In the NY Times Science Section splash page today (12-July-2004) the editor has
Decoding the Dance of Saturn's Rings By KENNETH CHANG
When NASA's Cassini spacecraft rocketed into Saturn's orbit last week, it became clear that the planet's rings are not rigid.
Compare that bit of rubbish with what the article actually said:
From far away, Saturn's rings look like a single rigid disk. With more powerful telescopes, 17th-century astronomers were able to discern not a disk but a series of concentric rings.
Even closer, as when NASA's Cassini spacecraft rocketed into Saturn's orbit last week, it becomes clear that the rings are not rigid, either.
Given that Maxwell proved over a hundred years ago that the rings can't be rigid, and that the Voyagers got a good look at them 25 years ago, I think we can safely say that we already knew the rings weren't rigid. And Chang's text suggests as much. But the editor who put up the Science page must have been looking for lively quotes, found one, and decided to 'clean up the grammar.' And made it false.
This isn't just bone ignorance ("lack of domain knowledge," if you want to be charitable). The editor's job is to know words, and how to be precise and clear. becomes != became
I suppose this is all of a piece with their increasingly creative approach to reporting, but I'd hoped they could get simple things like grammar correct.