least his searching had already led him to this thread, so we can all imagine he comes back to check on us every now and then.