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Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"

ISBN: 978-0-471-40976-2
288 pages
March 2002
Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" (0471409766) cover image
Advance praise for Philip Plait s Bad Astronomy

"Bad Astronomy is just plain good! Philip Plait clears up every misconception on astronomy and space you never knew you suffered from." --Stephen Maran, Author of Astronomy for Dummies and editor of The Astronomy and Astrophysics Encyclopedia

"Thank the cosmos for the bundle of star stuff named Philip Plait, who is the world s leading consumer advocate for quality science in space and on Earth. This important contribution to science will rest firmly on my reference library shelf, ready for easy access the next time an astrologer calls." --Dr. Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Borderlands of Science

"Philip Plait has given us a readable, erudite, informative, useful, and entertaining book. Bad Astronomy is Good Science. Very good science..." --James "The Amazing" Randi, President, James Randi Educational Foundation, and author of An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

"Bad Astronomy is a fun read. Plait is wonderfully witty and educational as he debunks the myths, legends, and 'conspiracies that abound in our society. 'The Truth Is Out There' and it's in this book. I loved it!" --Mike Mullane, Space Shuttle astronaut and author of Do Your Ears Pop in Space?
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Introduction.

PART I: Bad Astronomy Begins at Home.

1. The Yolk's on You: Egg Balancing and the Equinox.

2. Flushed with Embarrassment: The Coriolis Effect and Your Bathroom.

3. Idiom's Delight: Bad Astronomy in Everyday Language.

PART II: From the Earth to the Moon.

4. Blue Skies Smiling at Me: Why the Sky Is Blue.

5. A Dash of Seasons: Why Summer Turns to Fall.

6. Phase the Nation: The Moon's Changing Face.

7. The Gravity of the Situation: The Moon and the Tides.

8. The Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie: The Big Moon Illusion.

PART III: Skies at Night Are Big and Bright.

9. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: Why Stars Appear to Twinkle.

10. Star Light, Star White: Stars of Many Colors.

11. Well, Well: The Difficulty of Daylight Star Sighting.

12. The Brightest Star: Polaris-Just Another Face in the Crowd.

13. Shadows in the Sky: Eclipses and Sun-Watching.

14. The Disaster that Wasn't: The Great Planetary Alignment of 2000.

15. Meteors, Meteoroids, and Meteorites, Oh My!: The Impact of Meteors and Asteroids.

16. When the Universe Throws You a Curve: Misunderstanding the Beginning of It All.

PART IV: Artificial Intelligence.

17. Appalled at Apollo: Uncovering the Moon-Landing Hoax.

18. Worlds in Derision: Velikovsky vs. Modern Science.

19. In the Beginning: Creationism and Astronomy.

20. Misidentified Flying Objects: UFOs and Illusions of the Mind and Eye.

21. Mars Is in the Seventh House, But Venus Has Left the Building: Why Astrology Doesn't Work.

PARTV: Beam Me Up.

22. Hubble Trouble: Hubble Space Telescope Misconceptions.

23. Star Hustlers: Star Naming for Dummies.

24. Bad Astronomy Goes Hollywood: The Top-Ten Examples of Bad Astronomy in Major Motion Pictures.

Recommended Reading.

Acknowledgments.

Index.
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PHILIP PLAIT, Ph.D., works in the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University in California. He maintains the Web site badastronomy.com and writes monthly articles on astronomy for the German newspaper Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His work has appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future and Astronomy magazine. He also writes a monthly column for astronomy.com.
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Inspired by his popular web site, www. badastronomy.com, this first book by Plait (astronomy, Sonoma State Univ.) debunks popular myths and misconceptions relating to astronomy and promotes science as a means of explaining our mysterious heavens. The work describes 24 common astronomical fallacies, including the beliefs that the Coriolis effect determines the direction that water drains in a bathtub and that planetary alignments can cause disaster on Earth. The author sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and UFO sightings and explains the principles behind basic general concepts (the Big Bang, why the sky is blue, etc.). Though some may find him strident, Plait succeeds brilliantly because his clear and understandable explanations are convincing and honest. This first volume in Wiley's "Bad Science" series is recommended for all libraries, especially astronomy and folklore collections. Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver (Library Journal, March 15, 2002)

"...everything's beautifully explained. He gives the neatest explanation of tides I've ever seen...for that alone, this book should be in every school library on the planet." (New Scientist, 4 May 2002)

"...the book might be a better student introduction than many more sober tomes..." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 June 2002)

"Bad Astronomy is a book which is both timely and welcome. I would recommend it without hesitation, and I have no doubt that it will be widely read..." (The Observatory, October 2002)

For skeptics, always fans of science: The first two books in a series devoted to "bad science," Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait and Bad Medicine (Wiley, $15.95) by Christopher Wanjek, may warm even a Scrooge's heart. In short chapters, Plait tackles misperceptions about why the moon looks larger on the horizon and why stars twinkle before moving on, dismantling conspiracy kooks who doubt the moon landing and offering a top 10 list of bad science moments in movie history. Wanjek, a science writer who has also written jokes for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, takes an edgy and funny tack in debunking myths such as humans using only 10% of their brains, the utility of "anti-bacterial" toys and the safety of "natural" herbal remedies, ones often loaded with powerful chemicals. (USA TODAY, December 3, 2002)

"...a good read...Plait's book is readable, entertaining, not exclusively for astronomers, and often very funny..." (Astronomy & Space, June 2003)

"...a great book to dip into..." (Popular Astronomy, January 2004)

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