MythBusters does the moon hoax

I caught MythBusters last night (note that the episode description for that episode is not up as of this posting — original airdate 27 August 2008) to see their take on some of the common claims of moon hoax conspiracy theorists. [Trailer here.] As always they did a lot of things right and some things wrong. My thoughts after the fold.

I’ll start with what they did right.

1) They covered some of the most basic arguments for the moon landing being hoaxed: the astronauts in shadow shouldn’t be so bright in the pictures, the flag shouldn’t be “waving”, footprints shouldn’t leave clear imprints in dry sand, and the videos of the astronauts are just slow-mo. Those are pretty common and easily tested, so kudos.

2) They proved that there’s man-made technology on the moon by demonstrating that a laser pointed at a retroreflector returns a signal that is distinct from a signal returned from a generic point on the moon’s surface. Pretty hard to refute that unless you’re completely deluded (yes, I know, some people are that deluded).

3) They explained why their results made sense (i.e., the scientific principles behind why the astronaut is illuminated, etc). I won’t go into these here, as Phil Plait already did a great job of this. Explaining why something is is as important as explaining why it isn’t. So…awesome.

What they did wrong.

They ridiculed. It was mostly subtle, but it was there. I get that they aren’t trying to convince the true believers, because you pretty much can’t. However, I hear lots of otherwise intelligent people express doubts about the moon simply because of a poor understanding of science, not because they’re crazy. I’m sure they would benefit from a show like this, but I doubt they’ll like it much if it makes them feel stupid. I get that the myth is perpetuated by conspiracy theorists, but it’s believed by relatively innocent (albeit somewhat ignorant) people. If this show was aimed at the fence-sitters and not-quite-convinced, they probably should have toned it down a little so as not to be too off-putting. When battling the conspiracy theorists, ridicule away — it’s not like they’re going to change their mind anyway. But we want more people interested in this stuff, so in the context of a show on Discovery aimed at the mainstream, nicer is better.

Interesting foibles.

My partner coyly pointed out to me that what the MythBusters essentially did was demonstrate convincingly how the moon landing could have been faked — retroreflector notwithstanding. For example, they set up a perfect replica of the moon’s surface and found that yes we can see the astronaut in the shadow. Say I’m a conspiracy theorist. You know what I’m thinking? “Ok fine, we were wrong about why the picture was a fake, but you just showed how they did fake it.” I don’t know how to solve that problem, except that the subsequent demonstration with the laser blew everything else out of the water anyway. But all I could do was sigh because I know he’s right.

Conclusion.
Ultimately it was a good job. It could have been improved with them providing other resources for more information (such as Phil Plait’s site) — I didn’t see that, but I may have missed it. I also would have preferred a more reasoned and inquisitive tone. They myths are ridiculous, but their show is supposed to be “we don’t just tell the myths, we put them to the test”. It’s not a true “test” when you’re cocky about the results. From a conspiracy theorist perspective, that attitude just proves they’re not giving the hoax “theory” a fair chance. We want to eliminate that argument from their repertoire — the moon hoax has been given too much consideration already, let’s not let them so easily dismiss what’s been done by spoon-feeding them criticisms.

My nit picks are really nitpicky, so I hope I didn’t give a bad impression. I just have high standards. See it, love/hate it, read about the topic further. I’ve provided several links above. I won’t link to the conspiracy sites themselves in this case, but if anyone wants a laugh/cry just Google “moon hoax” and click away.

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19 responses to “MythBusters does the moon hoax

  1. Mythbusters are actually proving how moonlanding was pictured here on Earth . Former NASA defense was It could not be repeated here on Earth !

  2. After seeing some of your postings I knew it is another hopeless person sticking to Bad guys btw remind your ” The Bad astronomer “
    that in English language article ” The ” can not be used with ” bad ” , tell him study some grammar first

  3. Sure I’ll get right on that, person who was too chickenshit to leave his/her name.

    Actually, since The Bad Astronomer is not “mine”, you might want to tell him yourself. Don’t forget to provide a source to back up your claim.

    Meanwhile, these websites illustrating the many uses of “the” may be interesting to you.

    http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/grammar/engineering/articles/8.xml

    and

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/

    These articles seem to indicate that using “the” with a specific term (in this case “Bad Astronomer”, as he calls himself) is acceptable. But I’m happy to be corrected if I’ve interpreted these sources incorrectly.

  4. I had to read anonymous’s post several times before I even figured out what s/he was talking about. And it was a judgment of grammar?!

    Pot: Hey, kettle…

  5. To Ms. Kimbo,
    Requested reference;
    Rapid review of English grammar
    by Praninskas, Jean
    Prentice -Hall
    ISBN 0-13-753145-1
    If you go to pages 315-316.
    Your site allows anonymous comments,it is in your hand to change it.

    That word fits better to Neil Armstrong.

  6. NASA claim was ” those movies could not have been duplicated here on Earth “
    Mythbusters actually proved that with even with small budget such a movies could be produced.
    They could have easily entered in to the vacuum chamber with astronaut clothing while erecting the flag without getting harmed at all that is what the astronauts did in fact .

  7. Thank you for the reference.

    As to your comments about NASA, I’m having a hard time understanding your argument. I don’t see how one NASA statement is evidence that we didn’t land on the moon. You see, there is tons of evidence that we *did* land on the moon. For example, note the part about the reflector and the laser data. That could not be produced without the proper equipment being placed on the moon. One statement does not trump all other evidence.

    ______________
    You’re right, my site does allow anonymous comments, but what’s the point? TO me that shows a lack of confidence in what you’re saying.

  8. “The Bad Astronomer” sounds good enough to me. In fact, the “The” is used to imply that “Bad Astronomer” is a title that belongs uniquely to Phil.

    In any case, while a person could simulate vacuum, low gravity, and dusty landscape on Earth separately, it is unfeasible to put all three of these together, especially since it was the 20th century.

  9. “The Bad Astronomer” sounds good enough to me. In fact, the “The” is used to imply that “Bad Astronomer” is a title that belongs uniquely to Phil.

    In any case, while a person could simulate vacuum, low gravity, and dusty landscape on Earth separately, it is unfeasible to put all three of these together, especially since it was the 20th century.

  10. I love The Bad Astronomer and all The Bad Boys.

    Oh Joel what a man !

  11. I love The Bad Astronomer and all The Bad Boys.

    Oh Joel what a man !

  12. In case anyone wonder and to avoid false accusations, I was ‘defending’ what kimbo was saying in my previous comment.

  13. In case anyone wonder and to avoid false accusations, I was ‘defending’ what kimbo was saying in my previous comment.

  14. There was another episode of Myth busters ” Do pretty girls fart ? “

  15. Bonjour
    Apollo 18 n’as pas atteri sur la lune. C’est un canular !

  16. Tengrain, J’espère que vous étiez sarcastique. Particulièrement parce qu’Apollo 18 a été annulé…

  17. Très drôle. :) Vous pouvez parler cette langue?

  18. Oui, mon père est Francophone puis je suis allé au école immersion. Mais il est été un long temps puisque j’ai eu l’occasion de parler français.

  19. Oh, nice. I really wish I could speak it as well as that! :)