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

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By Philip C. Plait

Encouraged by way of his well known site, www.badastronomy.com, this primary booklet by way of Plait (astronomy, Sonoma country Univ.) debunks well known myths and misconceptions in relation to astronomy and promotes technological know-how as a method of explaining our mysterious heavens. The paintings describes 24 universal astronomical fallacies, together with the ideals that the Coriolis influence determines the course that water drains in a tub and that planetary alignments may cause catastrophe on the earth. the writer sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and alien ship sightings and explains the rules at the back of simple basic techniques (the mammoth Bang, why the sky is blue, etc.). even though a few may well locate him strident, Plait succeeds brilliantly simply because his transparent and comprehensible factors are convincing and sincere. this primary quantity in Wileys «Bad technology» sequence is usually recommended for all libraries, in particular astronomy and folklore collections.

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

Example text

That’s why the sky looks blue. Those blue photons are converging down on you from all directions so that it looks to you like the sky itself is giving off that blue light. The yellow, green, orange, and red photons from the Sun get scattered much less than do blue ones, and so they come straight at you from the Sun without having suffered all those scatterings. At this point, you might reasonably ask why the sky isn’t violet. After all, violet light is bent even more, and actually does scat- BLUE SKIES SMILING AT ME 43 ter more, than blue light.

Surprise! So why doesn’t the Sun look green? Because it isn’t producing only green but a whole spectrum BLUE SKIES SMILING AT ME 47 of colors. It just produces more green than any other color. When they are all combined, our eye still perceives the light as white. Or yellow. Take your pick. Okay, I lied a minute ago; I still have one more question. If the sky isn’t blue because it reflects the color of the oceans, why are the oceans blue? Do they reflect the sky’s color? No. Of course, they do reflect it a little; they look more steely on overcast days and bluer on sunny days.

This pattern may be tough to remember, so it’s usually taught to students using the acronym ROY G BIV, like that’s a common name or something. Still, that’s how I remember it, so it must work. Those colors are coming from the Sun all at the same time, but a funny thing happens on the way to the ground. Molecules of BLUE SKIES SMILING AT ME 41 nitrogen and oxygen (N2 and O2) in the air can intercept that light. Almost like little billiard balls, photons—the fancy name for particles of light—bounce off these molecules and head off in a different direction every time they hit one.

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