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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 ·  4,803 Ratings  ·  225 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
Published October 19th 2010 by Audible (first published March 1st 2002)
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Daniel Bastian
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
If you are familiar with documentaries about the universe, then you most certainly know Phil Plait. His enthusiasm and funny way to popularize science made him one of the most beloved astronomers known today. At least, he is one of my favorites.

This book is no exception: like in his TV appearances, he does an excellent job explaining various misconceptions or myths related to our known universe.

You can also take a look at his blog, and see if it catches yo
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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"!
Jan 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5 STARS
A good read.This book cleared few misconceptions and learned a few new things in Astronomy however I felt some of the chapters are tedious and long.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read. Many questions answered, even questions I didn't realise I had.
Hi Kenz :)
Mohamed al-Jamri
My notes while reading the book:

Likes all space movies, including the stupid ones. Wanted to visit space. Criticizes their inaccuracies. Media misleads about science too.

Being ignorant about science is not ok; it is dangerous. pseudoscience is so widespread. Science hits back with Discovery channel, Bill Nye, NASA website etc.

People want to read about science; they are curious.

"The truth can be hard, and so sometimes it really is easier to believe in fiction. Othertimes the tale has just enough
Holden Attradies
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Lansky
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, re-read
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.
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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.
Edward ott
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Learned a few new things.
Sep 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The astronomy bunk stops here. Plait debunks all the bad astronomy, including the most popular and silly - astrology.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
an okay book. i won't be reading it a second time.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was ok but more than a bit boring. Plait indirectly acknowledges this when he gives his reasoning for why he didn’t devote an entire book to refuting the claim that the earth is 6,000 years old: it’d be boring. Unfortunately, devoting an entire book to refuting the key aspects of many such ideas is not any less boring. Some of these refutations lend themselves to interesting conversations about astronomy, like how most people misinterpret the tides. Others, however, are so outlandish t ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A fast, fun read, written in a conversational tone. It's filled with common misconceptions about things like the phases of the moon, the seasons, why the sky is blue, etc., and there are very clear explanations in the book for all of these phenomena. But it's also filled with interesting conspiracy theories, history, and other information regarding meteoroids, the Hubble telescope, UFOs, and many other things. The author's love and enthusiasm for science and logical thinking really shine through ...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.

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...

Other Books in the Series

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.” 39 likes
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