Thing #2: Space and Stuff

When wandering through the Internet the other day, I happened upon several lists of misconceptions about space and space-y things.  Realizing the undeniable connection to this blog, I had to make a post about some of them.  Bear in mind I have had no past experience with astronomy or astrology other than a rudimentary sixth grade class in which I zoned out so hard and so repeatedly I have not retained a speck of information.  True story.

Shockingly, I didn’t know a lot of these things!  Can you imagine the odds of that?

What I’m trying to say is: all of the information I am about to charitably bestow comes from online sources.  They are listed at the bottom of this post.

MISCONCEPTION #1: A region of “zero gravity” can exist

This makes a lot of sense if you think about it (which I hadn’t before), but nowhere in the universe is there a spot where the effects of gravity upon an object are null.  We’ve heard the term so many times it just rolls off the tongue by now, but gravity works over infinitely large distances.  Of course, the farther away you are, the smaller the force acting on you, but it’s still there.  Here’s an example to blow your mind: if the only objects in the universe were you and a baseball, floating in empty space trillions of miles from each other at rest, you would eventually hit the baseball… assuming you found a way to stay alive for, you know, a really long time.

MISCONCEPTION #2: Columbus thought the Earth was flat

Chalk this one up as another failure of the American education system.  Although some uneducated people in Europe during Columbus’ time may have believed the Earth was flat, the Greeks had proved it was round thousands of years earlier.  Columbus actually knew this, but greatly misjudged the circumference of our planet.  He thought he could reach Asia by sailing west, but instead bumped into a few islands.

MISCONCEPTION #3: Asteroid belts look like the ones in Star Wars

Turns out, no.  Sorry, George Lucas.  Asteroid belts (like atoms) are actually primarily empty space.  Chances are, sitting in the middle of one would be pretty much the same as sitting in any other region of space: cold, silent, and with no asteroids or chunks of rock floating around.  Or spaceships, unfortunately.

MISCONCEPTION #4: The Sun is on fire

Wait… it’s not?  It seems impossible–I mean, it certainly looks like it’s on fire:

But the Sun is, in reality, just an enormous ball of gas undergoing constant nuclear fusion.  No “traditional” combustion, no flames.

MISCONCEPTION #5: People freeze in space

As is so often the case with things we think we know, the exact opposite is actually true.  If you were exposed to the vacuum of space with no protective gear, you wouldn’t freeze–you’d overheat.

Under normal circumstances, water (which makes up a good percentage of our bodies) positioned above a heat source (for instance, our internal mechanisms) will heat up, rise to the top of its reservoir, transfer its heat energy to the surrounding air, and sink down to the bottom again.  This cycle (normally) stops us from crisping into French fries on a daily basis.  But in space, you can’t breathe, doofus there’s no air to accept the heat energy.  As a result, your body would just heat up and heat up until you died–or until your corpse melted, since by the time sufficient heat could be built up to crisp you, you’d have long since died from oxygen starvation.  Space is so cheery!

And finally, one random fact.  The atmosphere of the planet HD 189733b is over 1,000˚C, has winds of over 4,300 miles per hour, and is often subject to storms containing glass that rains sideways.

Sources:

The Most Misunderstood Concepts in Space Science

Popular Misconceptions in Astronomy

Top 5 Misconceptions About Columbus

Hubble spots azure blue planet

Ten Common Misconceptions About Space

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6 thoughts on “Thing #2: Space and Stuff

  1. I found your post to be quite engaging as well as educational. I like how you don’t restrict yourself to a central topic, instead you bring up topics and are capable of pulling in an audience. Your incorporation of imagery / gifs also add a level of appealing complexity to your post. Well done.

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  2. Hey, I actually something about this topic! I LOVE the gifs, I don’t even know how you managed to make me laugh with every one. Anyway, I mostly know about this topic because of Hank Green, John Green’s little but equally as awesome brother. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm6df_SExVw . This video is about what happens to unprotected humans in space and adds a lot to your misconception about what happens to unprotected humans in space. Apparently, Hank Green states that people would boil in space is ALSO a misconception because your blood is enclosed in your body and is subjected to the internal pressure of your body, not the lack of pressure from space (Green explains this a lot better than I can). However, any fluids outside of the body will boil.Still, the scary thing about going into the vacuum of space unprotected is that literally every single air molecule will try to burst its way out of your body and you’d actually die of oxygen starvation, not the conditions of space! Thank you for making my procrastinating come in handy!

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  3. This post made me literally LOL. First off, I loved your title. I can imagine you saying that, and I read the whole post in your voice. Also, I love how after a short paragraph you would include a gif or picture. This kept me interested and made the post look nicer too! I really enjoyed how you talked so informally (“Chalk this one up as another failure of the American education system.” “…other than a rudimentary sixth grade class in which I zoned out so hard and so repeatedly I have not retained a speck of information. True story.” (this was where I LOLed.) “But in space, you can’t breathe, doofus there’s no air to accept the heat energy.”) because it made me feel like I was having a fun conversation with you. Also, I think that the topic of your blog is really interesting. I feel like a lot of people don’t address commonly misunderstood facts, and I like that you are. I’m excited to read the next one! 🙂

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  4. Like Ally, I LOLed a lot in this post (I think the strikeout text was my favorite). Your sense of humor comes across really well in your blogs! I liked your choice of topics, and the list format was great to help move the post along. And yay for citing your sources! 🙂

    As a side note, this reminded me of one of my favorite bands (They Might Be Giants) who wrote a song called “Why Does the Sun Shine” and then realized there were scientifically-inaccurate facts, so they wrote another one called “Why Does the Sun Really Shine”, which cracked me up. Here they are:

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  5. As a huge fan of space and all things related to it, I couldn’t not like this post. All of the information in it is very educational and fascinating (although, admittedly, I did know a few of the facts already). I also loved the use of GIFs in the post! Space is a really cool place. Did you know that there is actually a Hot Jupiter-type planet that’s so close to its star that it completes an orbit in only 10 hours? Well now you know.

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  6. I have to say I’m a little disappointed that some of these things aren’t true. But thanks to your extremely informative, and witty, post I can now avoid situations in which I sound ignorant. And totally not related to space: I never really liked Christopher Columbus, due to the whole “I’m gonna take this land from you” extravaganza, but now that I know he didn’t actually think the world was flat I can ease up on him a bit. A lot of scientific blogs I’ve read don’t explain topics in layman’s terms and, not being in expert in scientific aspects, I can easily get confused. But I understood every point you were trying to get across. Especially how we don’t actually freeze in space.

    Sci-fi movies should really be more accurate.

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