Why Is Slate's New Blog Called "Bad Astronomy"?

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 12 2012 6:30 AM

Welcome to the Bad Astronomy Blog!

Welcome to my new home. I'm very glad you're here, and very happy I'm here, too.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

I'm hoping a lot of folks reading this came over from my previous home at Discover Magazine, where I blogged happily for more than four years. But I suspect a lot of you are regular Slate readers and may be seeing my humble blog for the first time. So, let me introduce myself.


My name is Phil Plait. I'm an astronomer, writer, and sometime TV-science-show host. I love science, especially astronomy; I worked on Hubble Space Telescope data for nearly a decade, observing everything from nearby asteroids to far-flung explosions at the very edge of the observable universe. Now I spend my time writing about all that, and it's been my great pleasure to show people the cosmos for so many years.

I'm also something of a geek—OK, fine, I'm actually a huge dork. I love science fiction, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and pretty much anything with aliens and spaceships. And time travel. And gadgets.

So what can you expect to read here? Mostly astronomy! Who doesn't love a gorgeous Hubble image of a galaxy, a spectacular wide-angle shot of countless stars embedded on the wisps and filaments of a glowing multihued gas cloud, the dramatic and jaw-droppy Saturn with its rings thrown wide? Or something like this: a young massive star blowing huge bubbles of gas into its surrouding cocoon of interstellar material:

Hubble image of the massive young star Sharpless 2-106.
Hubble Space Telescope image of the massive young star Sharpless 2-106. Click to embiggen.

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

I mean, c'mon, right?

You'll get a lot of that here, and more. As an astronomer, I can't help but want to talk about what's going on in those pictures: the science, the technology, the knowledge of how things work. For me, reality is a tightly-woven tapestry with millions of threads all interrelating, and the joy of it is when you discover a new thread peeking out from between two others.

You'll also get a dose of geekery here as well, as I'm a fan boy. I like to talk about all the stuff I get excited about, and the nerdery will shine through. Fairly warned be thee, says I.

[See? That's from The Simpsons. I like meta-humor, too.]

But there's more that will happen here, too: There's a reason this blog is called Bad Astronomy. Over the years, anyone who loves science will let you know how badly it gets spun, folded, and mutilated. Sometimes it's the press, sometimes the public, or movies, or politicians—actually, a lot of the time it's politicians—but there are a lot of misconceptions about science in people's minds. I started writing about this way back in the early Dawn of the Internet and haven't been able to stop. 

But it's not just myths about science that are so aggravating; out-and-out attacks on science are rampant. The main venues of this are politics and religion, and usually some combination of the two. I will not hesitate to call such attacks out when I see them. If you think the Earth is 6,000 years old, if you think global warming is a hoax, if you think vaccines cause autism, then my goal in life is to show you what science and reality have to say about that.

In fact, reality and science are two similar things. Reality just is, and science is our way of figuring that out, of understanding it, and discovering more. With science we've learned the universe is billions of years old, that humans can and do affect the environment, and that with medical science like vaccinations we can eradicate diseases that have killed hundreds of millions of people. For me, that is far, far greater than any happy but ultimately false myth, and connects me with the universe in a deep and profound way. The beauty we see in the cosmos comes from the laws it obeys, the laws of science, and we can understand them.

If there is a more wonderful thing in the whole of everything, I haven't yet seen it.

So again, welcome. There's a whole universe out there, and I aim to show it to you. Enjoy.



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