Chronology Current Month Current Thread Current Date
[Year List] [Month List (current year)] [Date Index] [Thread Index] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Prev] [Date Next]

Re: Moon Thing

Jim Green wrote:

This Moon thing seems to have gone on far too long -- but only a few posts
have addressed the original question. Larry Smith gave a helpful response
and maybe one or two others contributed a bit, I don't remember. Here is
the original question:

I am currently teaching about the History of the Space Program. Many of my
students viewed that TV special on Fox 59 last week and now are arguing
that we did not really land on the moon. I do not have what I call 'good
proof' that it was not a hoax to counter what that show said in regard to:
the different direction of shadows
the American flag was waving in one of the clips they showed
and finally the show said that the astronauts needed to have 6 feet
thick steel to protect them from the radiation.

I can tell them other evidence of proof but cannot sufficiently counter the
clips and examples they showed. Can anyone help with facts to counter this
stupid show? Thanks, Barbara

Here is how I would reply (and I will not address the above grammar):

First - I have attended many scientific meetings and never have I heard the
word "stupid" used --- harbored in one's mind perhaps, maybe murmured but
not spoken.

Well, I seriously doubt that you ever heard a presentation like the
FOX broadcast was purported to be (I didn't see it, but I have heard
*nobody* say it had any scientific content at all) at any scientific
conference you attended. I certainly have not at any that I have
attended during the past 47 years.

ANY formal scientific presentation deserves a little respect
and analysis.

See above. This was *not* a formal scientific presentation.

So I clearly would not use the word "stupid" to the
class. I would take this magnificent opportunity to teach some physics and
how science in general is conducted.

For starters, I would say that how science is conducted does not very
often (I waffle my words here because I cannot say for sure that it
has *never* happened) involve efforts to refute the nonsense that was
put forth on the program, ostensibly as "scientific" evidence. I
rather think that if I was to take the valuable class time to deal
with this, and that might be a worthwhile task, it would be to show
how the program was *not* scientific, and how they distorted the
evidence, took events out of context, lied, and whatever else they
did. It would also be a good time to show the students the difference
between real science and pseudo science. But I would not pretend that
the program had any scientific standing whatever.

Middle School students are bright and usually articulate. At least the MS
kids were when I taught them for a year in the distant past.

Agreed, and they need to know that not everything they see on TV is
true, or even tries very hard to be true. TV producers do *not* have
the interests of those middle school students at heart.

I would begin with a group discussion of the program to see what the class
had absorbed from the program.

Good idea.

I would list the topics on the board. I
would list pending questions that needed to be resolved.


I would then
assign some of the questions to volunteers. And to the entire class
library and WWW browsing -- and trust that they would at least come up with
the site suggested here on this list and maybe a book or two.

This would be a good place to start with one of the main precepts of
science--look for all the evidence that contradicts what has been
presented, not just the evidence in favor. It's too easy to look
around on the very unreliable web and find a couple of pages that
seem to support what the program said and go with that. They need to
look for evidence against what was said, so they can evaluate the
truth of the claims. This is someplace where they cannot be permitted
to invent new science in order to support the claims. Not only that,
they need to look at what the program *didn't* say--what they left
out that would not have supported their claim.

They need to know that when charlatans purport to do science, they
are not concerned with the truth. This fact often trips up gullible
scientists, who assume that they are not being tricked. As Einstein
said, "Subtle is the Lord, but He is not malicious." Not so with
tricksters, so it is important to look upon outlandish claims with a
great deal of skepticism, and it is not unreasonable to dismiss out
of hand extraordinary claims for which concomitant evidence is not
presented. I'll stretch the point here, since the FOX folks are not
going to bother to clean up their mess, and the kids will find it
interesting to see just how they were tricked. The net result may
well be a significant increase in the sensitivity of their BS

During the discussion surely the issue of the motivation of NASA should
emerge and whether the government is usually reliable or had
fudged history in the past.

This is an area fraught with danger. One persons vast conspiracy is
another's gospel truth, and often the real truth is extremely
difficult to come by. This is why history is so interesting--the
questions seem to remain the same, but the answers change with time.
I think it would also be important to point out that small
conspiracies are much easier to keep intact than vast ones, and this
one is incredibly vast.

This would bring up the movie about the fake
war which likely they all had seen (and I can never remember the title of)
I would alert their history teacher to chime in at some appropriate
moment. Little Jimmy Green is in the back of the room and says that he
doesn't care much if there is a hoax or not -- he gets the assignment to
rent the war-hoax movie from Blockbuster and give a report (because he is
abysmally poor I would slip him a couple of bucks).

I'm not much of a cynic, and so that movie (whose name I also cannot
remember--but that, to my way of thinking, is a blessing) absolutely
disgusted me with its utter and total cynicism and it total lack of
respect for the intelligence of the public. That movie was such an
improbable mishmash of unlikely fiction that I don't think I would
give it any light of day at all. If it came up, I would emphasize
that it was a work of fiction, and not a very good one at that.

The next day we go over the points of the web site, etc and try to compare
the quality of the arguments of the site and of the FOX program and of any
books located. We see the need to review the program so little Ricky and
Billy are appointed to find an appropriate address and to
write/phone/e-mail FOX to see if a tape could be had or maybe someone in
town/school/local college has a copy of the tape A decision is made as to
which of the criticisms we could investigate via our own experimentation.
Timmy says that he can borrow a vacuum pump and bell jar to investigate the
feather thing. We discuss how accurate this comparison would be. Full
Moon is that night so Hugh and Leigh are chosen to report on shadow detail
and Joey and Bobby are selected to approximate/calculate/find out/search on
the web/library the relative brightness of a Full Earth compared to a Full
Moon -- Georgie will investigate the concept of albedo.

And about this time, the principle or your department head is
starting to get on your case about how much time you are wasting on
this project. They are starting to hear complaints from parents that
little Jimmie's science teacher has finally gone 'round the bend,
because all the kids have been talking about for the past week has
been that FOX program, and it shows no sign of slowing down. And the
department head reminds you, not too gently, that *none* of this
stuff is going to be on the end-of-course exam than you are supposed
to be filling these kids full of, and that whether you get a raise
next year will depend on how well the little dollinks do on that
test, so you had better get back on task before she has to do it for

Paul and Ray want to see if they can produce non-parallel shadows from a
point source of light and will speculate whether the Sun should be
considered a point source. Chuckie and Herbie think that they remember
that NASA put springs of some sort in the flag to make it wave. They will
search in the library and also try to reproduce the effect.

Johnny says that he will research whether the FOX program claims that the
alleged hoax applies to all of the Apollo missions or only the first.

etc, etc, etc

Barbara, this is what I would do.

But if Barbara really wants to keep her job next year, maybe she will
not be willing to spend a week and a half or so on this problem. From
a practical point of view, I think it worth while to come up with
something that can maybe be done in a day or two. And it seems to me
that the best way to handle that is to take the issues that were
raised on the program, and assign the students to show why it was not
that way. Give them a few web sites that are reliable, and suggest
some search keywords that won't take them too far into la-la land,
and ram home the lesson, that those bozos who do TV are far less
trustworthy than the ones who man our government. I don't remember
who said it, but "We all have a right to express our opinion, but we
don't have a right to be taken seriously."


Hugh Haskell

(919) 467-7610

Let's face it. People use a Mac because they want to, Windows because they
have to..