Non-news Travels Fast

| February 16, 2009 | Reply

I was reading about a couple of meteors (bolides) spotted in the last couple of texas fireballdays. One point made by BadAstronomy is that misinformation spread much faster than fact. We discuss this sort of issue regularly, using terms like “counterknowledge” and “agnotology”.

In this case, last week’s news about two satellites colliding gently about halfway out to geostationary orbit got muddled in with these meteor reports. Note: Gently in astronomical terms means a collision as if only one ton of TNT had been detonated in them. There may be pieces large enough to see if they eventually drift low enough to burn up at night. But not like the fireballs seen in the last couple of days. The entire satellites were not fast or large enough to glow like the recent events.

But Twitter was apparently abuzz with discussion of the (non-happened) satellite re-entry. BA clearly explains why this is silly. But the rumor is still propagating. Unfortunately, several news outlets initially reported it as fact.

It’s like the virus warnings (hoaxes) that well-meaning acquaintances send me about once a month. Most of their dire “this is real!” warnings were documented at Snopes between 3 and 10 years ago! I usually politely respond with the link to the particular case at Snopes, and suggest they add Snopes to their Bookmarks/Favorites.

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, Education, ignorance, Science, Web Site

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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