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Dr. Phil Plait - More Amaz!ng Astronomy

The Bad Astronomer returned to The Amaz!ng Meeting, having given the most popular talk last year on Planet X. (No, that was his topic, not his location.) This year, he was relieved to not be following news of a space-related disaster (Columbia) with a humor-filled talk.

Dr. Phil Plait
Dr. Phil Plait Starts With A Joke

The first skeptical subject was one involving The Bad Astronomer personally. After taking a shower, he noticed a pattern of water spots on the shower curtain which strongly resembled a face, much more so, in fact than most of the other supposed faces which were seen where they would not otherwise be expected. Such as on Mars, for instance.

Bad Astronomy
A Yearbook Of Bad Astronomy

After a recap of what he discussed last year, Dr. Plait gave an update on the status of Planet X, (which was supposed to wreak all sorts of havok on Earth by May 15th): It still doesn't exist.

Another date which failed to live in infamy was November 8th. This was the date for the Harmonic Concordance, when six objects would form a hexagon in the night sky. From the Harmonic Concordance website:

The astrological chart of that moment has a distinctive pattern, or "signature," which is visible even to the untrained eye. The astrological holograph that the moment projects is fundamentally spiritual in nature, and can be understood terms of Quantum Meta-Physics as well as by 'astro-spiritual' metaphor. It speaks of the descent of God-Consciousness upon this plane and offers a moment in time when humankind can make a concerted effort to rise up to meet it. We have called this moment of attunement The Harmonic Concordance. We believe that it opens an energetic "stargate" to the Ascension of Mother Earth, and to each of her inhabitants. Many have called the attainment of this paradigm the Shift of Ages.

Dr. Plait demonstrated several reasons why this alignment has no significance under any coherent model of how the universe works, whether you accept modern sceintific understanding or not. The objects involved did not possess common scale, distance, gravitational influence, visibility from Earth, or any other known property on which to claim a real effect in any universe. The inclusion of Chiron with the other five objects was especially odd.

This is what Plait called the "core of what is wrong with astrology: that dissimilar objects have the same level of effect," in contradiction to everything we have learned about the universe so far, and noted an apparent case of "Homeopathic Pseudoscience," where the less content a belief has, the more popular it is.

Phil And Randi
Would You Buy A Used Planet From This Man?

The next date on the calendar of Bad Astronomy was September 21st. This is the date that the Galileo space probe was intentionally sent to burn up in Jupiter's atmosphere (to prevent the possibility of it crashing into and contaminating Europa). It has been claimed that NASA's actual purpose was to cause a nuclear detonation of Galileo's Plutonium RTG power supply in order to turn Jupiter into a star. Plait walked through the problems that made such a scenario impossible.

The final piece presented was on the conspiracy theories now rising around the new Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. A familiar source is responsible for claims of cover-up at NASA, Richard P. Hoagland, who is now seeing machine parts amongst the pebbles in Gusev crater.

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