The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE speaker debunks bad scientific myths

By Charles Swanigon/reporter

On the first day of spring, one can stand an egg on end.

Such popular science myths were felled in Dr. Phil Plait’s presentation Bad Astronomy on NE Campus April 16.

Impossible, many believe, because the egg has no edges, it is oval shaped and gravity will not permit it. Actually, Plait said, not only can an egg stand on end, it can any day of the year.

“No tricks or gimmicks,” he said. “The only tools you need are eggs and patience.

Also, the egg will remain there until interrupted as Plait demonstrated.

Hollywood is the Mecca of bad science, Plait said, because of the public’s “willful suspension of disbelief.”

“During the hour or so we are enjoying a movie, Sci-fi or not, we welcome fantasy and all types of hocus pocus to aid us in the departure from reality that a motion picture is,” he said.

The movie Armageddon, one of the biggest blockbusters of 1998, is a perfect example, Plait said. The plot is that a meteor the size of Texas is heading toward earth, and the government’s plan is to blow it up with several nuclear weapons. 

Plait pointed out the fallacies in the film. First, meteors are big, but for one that big to be destroyed, it would take millions of nuclear detonations, and, of course, the U.S. would not send a zany group of oil drillers to do it. In the film’s most suspense-charged scene, Plait said, the head of the drillers detonates the charges killing himself in the process while being rained on in space. Rain in space?

“There is no sky in space,” he said.

Asteroids fields are always presented as an obstacle course in movies. An obstacle, Plait said, only the most skillful pilots can navigate through. For comic relief, the pilot always hits one and says “oops!” In truth, the distance between each asteroid is several millions of miles.

“If you stood on one, the next would be so far away you would have to use a telescope to see it,” he said.

Meteorites fall all the time, but usually the atmosphere disintegrates them. When they get through, even a small meteorite can cause a lot of damage. All over the world, one can find craters that are evidence that a big meteorite struck the earth.

Plait said it is good for people that 70 percent of Earth is water, and most of the meteorites that get through the atmosphere fall there. Sirius, the biggest asteroid, can be seen with binoculars. It was discovered 200 years ago.

Plait’s visit was sponsored by NE student activities.

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