Ugh. I just need to rant and vent about this latest stupidmoon thing, which blends in with my hatred of the media in general of late. Yet again, the media has descended upon this stupid “supermoon” BS and hyped it for all it’s worth. Needless to say, it seems like the collective memories of the people of the entire world seems to have been erased, or they’ve all taken an overdose of stupid pills, because there was another “gigantic” stupidmoon just last year – remember? That other one, just last September, during a lunar eclipse, was also hyped as, “You better get out there, because you won’t see anything like this for twenty years!”
Ugh. Ugh, indeed.
Yes, yes, you will. You could have seen something exactly like it last month at the last full moon. Just like you’ll see it next month, at the very next full moon. Both of which also happen to be stupidmoons.
The level of out-and-out factual distortion in what the media continuously puts out there just makes me sick. “The moon is 14% larger and 30% brighter!” Um, no; no, it’s not. That is the difference between how the moon looks when it’s full at its perigee – which is the definition of these stupidmoons, a full moon at the moon’s closest approach in its orbit to the earth – and when it’s at its apogee, its furthest point away from the earth in its orbit. Most full moons are not at their apogee, or at their perigee, for that matter, but somewhere in between. Meaning that the difference in size between this and your ordinary, average full moon is actually only seven percent. Like this:
Now, technically, the information being repeatedly parrotted by the media is correct. Yes, the full moon really is at its closest in nearly 70 years, and by that token, yes, the full moon is technically the largest it has appeared during that entire time. But that information is woefully incomplete. Without the context that it just doesn’t matter, it is the same as lying to the public. Information without the proper context is useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless – it’s a downright dumbing down of the public. And lemme tell ya, they don’t need to be dumbed down any more than they already are.
Why doesn’t it matter? Because you cannot tell that the moon is seven percent bigger or brighter. The regular-sized moon isn’t next to it for comparison! And because it’s only a very few percent larger than it usually appears, it is humanly impossible to be able to tell the difference. You simply don’t have an ability to remember what size or brightness the full moon looked last month, and compare that to what you’re currently seeing. Your memory doesn’t work that way. You simply cannot tell that this moon is bigger.
Moreover, the distance to the moon is measured from the center of the earth to the center of the moon. Deep, deep underneath the surface, waaay down in there. So, depending on where you’re standing on the earth when you even look at this stupidmoon, you’re almost definitely assured of not being as close to the moon as we were back in 1948. Stupidmoon, indeed.
Additionally, for the same reason, you cannot tell that this stupidmoon is brighter, either. Our sensitivity to light is measured logarithmically, in magnitudes. A first magnitude star, like Antares, is about 2.5x as bright as a second magnitude star, like Polaris. A difference of brightness of 30%, which is the equivalent of less than a three-tenths of a magnitude (and it’s actually much less, because, remember, that’s the difference between the full moon at perigee – the stupidmoon – and the full moon at apogee), simply isn’t all that noticeable, especially when you have nothing to compare it with.
Next time you’re out looking at Orion, take a look at Rigel, the bright blue knee on the right, and Betelgeuse, the bright red shoulder on the left. You tell me which one is brighter. Lookie here, here’s a picture for ya:
You can’t really tell which one is brighter, can you? But one of them is 30% brighter than the other! OH. MY. GOD. One of these is a superstar, and we can’t tell which!
I see people posting in various venues approving of this inanely stupid hype. “Anything to get people interested in astronomy.” “It’s great to get the public engaged.” “Whatever it takes to get people to go out and take a look.” No, no, NO. Not whatever it takes. Having the media lie to people just to get them to go outside and look up is not the way we do things. This is just a very prominent symptom of the incredible scientific illiteracy we are suffering from in this country. And I cannot, I will not be a party to keeping America stupid.
Unfortunately, this is just another symptom of our 24/7 media. They always need something, anything, to report on – and along comes the stupidmoon, to fill a couple of minutes with its own pretty pictures. The fact that this is an absolute irrelevancy doesn’t matter – they gotta get their content out there! Truth be damned! Gotta fill that time!
What if the media reported, “On Wednesday, November 16, the Leonid meteor shower will reach its peak. There is the possibility that this meteor shower will have extremely large components, such that these meteors could strike and cause widespread destruction on a city-wide scale. This is something we need to be prepared for, so be prepared to take cover on Wednesday. Unfortunately, local emergency crews are not taking any steps to prevent this possibility in relation to this meteor shower.” Now, what I’ve just written is absolutely true. There is a possibility that this meteor shower could lead to devastation.
But this information is completely distorted, because I didn’t provide the relevant additional information to put the information that I did provide into context. Specifically, that the chances of there being any type of destruction is so ridiculously small, so insanely infinitesimal, so as to not even be worth mentioning. In the entire recorded history of the world, only one person has ever – ever. EVER! – been struck by a falling meteorite. On the other hand, you do know that a gigantic meteorite – called an asteroid – struck the earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. That is the type of risk we’re dealing with here – once every 65 million years. So put away your anti-meteor shield, and take off your space-debris-protection-helmet. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little.
Yet when the media does this with these stupidmoons, again and again, everyone celebrates this attempt to get people engaged – with woefully incomplete information. Instead of doing this, over and over and over again, how about providing some correct information by putting this information into context? And at the end of the segment, how about just giving folks an exhortation to go out and look up at the moon for a change, just to see how beautiful it is – and for no other reason. In the meantime, these stupidmoons have to be stopped!
End rant. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.