Tuesday, February 26

The Debunker: Would You Really Explode In Space?

by Ken Jennings

 

As NASA’s Curiosity rover continues to inch across the red planet’s dusty Gale Crater, America’s interest in space exploration inches upward as well. Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings is a bit of space nerd himself, and this month he’ll be navigating us through an asteroid belt of misconceptions about the exploration of the cosmos. Even if you’re not one of the 6 percent of Americans who believes that the moon landing was a hoax, you might have been fleeced by one or more of these fallacies about the final frontier.

Space Myth #4: People Exposed to the Vacuum of Space Would Explode.

It’s not something most of us will probably ever have to face, but still we wonder: what would happen to an unprotected person in the vacuum of space? Knowing what happens to deep-sea divers in similar situations, you’d be forgiven for believing the sci-fi version of this scenario: the unfortunate space traveler swells up in agony like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall and eventually blows up like that poor guy in Outland.

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Tuesday, February 19

The Debunker: Is There Really No Gravity In Space?

by Ken Jennings

 

As NASA’s Curiosity rover continues to inch across the red planet’s dusty Gale Crater, America’s interest in space exploration inches upward as well. Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings is a bit of space nerd himself, and this month he’ll be navigating us through an asteroid belt of misconceptions about the exploration of the cosmos. Even if you’re not one of the 6 percent of Americans who believes that the moon landing was a hoax, you might have been fleeced by one or more of these fallacies about the final frontier.

Space Myth #3: Astronauts Are Weightless in Space Because They’re Beyond Earth’s Gravity.

We’ve all seen the images of astronauts—real-life and movie ones alike—bouncing around the insides of their space capsules like crewcutted Ping-Pong balls. Of course, we think. On Earth, there’s gravity. In space, far from the Earth’s pull, there’s not. But that’s not even close to correct.

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Tuesday, February 12

The Debunker: Do NASA Missions Launch From Cape Canaveral?

by Ken Jennings

 

As NASA’s Curiosity rover continues to inch across the red planet’s dusty Gale Crater, America’s interest in space exploration inches upward as well. Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings is a bit of space nerd himself, and this month he’ll be navigating us through an asteroid belt of misconceptions about the exploration of the cosmos. Even if you’re not one of the 6 percent of Americans who believes that the moon landing was a hoax, you might have been fleeced by one or more of these fallacies about the final frontier.

Space Myth #2: American Space Missions Launch from Cape Canaveral.

If we’re using “Cape Canaveral” as an example of what your English teacher used to call metonymy—representing some thing or concept with the name of something else—then yes, NASA launches from the Cape. It’s the same way we might refer to the movie industry as “Hollywood,” even though only one major studio (Paramount) is actually headquartered in the Hollywood district these days—they’re all elsewhere in Los Angeles. The same is true of NASA: in strict geographical terms, it hasn’t launched manned missions from the Cape itself in over forty years.

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Tuesday, February 05

The Debunker: Did NASA Really Spend Millions to Develop a "Space Pen"?

by Ken Jennings

 

As NASA’s lovable li’l Curiosity rover continues to inch across the red planet’s dusty Gale Crater, America’s interest in space exploration inches upward as well, probably hitting its highest point (its “zenith,” an astronomer might say) in thirty years or so. And what month could be better than February to consider the mysteries of the cosmos? The shortest month is full of memorable anniversaries in space history, from the birth of Copernicus (February 19, 1473) to the discovery of Pluto (February 18, 1930) to John Glenn’s historic first orbit of the Earth (February 20, 1962). Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings is a bit of space nerd himself, and this month he’ll be navigating us through an asteroid belt of misconceptions about the exploration of the cosmos. Even if you’re not one of the 6 percent of Americans who believes that the moon landing was a hoax, you might have been fleeced by one or more of these fallacies about the final frontier.

Space Myth #1: NASA Spent Millions to Develop a “Space Pen.”

In the common version of this myth, widely spread by Internet factoid-purveyors and even some newspapers, Apollo-era NASA needed a writing instrument that will work in space. Ballpoint pens, however, require gravity, as anyone who has ever tried to write a Post-It note on a vertical door or window well knows. So more than a million dollars was poured into developing a zero-g ballpoint pen. The result was successful—but the Russians were equally successful by (wait for it) just bringing along a pencil. Cue muted-trumpet “Wah wah!” sound.

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Thursday, June 07