The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Bad Astronomy’

It’s Equinox Time, So Balance Some Eggs for Science!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 22, 2011

Tomorrow, September 23rd, is the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, and it is on this occasion that I like to inject a little skeptical and critical thinking fun into my physics classes.  Most of us have heard of the urban legend about balancing an egg on its end during the equinox – the thing is, this is true!  The myth is the implication that one can only do this on the equinox, when – in fact – you can balance an egg on end pretty much any time you want.

Case in point, here’s a couple of photos of me balancing eggs on their ends during the time of year exactly opposite to the equinoxes…

During the summer solstice…

And during the winter solstice…

In addition, here’s a nice Youtube video showing some tips on how to accomplish this trick:

The reason why this trick works boils down to simple physics: it’s called unstable equilibrium.  If you have a flat and level surface on which to perform this trick, and there aren’t a lot of vibrations around, then chances are you can balance a number of eggs in a standard dozen pack.  As long as the eggs are relatively smooth on their ends (look closely and you’ll see some bumps on some of them) and you are very patient, then with some practice pretty much anyone can perform this trick.  The Bad Astronomy blog has a pretty good rundown on the physics as well.

So the next time you hear someone pass along the “eggs can be balanced only on the equinox” myth, whip out some eggs and balance away.  It’s a quick, easy, and fun way to advocate for skepticism and science 🙂

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Posted in astrology, magic tricks, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

More High Resolution Images of the Apollo Moon Landing Sites

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 7, 2011

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we’ll be here again, folks.  NASA has just released a set of even higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the Apollo 17 landing site (see my previous blog entry on earlier images here), which shows – yet again – more evidence that human beings really did go to the Moon!  Here are the images…

Clearly visible are equipment left on the Moon’s surface (such as the base of the lander which is casting a clear shadow) and numerous tracks left by the astronauts’ footprints in the lunar regolith.  And here is a magnified version of the above image, centering on the base of the lunar lander itself:

Image credit: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

[**Aside: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has an excellent analysis and specific breakdown of these newest images here.]

Sadly, this probably won’t stop conspiracy-minded Moon hoax theorists from spinning their usual nonsense denying the fact that we sent humans to the Moon (see this excellent analysis by Bad Astronomy of the Moon hoaxer claims).  That’s because, no matter what evidence is provided (even including high-resolution images of the landing sites and human footprints on the Moon), these conspiracy theorists will attempt to rationalize it away, such as by invoking the all-powerful Conspiracy (i.e., all the images are faked, except – of course – the very images the hoaxers use to claim the Moon landings didn’t happen).  Case in point, just today I received the following comment on an earlier blog post on this matter:

Haha – your photo’s prove the fake – look closely at the image of the Apollo 14 landing site and you can see the the LM has no height profile compararive to it’s shadow – thankyou for the proof – hahahaha. Also the eagle landing module has a shadow the shape of a christmas tree. Why would that be?

Of course, one can see clearly in the higher resolution photos above of the Apollo 17 landing site that there is an obvious height profile compared to the shadow of the lander base.  As for the Eagle lander having a “shadow the shape of a christmas tree”, one should note that what was left behind on the Moon was the base of the lander, not the entire lander structure with the descent module attached (because, duh, that part brought the astronauts back).  It’s details like this the conspiracy theorists overlook in their zealous attempts to simultaneously deny reality and spin some kind of fantasy world where they are clued in to what’s really going on.

I’m content to allow these whackjobs to continue spinning their tall tales that fly in the face of mountains of evidence, including their utterly abyssmal understanding of physics (see the Bad Astronomy link for more on that).  Meanwhile, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the fact that we still have the right stuff 🙂

Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Alien Life in a Meteorite? Ummm, Not So Much

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 13, 2011

Last week the media was all abuzz about a story that a NASA scientist had discovered “definitive evidence” of alien life in a meteorite.  In fact, they apparently even had photos of the little critters…

Here’s the headline:

NASA scientist finds evidence of alien life

Aliens exist, and we have proof.

That astonishingly awesome claim comes from Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, who says he has found conclusive evidence of alien life — fossils of bacteria found in an extremely rare class of meteorite called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites. (There are only nine such meteorites on planet Earth.) Hoover’s findings were published late Friday night in the Journal of Cosmology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet earth,” Hoover, who has spent more than 10 years studying meteorites around the world, told FoxNews.com in an interview. “This field of study has just barely been touched — because quite frankly, a great many scientist [sic] would say that this is impossible.” …

The “field of study” to which Dr. Hoover is referring is astrobiology, and it is a legitimate scientific endeavor that attempts to study the question of life beyond Earth.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hoover is somewhat of a crank, and his claims are quite overblown, as evidenced by the ruthless criticism he and the “peer-reviewed” Journal of Cosmology received from the wider scientific community.  Here are just a few samples of how these trumped up claims of “alien life” simply wither under scrutiny…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in aliens & UFOs, scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Phil Plait’s “Bad Universe” Coming This Fall!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 15, 2010

I am pleased to announce that “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait – author of the Bad Astronomy blog – will have his own television show this coming fall on the Discovery Channel called Bad Universe! Way to go, Phil!!! 🙂

I know that Phil’s been working on this for a long time, and it’s hard as hell to get skeptical & scientific shows on cable nowadays, so I want to do all I can to get people to tune in.  So with that, check out the sneak peak of Bad Universe

Coming this fall to Discovery, a new series that debunks all the junk about the Universe! Phil Plait is an astronomer on a mission to challenge the myths of the universe with scientific proof.

Posted in skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy Summer Solstice: Skeptical Egg-Balancing Fun!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 21, 2010

Happy Summer Solstice everyone! It might seem a strange thing to be celebrating, this specific position of Earth in its orbit around the sun, but we skeptics have our reasons. This, of course, has to do with the old myth of being able to balance eggs on their ends only during either the vernal (spring) or autumnal equinox – of course, all references are in regards to the northern hemisphere.

But wait, it’s not the equinox, so why bring up this myth now? To debunk it, of course. According to adherents of this myth, usually the same folks who are into astrology-related woo, during the equinoxes “things line up cosmically” (probably some misunderstood reference to the fact that the length of day & night are the same), and this should result in the capability to stand eggs on their ends.

The funny thing about this particular myth is that it contains a kernel of truth… you can stand an egg on its end on the equinox, just as you can at any time of the year – even the solstices, as far away from the equinox as you can get. Case in point, last summer (on June 21st, the summer solstice) I balanced three eggs on end in my kitchen…

Solstice Eggs

And this past winter solstice (well, close – on December 24, 2009), while visiting family for the holidays I balanced an egg on end in their kitchen…

These supposedly “cosmic events” took me all of just a few minutes to accomplish – with a little practice, it’s easy to do. To understand why it is that eggs can be balanced in this manner, it is more helpful to look to the science of physics rather than the pseudoscience of astrology – this link at the Bad Astronomy blog explains in more detail.

So, the next time you hear someone make this loony claim, have a little fun with it – whip out the eggs and balance away!

Posted in astrology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy Winter Solstice! — Time to Balance Those Eggs

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 24, 2009

**Note: This is essentially a repost of an earlier entry…

Let’s balance some eggs, kids 🙂

Happy Winter Solstice everyone!  It might seem a strange thing to be celebrating, this specific position of Earth in its orbit around the sun, but we skeptics have our reasons.  This, of course, has to do with the old myth of being able to balance eggs on their ends only during either the vernal (spring) or autumnal equinox – of course, all references are in regards to the northern hemisphere.

But wait, it’s not the equinox, so why bring up this myth now?  To debunk it, of course.  According to adherents of this myth, usually the same folks who are into astrology-related woo, during the equinoxes “things line up cosmically” (probably some misunderstood reference to the fact that the length of day & night are the same), and this should result in the capability to stand eggs on their ends.

The funny thing about this particular myth is that it contains a kernel of truth… you can stand an egg on its end on the equinox, just as you can at any time of the year – even the solstices, as far away from the equinox as you can get.  Case in point, I’m away visiting family, and I just balanced an egg on end in the kitchen…

This supposedly “cosmic event” took me all of fifteen seconds to accomplish – with a little practice, it’s easy to do. To understand why it is that eggs can be balanced in this manner, it is more helpful to look to the science of physics rather than the pseudoscience of astrology – this link at the Bad Astronomy blog explains in more detail.

So, the next time you hear someone make this loony claim, have a little fun with it – whip out the eggs and balance away!

Posted in astrology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Yes, We Really DID Send Humans to the Moon – LRO Images Apollo 11 Landing Site

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2009

Over the years you’ve no doubt heard claims that the Apollo Moon landings were an elaborate government hoax. Of course, this is one of the silliest conspiracy theory claims I’ve ever heard, but then once people start to venture down the rabbit-hole of conspiracy mongering I’m of the opinion that logic & reason go right out the window.  In any case, ever since these CT-lunatics (pardon the pun 😉 ) have started making their hoax claims a decade ago, one of their most oft-repeated mantras is: “If we really did send humans to the Moon, then why doesn’t NASA show us pictures of the landing sites?”

Well, here you go, an image of the Apollo 11 landing site as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

onegiantleap

A detailed description of this photo is given over at the Bad Astronomy blog:

We’ve seen it before, but this time LRO is in its 50 km mapping orbit, so the resolution on this image is far higher — about 50 or so centimeters (20 inches). In this image, the tracks made by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they scampered on the Moon for 2 hours and 31 minutes are obvious. You can even see the lander footpads, each just less than a meter (a bit over a yard) across.

The bright spots south of (below) the lander are various scientific packages they installed, including the Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector and the Passive Seismic Experiment. If I’ve got the scale right, the faint dark trail going to the upper left is where they put the TV camera. Somewhere between that and the lander is the flag. The Sun was shining straight down in this image, so the flag isn’t visible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Whoopi Goldberg’s Comments on the Moon Landing: Amazing *Facepalm* Moment

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 24, 2009

Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” earlier this week seriously entertains some of the Moon Hoax conspiracy woo…

Who took the photos, Whoopi? It’s called a tripod…

This one’s just for you, Whoopi…

facepalm

Posted in conspiracy theories, media woo, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Buzz Aldrin Punches Moon Hoax Conspiracy Theorist

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2009

This Youtube video is making the rounds on the Internet, so I figured that I would pass it along, mostly for the entertainment factor 🙂

In 2002, as part of a shameless and rather obvious publicity stunt, conspiracy nutjob & fledgling stalker Bart Sibrel ambushed the Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the Moon)  and publicly defamed him in front of a film crew, thrust a bible in his face and demanded that he swear on it that he really did walk on the moon.  Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Sibrel called Aldrin a liar.  The 72-year old’s response to this harassment? See for yourself…

I’m not one to advocate violence, but upon seeing this footage – and Sibrel’s harassment of Aldrin – I have to admit that I gave ol’ Buzz an “atta boy!” when he socked it to Sibrel.

Just in case you know someone who may doubt we ever sent amazing men like Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, check out these websites which systematically demolish the claims of the Moon Hoax conspiracy theorists

Bad Astronomy: Fox TV and the Apollo Moon Hoax

Moon Base Clavius

Wikipedia: Apollo Moon landing hoax conspiracy theories

Face it, folks, we went to the Moon, and if we’re smart we’ll go back someday in the near future.

Posted in conspiracy theories, humor, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Apollo Landing Sites Photographed on the Moon!

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 17, 2009

I just saw this post over at the Bad Astronomy blog by Phil Plait, and seeing as how the media is crawling all over the touched up NASA footage of the Apollo 11 landing, I wanted to share it with you.  That’s because, as I suspected, while the media is giving NASA some attention, they are – sadly – also giving the conspiracy nuts some attention as well.

Well folks, for those of us whose brains are not addled by conspiracy-mongering, here you go: photographic evidence of the landing sites on the Moon, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)…

That first one is of the Apollo 11 landing site, with the Eagle lunar module clearly visible.  The LRO website has images of the Apollo 14,15,16, and 17 landing sites as well, including this incredible shot of the Apollo 14 site which shows the tracks left in the lunar dust by the astronauts!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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