French astronomy silliness

By Phil Plait | April 2, 2007 6:32 pm

A few people have mentioned this video to me:

It’s funny, though predictable. And of course, it’s Bad Astronomy: the lens wouldn’t be able to burn things as it spun around; it only works if the lens is more or less perpendicular to the Sun. Plus, the beam wouldn’t be visible. Plus, cars don’t explode like that. Plus, they would use machines to winch the lens up. Plus, really, they’d dismount the telescope, put in the lens, then put the whole assembly back on the mount. Plus, the lens would be covered to prevent it getting damaged. Plus, it would be done inside the dome.

But other than that…


Comments (35)

Links to this Post

  1. Humor na ciência/ blog » Nonsense óptico | April 21, 2007
  1. Rob

    Well, at least it wasn’t an 8-m class mirror :)

  2. TAW

    Plus, the beam would be triangular and not cylindrical 😀

  3. To their credit, they at least show the magical beam aiming at the gas tanks of the cars that blow up rather than some place that makes no sense, like the engine block.

  4. Max Fagin

    Plus, telescopes that big use a mirror, not a lense.

  5. Dennis Rutledge

    Is it hard for you to go through life with no sense of humour?

  6. Eighthman

    Oooh, I can’t wait for you to dissect what’s wrong with Skittles commercials! Sitting on a rainbow…. c’mon.

  7. Michelle Rochon

    Very badly thought, totally inaccurate… but still darn hilarious to me!

  8. and besides the metric system, what have the French ever done for us?

  9. Chill Out

    I guess insurance that covers exploding cars must be in high demand in France. 😛

  10. Yes, Dennis, it is. I am constantly being accused of having no sense of humor at all. People pity me terribly, and some avert their eyes when passing me in the street.

  11. owlbear1

    Frickin’ laser beams!

  12. KingNor

    yeah, the beam woudln’t be visible because it’s not even a “beam” in the sence they’re showing it. lenses focus light to a point, they don’t focus the light into a shaft of energy like that.

    it IS a funny ad though, just too bad people will think back one day to how something works and think “i remember seeing some guys hoisting a lense into a telescope, that must be how they do it”

  13. Drbuzz0

    not to mention that the diameter of the “beam” is almost as large as the lens. It would be a conical “beam” which would concentrate the light to a small point…

    and it wouldn’t make a humming-buzzing sound either.

  14. Michelle Rochon

    “and it wouldn’t make a humming-buzzing sound either.”

    Well myself I’d be willing to put that in the same category as spaceships being noisy in movies. 😛 It adds to the mood.

  15. icemith

    Didn’t you recognize the mega-cascade light amplifier, modulated into a single parallel-beam output, all contained within the lens itself, driven by just a single AA cell (OK, it was a Super Lithium from a French 5 &10, not the LG made Lithums that are prone to exploding, made especially for the American market).

    Though the lens is normally used as a collector and amplifier of light, it can also be reversed to send light into space. Somebody inadvertantly threw the switch. It doesn’t need the sun, except as an excitor for the “send” mode, hence the wayward beam. Oh, and the EU authorities have insisted that a colored (sorry, coloured) safety inclusion that gives the beam visual presence, though this is an option in some markets. And the need to use a rope to haul the lens up to the ‘scope mount, is a little Union labor/demarcation thing, trying to get around another Astronomy Strike. And the “hum-buzz” was another warning alert that the lens was in use, to protect the Equal Opportunity Staff, namely the Blin… er, visually impaired Astronomers.

    Other than that….


  16. John Oliver

    icesmith’s post reminds me of a Popular Electronics cover story almost exactly 47 years ago today about “contra-polar” energy which could project a ray of darkness. A highschool buddy of mine and I sent several hours eagerly trying to deduce as much info as we could from that article before we looked again at the cover date. We then went back to building our pinball machine parts computer-controlled robot.

  17. TomPaine

    Next up: Phil debunks the Geiko caveman!

  18. Aw, come on, BA — LIGHTEN UP!

    I guess I know who I shouldn’t bother forwarding jokes to any more (he says, averting his eyes as he passes)…

  19. Wayne

    Personally, I think BA’s comments make it funnier.

  20. Dennis Rutledge

    Well, BA, at least you have a sense of humour about yourself. Cheers!

  21. Cindy

    Hey, I’ve known BA since the early ’90s when he was a grad student. He has an amazing sense of humor. One of these days, Phil, you have to share the letter you wrote to the author of the “Exorcist”. I don’t think I laughed so hard in my life.

  22. Tukla in Iowa

    But Phil, it’s right there on the screen. How can you argue against the evidence?

  23. Tom

    Ok, sure it was unrealistic, but it was fun!

    Reminds me of the days in the yard when I was a kid surrounded by bugs….and the smell they made when the crackled under the heat of my focused beam….


  24. Chip

    Well, you know, the laws of physics in France are a bit different, otherwise good wine making would be impossible. 😉

    Thomas Siefert wrote: “and besides the metric system, what have the French ever done for us?”
    – a few things: Music by Debussy, plays by Molière, Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Tati, Michelin (earliest vulcanized rubber bike/auto tires), De Dion (leaf-spring suspension for cars), equipped the earliest US Air Force, helped American colonists achieve independence. 😀

  25. Chip,

    Maybe you missed it, but Thomas Siefert’s bit about the French was a back-handed compliment (via a “Life of Brian” reference).

    See here:


  26. KStebleton

    The hot beam managed to heat the gasoline, under the sheet metal, in a metal container, up to explosive temperatures nearly instantly. Wow.

    The energy of the explosion put the automobile some feet (or meters) off the ground. However, the cars owner seemed unaffected by the wave of energy.

    Yes, it was hilarious.

  27. Wanzewurld

    Only one thing makes this believable… “Ribbit”

  28. Ed

    I laughed my butt off. I imagine that’s exactly how ants feel when their advanced futuristic, though tiny, colony gets blasted by some kid with a magnifying glass.

    Now where’s my butt?

  29. Buzz Parsec

    Huh! The video is clearly a fake. I couldn’t see any stars.

  30. Buzz Parsec

    Also, there were some wires or ropes clearly visible holding up the lens.

  31. Josh

    But its just a joke commercial. Its intended to be funny not realistic.

  32. Gary Ansorge

    Ah. Commercials. The source of all humor,,,

    Gary 7

  33. Jeremy

    I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone reacted to stuff like this the way BA does. First you laugh then you acknowledge the impossibilities. Unfortunately some people in this world just don’t get how it actually works. But hey, at least we’re here.

  34. You need to watch some tv, its burn your neurons but give you some sense of humor in place….


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