The Moon in “Heroes” is VERY different from our Moon.
My wife and I tend to watch TV shows a year after they come out; we rent the DVDs from Netflix and watch them then. We’re right now working our way through the third seasons of Heroes. If you’ve watched even the first season of Heroes, you know that Eclipses are a Big Deal and somehow cause or affect superpowers in humans. Well, there’s another total solar eclipse coming in Season 3. Here’s a screenshot (also showing a vapor ring left behind as Nathan Patrelli took off flying at high speed) of the moon about to eclipse the Sun:
OK, first, the good. Yes, the Moon is apparently about the same size as the Sun in the sky. (Yeah, the Sun looks a little bigger, but that’s probably because of the glare. There’s about to be a total eclipse, so they’ve got to have about the same apparent size. In any event, the size is close.)
Now, the bad. When the moon is that close to the Sun in the sky, it is a tiny, tiny, tiny, very thin crescent, basically a new moon. You will not see it at all, until it starts to actively block out the Sun. The reason for this is that since they’re so close to each other in a sky, it’s almost a straight line from the Earth to the Moon to the Sun. The distance to the Moon is much less, so the Moon is between us and the Sun. Thus, the side lit up by the Sun is the far side of the Moon from us.
Yet, here, instead of an almost-new moon, we see an almost-half-full moon! For half of the moon to be lit by the Sun when we see the two right next to each other in the sky, the moon would have to be at about the same distance from us as the Sun…. Well, it’s not quite half, so it’s a little closer, but we’re talking inside the orbit of Mercury here. And, for the Moon to look as big as as the Sun when it’s that far away, it will have to be physically almost as big as the Sun!
In our Universe, the Moon is a satellite of the Earth, about 1/4 the diameter of the Earth, and orbiting the Earth. The Sun is about 100 times the diameter of the Earth. The reason they look about the same size in the sky is because the Moon is so much closer.
From the evidence in the image above, however, the Earth of the Heroes Universe is very, very strange. They orbit a binary “star” system, including the Sun and the Moon… although the Moon is not a satellite of the Earth at all, but a binary partner to the Sun. However, the Heroes Universe Moon is an extremely bizarre object, for despite being so large, it does not shed any light of its own in the optical. It’s clearly not a large gas cloud, for you can see by looking at it that it’s a solid object with “seas” and craters and all of that. So, it’s something that has somehow managed to be as big as the Sun without triggering fusion inside to make it glow.
Well, given that all these superpowers work, we already knew they were operating under different laws of Physics, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.
My only fear is that people watching the show don’t realize that the producers are being very clever here in showing us that the Moon is a gigantic object that is nearly as far away as the Sun, very different from the case in our own world. I fear that some people watching might either think that the producers of the show have done the typical Hollywood thing and made a boner of a mistake, or may think that it’s entirely reasonable to see a near-half Moon right next to the Sun in the sky. I hope in upcoming episodes there will be dialog between the characters that more clearly reveals the nature of their Moon as a star-sized object close to the Sun.
Linux Torvald’s plagiarism revealed!
I’ve just watched Caprica, the pilot for a prequel series to the recent Battlestar Galactica. In the last episode of BSG, we learn that all of this takes place tens of thousands of years in the past. Yet, look what we see in on technologist’s bookshelf in Caprica:
All of this (open source) has happened before, and all of it will happen again.
Grumbling about MidSouthCon’s “science” guest of “honor”
Last weekend I went to MidSouthCon, a medium-small science fiction convention in Memphis, TN. (Well, Olive Branch, MS, but who’s counting). It was jolly. I ran a Fudge game, I hung out with friends new and old, I got a T-shirt that mixes the standard model of particle physics with Dr. Seussian poetry. And, I was a guest myself; I gave a talk about Second Life, and did a live demo of Second Life. I was also on a panel about “advising the movies”, even though I’ve never actually done that… I have given a talk about how Newton’s Laws hold up in science fiction movies and TV, though, which is probably why the event planners put me on that panel.
However, there was one thing that bothered me greatly. See, they have a number of guests of honor. Their writer guest of honor was Mike Resnick, and their artist guest of honor was Vincent de Fate, both of whom are truly excellent choices. But, even though I’m no longer entirely a working scientist, I have to admit to feeling a little insulted that they chose a crackpot for the scientist guest of honor rather than me. Not that I’m of the stature to deserve an “of honor” position, but at least I’m something of a scientist. I mean, come on people. It’s fine to listen to the crackpots and have fun with them, but calling a UFO Guy the “science guest of honor?”
It’s great to have an open mind. But there is a difference between having an open mind and an open braincase– that is, open in the way that an open circle is not a filled circle….
What’s sad is that a lot of the people who come to these conventions have a lot of interest in science, but don’t know a lot about it. They may have more interest than many in the general public as a result of reading science fiction. They may also have a tendency to want to believe some more fantastical things like UFOs. But we can provide some really interesting real science talks that the public loves. I’ve given science talks at Hypericon for the last four years, and they’ve generally been well received. My talk about the modern picture of the expanding Universe was as mind-blowing as anything that the crackpots come up with, but is also supported by real actual evidence. It’s sad when an opportunity like this is blown on foo-fa and ignorance.
Astronomical References in Shakespeare
Thanks to Brian Cooksey for the shout out last time I was a contributor to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. I’ve also done today’s podcast, all about astronomical references in Shakespeare’s tragedies… starting with Romeo & Juliet, what with it being Valentines day and all. Go and listen to the podcast!
For your viewing pleasure, I’ve also got a transcript of the podcast here:
Thoughts on Accelerando by Charles Stross
Accelerando is one of The Books about the Singularity– one of the fiction books, that is. Approaching any book on this topic means you suddenly have baggage trailing along with you as tenacious as the Luggage from Discworld. There are some who think about the Singularity with near-religious ferver, looking forward to it in a manner similar to how some other religious fanatics may look forward to the Rapture. It will happen, they think, and it will be wonderful. Meanwhile, there is the backlash of people who see the technolphiliacs waxing eloquent about The Singularity, themselves thinking “what a bunch of geeks with no life and no sense of perspective!” So that any book about the Singularity then is viewed with suspicion.
And it’s hard to approach this book without all that baggage in mind. This is a book that’s received some glowing reviews (e.g. Cory Doctorow’s mini-review on Boing Boing); however, a co-worker of mine also dismissed it with saying about the first chapter or so, “It’s like someone put boing boing posts in a blender and published it.”
But let’s try to leave that aside.