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

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  2,517 ratings  ·  145 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 1st 2002 by Wiley
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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...more
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"!
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...more
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.
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
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...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. Yet...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more

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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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.
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.
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
I have a bit of an interest in astronomy and astrophysics and such like, although not enough to really get into the weighty material on the topic. This book was good because it is written largely for folks like me, whose technical knowledge of the subject is quite limited, but who want to learn a bit more.

There's a good number of chapters on various interesting things which I didn't understand or which I misunderstood, such as water swirling down a drain, and why the sky is blue and so on. The a...more
I enjoyed reading Bad Astronomy. Explanations of astronomical misconceptions were easy and absolutely comprehensive. Plait's writing is light and clear. He has a good sense of humor. But this book is for dummies rather than for smart guys. To be more correct. If you like Astronomy and somehow you know very little about it, this book is brilliant for you. But even if you think you know about such small matters why the sky is blue, why the seasons change, why the star Polaris is important. Maybe y...more
Paddy Srinivas
Dec 25, 2013 Paddy Srinivas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Astrologers, Traditionalists
Philip C. Plait definitely knows how to decant sciences down to layman like myself.
Finally, I know the reason for 2 high tides and 2 low tides per day, ok, I kind of know it now. I felt that the author could have spent a couple more pages explaining this.
His diagram for illustrating the various phases of the moon was very helpful to me. I always had the question in my mind, how could the moon's visible shape be the same from moon rise to moon set on any given day.
I was astounded to learn that...more
Bad science, bad philosophy; performs the same logical problems that he castrates others for (especially young earth creationists); assumes that functionality is the “why” behind everything, rather than its telos and the possibility of beauty; I didn’t buy a lot of his conclusions, though some of his information was interesting and informative
This is a fun book about astronomy misconceptions. Even after an astronomy course in college, this book still had to put me right on certain things. If you'd like to be able to explain why the sky is blue or why the moon looks bigger near the horizon, I'd recommend this book.

It is written to be fun and approachable which I think it is relatively successful at though at times I was thanking my science background for help with certain concepts. That said, I enjoyed the earlier chapters that were a...more
I thought I wrote about this already... although there's interesting material in here, I was annoyed by weak/wrong and/or irrelevant arguments. If your book is going to be all about sneering at other people's mistakes, you really need to be accurate in what you say and how you say it.

One example: Plait mocks advertisers who refer to a product as "lightyears ahead", asserting that they are using "lightyears" as a unit of time, when it's really a unit of distance. I have no clue how he decided tha...more
Chuck Cottrell
Exactly what it says on the cover, Bad Astronomy documents several instances of folks getting things about the moon, sun, stars, planets, and everything in between...well, completely and totally wrong, in several cases. Simple enough for a layman to understand, and in an easy-going, conversational style, the book is an excellent way to to get a nice overview of some really basic astronomy. Definitely recommended if, like myself, you find astronomy fascinating but don't actually know jack about i...more
James Boyle
This was a fun and easy to read book about the many common misconceptions people hold regarding space and astronomy. Philip Plait stresses the importance of scepticism and critical thinking, and admits himself to having made a number of mistakes.
The book is very interesting, and covers dozens of topics, including why the sky is blue, the coriolis effect, why the moan hoax theories are wrong and some other myths that I had never previously heard of, such as being able to stand eggs upright during...more
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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...more
More about Philip Plait...
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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.” 20 likes
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