As an amateur astronomer, I took great
pleasure reading Philip Plait's "Bad
Astronomy". The book handles the
debunking of common myths with hysterical
humor. I could not put the book down.
Each chapter was entertaining.
Finally we have a text that not only
puts the Coriolis Effect where it belongs
but explains basic astronomy principles
in lay terms. It is better than reading
an astronomy textbook. Where else could
you read about why skies are blue and why
the earth has seasons than in this
Plait gets a little more serious as he
talks about the more delicate subjects of
the Apollo "hoax", Velikovsky,
UFOs, and Astrology. This was appropriate
since many people believe in these
unscientific hypotheses. He approaches
these subjects in a nonoffensive,
objective and scientific manner.
Being a movie fan, I particularly
enjoyed the chapter entitled: "Bad
Astronomy Goes Hollywood." Here
Plait unveils all of the Bad Astronomy we
see every day in science fiction movies.
In his list of Top 10 offenses, the Star
Wars series is guilty of no less than 8
of them. That does not make Star Wars any
less enjoyable, but it is fun to know the
difference between science and Hollywood.
I give this book 5 stars. I think it
would be entertaining for anyone with any
interest in astronomy regardless of how
much or how little they know about the
11 of 11
people found the following review
A welcome addition to any
science lover's library, June 22,
Misconceptions creep into the science
of astronomy perhaps more than any other
science. Surveys have found that even
college graduates carry persistent
misconceptions or even wildly incorrect
ideas about the phases of the moon or the
cause of the seasons.
For the past several years, astronomer
Phil Plait has been battling these
misconceptions, as well as the flood of
just plain bad astronomy (hence the
name). Plait's web site has built a loyal
following, and I have been a frequent
visitor there almost since its inception.
For people like me, the book "Bad
Astronomy" is a logical extension of
the web site. For newcomers, it will be a
welcome addition to your libraries.
In addition to chapters on lunar
phases and the cause of the seasons,
Plait adds a detailed (and fairly
technical) account of tides, the coriolis
effect (as applied to toilet bowl water
rotation), why the sky is blue, the moon
size illusion, and many, many others.
Digging a little deeper into the
"current issues" genre, Plait
also tackles Velikovsky, UFOs,
creationism and astrology. His writing is
very clear and should be accessible to
anybody interested in science and the
battle against pseudoscientific nonsense.
Regular visitors to the web site will
be familiar with Plait's crusade against
those who persist in believing that the
Apollo moon landings were faked. Plait's
site led the charge against this
nonsense, and he includes a treatment of
the topic in his book as well.
Bad Astronomy is lightly illustrated
with a mix of schematic drawings (to
illustrate for example, tides or the moon
size illusion) and black and white
photographs. Some of the chapters could
certainly have benefitted from more
lavish illustrations, and perhaps even
some color plates (the chapter on the
Apollo "hoax," for example,
needed some additional photos to help
dispel the most common objections).
However, the format of the book
(paperback) and the expense (between $11
and $14) dictated the conservative
approach, I'm sure.
The chapters are well balanced in
size. With a topic per chapter, and 24
chapters totalling 257 pages, you won't
find an indepth treatment of any of these
topics, but enough to surely whet your
appetite. He also provides
recommendations for additional reading,
both book and WWW, in an appendix.
In the larger context of "defense
of science" writings, Plait joins
other such notables as Carl Sagan, Martin
Gardner, Robert Park, Stephen Jay Gould,
and Michael Shermer. Plait's contribution
is a welcome one, and he is poised to
take his place as a defender against bad