Overhyping Meaningless Science



Check it out! Yesterday, planets Mars and Earth were closer than they’ll ever be again, well, at least over the next 60000 years (story). OK, let’s just say “ever” because 60000 years ago humans had no culture and no technology (think of a Bush White House minus all the electronic gizmos). And we don’t know what humans will do in 60000 years. It’s hard to imagine Neanderthals were as excited about all this, though. “Hey, Ooog, I caught this cool deer and did you know planet Mars is really close?”

But anyway, yesterday, planets Mars and Earth were only 56000000 km apart, that’s 22047244 miles - about half the miles on my old car. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, as they say on that article “Neanderthals were the last to observe Mars so favorably placed.” Wow! Not much has changed! Neanderthals still rule the world. And that tiny little red spot on the sky yesterday looked like a just very slightly bigger but still pretty tiny red spot on the sky. Did you notice the difference in size? I bet you did! Who wouldn’t! Provided you found it. Only 56000000 km, that’s almost nothing, especially if you compare it with the dimensions of the solar system or with the size of our own galaxy.

Now, you could compare it with the distance you have to walk to get into your car but that, of course, wouldn’t make much sense. Parking spaces are a problem but I bet your car is closer to your home than 56000000 km. If you were really lucky yesterday, you managed to get that closest parking spot possible for your car and at the same Mars was closest to Earth in 60000 years. That would have almost been a trifecta except that you don’t really speak any foreign languages and the “tri” in there stands for a “three” pronounced with an Indian accent. So at most you had a difecta but that’s no word. But it sounds pretty close to what you have when you get too excited about meaningless science, namely a problem.

Disclaimer: The author of this article is a professional astrophysicist.