Phil plait bad astronomy astrology

Publisher Synopsis "The author sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and UFO sightings User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Astronomy -- Miscellanea. Errors, Scientific.

Linked Data More info about Linked Data. The yolk's on you : egg balancing and the equinox -- Flushed with embarrassment : the coriolis effect and your bathroom -- Idiom's delight : bad astronomy in everyday language -- From the earth to the moon. Blue skies smiling at me : why the sky is blue -- A dash of seasons : why summer turns to fall -- Phase the nation : the moon's changing face -- The gravity of the situation : the moon and the tides -- The moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie : the big moon illusion -- Skies at night are big and bright.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star : why stars appear to twinkle -- Star light, star white : stars of many colors -- Well, well : the difficulty of daylight star sighting -- The brightest star : Polaris-just another face in the crowd -- Shadows in the sky : eclipses and sun-watching -- The disaster that wasn't : the great planetary alignment of -- Meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites, oh my! Appalled at Apollo : uncovering the moon-landing hoax -- Worlds in derision : Velikovsky vs. Hubble trouble : Hubble space telescope misconceptions -- Star hustlers : star naming for dummies -- Bad astronomy goes Hollywood : the top-ten examples of bad astronomy in major motion pictures.

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Print version: Plait, Philip C. Bad astronomy begins at home. Table of contents Contributor biographical information Publisher description. But there are several possible logical missteps here! First, was the prediction really that accurate? Did it say something like "you will come into money today" and you found a quarter on the ground? Or was it something specific, like "you will find a quarter on the ground"? The difference is that a specific prediction is rarely right, while a vague one is rarely wrong. Second, was that horoscope right in everything it said?

Did an old friend contact you? Were you able to resolve a thorny issue today? Did you really find love today? In other words, how many predictions were accurate, and how many were not?

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People tend to remember the hits and forget the misses which is precisely why "speakers to the dead" like John Edward and James van Praagh do so well-- see here , or here or here. Still having doubts? My friend and master skeptic James Randi performs a wonderful demo of how easily people are fooled by astrology.

Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing 'Hoax'

He went into a classroom, posing as an astrologer, and cast horoscopes for all the students. He had them read and rate the accuracy, and they almost overwhelmingly rated the horoscopes as accurate. The kicker? He had them pass around the horoscopes, and the students saw that every horoscope was exactly the same. It was worded vaguely enough that nearly everyone in the room thought they were being well-described.

The horoscopes were so vague they matched nearly everyone, and so their predictive power was meaningless. It was all in the students' heads. Astrologers rely on our inability to remember when they are wrong, and our almost unfailing ability to see patterns in random noise in other words, to pull out something that may just possibly kind of vaguely resemble something that describes us. What are the odds? I have a friend who said an astrologer made a startlingly accurate prediction about him saying he had broken his leg some years before.

That would be pretty interesting He does amazing stage work, calling out numbers people are thinking of, seeing through blindfolds, guessing with incredible accuracy the cards people are holding. He once said at a skeptic meeting that occasionally he will ask if anyone in the audience has ever been hit by lightning. Of course, he's not really a psychic, but if someone in the audience has been hit by lightning, they will sure think he's psychic!

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Imagine the odds of being able to guess that, they'll think. The problem is, the odds approach certainty if you ask enough people. And if he asks and no one pipes up, he just moves on with his act. I'll add that when he did that trick when I was in the audience, I had to smile ironically: someone I knew was once hit by lightning. If I had been a random audience member, would I have rated that as a hit? You bet I would have. The point is that even a wild guess by an astrologer, even if it's right, may be meaningless. How many times has he said something like that to someone he is reading, only to be denied?

When investigated closely, and with a skeptical mind, astrological claims are smoke and mirrors. In the next section we'll see just such an investigation. Cause and Defect So as I showed above, there cannot be an effect on us by any "astrological force", no matter how we assume it acts. No matter what, the evidence contradicts such a claim. Also, many astrological claims, even apparently accurate ones, may be nothing more than sleight-of-hand. But still, that does not mean all astrology is wrong.

Is there anything that really shows astrology is bunk? Yes, there is. In the spirit of giving the astrologers more rope, so to speak, let's assume that despite all the scientific evidence against such a thing, there really is an effect on us by the planets. If it exists, it must be measurable, and for astrologers to be able to use it to cast horoscopes, their claims must be consistent.

About 42% of Americans think astrology is scientific. It is not.

After all, if a force cannot be measured, it cannot have an effect on us, and if astrologers say such a force exists, then all their claims must be based on that force, and should be consistent with each other. Astrologers' claims are not consistent. They're not even internally consistent. I could show you nearly endless examples of how, say, Sun-sign astrology horoscopes the kind you see in your newspaper are completely inconsistent with each other.

I could even talk about an astronomical term called precession , which shows that Sun-sign astrology is rubbish anyway you can try reading one page about it if you'd like. I won't bother, because in the end I think all that stuff is distraction; astrologers will always come up with some lame excuse about how their claims are still correct, when that other astrologer's claim is nonsense of course, the other guy says that too. So let's cut to it: astrologers claim they get results that are consistent. There have been studies, tests, experiments, all sorts of things to check this claim.

The bottom line is, their claims are wrong. How do I know? Because I read a wonderful paper, a very thoroughly researched, well-documented, and referenced paper, which shows precisely where astrology fails all its tests. The paper demolishes, utterly, any notion that astrology has any effect at all. They look at not only direct studies of astrology, but also "meta-studies", tests that are compiled together to improve statistics a very powerful method that enables researchers to extract much better quality data from tests that are individually too borderline to give good results.

As they say in their own paper abstract: Many tests of astrologers have been made since the s but only recently has a coherent review been possible.

Bad Astronomy

A large-scale test of persons born less than five minutes apart found no hint of the similarities predicted by astrology. Meta-analysis of more than forty controlled studies suggests that astrologers are unable to perform significantly better than chance even on the more basic tasks such as predicting extraversion [sociability]. More specifically, astrologers who claim to use psychic ability perform no better than those who do not. In other words, astrology doesn't work. They detail the cases of people born at very close times and locations, what they call "time twins" say, two babies born within minutes of each other at the same hospital.

Astrologers, of course, would predict many similarities between time twins. But, as Dean and Kelly phrase it so succinctly, "The strong similarities predicted by astrology were simply not there". This paper goes on with a very careful analysis of the studies, and also very carefully tries to discuss any flaws astrologers might bring up for example, they use an astrologer's own definition of what a time twin would be.

Simply put, the paper is devastating to astrology. It's also not terribly hard to read. Give it a try!

Bad Astronomy: Myths and Misconceptions

I laughed out loud many times when reading it, it was so matter-of-fact in its dissection and eventual destruction of astrology. Ivan Kelly wrote another paper, called "The Concepts of Modern Astrology: A Critique" , which discusses the underlying basis of astrology and its claims, and is similarly devastating in its conclusions.

As Kelly says, "We can conclude that astrology Astrology is part of our past, but astrologers have given no plausible reason why it should have a role in our future I couldn't say it better myself.

Oh wait, yes I can: astrology is wrong.