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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 20 March 2004
This book is a must if you have had enough of old wives tales about why the sky is blue and how the moon affects the tides. Plait explains many many astronomical misconceptions in a very intelligent yet entertaining way. Here is a wonderful way to teach your kids (and yourself) why summer turns to autumn, why stars twinkle and why the world did not end during the Great Planetary Alignment of 2000. This book also examines the moon landing hoax, which I found highly amusing.
Even if you are not into astronomy, this book is one that will make you laugh at some of the tall tales you were told in your youth regarding the planets, the moon and the stars. The added bonus is these fun facts are written by an intelligent 'astronomer, teacher, lecturer and all-around science junkie' who works in the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University. I think it's safe to say that this man knows his stuff!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2006
Misunderstanding the laws of nature will often bring misery to people, in terms of loosing money, faith or opportunity. For example, the guys that looks for some secret plot to fake the Lunar landing (Apollo 11) must miss a lot of the wonders of the planetary expeditions brings these years. For the hard-core believers of faked / bad astronomy, this book will bring nothing of interrest; they have already made up their minds.
For others, however, especially for young students of nature, this book is a "must-read". Old wives tales, like the water running clock-wise out of the sink in the Northen Hemisphere and anti-clock-wise on the Southern (or was it the other way around?) and several more similar yarns are dealt with in a serious but entertaining way. To say it short: The book is funny!
The book is of course an edited version of the now famous website where the author brings more and updated news. The book is dated, but it is a must for a teacher of physics / science for the schools.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2002
Plait does it well, even on his website. He admits his mistakes and ruthlessly attacks those spreading false wisdom, even stopping for the easy mopping up of the common misconceptions. Anybody with a remote interest in astronomy would do well to obtain a copy of Bad Astronomy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2013
Much to my surprise, I already knew quite a few of the things the author touches on (yay, me) but this was a fun and interesting way to refresh my knowledge on things I haven't given much thought to since leaving high school, and add to the high-school level of stuff I did know.

Learning about some of the misconceptions out there was probably the most interesting part though. I had never even heard of the egg balancing theory covered in chapter one, and it is quite alarming to think there might be people out there who don't believe our Sun is a star, for example, but Plait explains these things in such a humorous, charming way that it is a pleasure to read his explanations even if you already know the science behind them. I must say that I enjoyed the chapter about the "big moon illusion" (the illusion that makes the Moon look larger near the horizon than it looks when it is directly overhead) the most, as this was something that has always puzzled me and I'd never been able to find a proper explanation for it before. But I was positively shocked to learn the truth about those companies that offer to name a star after your loved one (hint: it's a scam- tsk tsk!).

This is a book along the lines of Bad Science, so if you enjoyed that then give this one a shot. I love knowing that people like Ben Goldacre and Philip Plait exist, poised and ready to bust silly myths, and name and shame websites and media organisations that either couldn't be bothered to actually get things right, or are outright misleading and taking advantage of the ignorance of others. Plait's passion for astronomy and science really shines through this book and is quite frankly contagious: I would recommend this book for that reason alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Philip Plait's book is an entertaining examination of common misunderstandings astronomical, along with witty debunks of the moon landing `hoax' and practitioners of pseudoscience like creationism. The best parts of the book are these very sections debunking the hoax moon landing conspiracy theories, and the fantastical pseudo-science of Velikovsky, along with astrology and creationism.

He refutes the photographic evidence for the moon landing hoax conspiracy with breezy ease (you cannot see stars in the pictures of astronauts because of the short exposure times required too take pictures, given the brightness of the moon's surface. So stars won't show up). Astrology of course is so vaguely formulated that it makes no predictions whatsoever to which it can be held, unlike proper scientific theories, which stand or fall on the theories it makes. Creationism makes use of existing science in order to knock away the foundations of actual science. It can sometimes assume the guise of real science but one thing it cannot do - like astrology- is to make predictions. See Jerry Coyne's excellent Why Evolution is True and also Simon Singh's Big Bang for a fuller discussion of this point.

As regards Velikovsky, his ideas are not so well known now, thought he still has his followers, and there's plenty of his sort of ilk out there. Velikovsky's theory that Venus was ejected from Jupiter as a comet, which passed a mere 1000 kilometers from Earth around 1500 BC. This is impossible. The energy required for Jupiter to have done such a thing would have destroyed Jupiter itself. If Venus had passed a mere 1000 kilometers from the Earth, then: `Imagine! A planet the size of the Earth passing just 1,000 kilometers ... terrifying ... Venus would fill the sky ... [its] tides would have destroyed everything ... (p.181). In other words, had such an event happened, none of us would be here today.

I know a bit of basic astronomy and physics but there was material in here that surprised me - I didn't know for instance that the reason why meteors glow is not because of friction but because of ablation (air compressed and heated up by the meteor's trajectory through the atmosphere). The book will also add to stuff you may already know - like why the sky is blue - but giving more detail, and offering a better understanding of the physical processes involved, too. You will look up at the moon with a fresh sense of wonder after you have read this book. A lot of silly ideas are dispelled - like water swilling down plugholes in different directions, depending on whether the sink hole is in the northern and southern hemisphere (Michael Palin was taken in by a hoaxer in his series Pole-to-Pole on this), and a very funny round up of bad astronomy in the movies.

One more thing, if a loved one offers to pay to name a star after you by way of memorial, politely decline. These schemes are mere money making scams: it won't have any official recognition.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2003
This is for anyone who's ever looked up and wondered. I was thrilled by not only this book's content but the amount that my tired old brain absorbed. Welcome to a thrilling journey about science FACT. On the way a few tall tales (we've all told them - aware or not) will be dismissed. Interjected with cutting humour that made me laugh out loud. You'll want to not only quote this to your friends but actually read it to them.
Want to impress us with your wisdom? Read this! Now just why is the sky blue? You should know. Come on, we should ALL know.
I also caught BAD MEDICINE. Joy!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2002
Very well argued, and well explained, rebuttal of some of the old wives tales, misconceptions, and Conspiracy Theorists beliefs. My only quibble would be that it is written for a younger, or perhaps less scientifically educated person than me, but I still happily read it from cover to cover. Why are the moon and sun apparently larger when they are lower in the sky? Why is the sky blue? Does the direction of the water down the plug hole really vary between the north and south hemispheres? How do tides happen? There's something for everyone... Give it a try, You'll love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2013
I have almost finished reading it and it is very useful and eye-opening.
I consider myself relatively well informed about science but after reading
this, not so sure anymore. That would make it a very good book, I believe,
fact-wise and style-wise as well.

Reads very well and illuminates facts about science which should really be common knowledge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Extremely clear and well presented information on many astronomical misconceptions. I particularly found the chapter on tides not only to be educational, but to present the complexities of mutual interaction in an extremely easy-to-digest form.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2014
I learnt a lot. Not too in depth for us dummies! Light hearted in places. Makes you think why so many misconceptions are just excepted.
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