AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 20 Cool Astronomy for Everyone
Special Oral, Monday, May 26, 2003, 2:00-3:30pm, 103/104

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[20.02] Bad Astronomy Goes Hollywood

P. Plait (Sonoma State U.)

It can be argued that astronomy is the oldest of all the sciences, so you'd think that after all this time people would have a pretty good understanding of it. In reality, however, misconceptions about astronomy abound, and even basic concepts are misunderstood. There are many sources of these cosmic misconceptions, including incorrect textbooks, parents and/or teachers who don't understand astronomy and therefore spread misinformation, urban legends, and so on.

Perhaps the most pervasive source of bad astronomy is Hollywood. Science fiction movies are enormously popular, but are commonly written and directed by people who don't have even a passing familiarity with astronomy. The smash hit "Armageddon" (the number one box office movie of 1998), for example, used vast quantities of incorrect astronomy in the plot. It reinforced such popular misconceptions as huge asteroids impacting the Earth with little warning, small meteorites being hot when they impact, air existing in space, and that a simple bomb can blow up an asteroid the size of a small moon (even when the bomb is buried only 800 feet deep!).

However, movie scenes can be used as a hook that engages the student, helping them learn and remember the correct science. In this talk, I will light-heartedly discuss specific examples of common misinformation, using movie clips, diagrams, and a splash of common sense to show just where Hollywood gets it wrong, and what you can do to help students and the public get it right.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.badastronomy.com. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: phil@universe.sonoma.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #3
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.