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The Sciences

Bad Astronomy at the Detroit Science Center

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitMay 12, 2008 8:23 PM

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I just spent the weekend at the Detroit Science Center in Michigan, where they premiered the Bad Astronomy planetarium show. Hmmm... sounds like a good idea for a book. Haha. In fact, the show is based on my first book, and I'm in the show itself, hosting it and doing some of the narration (local radio personality Rachel Nevada also narrates). The show covers some popular misconceptions about astronomy like astrology, the Moon Hoax, UFOs, and others.

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To be honest, I wasn't sure how the show would turn out. I've heard rave reviews of other planetarium shows in the past, only to see them and discover they're horrid. So it was with some trepidation I sat in the (very nice) planetarium at DSC while Todd Slisher (the VP of science shows) introduced the show. The lights went down, and it began... and it was pretty cool! I liked it! It's got a good mix of serious and silly, with only a very light helping of cheese; too many shows really lay on the goofiness too thickly, but this one had a light touch that's refreshing. The audience seemed to like it too. Lots of them came up to us afterwards to tell us how much they liked it, which is an excellent sign. One man made a point to tell us that he learned a thing or two, and what better praise is there?

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While I was there I also gave two talks at the DSC, and another at the nearby Cranbrook Institute of Science, and they all went pretty well. It always throws me a bit when a lot of little kids show up; my talks are geared more toward people older than about 10, but I made do... and I always get great questions from the kids (does the Universe go on forever? Are all the rocks on Earth meteorites?). It was a lot of fun. If you're in the Detroit area, then drop by the DSC and watch the show. And if you're a planetarian yourself, consider buying a copy for the show for your own venue. I think it'll be very popular, and that's coming from a true skeptic who would never show any bias at all.

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