Slash the Bad Astronomer!

By Phil Plait | November 18, 2011 2:30 pm

OK, don’t slash me. But I have been Slashdotted!

Slashdot is one of the biggest news aggregators/social networks on the web, where users link to interesting stuff they find, and others can leave comments. They also do interviews, kinda: they line up an interviewee, people leave questions, and then the interviewee answers them en masse. They asked me to do this a few weeks ago, and now my responses are up at Slashdot!

This was a lot of fun. The questions were pretty varied, from JWST (of course!) to where we should be sending probes to look for extraterrestrial life. I tried to keep my answers relatively short but still give folks something to think about. It’s an interesting exercise, trying to do this all in one shot. I found myself thinking pretty hard about how to respond, and then, later, how to best ice down my aching wrists from typing so much. I wish I could’ve answered all the questions, but I’d probably have fatal carpal tunnel syndrome if I had.

My thanks to everyone at /, and to Tim Lord for setting this all up.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Astronomy
MORE ABOUT: Slashdot

Comments (15)

  1. Sili

    You mean you don’t want to read my deGrass/Plait fanfic?

  2. Chris

    Actually I’d be interested in seeing the weirdest questions you got asked. I’m sure there were quite a few doozies.

  3. Jon

    Looked like you were thanking Time Lord there for a minute. Best. Name. Ever.

  4. Dean

    Your thanks to everyone at Slashcomma? :)

  5. Robin Byron

    I’ll continue believing the Milky Way is as big as M31 (I’m not subject to peers looking down their noses at me)? Galaxy envy, I suppose. ;)

    Seriously though, your answers were great reading sprinkled with good humor. Thanks again for doing this, Phil.

  6. byron

    Meh, you should do a Reddit AMA, Neil deGrasse Tyson just did one and it was a huge success.. Slashdot is so “meh”.. its where you want to go to let the world pass you buy..

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    From the “threats from Space” Q & A :

    So, a GRB can sterilize the Earth in ten seconds flat, but the odds of one happening in your lifetime are millions to one against (and we don’t have any good GRB candidates close enough to do the trick anyway).

    Hmm… But what about WR-104? :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/03/03/wr-104-a-nearby-gamma-ray-burst/

    Did you just forget about Wolf-Rayet 104 BA or has the slight concern over that diminished to zero concern in light of news I haven’t heard?

    Then there’s the faint chance of Eta Carinae going supernovae and producing a deadly GRB – which is the example you used in ‘Death from the Skies’ (page 103, Phil Plait, Viking,2008) – did you forget that one too? ;-)

  8. Blargh

    @byron: Slashdot was great. There was a time when half the Internet’s tech intelligentsia had an active account there, and a slashdotting was almost guaranteed to bring down a server. But under a series of more and more apathetic editors, it fell into a slow decline. Articles dropped in quality, and more and more users simply stopped bothering to visit the site (which in turned brought down the quality of the comments).
    And then, early this year, contrary to anyone’s wishes, they decided to “web 2.0″ it. In other words, riddle it with unnecessary “AJAX” and other javascript, while ignoring the actual niggles people had had with the site for years. The usability was shot straight to hell. And the mass exodus began…

    /Slashdotter from the late ’90s up until the redesign

  9. Dammit, Sili, you beat me to it!

  10. Treczoks

    Hi, Phil,

    Good selection of questions, and good answers. But: You wrote about cold fusion:

    “Has anything emerged since the debunking of Pons/Fleischmann that gives any credence to cold fusion?”

    Have you heard about e-Cat by Mr. Rossi and Prof. Focardi of Bologna, Italy? I was sceptical, but the story is sounding and looking un-hoaxier from test to test. I’ve set this topic to “at least worth keeping an eye on it”. Too bad he’s still applying for patents, and won’t share too much details until then, but what he has shown is hard to debunk. And having sold a 1MW plant to a customer is a bit more than having just measurable (or not…) lab results like Pons/Fleischmann.

  11. John

    Phil gave thanks to the Lord…awesome.

  12. Wayne

    Hi Phil,

    You wrote “We know no dinosaur killer is on its way here for at least a century or three, so that’s cool”

    Phil: I would love to hear your thinking behind that statement?

    For your consideration, I offer comet Hale-Bop, which of course did not impact the earth. But imagine if Hale-Bop had impacted: at 35KM, the impact would likely be an extinction level event for humanity.

    The real Hale-Bop was discovered in 1995, and if my imaginary Hale-Bop existed, it would have impacted on the earth in 1997/8, so we would have had what, maybe 2-3 years maximum warning?

    What don’t I know?

    Thanks,
    W

    • Wayne- actually, you’re correct. I was talking asteroids, not comets, but at 30 km or so Hale-Bopp would’ve been far worse than than the dinosaur killer. Hale-Bopp was discovered 19 months before closest approach. Yikes.

  13. bob

    @Blargh Yeah, yeah, yeah, you liked it ages ago when it was better. Hipster.

    The javascript is rubbish though.

  14. Samuil

    Bravo Laurent! Je suis fier! Les trois jours d’insomnie en ont valu la peine!

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