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Distinguished speaker explains misconceptions in astronomy

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Philip Plait, author of the novel “Bad Astronomy,” was greeted with applause during his speech Tuesday, Jan. 25, that discussed the common misconceptions that surround astronomy.

Distinguished speaker Phil Plait illustrates his point about misconceptions in the field of astronomy during his speech Wednesday, 25. Photo by Tyler Shomaker.

The purpose of his speech is to show people the misconceptions in astronomy are where he finds his interest and why these ideas are nonsense and reveal “reality,” he said.

Plait started by talking about the legend of standing an egg on its end during the spring equinox. This myth has been around for a while and resurfaces in popularity in the news around March, he said.

“This wound up being my introduction into debunking myths and misconceptions about astronomy,” Plait said.

Plait’s lines of eggs that he had standing up in the middle of October proved that the legend is false. Plait also spoke about his troubles during the process of balancing the eggs.

“Make sure that the space in between (the eggs) is more than their combined diameter or you’ll end up playing a game of dominoes with eggs,” Plait said.

He also explained in detail why people believe this only happens during the spring equinox and why most people think eggs will only stand on end during the spring equinox because the sun and earth align up

“What has this to do with astronomy? The correct answer is nothing,” Plait said. “Somewhere on Earth is always aligned with the sun every day.”

Plait researched where this myth came from and found it actually comes from an article in “Life Magazine.” The article was about a ritual in China where they stand an egg on end during the first day of spring.  This article, printed in 1948, formed the misinterpretation that has become popular today, he said.

 “The worst source of misconceptions about astronomy, Hollywood,” Plait said. He points to many examples in the movie “Armageddon,” which bring in misinformed details about astronomy.  This “bad science” leaves misconceptions in people, he said.

Plait then passed around an asteroid that he acquired from eBay that impacted in South America. The idea behind “Armageddon” is false because asteroids hit the earth all the time and the earth takes care most of them, Plait said.

He then clarified by pointing out that all the asteroids in the asteroid belt are about the size of the moon. The sciences in these Hollywood movies are not what we want to follow. Instead, Plait wants the audience to focus on real science because, “Good science can save us all.”