Saturday, August 28, 2010

Anyone get a mars hoax e-mail?

I used to be an e-mail forwarder, but well... the nineties are over, right? I was wandering around the Internets today and I stumbled on this e-mail story that none of my friends who still forward e-mails sent to me. This is a good thing because I would have a hard time staying polite at something with this level of Rock F*#king Stupidity.

There is an e-mail that says Mars will look as large as the Moon some time in August. Tell your friends, tell your children and grandchildren, tattoo the dog, burn an offering and give it to the gods, big big party and you are all invited.

Of course it isn't true, not even close. The math is easy. The radius of Mars is about twice the radius of the Moon, which means if they were the same distance away from the earth, Mars would look to be four times the surface area because the area is proportional to the square of the radius. If Mars was twice as far away, then the two would look to be the same size.

Mars isn't twice as far away as the moon, it's much, much farther away even at its closest. The Moon is about a quarter million miles away. At its closest, Mars is about 60 million miles away. So even when Mars is really close, the Moon is more than 200 times closer.

If someone sends this to you, you have my permission to call bullshit on it. This e-mail has been sent every August for the past six or seven years and scientists are trying to get the word out. It's not working very well. We have these small weak levees of education trying to hold back an angry and rising sea of stupidity.


M A S T E R said...

A funny thing happened on the way to bed last week...

My beautiful precious-thing (this is My "pet name" for her) shows Me a printed email she received that day from her mother (her mother, a woman of education and merit, by the way).

Yes... it was the "mars will be a big as the moon" email. ;-)

My INSTANT reaction to it was "...this is bullshit...", even though I had never even HEARD of the hoax. Anyone who had ever given a passing GLANCE at a science textbook or who had accidentally glanced at NOVA one day - even if the one 'glancing' were nursing a hangover from the crazy night before - ...yes, even THEY would recogize this declaration as impossible, without it signalling the end of the solar system.

I was certain about this to be untrue, yet she, a lawer, suggested that I submit proof of My claim.

FYI: the discussion turned from the subject of "science" to "Trust".

It was a loud discussion.

I am currently drafting a screenplay about the event.

I hope those who attend the opening night will enjoy themselves as much as I enjoyed the resulting "lesson" in Faith.


- M


ken said...

OK, not to excuse the ad-nauseam repetition, or for that matter the endless vertical space of the first commenter, what the email actually says was true, for the apparition it was talking about (2003). The text is formatted in a way that makes it hard to read accurately, but notice that it says "At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye." It was about 35,000,000 miles away, and 4200 miles in diameter, so subtended 0.4 minutes of arc. At 75-power, that's about 30 minutes, while the moon is typically about 32 minutes. So what it actually says is right. Not that anybody interprets it that way.

Matty Boy said...

Nice catch, Ken. You are right about the true statement and the devious formatting.