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

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  4,326 Ratings  ·  202 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Daniel Bastian
Mar 09, 2016 Daniel Bastian rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"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
Oct 26, 2012 Leslie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 21, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, astronomy
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
Jan 12, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
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
Nov 03, 2011 Andreas rated it really liked it
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
Menglong Youk
I found "Bad Astronomy" due to my interest in Phil Plait. I'm a big fan of his "Astronomy" at Crash Course; he installed his art of teaching, simple explanation, jokes and especially enthusiasm into each of his videos, which can easily absorb viewers' interest amd attention. Back to the book, he pointed out and clarified a number of misconceptions related to astronomy, some of which proved that I had been mistaken all along. From the moon landing, to astrology and bad science in Hollywood scienc ...more
May 03, 2011 terpkristin rated it liked it
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
Jan 29, 2015 Spyros Blackfinch rated it really liked it
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
Jason Keisling
Feb 08, 2016 Jason Keisling rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, astronomy
Bad Astronomy is funny and informative and it cleared up some misconceptions I had. It's a quick read and by the time you finish, you will know more than you did before you started.

Here's a pop quiz I stole from an Amazon review:

Answer true or false to these ten statements:

1) The sky is blue because it reflects the blue color of the oceans.
2) The seasons are caused by the Earth's tilt.
3) The Moon's phases are due to the shadow of the Earth falling on the Moon.
4) The bright glow of a meteor is n
Holden Attradies
Feb 28, 2012 Holden Attradies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
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
Kate Lansky
May 08, 2012 Kate Lansky rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
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
Jan 01, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it
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
Feb 13, 2012 Steven rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2011 Sijmen rated it liked it
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
Nov 13, 2015 Sara rated it it was ok
I think I keep looking for a good, engaging, read-able, science book (if anyone knows of one, please let me know). This was not it for me. It was okay, but I was much happier with the book once I gave myself permission to skim rather than read (which happened shortly after 1/2 way through). I wasn't a fan of the author for a few reasons. If you are interested in this book, I'd suggest starting chapters and then skipping ahead to the next one when you lose interest. I found some of the explanatio ...more
Wayne Fitzpatrick
Sep 09, 2015 Wayne Fitzpatrick rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This book should be renamed; "Things I Learned In School But I Forgot (Or I Am Too Embarrassed To Say I Never Knew)."

Bad Astronomy is a great book for people who may not have paid as much attention in school as we should have. Plait also goes into greater detail about many of the scientific factoids that we took for granted.

What makes the book more entertaining is the passion Plait throws into his writing. Some things we may have just accepted (or not) as scientific fact, he delves into head f
Jul 19, 2015 Daniela rated it liked it
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
Feb 14, 2015 Yofish rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-science-y
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
Mar 04, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: extended-reviews

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
Nov 13, 2015 Lafcadio rated it really liked it
Shelves: suite, honeydew, frisbee
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.
Feb 26, 2016 Luiz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Apesar de ser de 2002, os tópicos abordados continuam atuais. E, apesar de ter uma pegada leve, meio ácida e bem divertida, o BadAstronomer entra *bem* em detalhes sobre o que fala.

Em particular, gostei demais da discussão (e as implicações) sobre as marés e a Lua. Sabia alguma coisa, mas aprendi bem mais sobre o assunto.
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
Aug 31, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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.
Ραδάμανθυς Φωτόπουλος
Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy is just as passionate and fun as his youtube Crash Course series on astronomy. He presents some pretty crazy misconceptions about space and some others that are not so extreme, such as lunar tides, seasons and star seeing conditions.
Todd Martin
Aug 28, 2011 Todd Martin rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2014 Edward ott rated it it was amazing
Learned a few new things.
Steve Mitchell
Apr 28, 2015 Steve Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it
The astronomy bunk stops here. Plait debunks all the bad astronomy, including the most popular and silly - astrology.
Jun 22, 2014 Scotchneat rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
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).

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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.

Plait 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 about Philip Plait...

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Wiley Bad Science Series (2 books)
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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.” 36 likes
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