Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Universe: The Day the Moon Was Gone

If you've read this blog before you'll know that I have a low tolerance for stupidity in science education. Previously I raked National Geographic over the coals for a bit of idiocy entitled "When the Earth Stops Spinning" because they gave no rationale for such an event.

This time it's the History Channel (H2) in their series "The Universe".  This particular piece of lunacy (pardon the pun) is "The Day the Moon Was Gone". In which the Moon suddenly and inexplicably vanishes. It doesn't just leave orbit... it's just GONE, and its gravity with it.

I'm tempted to just throw my hands up and not rant, but damn it, this is a STUPID premise, and it's teaching people to regard stupidity with the same level of credulity as science. It's full of completely baseless fear-mongering, as when it claims that a huge tsunami would wash out the state of Florida, "putting nine million lives at risk".

Well, no. NO one is "at risk" because such an event is literally impossible.


The Moon recedes from the Earth at a rate of mere centimeters per year. The retreat is so gradual that the Sun will burn out before the Moon escapes. And even as the Moon recedes, its gravity will decrease in accordance with square of the distance, very, very gradually.

There is a lot of value to be had in discussing what the Earth would be like without the Moon. The Moon does stabilize our axial tilt. This may speak directly to the possibility of, or stability of, life on other planets. But portions of this program are simply sensationalistic garbage.

Be assured that if the Earth did not have the Moon, none of the ecological disasters would come to fruition because any life here would have evolved under those conditions. So don't pity the poor crabs, or grunion, or salmon. And don't pay attention to this nonsense.

This is not to say that the show is completely without value... there is some accurate information here. In fact, there's an awful lot of it. But as is becoming the deplorable norm in such shows, it's buried under a thick layer of sensationalism, and it's the sensationalism that the producers lead with. The real science is relegated to the second half of the program. A giant raspberry to the producers, and writers for choosing to undermine reputable scientists in this fashion.

Producers, I seriously doubt you're getting so much as one single additional viewer with such tactics. But what you ARE doing is undermining your own credibility and saddling teachers with the completely avoidable task of cleaning up the mess you made. Do you actively hate the truth? Is it really too much trouble for you to stick to science? Is it? REALLY?