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?


  1. Actually, I wonder if teachers even realize hogwash when they see it. Do a search on "When the Moon is Gone" and you'll find lesson plans built around the "science" in this lowbrow entertainment.

  2. What this episode does, is teach people what the moon is responsible for, and what in nature would be effected and what would have never evolved if the moon was never here.

    It uses a lot of CGI with an apocalyptic message because of sensationalism. No would watch this, if it was some dry lecture with a dry erase board, or slide projections. People want to be entertained, and what better way to teach someone how important it is,unless you playingly,give them some kind of Wild Scenario to ponder, like the Moon just disappearing.

    Aside from the obvious “the moon can’t just disappear is why I hate this show” rant, nothing else mentioned in the show is false, they just give an interesting question. What if the moon just disappeared?

    People are not as stupid as you would believe, most people Know its I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E!

    You just don’t like the method of explanation. The level of arrogance and condescension here is unbelievable.

    1. Chris, you write: "What this episode does, is teach people what the moon is responsible for, and what in nature would be effected and what would have never evolved if the moon was never here."

      No. It doesn't. It's not about what would happen if the Moon was never here. It's about what would happen if the Moon suddenly disappeared after having been here for billions of years. As such, EVERYTHING in the show is false. If the Moon was never here, we would not have evolved as we did; our biology would not be dependent on the tides; we would not be traumatized by the loss of the Moon we didn't have; we would not have boats stranded on ocean beds that didn't exist. And so on. You want factually inaccurate statements...? Just watch the show.

      And face it, the way to approach science education is not to toss aside science. And this is a pathetically poor approach. It dismisses physics with a wave of the hand and then tries to teach physics after imagining physics to be capricious and arbitrary.

      There are many better approaches to doing this. You could imagine a young Earth that had no Moon, and follow its development. You can posit an Earth-like planet with no Moon. You can note that the Moon has been moving away from the Earth for the entirety of its existence and imagine what would happen if it plausibly broke away. You could teach SCIENCE. The question you find so interesting is not science, it's fantasy; as plausible as wondering what would happen if you had wings and could do magic.

      This show is bullshit, as is your defense of it.