EDUCATION: Bunk Buster

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Science  03 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5642, pp. 27
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5642.27d

By the time they walk into a college astronomy class, many students have swallowed a whopping dose of pseudoscience from the Internet, movies, and TV shows such as the X-Files. However, teachers can transmute these misconceptions into lessons on critical thinking and scientific methods—if they have the straight story behind purported paranormal events. Fortunately, the truth is out there—on reputable Web sites and in plenty of skeptical books and articles—and this new site from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific helps teachers find it.

Andrew Fraknoi, an astronomer at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, has gathered scores of links and other resources that refute space-related humbug such as crop circles, NASA's supposed faking of the Apollo moon landings, and the “Roswell Incident,” in which an alien spacecraft purportedly crashed near this New Mexico backwater in 1947. Here, a high-resolution 1998 shot from Mars Global Surveyor demolishes another pseudoscience staple, showing that the “face” visible in this photo from the 1976 Viking mission is a trick of the light, not an alien edifice as some true believers aver.

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