Reviewed by Deborah Teuscher
A broad audience base is one hallmark of a good book, and Philip Plait’s highly readable book certainly fits many needs and audiences. Bad Astronomy will appeal to many different groups: the beginning science teacher who wants to present accurate ideas and undo misperceptions, the lay person with an interest in science, high school and college students trying to understand astronomy, and anyone attracted to the concept of debunking “bad” science.
Want to balance an egg on its point on the spring equinox? Try it any day of the year. Are you a believer in astrology? Should you be? Thinking of having a star named in honor of a dear one? Don’t waste your money! Is Polaris the brightest star in the sky? Could Han Solo really make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs? Much of teaching science is the undoing of mis-information students have gathered over the years, and this book will help teachers do just that.
Although the tone is light-hearted and often humorous, the author is absolutely serious about replacing myth and fiction with the facts. This book is unusual because it is interesting, accurate, and fun to read. My first reading of Bad Astronomy was informative and lively, and I anticipate referring back to the text in the future for illustrations or examples. As well as being a great supplement to an astronomy unit, this book would also be a good support for a unit on the science (and nonsense) in fiction or the media. Plait includes a well-organized and detailed table of contents and index, plus a section of recommended reading and trustworthy websites for more information. Bad Astronomy is “bad”—in the best way!
Review posted on 6/4/2002