Sunday, September 19, 2021

Comment: Dan is away, but thinking of you...

The parrotfish were plentiful... 

Diving with a few friends at the Salt Pier

... and the weather very fine on Bonaire this past week.  

But in my post that told you I was here, I presented two small mysteries about these next photos.  

And, as expected, the ever-prescient Remmij got the identification just right.  

The top fish is a Schoolmaster snapper (Lutjanus apodus) – yellow fins, medium size, the vertical bars are absent in older adults (see also the Wikipedia entry for L. apodus).  

In the second images, the blue/gold fish is Creole wrasse  (Clepticus parrae).  

It turns out that this is a hard identification problem--the Creole wrasse Wikipedia picture is not representative.  Check out this grid of images of the Creole wrasse to see the variations: 


Look at the images if you search for images of Clepticus parrae – it’s mostly blue fish.  But they change a lot over time.  The above image (mostly blue with a yellow tail) is common, but so are entirely blue fish. – or look at the variety of colors and patterns on the ReefGuide site.  This is common among reef fish—very different appearances at different parts of life.  An article from the University of the West Indies about the life of Creole wrasses points this out:  "During the initial phase the creole wrasse is purple/blue in colour, and upon reaching the terminal phase they appear purple. Larger individuals display a wash of yellow on the lower two thirds of the body..."  

To search for these fish, you can do a Search-by-Image IF you isolate a single fish in your search (it's tough to identify an entire school, en masse).  Here's me focusing in on just one fish in the big school... 

And it will, remarkably, give you a decent first result!  

Of course, you'd go on to double check this..  Yes?  

In my case, I've been diving long enough that I can recognized the general family of the fish: the top one is clearly some kind of snapper while the bottom one is clearly some kind of wrasse.  

General point:  Learning family (or classes) like this is incredibly useful.  When you're learning to identify something, make a bit of effort to understand what the natural categories are.  That will help you tremendously when searching for a specific instance.  

As we've discussed before, finding a fish identification key is an excellent move.  You'll learn these categories (such as "wrasse"  "snapper" "trunkfish" etc.), and you'll pick up lots of fine distinctions along the way.  

So I did a search for: 

     [ fish identification key Caribbean ] 

and while there are many online keys out there, I recognized the one at as a familiar one.  

By using that key, I was able to focus in on the Creole wrasse and the Schoolmaster as the identity of the fish.  

I ALSO asked about the blue sponge in the background.  And Remmij is absolutely correct:  It's a Row pore rope sponge (Aplysina cauliformis).  I recognized it as a sponge, and did an image search for: 

     [ sponge Bonaire ] 

and quickly learned about Rope sponges.  A query modification to: 

     [ rope sponge Bonaire ] 

zeroed in quickly to the Row pore rope sponge.

Remmij - If you've got a moment, can you recount what you did to find this particular sponge?  (There are a lot of sponges out there! How did you do it??)  

Search on! 

Friday, September 17, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (9/1/21): Floods, floods, and history?

 Floods come in all sizes...  

But this week we're interested in the biggest floods that have reshaped the land at large.  

What can we learn about such events?  Here's the Challenge from 2 weeks ago:

1. Can you find the 3 largest floods of all time?  What are they?  We're not counting life or property loss here, we're just interested in size--especially total water movement. Hint: they all have to do with geology rather than human-made causes.  

2. What causes these gigantic floods?  That is, how would such things occur?  What's the underlying root causes? 

3. Where are the biggest risks of giant floods today?  Sure, every dam in the world can cause flooding, but are there other places that might have a giant flood today?  Where?  And how bad are the risks?  

Like several of our SRS Regulars, I started with the simplest query: 

     [ largest floods of history ] 

The first result is a Wikipedia result, "List of deadliest floods," interesting, but not quite what I wanted.   

The next few results are all giant floods within the past few years, mostly historic, but again, not what I'm looking for.  The loss of life and property is tragic, but off-topic.  Even the largest historic floods (such as the 1931 floods in China, which flooded huge areas of China, killing somewhere between 400K and 4M people) aren't on the scale we seek.  

Fortunately, about 12 results down I found the USGS PDF "The World's Largest Floods Past and Present: Their causes and magnitudes."  

The USGS has a great reputation for being an authoritative source of geological (and in this case, hydrological) information.  This report covers the biggest of the biggest floods going back 2.5 million years, that is, it covers floods during the Quaternary Period, which goes from today back to 2.5M years ago.  

This chart summarizes the biggest floods of the Quaternary Period: 

When you read the report, you'll see that the biggest ones are due to ice-dam failures.  

The largest (by reasonable estimates) was the Kuray flood in Altair, Russia.  Near the end of the last glacial period, 12,000 to 15,000 years ago (late Pleistocene), glaciers coming down from the Altai mountains dammed the Chuya River.  This created a large glacial lake backing up into two large watershed basins. As the lake grew larger and deeper, the ice dam eventually failed, causing a catastrophic flood that spilled along the Katun River.  At peak flood, the Kuray (aka Altai Flood) is estimated to have spilled around 18M cubic meters / second.  (For contrast, Niagara Falls runs at 2800 cubic meters / second, 0.01% of the flood volume.)  

In North America, the largest Quaternary Period flood was the Missoula flood at 17M cubic meters/second.  It formed behind the Cordilleran Ice Sheet margin in the western US.  When the ice dam broke, it made giant floods along the margins of the Laurentide Ice Sheet in eastern and central North America.  These large ice-age floods involved tremendous volumes of water, enough that their rapid discharge into the oceans may have affected oceanic circulation, and even affected global climate.  Repeated failure of the ice dam released the backed-up glacial Lake Missoula, repeatedly causing dozens of catastrophic floods in eastern Washington state.  They can be seen in the geologic record as they removed tens of meters of pale loess from dark basalt substrate, forming scars along flowpaths visible from space.

But as I read that report, I found this intriguing sentence: 

"Geologic records also document tremendous marine floods into tectonically closed basins. The largest known example is the flooding of the Mediterranean Basin through a breach developed at the Straits of Gibraltar—an event now recognized to have caused the faunal upheaval used by early geologist Charles Lyell to divide the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs."


A quick search for: 

     [ Mediterranean Basin flood ] 

led me to even LARGER floods!  

Why were they not included in this paper?  Because if you remember, the USGS report covers only the Quaternary Period.  That is, from today back to 2.5M years ago. 

Here's a chart for reference.  The USGS paper only covers the Quaternary (that is, the Holocene and the Pleistocene).  

Digging into some of the results of that search tell us that before 5.3M years ago, today's Mediterranean was a huge basin with hyper-salty water. (Ready all about the 
Messinian Salinity Crisis, which tells us that the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partial or nearly complete drying-up throughout the latter part of the Messinian age, from 5.96 to 5.33 million years ago. The Salinity Crisis ended with the Zanclean flood, when the Atlantic reclaimed the basin by pouring through the Straits of Gibraltar.  

How big was that flood?  A paper in Earth Science Reviews (The Zanclean megaflood of the Mediterranean – Searching for independent evidence) tells us that there's a good deal of evidence for this megaflood, including 

"...Numerical model predictions show that sand deposits found at the Miocene/Pliocene (M/P) boundary in [several] sites... are consistent with suspension transport from the Strait of Gibraltar during a flooding event at a peak water discharge of around 1B cubic meters/second."  

That's astounding!  It's so remarkable that I (following our usual guidelines to double/triple check things that amaze you) searched for a few more articles on the Zanclean flood. 

This time I used the new terms I picked up in my reading megafloods  and outburst flood.  That led me to search for: 

     [ prehistory megaflood OR "outburst flood" Zanclean ] 

Which led me to a Nature article (Catastrophic flood of the Mediterranean after the Messinian salinity crisis) a Science Daily article (Evidence for a giant flood in the central Mediterranean Sea) and several others--all of which agree.  The refilling of the Mediterranean after the salinity crisis was quite probably the biggest flood of all time. 

Just for completeness, I also did a search for: 

    [ list of megafloods ] 

Which took me to the Wikipedia list List of Megafloods, which includes the Zanclean flood and a few others that I didn't know about.   (All of which were smaller than Zanclean.) 

What about risks of large-scale floods today? 

Using that speciality term, megaflood, I did a search for: 

     [ megaflood risk ] 

which led to a number of articles about the risk for large-scale floods in the US.  (The results will vary a bit depending on where you're located when you do the search.  If you're in Iceland, you'll get more localized results.  The same is true for other places.)  

The most worrisome article was one from Scientific American, California Megaflood: Lessons from a Forgotten Catastrophe which points out that while California is currently drought-stricken, it's not impossible for another 43-day storm (like the one that began in December 1861 that dropped 2 meters of rain) could put central and southern California underwater for up to six months.  We need water, just not that much water THAT quickly.  


The largest known floods of the past 1.5M years had peak discharges of nearly 20 million cubic meters/second and were caused by breaches of glacial-age ice dams that blocked large midcontinent drainage systems. 

Most of the other largest documented floods resulted from breaches of other types of natural dams (such as landslide dams, ice dams of smaller glaciers, releases from caldera lakes, and ice-jam floods).  

Surprisingly, only 4 of the 27 largest documented floods were the result of meteorological conditions and atmospheric water sources.  But unsurprisingly, the biggest risk of contemporary megafloods is due to concentrated rainfall in increasingly urban areas, much as we have seen in recent flooding events in New Jersey (from Hurricane Ida), in Henan, China, and in Europe this past summer.  

But for the LARGEST floods of all time, we have to include the Zanclean Flood and the ice dam floods like the Kuray flood and Missoula floods that left dramatic marks on the geography of the area.  

SearchResearch Lessons 

There are 4 highlights from this week's Challenge:  

1.  Rapidly skip irrelevant results.  Several of these queries bring up amazing stories and remarkable events.  But stay focused on what you're seeking.  (If you want, take a note to come back later--but when you're working on a deadline, be sure to keep your eyes on the prize.)  

2. Remember the scope of your source material.  When were reading that great USGS paper about "largest floods," we had to remember that it only covered the Quaternary floods... and there were even bigger floods before that epoch.  Take note of the limits of what you read--you might be accidentally excluding information that is really what you want!  

3. Triple check your amazing discoveries.  This is general advice worth remembering.  Every time I found "the biggest X" or the "largest Y," I'd go look for at least 2 more citations that would confirm (or disagree!) with what I'd just found.  

4.  Use specialty terms you learn along the way (e.g., megaflood). Often when you start searching in an area that you don't know well, you'll pick up on specific terms that help you in subsequent searches.  "Megaflood" was a great search term--it's unusual enough to be very specific and incredibly useful.  Note these as you do your reading, and your searching will improve!   

Search on! 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Dan is away, but thinking of you...

 It's been a long, lovely week... 

Diving with a few friends at the Salt Pier

... while vacationing in Bonaire, the home to parrotfish (see our previous discussion of parrotfish in SRS) and many other wonderful things to investigate.  I'm sure some of them will be featured in future SRS posts.  

I'll try to post an answer to our previous SRS Challenge ("Biggest Floods") later this week, but don't be surprised if I'm a day or two late. 

If you find yourself needing a bit of an SRS fix, you might try to identify the fish above.  (Extra credit if you identify the creature (looks like branching fingers) that's behind the blue/yellow fish.)  

I'll be back above water soon! 

Carry on.. and, as always, Search on! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (9/1/21): Floods, floods, and history?

 As you might have noticed, I'm fascinated by floods. 

Flooding in Texas, 2021.  P/C NSF

We've investigated floods before in this blog.  See SRS in 2016 when we asked "what's common between these floods?"  or this SRS from 2020 when we discussed flood and debris basins near Los Angeles.  

There are certainly a LOT of floods this year (Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, Belgium, China, etc.) and perhaps that's why floods are on my mind this week.  

But, as always, I'm interested in even BIGGER floods that have reshaped the land at large.  

I've heard about such things:  Epic floods that created canyons and seas, changing the very shape of the countryside, but I don't know the details of when and where such floods have taken place.  Can you find out? 

So this week's Challenge is about really big floods... 

1. Can you find the 3 largest floods of all time?  What are they?  We're not counting life or property loss here, we're just interested in size--especially total water movement. Hint: they all have to do with geology rather than human-made causes.  

2. What causes these gigantic floods?  That is, how would such things occur?  What's the underlying root causes? 

3. Where are the biggest risks of giant floods today?  Sure, every dam in the world can cause flooding, but are there other places that might have a giant flood today?  Where?  And how bad are the risks?  

I love these kinds of SRS Challenges because they make me look for information in resources that I don't normally visit.  They make me think on time-scales and sizes that are much larger than myself.  I hope you enjoy these Challenges for the same reason.  I hope they pique your curiosity and inspire further research on your part.  

Speaking of "further research," my plan for the next two weeks is to visit Bonaire on a scuba diving trip with a few good friends.  I HOPE I'll be able to post an answer next week, but if I'm not able to do so, you'll know why.  Not to worry--I'll return shortly.  

With any luck, I'll come back with more SRS Challenges having to do with marine biology, cultural anthropology, or geopolitics.  In any case, I'll be indulging my curiosity with a bit of field investigation.  

Search on! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Answer: What are those things on the ground that hurt my feet?

 This tree is beautiful, but sheds like crazy...  

The canopy of the mighty oak

Reminder of last week's Challenge:   

This is what the yard looks like up close:  


You can see a few leaves, an acorn, the cap of an acorn, and lots of those small brown knurled balls, each about 6mm (about 1/4 inch).  I don't know what they are, so I'll call them nubbins until I figure out what they actually are. They’re everywhere.  But what are they?  

 Here you see a typical branch end:  

And a bit of a closeup so you can see the objects of interest... 

The nubbins attach to the stem just above the acorn.  Here you can see two of them, but often there will be 1, 2, 3 or 4 nubs.  (Never more than that.)  

And here’s a photo with everything taken apart: 

And the Challenge?  

1. What are those nubbin things?  Is there a name for them?  

2. What do they do for the tree?  Why would a single tree generate so many of them?  (I estimated, using Fermi estimation) that this tree produces around 100,000 of these per year.  So over the past 10 years, that's a cool 1 million nubbins (or whatever they are).  What's the point from the tree's perspective? 

To begin my Challenge SRS, I searched for [ black oak ] just to get some background information about the tree.  (I wanted to start broad and narrow down.) 

Much to my surprise, I quickly realized that this tree isn’t a black oak (Quercus velutina) at all!  A black oak tree has very different leaves, and the acorn is also very different--it's a big shaggy and the cap covers about half the nut.  Compare this to the images of my tree up above!  Nothing looked right.  I had to question the tree's identity!  


I’m surprised by this, but perhaps I just misunderstood—maybe this is a California black oak  (Quercus kelloggii).  But no, the Q. kelloggii leaf looks like this (below: Leaves alternate, simple, 8-15 cm long, sharply cut into 7-11 lobes, toothed, each tooth ending in a bristle):  

My oak tree doesn’t have sharp tips at the end (the lobes are squared-off and rounded), and the acorn of a kelloggi  also has a cap that covers half the acorn.  It’s not that either!  

At this point I have to question what I know and embark on a new tree identification task.

You're SearchResearchers, so I won’t tell you all the ins-and-outs of my search (lots of searches for [ oaks in California ] and looking at oak tree identification keys (see SRS about keys), but I finally figured out that the oak tree in my backyard is a Valley oak (Quercus lobata - or see the definitive reference at the Jepson Herbarium).  The leaves and acorns all look just the way they do in the first photo above.  

Now that I’ve corrected my misunderstanding of what species of oak is hurting my feet, I can go back to trying to figure out what the nubs are.  

I search for [ Quercus lobata acorn ] and start looking at pictures.  


Oddly, almost every diagram / drawing / painting of a Valley oak acorn does NOT include the nubs.  That seems strange, but it’s true.  The illustrations all look a bit like this illustration.  The leaves are right, the acorns are right, but there aren't any nubbins.   


P/C Rebecca Chamlee, Pie in the Sky Press

This is a lovely image: Very neat, very clean, beautiful… and without nubbins. This is true of nearly all of the lobata illustrations you'll find--they just don't have the nubbins.  What gives?  

What’s really odd is that every picture of a real Valley oak acorn has a nubbin in image attached just above the acorn.  (See my pic above with the red arrows.  EVERY branch that has an acorn also has those nubbins attached.)  

This is a great curiosity provoker:  these things are everywhere, but nobody seems to talk about it!  

After looking at many images of [ valley oak acorns ] I finally found an illustration with the nubbins:  

See it at the top of the acorn?  The sketch makes it look like the nubbin is very much like the cap of the acorn.  Alas, there's no note saying what that this is.  But given its appearance: Is it possible that these are just immature acorns?

I take a stab at another search.   My query is [ valley oak immature acorns ] guess what I found?  Lots of images of small acorns growing at the tips of branches, looking exactly like slightly greener versions of my "nubbins."  

This prompted me to go out and look for a few more samples.  Are the nubbins simply smaller acorns?  Here's a nice photo I took showing fully developed acorns, some very young acorns barely peeping out of the cup, and some "nubbins" that haven't developed yet.  

And, in a moment of inspiration, I took a few of the nubbins and did a cross-section of them.  Take a look: 

If you zoom in (just click on the pic above), you can see that in the center of each "nubbin" is a perfectly shaped tiny acorn nut.

I think we've solved our Challenge.  The "nubbins" are simply immature acorns that are knocked off in a breeze or when a larger acorn detaches.  The knurled appearance is simply the cap (technically, a cupule) of the acorn

Some SRS Regulars suggested that these might be galls.  A gall is a trees response to a wasp laying an egg.  Each species of oak has its own particular set of galls, many of which are very different from each other.  Galls are so specific to a species that they're one of the ways to determine oak species!  

This is a photo of some valley oak galls--in the middle of each golf ball sized gall is a wasp larvae (or egg, depending on when you look at it).  These c
onspicuous brown balls, do not much resemble an acorn. Also known as oak-apples, that result from a wasp depositing an egg, along with some plant hormone, to stimulate the growth of a protective home for the larva. Among the leaf litter at the base of the tree, one may find jumping galls about a millimeter in diameter that use the same strategy as the Mexican jumping bean, namely to reach shelter from the sun; when they land in a shady spot they cease jumping. These tiny galls also don't look anything like an acorn.. or a nubbin.  

SearchResearch Lessons 

There's a big an obvious one for this Challenge: 

1. Check your assumptions at the start!  I'd been told that this was a Black Oak (Quercus velutina), but when I started to do my searching, nothing looked right.  Whatever the arborist told me just wasn't right.  After figuring out that my tree is a Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), things started falling into place.  

2. Dig more deeply with the original source material.  I mean this figuratively, but in this case, actually going back to the tree to collect a few more samples found some superb instances where it's pretty obvious what's going on.  This is forever the statistics problem: A small sample size (or a sample of nubbins only from the ground) can be misleading.  Getting a few more examples often helps.  

And finding that the "nubbins" are actually just small acorns explains why they're not remarked upon in the botanical illustrations:  If you know they're just small acorns, why would you label it?  The whole illustration is about the acorn!  

Sometimes the answer is obvious, once we learn how to see.  

Search on!  (Botanically!)  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (8/18/21): What are those things on the ground that hurt my feet?

That tree... 

The canopy of the mighty oak the back yard is, I was told by the arborist, a black oak.  

It’s certainly an oak—it rains acorns in the fall, loses all of its oak-shaped leaves, and is tall and massive—it’s a lovely paradigmatic example of an oak.  The arborist who tended to it when it was still a sapling told me it was Quercus velutina, a black oak.  

This morning was cool and overcast, perfect for walking around in the backyard under that oak tree with the picture-perfect spreading limbs.  Ah.. the verdant life!  

Except that when walking around in bare feet, there are lots of acorns and zillions of small, very hard, nubby things that feel like Lego blocks underfoot.  It's a beautiful tree, but it also sheds a ton of things that are painful to step on without shoes.  

To say that I’m curious about many things is probably an understatement.  So of course through my pain I immediately wondered, “What are those things?”   

This is what the yard looks like up close:  


You can see a few leaves, an acorn, the cap of an acorn, and lots of those small brown knurled balls, each about 6mm (about 1/4 inch).  I don't know what they are, so I'll call them nubbins until I figure out what they actually are. They’re everywhere.  But what are they?  

I plucked a small stem with a few leaves, an acorn, and a couple of the mysterious nubbins.  Here you see a typical branch end:  

And a bit of a closeup so you can see the objects of interest... 

The nubbins attach to the stem just above the acorn.  Here you can see two of them, but often there will be 1, 2, 3 or 4 nubs.  (Never more than that.)  

And here’s a photo with everything taken apart: 

I spent a little time SearchResearching this one--and finally figured it out.  I won’t tell you all the ins-and-outs of my search, until next week.  

Afterwards, I also realized that the pain in the soles of my feet would make for a great SRS Challenge for the week.  While doing this I learned a good deal about how to search.  Can you answer these Challenges? And what can you learn in the process?  

1. What are those nubbin things?  Is there a name for them?  

2. What do they do for the tree?  Why would a single tree generate so many of them?  (I estimated, using Fermi estimation) that this tree produces around 100,000 of these per year.  So over the past 10 years, that's a cool 1 million nubbins (or whatever they are).  What's the point from the tree's perspective? 

Can you figure it out?  If so, let us know what you did to get to the answer.  

Search on!  (Botanically!)  


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Answer: What do you do to find high quality news content? (part 2)


 Picking up from last time...

There's so much to say on this topic! 

Here's my thought about the answer to the second part of our Challenge... 

2.  What's the best advice you could give someone who is searching for great, high-quality news/late-breaking information?  What's your advice / guidance / counsel?  

If I pull together fragments of different Readers' answers, mix it with a bit of what I see other (skilled) researchers do, here's what I see as a few good practices for being skilled at finding, reading, and understanding the news.  

A. When you have a strong response to a story, check it!   Many stories are often written to elicit a response, especially political stories.  When you find yourself being outraged, or remarkably pleased, consider yourself manipulated.  

That might be okay, maybe even desirable when you're reading fiction, but when it happens in your news reading, you should pause for a moment and try to read it without the emotion-inducing material.  Here's a made-up example: 

I can't believe Senator Smith voted for this outrageously expensive and immoral funding bill.  He should be barred from the senate for life!  What an irresponsible low-life.  

Now, if you read this without the over-the-top language, you get a very different read: 

... Senator Smith voted for .. this.. funding bill.... 

The rest of that paragraph is opinion.  You should form those opinions for yourself rather than just accepting the writer's point-of-view.  The opinion can be useful information, but when you find yourself reacting strongly to a story, try this "affect-free reading" style and see if you come away with the same information. 

B. Triangulate your sources.  The same story told from different viewers can be very different.  Don't make the mistake of thinking multiple sources means different reporters.  All too common to copy/repeat a story.  (And even data sets.)  

C. Pull from different kinds of sources. Images, videos, long-form stories, news reports... they're all very different.  

D. Cultivate a set of sources that you trust. You really should get to know more than your one most-trusted source.  For instance, I tend to listen to and trust NPR radio for accurate reporting.  But I also know about the BBC (in the UK) and other news outlets in the US, each with their own point-of-view.    

E. Cultivate a set of sources that give you another perspective that you don't agree with.  Filter bubbles are real, but they're mostly bubbles that we create for ourselves.  Don't be a bubblehead!  Think about the set of resources you read all the time and make sure you vary your diet.  (I subscribe to a couple of very conservative news feeds that put articles in my email every day.  It's useful to see how other people think and what they find valuable / believable.)  

F. Understand the background and point-of-view of the source you're reading.  This is true no matter what your source.  Realize that (for instance) the Wall Street Journal tends to be more conservative in their reporting than the New York Times.  Realize also that any good source typically has a suite of different viewpoints within it.  (Beware of any source that doesn't have some built-in diversity--that suggests they're perilously close to having a party line in their reporting.)  

G. Look for reporting that originates close to the story.  Several people have pointed out that reporting on stories with local reporters can be incredibly valuable.  Beware of stories that are filed remotely, without any reportage from the story location.  It's too easy for people to write about what they're told, rather than what they've experience.  When in doubt, go for direct experience.  

H. Look for an author who has expertise in the subject matter.  Look at the writer's back catalog of stories--have they done this kind of thing before?  What have they done to give you a sense that they know what they're talking about?  (I'm very skeptical of writers who claim to understand issues in the Middle East if they haven't spent substantial time there.)  

I. Do your own background fact checking.  You'll develop a sixth sense about this over time--you start to understand what basic facts to check in order to credibility-check an article.  If they don't get the basic facts right, then the rest of the article is dubious.  (Example: Check the numbers on a story--did they get those right?  When a place name is mentioned, check it out--does the image of the place agree with what's written about it?)  

J. Do things fit together?  That is, does what you're reading in an article fit with things you've learned before.  If this is a new topic area for you, this might be hard to evaluate.  But the more you learn about a topic, the better you'll be able to make these evaluations.  (And when you're stuck, spend a little time learning about the topic... it will make you a better judge of what you're reading.)  

REALISTICALLY... what will you do?

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty busy.  I don't really have the time and energy to check every single story I read.  You probably don't either.  

Typically, I do these three things for every story: 

1. Pay attention to the emotional level of the story If it's hot, I'll re-scan it by doing the "affect removal reading" trick of above.  Still interesting?  

2. Do a quick Google search to check on some basic element of the story. If it doesn't check out, I'm done.  And don't just do the easy things, but check on the slightly harder things to look up.  You're a SearchRearcher!  Prove it! 

3. If I don't know the author and/or the network (channel, publication), I'll do a quick search on them (often using the -site: trick to exclude their own self-serving articles).  This will sometimes show up a low-quality site pretty quickly, and if it's a high quality channel, that usually shows up as well.  

This is usually a pretty quick set of things to do.  Pay attention; check a fact or two; check the publication source; make sure all parts of the story are coherent.  I can do this (and you can too!) in less than 1 minute.  

There are obviously a lot more things one can do.   But I hope you'll make these fairly straightforward steps a regular part of the way you search for (and read!) news.  

Search on!