Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing Hoax


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5.73 X 9.36 X 0.77 inches | 0.76 pounds
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About the Author

PHILIP PLAIT, Ph.D., works in the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University in California. He maintains the Web site and writes monthly articles on astronomy for the German newspaper Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His work has appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future and Astronomy magazine. He also writes a monthly column for


Inspired by his popular web site, www., this first book by Plait (astronomy, Sonoma State Univ.) debunks popular myths and misconceptions relating to astronomy and promotes science as a means of explaining our mysterious heavens. The work describes 24 common astronomical fallacies, including the beliefs that the Coriolis effect determines the direction that water drains in a bathtub and that planetary alignments can cause disaster on Earth. The author sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and UFO sightings and explains the principles behind basic general concepts (the Big Bang, why the sky is blue, etc.). Though some may find him strident, Plait succeeds brilliantly because his clear and understandable explanations are convincing and honest. This first volume in Wiley's "Bad Science" series is recommended for all libraries, especially astronomy and folklore collections. ?Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver (Library Journal, March 15, 2002)

"...everything's beautifully explained. He gives the neatest explanation of tides I've ever seen...for that alone, this book should be in every school library on the planet." (New Scientist, 4 May 2002)

"...the book might be a better student introduction than many more sober tomes..." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 June 2002)

"Bad Astronomy is a book which is both timely and welcome. I would recommend it without hesitation, and I have no doubt that it will be widely read..." (The Observatory, October 2002)

For skeptics, always fans of science: The first two books in a series devoted to "bad science," Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait and Bad Medicine (Wiley, $15.95) by Christopher Wanjek, may warm even a Scrooge's heart. In short chapters, Plait tackles misperceptions about why the moon looks larger on the horizon and why stars twinkle before moving on, dismantling conspiracy kooks who doubt the moon landing and offering a top 10 list of bad science moments in movie history. Wanjek, a science writer who has also written jokes for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, takes an edgy and funny tack in debunking myths such as humans using only 10% of their brains, the utility of "anti-bacterial" toys and the safety of "natural" herbal remedies, ones often loaded with powerful chemicals. (USA TODAY, December 3, 2002)

"...a good read...Plait's book is readable, entertaining, not exclusively for astronomers, and often very funny..." (Astronomy & Space, June 2003)

"...a great book to dip into..." (Popular Astronomy, January 2004)