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This is a joke, right?

I've seen a lot of discussion lately about the poor quality of science reporting and scientific literacy today, but was still amazed to see this in the New York Times:

As this image makes obvious a 14.5-inch reflecting telescope is not 14.5 inches long, but considerably larger.

Doesn't everyone know that the "size" of a telescope refers to the mirror diameter? And that the light-gathering ability of a telescope depends on the area of the mirror, proportional to the square of the diameter? Next, it will turn out that people have been graduating from high school without understanding evolution.

It's a great story anyway: an amateur astronomer is the first to spot the after-effects of an earth-size planet hitting Jupiter. If he hadn't taken a break from his hobby to watch golf on TV, he might have seen the actual impact.

Comments

The impacting object was most likely a lot smaller than earth-sized. Shoemaker-Levy 9 produced similar-sized impact marks, despite being ~2km sized objects.

I absolutely agree with you here. I worked with distributor company which selling science materials and saw so many ridiculous things, which made me wonder does anyone even bother to check what they do write about? Face it, it looks like people some time don't even to bother to think what they do. Makes me sad. Especially if it is about the science. thank you.

I think it was actually a small comet-sized object hitting the planet, resulting in a earth-sized disturbance.

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise to me that people wouldn't know that the reference was to the aperture of the telescope. After all, when Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, people went outside and looked at the moon to see if they could spot the astronuats walking around up there.

It's important to understand that even well-educated people may have only a cursory understanding of many areas in the vast world of science.

Newspapers must take this into account. Among newspapers, the Christian Science Monitor has consistently written articles in a way that makes no assumptions about what their readers 'should' know...ususally providing background material, charts and graphs, maps of the area in question, etc.

In my mind, it is a form of kindness and humility.

It may look like a joke to those within the field, but to someone, for example, who just arrived in this country from Kenya, maybe it is not.

Best,

rv

Not sure the object was "earth-size" though, more like the size of 3 football fields. Now if you want to talk about the hole it made, then we are talking Earth-size.

Would certainly make a mess of Earth.

Thanks for the corrections on size of the object. I guess something the size of earth and moving fast would cause quite a splash, even on a big planet like Jupiter.

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