BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

a few thoughts ...

As those of you paying attention have no doubt noted, I read a fair number of science books, physics/cosmology mostly. As such, I am somewhat conversant as to the principles, concepts, and (to a certain extent) the mathematics involved in these areas. Over the past couple of days, however, I have had really horrific encounters with what can only be described as Bad Science in contexts where this ought not to have been.

Now, to be perfectly honest, in both of these cases, I was on the verge of unintentionally napping, so perhaps I missed some key caveats being presented, but there would have to have been way more of these than would be plausible to be able to accurately "frame" what was being presented.

First, on Sunday evening, after coming back from bowling, I was flipping around the dial and found some science thing on the History channel. What got my attention was about 5 minutes (a substantial chunk of the show) about Earth being hit dead-on by a major gamma-ray blast. Now, I don't exactly (see note above) recall the set-up for this, but I assume it was dealing with a star collapse that generates intense, but brief, polar streams of gamma radiation. The show was doing a "we're DOOOOMED!" sort of thing, showing what would happen were the Earth to be hit by one of these. Uh ... we're talking 30-second streams of particles ... we're talking inter-stellar or even inter-galactic distances ... we're talking (or they were picturing) very narrow (say, as wide as the moon) beams of gamma rays hitting the Earth dead-on ... what sort of odds are we really talking here??? You could have billions of these going off in our general area of space every year and not even come close to hitting anything, let alone having a bulls-eye right on Earth! It makes me crazy when TV people do shit like this. Obviously, these asswipes flipped through the popular literature to find what the "most devastating" possible event would be and then postulate this smacking right into Earth, and getting real scientists to talk about what sort of effects (primarily burning off the atmosphere) this would have ... without even touching on how insanely unlikely this would be (just picture what infinitesimal fraction of a degree of angle the Earth would present as a target for this narrow-beam coming from 100 light years or so away!). Anyway, that was bugging me ever since I saw it.

Then, yesterday, at the planetarium we sat through a presentation in one of the big dome theaters on Black Holes, which had nothing about tidal forces, time dilation, etc., etc., etc., but was big on how they might connect to "white holes" and thus making "worm holes". Right ... skip over all the solid science and blither about the frou-frou "maybe might be could be" stuff. The only "real" part of that dealt with galaxies being pulled together and their central black holes merging ... and I suspect that's just so they could show pretty animations of two swirling spirals smashing into each other. I would have expected better of them.

Anyway, file this under "it's my journal and I'll kvetch if I want to!" ... as I'm sure y'all found this fascinating.

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