Every month or so I sit down (virtually) with my buddy Seth Shostak, and we record a short interview for Skeptic Check, part of the Big Picture Science podcast/radio show. Seth’s on the road right now, so they’ve put a "Beast of Skeptic Check" online, featuring some of Seth’s favorite segments. You can also just hear the part I’m in (talking Moon Hoax) on the Big Picture Science blog.
– Big Picture Science: climate change denial on Fox News
– Are We Alone, Little Ice Age edition
– Are we headed for a new ice age?
– The Sun may be headed for a little quiet time
– Are We Alone Skeptic Check: Tyche, or not Tyche
– Are We Alone of DEATH
In February 2011 I did a live web video interview with Andrew Shaner of the Lunar and Planetary Institute where we talked about the Moon Hoax. It was a lot of fun!
Andrew just did something great for kids: he took some of the better moments of the interview, along with those from Paul Spudis, a lunar expert, and created a web page called Conspiracy Showdown. It takes some of the more widely-known claims of hoaxery and sets up short clips debunking them. Here’s an example with me, talking about why the Soviets didn’t blow the whistle:
Yes, for some reason he has a guy in a squirrel costume introducing the clips. It’s for kids, so don’t ask. If a quadrilateral sponge can live in a pineapple under the sea, a squirrel can wonder about the Moon Hoax.
Anyway, I think this is a fun thing for schoolkids, if the question of the reality of Apollo ever comes up in the classroom. And who knows? You might like it too.
Speaking of the Moon (and I was)…
A few months ago I started hearing rumors about an upcoming scifi/horror movie called "Apollo 18", about a secret Apollo mission after the supposed last one. Sounded good to me, though I knew very little about it (and for a minute got it confused with what will no doubt be the really terrible third Transformers movie, which has at least one scene on the Moon).
Anyway, the trailer for "Apollo 18" just came out:
I’ve been getting some emails about it, most of which are pretty critical. They either attack the trailer itself, or wonder if the Moon Hoaxers will latch on to this as more evidence for their claims that NASA faked the Moon landings.
First, the movie looks fine to me, if a bit silly; at worst another in a long series of ripoffs of "Alien" and those cheapo security cam haunted house movies that came out last year, and maybe at best a fun popcorn-munching diversion. Either way, I’ll probably go see it and make up my mind then.
As for the second, of course the Hoaxers will think this is evidence that NASA is covering something up; when they find a six week old Cheerio in their couch cushion it’s evidence that NASA spent billions of dollars to build Moon sets but forgot to paint stars in the sky.
And, of course, the movie comes out in a couple of months, on April 22… 39 years to the day after the second EVA of Apollo 16! COINCIDENCE?
Well, yeah. But that Cheerio says otherwise.
My friend and fellow skeptic Tim Farley reminded me that today is the tenth anniversary of Fox airing the TV show "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?"
If I had to describe that show in one word, it would be "grotesquely distorting reality, an execrable steaming pile of offal that doesn’t come within a glancing blow of the truth."
Was that more than one word? Well, it’s hard to find a single word that truly captures the feel of that program.
I remember that week pretty well, in fact. I had just started my job at Sonoma State University, having uprooted my family from suburban DC and moving 5000 km west just the month before. I was puttering around on my computer when the phone rang: it was my pal Dan Vergano, who writes for USA Today. He had some questions about Pluto, so we chatted for a while, and then he asked me that fateful question that would, quite seriously and in all honesty, change my life: "Hey, did you hear about this Fox TV show about the Moon landings being faked? It’s airing on Thursday."
Ironically, at that time I had just finished writing about people who thought Apollo was faked for my first book, Bad Astronomy, so I was pretty familiar with the arguments. I was able to procure an advance copy of the show and watched the whole thing. It was like watching a snuff film, except the victims were 1) reality, and b) the immense effort of nearly half a million people to get Apollo off the ground and to the Moon.
I sat down and wrote a point-by-point dissection of the show, waiting until after it aired to actually post it on my site. I was upset, but didn’t think the page would help much; the web was still a bit shiny and new back then.
Ha! By Monday, the page was out of control. To my shock, CNN and NASA had both linked to it, and I was getting flooded with emails. Most were supportive, but some were from, um, people whose grip on reality was somewhat tenuous. One person called me "Mr. Smarty Pants Astronomer" and proceeded to tell me how dust motes in an Apollo 13 photo were actually stars. Lots of other emails were on par with that one.
One in particular caught my eye. Read More
Ha! That’s from the UK show "That Mitchell and Webb Look", which is a great satirical show. There are about a gazillionty billion reasons the Moon Hoax folks are wrong, but M&W have boiled it down to its very essence. Well done!
Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to TheShickle.
At TAM8 I was accosted by an honest-to-Armstrong Moon Hoax believer. I was surprised, as this particular species is very close to extinction, even in the wilds of places like YouTube. Perhaps I’ll tell that tale in detail sometime, as it was interesting, but suffice to say that while I was happy to be interviewed by him at first, his persistent and accusatory sideswipes at me (and My Close Personal Friend Adam Savage™) at the meeting quickly grew tiresome, and I told him to go away. I would’ve talked to him, but it was obvious that he couldn’t take "no" for an answer — he clearly had an arsenal of things he wanted to confront me with, and I knew if I engaged him I’d never get away from him. It was a matter of return on investment; spend an hour or more debunking his claims, or go have skeptical fun with friends I only get to see once per year during the short time we’re together at TAM. Hmmmm… but too bad. It would’ve been interesting to talk to him about all this, but he made it impossible.