Bad astronomy: misconceptions and misuses revealed, from by Philip C. Plait

By Philip C. Plait

Encouraged through his well known website,, this primary e-book through Plait (astronomy, Sonoma nation Univ.) debunks well known myths and misconceptions in relation to astronomy and promotes technology as a method of explaining our mysterious heavens. The paintings describes 24 universal astronomical fallacies, together with the ideals that the Coriolis impact determines the course that water drains in a bath and that planetary alignments may cause catastrophe on the earth. the writer sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and flying saucers sightings and explains the rules in the back of uncomplicated common suggestions (the giant Bang, why the sky is blue, etc.). notwithstanding a few may perhaps locate him strident, Plait succeeds brilliantly simply because his transparent and comprehensible motives are convincing and sincere. this primary quantity in Wileys «Bad technological know-how» sequence is usually recommended for all libraries, particularly astronomy and folklore collections.

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Additional info for Bad astronomy: misconceptions and misuses revealed, from astrology to the moon landing 'hoax'

Example text

If you were to extend the axis of the Earth until it intersects that sphere, you’d see that the intersection doesn’t move; to us on the surface of the Earth, it always appears to point to the same part of the sky. For those in the Earth’s northern hemisphere, the axis points very close to the star Polaris. No matter what time of year, the axis always points in the same direction. But as the Earth orbits the Sun, the direction to the Sun changes. Around June 21 each year the axis in the northern hemisphere is pointing as close as it can to the Sun.

1 inches) per second. 24 BAD ASTRONOMY BEGINS AT HOME After a solid hour of driving, that amounts to a deflection of only 10 meters (33 feet). You couldn’t possibly notice this. Still, it is there. It’s subtle, but over long distances and large amounts of time it adds up. That can be a mighty sum, given the correct circumstances. And those circumstances do arise. An area of low pressure in the atmosphere is like a vacuum cleaner, drawing in the surrounding air. Let’s take the simplified view that we are in the northern hemisphere, and assume that the air is coming in only from due north and due south.

The ground there doesn’t get as much warmth from the Sun. The total light hitting the ground is the same, but it’s spread out more. To take matters to the extreme, imagine you’re at the north pole. The sunlight there is hitting the ground almost parallel to it, and it gets spread out tremendously. Another way to think of this is that at the north pole, the Sun never gets very high off the horizon. This is like tilting your paper until the flashlight is shining almost along it. The light gets spread out so much that it barely does any good at all.

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