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Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" (Wiley Bad Science Series)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  3,519 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Dr. Plait created his popular web site:, to debunk bad astronomy in popular culture. This website proved popular, which led to this first book by Plait, that carries on from the website and in a detailed and clear fashion criticises and disproves popular myths and misconceptions relating to astronomy, and promotes science as a means of explaining the s ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by Wiley (first published March 1st 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Funny, entertaining, informative. Most of the stuff I already knew (I used to teach high school science), but I learned a few things, too.

My only complaint came on page 16: "That makes sense; the yolk is really the embryo of the chicken and shouldn't get jostled too much." This is not true. The embryo only grows if the egg is fertilized, and it starts as a small dot ON the yolk. The yolk provides food for the growing chick. I guess I need to write a book called "Bad Biology"!
Really interesting, and at times pretty funny. I really enjoyed this book, and think that Plait did a good job at laying explaining the misconceptions, poking a little fun at them, and then debunking them with good solid science. He doesn't claim that science knows everything, but he does show how easy it is to see that some of the things that are believed to be true because they are part of the cultural "knowledge" - like that an egg will only stand on its end on the vernal equinox. You could e ...more
What do you think you know about astronomy? For example, what causes us to have seasons? If you said that it's our distance from the sun - sorry, you're wrong. Or how about why the sky is blue? If you think it's that the sky reflects the sea, nope. Wrong again. Or perhaps you think that the moon's tidal effect makes people crazy, or that an egg can only stand on end if it's the Vernal Equinox or that an alignment of the planets will cause a terrible buildup of gravity that will kill us all!

All w
Subtitled ‘Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax”‘, this book discusses misconceptions related to astronomy. For example, various false explanations to why the sky is blue are talked about. The first part is about things like tides, eclipses. Then the book moves on to things like astrology and the purported Moon landing hoax. There is also a section on bad astronomy in films.

Philip Plait is an astronomer who also runs the excellent Bad Astronomy website. H
Let's be honest. If there was anything in this book that I didn't know, I should be calling UMd and returning my degrees. I didn't listen to this book to find out what science/astronomy misconceptions I've been harboring; I listened to it to find out what misconceptions are out there. Some I've heard before. Some I hadn't. I think the most interesting part of a book like this is learning what misconceptions are out there and learning how to respond in a down-to-Earth manner. I enjoyed it.
Spyros Blackfinch
Now that was a good popular-science book.

Very easy to read, regardless of your scientific background. P.Plait does a really good job debunking myths and dealing with common misconceptions. When I started the book I thought it wouldn't really teach me anything. I considered it light-reading for someone who knows a litle bit about astronomy. And yet I myself was wrong in a quite a few topics. For example: I thought meteors burn because of atmosphereic friction... Surpsise! No, they burn because o
Holden Attradies
Definitely one of my all time favorite "skeptic" books. It's a really "down to earth" and engaging read and every time I read it I feel like I've walked away with new knowledge or mistaken knowledge corrected. It's one of those books that has an amazing amount of information provided in it, right on the edge of being overwhelming. But, it's presented in a way (especially the way the chapters are broken up) that it isn't overwhelming and once your done you feel anything you missed you could happi ...more
Daniel Bastian
"Do you see the pattern? First the Earth was the center of everything-hurrah! Then, well, ahem. Maybe the Sun still is-yay! But then, yikes, actually we’re way out in the suburbs of the [Milky Way] Galaxy. Well, this was getting downright insulting."

A casual spin of the Google directory returns over 600,000 results for “moon landing hoax”. Naturally,some portion of these hits are by the debunkers, those war-torn heroes who continue to throw logic and sense at the convinced conspiracy cults. Ye
Kate Lansky
As I read this book, I found myself wondering who it was written for. There were occasional snippets of information that I really enjoyed (random little factoids I hadn't really thought about before), but most of what I found in here were things I already knew. Most of it I learned in elementary school, such as the cause of seasons. Since most of the book wasn't news for me, I was pretty bored while I read - though I occasionally found myself making note of "Oh, that's something to explain to my ...more
I don't have much to say about this book. It's competently done, but I wasn't particularly satisfied with it even though it did cover some misconceptions I didn't realize I held (that the Earth's shadow causes the moon's phases, for example).

I think my biggest problem was with the book's tone. It's extremely conversational, and Plait frequently illustrates his points with metaphors. This isn't automatically a problem, but after a while they were so frequent that they started to interrupt the flo
A collection of essay by Plait, drawn from his experience writing the "Bad Astronomy" website. Not as interesting a read as his subsequent book, "Death from the Skies", but that may largely be due to the range of articles. They include some pretty banal topics: eggs and the equinox; why seasons change; why stars appear to twinkle; the great planetary alignment of 200.

Other essays display his skill as a scientist and skeptic, including a debunking of hoaxers arguments that the Apollo moon landin
The first half of this book reads as a basic course in Astronomy, reviewing everything from the moon's phases and the seasons to why the sky is blue. I considered myself educated in the subject before reading Bad Astronomy, but was surprised (embarrassed) by how much I either didn't know or knew wrong. For the first half alone, I highly recommend this book.

The second half focuses on debunking rather strange claims about Astronomy and science in general. For a lesson in skepticism, I approve, but
A fine book but a bit of a letdown after reading Death from the Skies first, the latter being a much more in-depth and engaging read. I found myself skimming over parts of this book, as I was looking for more interesting things about astronomy instead of more debunking – of which this book has a lot.

Plait’s writing is still really fun though, and the book doesn’t fail to stir up excitement for astronomy and it’s a great introduction to this fascinating field of science. I wish I had read this in
I decided to read Bad Astronomy after I started watching Phil Plait in Crash Course Astronomy . I love him as host of those videos, and I was curious to read something he had written.
This book was inspired by his website In it, Phil Plait addresses various misconceptions in astronomy and explains the actual science behind these misconceptions so that he might educate readers of this book. The book is divided into five parts that focus on a different topic. He writes in a style
Meant to be a "correcting" of myths about astronomy (and he freely admits that, as an astronomer, just about everything is astronomy to him).

He is an engaging writer, and doesn't take himself too seriously. But he does take his debunking seriously.

The first half or so of the book is pretty interesting, and I learned a lot. About tides (well, those are still pretty complicated), about the moon. Some of it I already knew, but still.

The second half or so of the book is less interesting---it's lik

An outstanding and entertaining book, much of which is a reminder of the way -- of the why -- things are. For instance, I had forgotten the details of the photonic dance that makes our daytime sky appear blue and our sunsets shades of red. But mythbusting is the primary and worthy aim of Bad Astronomy and loony theories such as those postulated (flatulated?) by Velikovsky and any number of astrologers are dismantled in a logical, easy to understand manner (though in some cases the errors are so
So many times I've wanted to shove this book into someone's hands. The standing the egg on end on the equinox thing is among the misconceptions that gets me sputtering the most. On The West Wing, Toby's argument is that you can't stand an egg on end ever, but really the argument should be that you can stand an egg on end whenever you have the patience to try. The fact that people only try on the equinox is silly.

Also, coriolis effect in your toilet? Dumb.
Kym Andrew Robinson
This is a fun and interesting skeptics read on the many absurd and 'credible' hoaxes and myths of our time.

Plait goes about discussing them with the sense of fun that one would get from a clever uncle, seeking to both entertain as well as educate.

I think that this is a book more for those who are not scientifically minded or with a basic knowledge on the subject as it addresses that readership the best. Certainly a book best for those starting out on their scientific journey or as a leaping po
The average American knows more about what Julia Roberts eats for breakfast than what the Coriolis effect is, and Dr. Plait thinks that should change. I think this book should be mandatory reading for anyone remotely interested in astronomy and/or science fiction. His website is just as informative.
Todd Martin
Mostly interesting, but Bad Astronomy covers some fairly stale topics such as the moon landing hoax and astrology. I know people still believe this stuff and Phil may want to set them straight, but I'm pretty sure most of them can't read.
Edward ott
Learned a few new things.
Steve Mitchell
I love a good science book and this is a great example. Rather than start from basics and explain the subject adding more details along the way, this one just jumps straight in and tells you why what you thought you knew was wrong.

Any book that exposes the sham of astrology is welcome, although why we still need to in 2015 is a mystery to me. It breaks down the conspiracy theorists case for the faking of the moon landings but I don't expect to see any decline in the wearing of tin foil hats.

I do
The astronomy bunk stops here. Plait debunks all the bad astronomy, including the most popular and silly - astrology.
Finally got around to reading this one - I've been following Plait online for quite a few years.

Plait takes a somewhat playful look at all of the misconceptions we have, or that have been perpetuated in the media, about astronomical phenomena.

For example, it IS possible for planets to twinkle, Polaris isn't really any brighter, and we don't really have a good plan yet to deal with a kamikaze asteroid.

He finishes it off with the top 10 "worst" Hollywood representations of science (as of 2002).

an okay book. i won't be reading it a second time.
This rating is for the audiobook only. I'm sure I would've enjoyed the book more had I the ability to skim and skip.

What made the audiobook such a pain to listen to was that you couldn't skip the boring bits. Sure, maybe a book shouldn't have boring bits, but there were certainly parts that were VERY elementary and deserved skipping and other fascinating parts that you want to hear every word.

I'm also not sure who this book was written for. I don't think anyone who believes the moon landing was
Ron Versetto
I first became familiar with Dr. Philip Plait from his appearances on Neil Tyson's Star Talk Radio. His appearances on that show and his Twitter comments compelled me to purchase this book.

I will say the first two or three chapters had me somewhat bored as they dealt with Astronomy misconceptions that I was unfamiliar with, particularly the egg on the Spring Equinox one. I was concerned that the book was going to be rife with juvenile misconceptions on Astronomy that I had never even heard of. T
Apr 21, 2014 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
Some excellent information in here, ranging from you-think-you-know-it things like "why is the sky blue" or "what causes the moon's phases," explained in detail (with helpful illustrations for those of us who aren't visual thinkers naturally) all the way over to more contentious things related to the topics in the title: moon landing "hoax," creationist new earth theories, "Worlds in Collision," etc. My one criticism is the way the book's title overstates how much "sexy" skeptic fodder there rea ...more
Koen Crolla
I came across years and years ago, when it was still a collection of articles instead of a redirect to yet another blog, but for some reason I never got around to reading the actual book. It's pretty much the same thing.
Plait is occasionally patronising and prone to over-explanation (for instance, he took seven pages to explain the phases of the moon; a short paragraph would have worked), and the book still has plenty of rough edges (e.g. on the matter of whether or not you can
Este libro es directamente fantástico. Es como Malaciencia, pero aplicado únicamente a la astronomía, al Espacio y a alguna cosa más. El autor es humilde y a la vez mordaz, y no deja títere con cabeza cuando se pone a analizar uno por uno bastantes mitos sobre la ciencia. El estilo es simple, claro y conciso. Me encanta. Un breve resumen de los temas que trata seguro que les hace la boca agua:

- Huevos que se sostienen solos durante el equinoccio
- El efecto Coriolis y hacia dónde gira el agua en
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Philip Cary Plait, Ph.D. (aka "The Bad Astronomer") is a US astronomer, skeptic, writer and popular science blogger. He is a well known author and public figure in the fields of astronomy and science.

Platt gained his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1994. He began his career with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His first foray into public life was with his blog that des
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“If a little kid ever asks you just why the sky is blue, you look him or her right in the eye and say, "It's because of quantum effects involving Rayleigh scattering combined with a lack of violet photon receptors in our retinae.” 33 likes
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