Heavenly Errors

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Overview

One of the great paradoxes of modern times is that the more scientists understand the natural world, the more we discover that our everyday beliefs about it are wrong. Astronomy, in particular, is one of the most misunderstood scientific disciplines.

With the participation of thousands of undergraduate students, Neil F. Comins has identified and classified, by origin and topic, over 1,700 commonly held misconceptions. Heavenly Errors provides access to all of them and explores many, including:

• Black holes suck in everything around them.

• The Sun shines by burning gas.

• Comets have tails trailing behind them.

• The Moon alone causes tides.

• Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is the hottest planet.

In the course of correcting these errors, he explains that some occur through the prevalence of pseudosciences such as astrology and UFO-logy and some enter the public conscience through the "bad astronomy" of Star Trek, Star Wars, and other science-fiction movies.. Perhaps most important, Professor Comins presents the reader with the methods for identifying and replacing incorrect ideas -- tools with which to probe erroneous notions so that we can begin to question for ourselves... and to think more like scientists.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

An interesting new look at how humans perceive nature....A good primer on critical thinking and how science really works.

San Diego Union-Tribune
An easy-to-read guide to what science now knows about the universe.
Choice

An interesting new look at how humans perceive nature....A good primer on critical thinking and how science really works.

Astronomy Now

Anyone concerned with astronomy will find this book useful.

San Diego Union Tribune

An easy-to-read guide to what science now knows about the universe.

Bookwatch

Intriguing analysis of common errors and misconceptions of the real nature of the universe.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231116442
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil F. Comins is the author of What if the Moon Didn't Exist? He has contributed numerous articles to Astronomy magazine and has appeared on radio and television. He is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Maine.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Fun in the Sun: Some Misconceptions Close to Home3. Creating Your Own Private Cosmos: Internal and Mixed Origins of Incorrect Beliefs2. Blame It on Someone Else: External Origins of Incorrect Beliefs4. Survival in a Misperceived World: How Well Did Our Ancestors Do Without Understanding Nature?6. The Sage on the Stage or the Guide by Your Side: A Peek Behind the Effort to Help You Unlearn Misconceptions5. Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Misconceptions are Hard to Replace7. Let the Buyer Beware: How to Avoid Future Misconceptions8. Conflicts and Dangers: The Problems That Misconceptions CreateEpilogue: False Personal CosmologiesSelected BibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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