Jeff Whisenant's M-27 Awards and Bad Astronomy Page
Gleanings of Astronomical Stupidity, Ignorance, Faux Pas, Bad Astronomy, and General BS Culled from the Tabloids, Government, Media, and the General Public
M-27 is Messier Object number 27, a Planetary Nebula found in Vulpecula and commonly referred to as the Dumbbell Nebula. We present these awards to all deserving individuals and organizations when they act like dumbbells when it comes to astronomy, science, and the related politics. If you know of any acts of astronomical idiocy, please send your submissions to the link below and they will be included on this page.
Remember: only you can stamp out astronomical illiteracy.

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Not associated with Lucile Miller Observatory, or the Catawba County School System
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Coming Soon! Pictures of telescopes pointed at the ground or backwards!

New, Assorted Science and Astronomy Related Incidents

Brought to you by our institutions of higher learning that continue to value literature over science. These were contibuted by Mark Smith of the PAA who received them from many others.

High school science test answer: "H2O is hot water; CO2 is cold water".

High school geography test answer: "Asia goes from France to Japan. It's the biggest constellation".

Answer on 11th grade science test: "Some planets are mostly big, except when they're moons. Then they're small".

12th grade science - "Define a light year". "A light year has 365 days. A leap year has 366".

12th grade science - "Define a solar eclipse". "A solar eclipse is when the sun goes between us and the moon".

Freshman college astronomy - "How does nuclear fusion differ from fission?" "In fission, atoms of hydrogen are smashed together to form heat. In fusion, atoms are already hot, so they combust spontaneously".

Second year college astronomy - "Describe the aftermath of an asteroid collision with Earth". "That happened once before. It extincted all the dinosaurs. My grandfather remembers it".

Second year college astronomy - "Describe the structure of the Great Orion Nebula as seen in the eyepiece". "This nebula is visible only at night. Therefore it is too dark to see any detail".

Second year college astrophysics - "Define the term sub atomic". "A nuclear powered ship designed to go under water".

...In the field... * A friend took his expensive new telescope to a really dark location one night - the tenth fairway of a local golf course. He set up all his gear, including a desktop computer, a chart table, and several reference books. Everything was going well, until around midnight, when the automatic sprinkler system kicked in...

...On the street... Man-on-the-street interview; question: "How many planets in the Solar System" * Occupation - stock broker: "Let's see, it's an odd number... eleven?" * Home-maker:"Ten, counting the moon." * Hotel Door-man: "Oh jeez, a whole bunch -- a hundred maybe?" * Cab driver:"Uh... you mean counting the sun?" * Rabbi:"That would be nine." * Hot dog vendor:"You mean this solar system? Seven I think" * NFL football player:"Uh... sorry, man, I'm really not sure." * NBA basketball announcer: "Nine.. Jupiter's the biggest, Pluto's the smallest, and Michael Jordan's the hottest."

...On television... * News anchor-man about the discovery of a planet orbiting Beta Pictoris: "Astrologers have discovered a new planet in a far-away solar system called the Milky Way..."

* Anchor-woman on the discovery of a recent supernova:

"...The discovery was announced by astronomers inside the Hubble Space Telescope..."

...In the neighborhood... One of our friends serves in the National Guard. He recently purchased an Orion 4.5-inch SkyQuest Dob for his 12 year-old daughter. They chose the front yard for a first-time setup because a neighbor behind them was burning leaves. It was just before dark, and he was wearing his military o.d. fatigues and jacket. The tube was pointed near the zenith when his cell phone rang. It was another neighbor from across the street (who had never before displayed an interest in astronomy). "Hello?" "Hey Charlie, this is Ralph." "Hi, Ralph!" "Hey, are you going to test that thing right there?" "Yeah, you want to come over and have some fun with it?" "Uh, I'm not sure... Hey, you're not gonna use live ammo are you?"

Quotes from Dan Quayle on Space and NASA
"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."
"For NASA, space is still a high priority."
"[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system."
"...Buzz Lukens took that fateful step..." -- Vice President Dan Quayle confusing the sexual assaulter/Congressman with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Hey, teacher, why does this picture of a silicon crystal doped with an arsenic impurity look like Linda Ronstadt?!
So, you think what they taught you about science in school is accurate? Check out Final Report, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Grant #1998-4248, Review of Middle School Physical Science Texts, John L. Hubisz, Ph.D. This is a rather lengthy and technical report about errors in science textbooks used in your tax supported school systems (and in private and home schools too). Garbage On = Garbage Out, we see it every day.

Hey, Where did the road go?!
From the Darwin Awards - August 11, 1999 Germany - A 42-year-old man killed himself watching a solar eclipse while driving near Kaiserslautern, Germany. A witness driving behind him stated that the man was weaving back and forth as he concentrated on the partially secluded sun, when he suddenly accelerated and hit the bridge pier. He had apparently just donned his solar viewers, which are dark enough to totally obscure everything except the sun.

And now, something good about Daylight Savings Time...
From the Darwin Awards - September 5, 1999, Jerusalem - The switch away from daylight savings time caused consternation among terrorist groups this year. At precisely 5:30 Israel time on Sunday, two coordinated car bombs exploded in different cities, killing three terrorists who were transporting the bombs. It was initially believed that the devices had been detonated prematurely by klutzy amateurs. A closer look revealed the truth behind the untimely explosions. Three days before, Israel had made a premature switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time in order to accommodate a week of Slihot, involving pre-sunrise prayers. Palestinians refused to "live on Zionist time. "Two weeks of scheduling havoc ensued. The bombs had been prepared in a Palestine-controlled area, and set on Daylight Savings Time. The confused drivers had already switched to Standard Time. As a result, the cars were still en-route when the explosives detonated, delivering to the terrorists their well-deserved demise.

What We Have Here Is...Failure to Communicate!
We present this award to NASA and JPL, and everybody else who was responsible directly or indirectly for crashing the Mars Climate Orbiter.  One group was using miles and the other was using kilometers.; Somehow, an orbit of 60 miles was interpreted as 60 kilometers, turning the Orbiter in to a $125 million meteorite.; Putting your tax dollars to work.

GASP! Evolution?! Don't you mean 'change over time?'
What's the scariest word in education today?; Not gun, not bomb, but of all things Evolution!  Many states have taken giant steps backwards to appease some very vocal groups who seem to have closed their mind concerning science.; These folks refuse to consider the responsible scientific views on the origin of the universe; favoring creation stories as absolute fact. To them, there can be no other views.; Kentucky has not dropped the teaching and testing of evolution, they now call it "change over time" .  A school district in Kentucky confiscated all the science books and glued together the pages discussing the Big Bang Theory. On balance, the state of Kansas has a more moderate school board and has restored scientific discussion to the classroom. This is an ongoing story, stay tuned.

God Will Get You for This
We recently heard a story from our friends in South Carolina concerning a recent Lunar eclipse.; It seems the eclipse was to occur on a Wednesday night.; Now, on Wednesday nights here in the Old South, one can not schedule anything because most of the people will be at a church meeting. When a local astronomy group publicized a Lunar Eclipse gaze for the Wednesday evening, an obviously uninformed person called and admonished: "How dare you schedule a Lunar Eclipse on a church night!" As purveyors of science, it is our duty to inform the public that WE do not schedule eclipses.; If anyone has a problem with the scheduling of an eclipse, they should go to church and pray to have it changed, because man does not control the Heavens.

They won't know the difference
Presented to WBTV Channel 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina for their coverage on Friday, October 10 of the bright meteor fall in the Southwest. In the tease before the story ran, they showed a graphic with a good picture of Comet Hale-Bopp with the caption "meteor". This legitimate media source knows better. Most of the time these folks do a fine job of covering the sky.

Ecliptic? What's an Ecliptic?
Presented to Exploring Outer Space by Gerald E. Duncan, Coles Publishing Co. Toronto, 1976, page 47. In talking about the constellation Orion, Duncan states, "Orion is just off the road of the Zodiac, but it is difficult to see how it escaped becoming one of the signs, as it is so outstandingly magnificent." Do you think the fact that the Sun does not pass through Orion has anything to do with it not being in the Zodiac?

The Current Time is 1,000,000,000 miles
Just before Christmas 1997, a television ad ran on the music video channels for Swatch Watches. The focus of the ad was How Long is a Lifetime? They showed people in various situations such as a woman in labor who said that a lifetime was nine months, and so forth. They showed Armstrong walking on the moon indicating that a lifetime was 1000 years. Then they screwed up the whole thing when they showed a girl looking through a telescope (dime store variety) and said that a lifetime was 1000 LIGHT YEARS! duh! We all know that a light year is a measure of DISTANCE not TIME. Maybe Swatch is making odometers now.

Save Yourself the Trouble of Reporting stuff from the Weekly World News. The whole thing is a giant M27 Award.

Philip Plait's Bad Astronomy Web Site An LMO 4-BOB Supersite!!
Professor William C. Keel's "Astronomy students say the strangest things!
Search for Bad Astronomy from

Remember, Bad Astronomy Perpetuates Ignorance
Don't do bad astronomy.; Don't tolerate bad astronomy.
Stay tuned for more stupid stuff........

OK, now that I have your attention, please read this...

This page is entirely funded, maintained and hosted by me. Since no tax dollars, individual or corporate donations, or other outside money is used, I will use this page to vent my spleen about things that bug me. Opinions expressed on this page represent only my views and absolutely do not represent the views of Lucile Miller Observatory, or The Catawba County School System. Don't complain to them about what you see here. The Websites of Philip Plait, Jack Horkheimer, and Professor Keel have my blessings and I recommend everyone visit them. Other websites linked in are for your convenience and I do not necessarily endorse them or their content.

It is not my intent to offend any person, group, business, or institution, but I don't mind ruffling some feathers. There are several reasons why items are listed on this page.

First, I have found that advertisements often misuse artistic license to the point where facts and terms are just flat out wrong. If an advertisement contains incorrect information, it does not matter what the writer intended - wrong is wrong.

Second, I have a very low tolerance for politically correct thinking and statements. Case and point, look what happened to poor Jack Horkheimer and how he had to change the name of his TV show and it's wording.

Third, when I talk about encounters with religious groups, it is usually because of a misunderstanding between the intent of the group and the intent of astronomy. However, I will not sit still when any individual or group questions my personal faith in God (which is quite strong, thank you), or those of my astronomy friends, or our organizations. As an astronomy educator, I present a view which is based on scientific principles. There is room in our science for your faith. Please find room in your faith for our science.

Fourth, many school systems across the country are making irrational choices concerning the teaching of astronomy, science, and evolution. Educators and administrators have replaced common sense with PC thinking to accommodate groups and individuals who want facts replaced with beliefs and conspiracy theory. Every day I encounter some people who have been fed misinformation by their schools - public, private, and home schooled. I encourage teachers and administrators to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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