As posted on http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/8/2/professor-jones-is-angry.html in reference to a Steve Jones story posted here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/steve-jones/8675729/Scientists-always-anger-those-who-prefer-the-Earth-to-be-flat.html, it appears that Steve Jones copied a misconception about Jean Richer from the world of geology into a recent article in the Telegraph.
Is it possible that Professor Geoffrey Boulton (the world famous geologist) has been feeding Professor Steve Jones garbled geological folklore to cut-and-paste into his tall tales?!
Here is what I posted on Bishop Hill:
Jones: "He was told by a sailor that his ship's pendulum clock, accurate in London, lost two minutes a day at the equator."
Geology undergraduate html text on gravity from the web: http://gretchen.geo.rpi.edu/roecker/AppGeo96/lectures/gravity/latitude.html: 'Newton based his assessment of the earth's shape on a set of observations provided to him by a friend who happened to be a navigator on a ship, named Richer. Richer observed that a pendulum clock that ran accurately in London, consistently lost 2 minutes a day near the equator.'
Likely closer to the truth: http://books.google.com/books?id=uHNEAAAAcAAJ&pg=PT11#v=onepage&q&f=false
...which says: "In 1672, M. Richer, going to Cayenne, in order to make astronomical observations, found, that his pendulum clock, which at Paris had been regulated to the mean motion of the sun, when carried to this island, which is about five degrees distant from the equator, lost every day two minutes and twenty eight seconds."
Perhaps there should be a Steve Jones award for cut-and-paste scientific story 'creation'?