WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

In honor of the late Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #4: The Great Wall of China Is the Only Manmade Object Visible from the Moon.

This myth was always slightly silly. From the surface of the Moon, the Earth only looks about four times bigger than a full moon does to us, so that’s about the size of a jam jar lid held at arm’s length. The lunar explorers of the Apollo era described the Earth at that size as a brightly lit swirl of blue and white and brown—they had a tough time making out continents, much less a brown line only 30 feet wide. That would be like claiming to see a human hair from two miles away.

This oft-repeated factoid is probably a corruption of a slightly different claim, that the Great Wall is the only manmade object visible “from space.” (This is how the question was phrased in the original 1984 version of Trivial Pursuit, for example.) If we take “from space” to mean “low earth orbit,” it’s still not really true. For one thing, the Great Wall of China is still very hard to see, if not completely invisible, from one hundred miles up. Yang Liwei, China’s first “taikonaut,” tried to spot the wall in 2003 but reported he was unable to. In 2005, however, a Chinese-American astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Leroy Chiao, was able to photograph the Great Wall with a digital camera, but the object was so fuzzy he wasn’t even sure what he was seeing.

Even if we concede that the Great Wall might be barely visible to the naked eye, under perfect conditions and to someone who knows where to look, it’s not the only such manmade object. Since the Mercury days, astronauts have reported seeing cities, bridges, highways, dams, and even the Kennedy Space Center itself from space. In 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper surprised NASA by reporting that he could see individual trucks and buildings from orbit, if there was enough contrast between them and their surroundings. The Great Wall may be 13,000 miles long, but it’s comparatively narrow and about the same color as the land around it. So next time you’re in orbit, remember to look around. You have plenty of other choices if you’re not in the mood for Chinese.

Quick Quiz: The majority of today’s Great Wall was built during which Chinese dynasty, also known for its porcelain?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr member eviltomthai. Used under a Creative Commons License.

saltone


quality posts: 1 Private Messages saltone

I would think that has to be Ming?

"What the hell are we doing fighting government, let's become government and we can then take whatever we want!".
Al Capone

jai151


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jai151

I have to say, I've never heard the myth stated this way. As you say it's beyond foolish to even think it.

I have heard it stated as several different variations of the "from space" version, including the Great Wall is the last man-made object you can see from space.

wootagonist


quality posts: 0 Private Messages wootagonist

There are a big deal of such great inventions available out there and a big number of such big geniuses who are hidden from our daily mundane life who make such big proclamations often. We were quite lucky that one such genius was able to make one such proclamation out in the sun for us not so long ago by saying that Russia was visible from the backyard!!

travm222


quality posts: 0 Private Messages travm222
wootagonist wrote:There are a big deal of such great inventions available out there and a big number of such big geniuses who are hidden from our daily mundane life who make such big proclamations often. We were quite lucky that one such genius was able to make one such proclamation out in the sun for us not so long ago by saying that Russia was visible from the backyard!!



While we're debunking myths, it's worth noting that Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her backyard. Tina Fey, dressed as Palin, said that. Palin said that one could see Russia from an Alaskan island, which is true. I'm not a huge proponent of Sarah Palin, but at least she has a better handle on geography that many internet know-it-alls.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag

Of course, it's also not just a matter of size (insert joke here), but of contrast. A medium-brown line in the middle of a medium-brown background isn't exactly conspicuous.

If it's hard to believe, try finding it on a satellite map without looking up the location.

I'm tempted to do the math for a minimum visible size at that distance, but...nah.

mjc613


quality posts: 47 Private Messages mjc613

Well done Mr. Jennings.

fgarriel


quality posts: 21 Private Messages fgarriel

I'll say Sui, but just because someone else said Ming.

mostyello


quality posts: 0 Private Messages mostyello
travm222 wrote:While we're debunking myths, it's worth noting that Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her backyard. Tina Fey, dressed as Palin, said that. Palin said that one could see Russia from an Alaskan island, which is true. I'm not a huge proponent of Sarah Palin, but at least she has a better handle on geography that many internet know-it-alls.



Thank you, thank you, thank you! So glad not everyone gets their news from SNL! No offense, but I'm willing to bet the original poster voted for her opponent based solely on that and several other misconceived notions of reality. All thanks to the lovely media.

wootagonist


quality posts: 0 Private Messages wootagonist

If at least internet was utilized, a proclamation which clearly falls in the lines mentioned in the article and which did gravitate such inferences would have been handled differently. As for the vote, the decision was clearly apt which was ratified by the ensuing incidents and recently even by the decision of their own faction by keeping such travesty at bay - an indicator that can be pondered and assimilated, for a change?

saltone


quality posts: 1 Private Messages saltone

Palin did not say that you could see Russia from an island, she said they shared a border (which we don't),using her logic, California shares a border with China. Here is the quote.

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

But the reason I did not vote for her,

"All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years." --Sarah Palin, unable to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads, interview with Katie Couric, CBS News, Oct. 1, 2008

Hard to trust someone that does not read.

I actually liked McCain, but the fact that SP was one bad heart beat away from the button frightened the hell out of me. Don't get me wrong, she may be a very nice woman, and I know she means well. I just don't think that she is very smart, and when she makes a mistake, she makes excuses and does not admit to being wrong.

I know this one came after the election, but Who doesn't know Paul Revere? Didn't she even watch School House Rock?

"He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed." --Sarah Palin, botching the history of Paul Revere's midnight ride, June 3, 2011

"What the hell are we doing fighting government, let's become government and we can then take whatever we want!".
Al Capone