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Thread: Ideas for an Earth Science Teacher

  1. #1
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    Ideas for an Earth Science Teacher

    Hi everyone!
    I'm brand new here and looking for some advice. I'm about to teach a section on the Moon to my honors Earth and Space Science class (11th and 12th graders). I'm planning to show them the Fox conspiracy theory "documentary" and then, using a lot of the ideas in the Bad Astronomy book, help them see the light about what a hoax the Fox program is.

    I was just wondering if anyone had ideas for hands on ways to show them how things really work. I would like to do at least a modified version of the bag of flour experiment suggested in the book (I don't want to make a huge mess). But does anyone have suggestions on how to get the lighting issues addressed?

    Also, I don't have a good grasp on the telescope technology and why we can't take pictures of the landing sites. I know Hubble can take pictures of the moon because I've seen Hubble images of Copernicus. I realize Copernicus is much larger than a rover, but why can't we get even a not so good picture of the landing sites using Hubble or some other telescope on Earth?

    Any help is truly appreciated! I want to do a good job of refuting Fox's "evidence" so I don't just end up creating a new generation of conspiracy theorists.

    Thanks in advance,
    Heather

  2. #2
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    Welcome to the BABB!

    If have not already checked it out, the Bad Astronomy web-site has a section on the Fox program.
    And so does, as far as I remember, Clavius website, in addition to all the other information.
    JayUtah's posts here and on the www.apollohoax.com forum should be very useful as well.

    EDIT to fix spelling.

  3. #3
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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a wonderful piece of equipment, but it simply doesn't have nearly the resolution to image the Apollo leftovers on the moon. Even the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea can't do it, and HST has an aperture of only 2.4 meters. I know -- you see those amazing pictures and wonder why not. HST does those amazing things because it's above the turbulence of the earth's atmosphere (which blurs small details), and because it doesn't have to worry about sunrise (at least in some orientations), it can achieve very long exposures ("integrations"), which is necessary for those pictures of incredibly distant galaxies.

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    By the fundamental nature of light, a telescope's resolution is limited to 11.6/D, where the D is the telescope's aperture in centimeters. Hubble's resolution, for example, is 0.05 arcseconds, which works out to about 80 meters at the distance of the Moon. Even one of the aforementioned Kecks would yield a resolution of just under 20 meters.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Hubble's resolution, for example, is 0.05 arcseconds, which works out to about 80 meters at the distance of the Moon. Even one of the aforementioned Kecks would yield a resolution of just under 20 meters.
    And since the largest piece of equipment left behind on the Moon, the base of the lunar module, is only about 4.2 meters in diameter (about 9.4 meters across the legs), it is too small to be detected by these instruments.

  6. #6
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    Re: Ideas for an Earth Science Teacher

    Quote Originally Posted by Heather5382
    I was just wondering if anyone had ideas for hands on ways to show them how things really work.
    You could do some demonstrations with shadows and lighting. This Web page by Ian Goddard might give you some ideas. You can also look for examples of photos taken here on Earth that defy the conspiracists' shadow rules. For instance, they say that shadows cast by the Sun must be and always are parallel, but then we see a photo like this one...


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    By the way, you might want to take a look at my Web site as well:

    http://www.braeunig.us/space/hoax.htm

    Although I've included much more than just the FOX program, I think most of the issues raised in that program are addressed. There are also links to many other debunking sites at the bottom of the page.

  8. #8
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    With showing a bunch of teenagers the FOX "documentary" you have to be careful. If some your students are anything like some of my classmates, they will take the video as the word of [insert desired supreme being here] because it was on TV. :roll: Just thought I would point it out.

  9. #9
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    G'day Heather, and welcome to the BABB

    I've spoken to Year 11 students about the Moon hoax. At first I asked how many believed the landings were faked. Out of a group of around 100, well under 10 put up their hands. So you might want to be careful of exposing them to something they don't believe in the first place.

    Because I had only limited time to talk about the hoax, I concentrated on the positive evidence of the Moon landings - the rocks, the radio communications and the video footage. By looking at only this material, you still have room to explore a number of topics:

    Moon rocks: how rocks are formed; the difference between Earth rocks and Moon rocks; how we determine the age of rocks; how Moon rocks can be retrieved (lunar meteorites from Antarctica, Soviet sample return missions, Apollo) and the differences between these materials.

    Radio communications: radio delay; communications satellites; radio telescopes; NASA's Deep Space network (Goldstone, Madrid, Tidbinbilla); live recording of Apollo data by amateurs.

    Video footage: the behaviour of dust kicked up by astronauts and the lunar rovers; the actions of the astronauts as they move (or fall over); "waving" flags; the lift-off of the lunar module ascent stage.

    You could always use Phil's book as a text, or use the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal as an internet reference.

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    This site:
    http://www.boulder.swri.edu/~durda/A...ing_sites.html
    shows telescope views from Earth and then orbital views of each of the landing sites. In the case of Apollo 17 you can see the lunar module on the surface as a very tiny bump casting a shadow among the cratrers.

  11. #11
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    Hello Heather, and welcome.

    I think Peter B makes a very valid point about not introducing the hoax idea in the first place. (If anyone asks me what I think of the hoax, my reply is, "Unworthy of discussion.") As I see it, the journey to the moon was a wonderful adventure, and can be presented as such - obviously pitching it to the appropriate age group!

    The following is just a few ideas of mine so please don't think I'm teaching you your job.

    Instead of saying, "Some think it was a hoax but we'll explain why it wasn't," I'd prefer a straight account of what happened, with the occasional "anomaly" addressed en route. For instance, you could say, "The moon has no atmosphere, and so the stars are visible even in the daytime. But there aren't any stars visible in these pictures. Can anybody tell me why that is?"

    Then, if someone puts their hand up and says, "Because the moon landings were a hoax?" you could say something like, "Hmm, an interesting idea. But it isn't very likely, is it?" If this person presses the point, you could then point out the solid evidence of kilogrammes of moon rock etc.

    On the other hand, if someone says, "Is it to do with exposure times?" you give them a gold star!

    The reason I say this is, like many people on this BB, I've explained to hoax believers about exposure times, and they still present lack of stars as evidence of a hoax. Whereas if you can introduce the idea of exposure times before they've got the hoax meme in their head, they're less likely to regard the explanation as a hasty, off-the-cuff excuse put out by NASA shills.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all the great advice. I really appreciate it. I've been wondering the same thing myself about whether or not my students can handle seeing the hoax at all. I would really like to show it to them not only to teach them about the moon, but to teach them the bigger lesson that just because it is on TV doesn't make it so.

    What do you all think? Is it better just to keep the hoax idea out of their heads or to take the chance and address it now before they stumble on some HB's website?

    I'm also wondering if I even have a chance with some of these kids. I mean, it seems to me that a certain type of person just eats up conspiracy theories no matter what they are about. So maybe it is better just to teach the facts and not be the one responsible for introducing the hoax to them. I'm just not sure what to do with this. Any input?

  13. #13
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    First, be aware that several teachers across the country have done what you're about to do. All of them have, to some degree, run into opposition from parents. Usually this is because the parents are not certain why you've shown the film, and believe you're trying to convert their kids to a conspiracy theory. So if possible, inform the parents ahead of time. If that's not possible, have a plan ready for when the parents call.

    Second, you've been given several approaches to dealing with the conspiracy material. There is no "best" way. The real lesson to be learned, of course, is to be skeptical and critical of stories that seem fantastical, not to accept necessarily as experts people who merely claim to be, and so forth. If the Van Allen belts are so lethal to astronauts, for example, why don't modern astrophysicists believe in the hoax theory?

    Third, some people will always believe the hoax. There is no avoiding that. Some people will never believe the hoax theory and will think it silly even to consider it. The middle ground is who you'll want to talk to -- those kids who might think about the conspiracy theory and believe some of it only because they lack the specific knowledge required to challenge it.

    Fourth, the telescope question derives from the wave nature of light. Because light wavelengths are finite in length (although very tiny), there is a finite limit at which they can be finely focused. That limit is inversely proportional to the width of the objective (lens or mirror) used to collect them. This translates into a minimum angular separation that must exist in order for an objective of some particular diameter to resolve it. While this is a very tiny angle for most telescopes, the great distances over which they see expand that angle out into significant distances. So the Hubble's limit at the moon's distance works out to about 80 meters. If objects are closer than that on the moon's surface, the light rays from them strike the objective of the telescope (at the extremes of its diameter) in such a way as to cause wave interference.

    Fifth, to help investigate the lighting effects, conduct part of the class outdoors (weather permitting) to investigate the claims that the sun always casts parallel shadows (or rather, shadows that always appear parallel). If it's not too late, get the theater students involved. Challenge them to create lighting setups on the school stage that mimic the lighting in Apollo film and video, then see how difficult it is to accurately recreate them. Consider using a spotlight as a unidirectional light source and see if you can get indirect lighting bouncing off of floors etc. to illuminate the shaded sides of objects.

    Sixth, consider having a professional photographer comment on the photographs. You'll find they aren't fooled by any of these conspiracy theories either.

  14. #14
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    If it was me and I was going to introduce it, I'd go the other way about. Start with the facts and build the case frm there, then once they were fully grunded in the science, introduce the Hoax theory and get them to apply their previously learned knowledge to destroy each of the HB's arguments. For any of them to jump the fence to believing the hoax, they'd have to discount all the science previously taught and shown to be right with their own hands and eyes.

    Perhaps doing a few things like setting up Apollo style photos to show items in shadows, non-parallel shadows, no stars at night and so on would allow them to see these things in a real environment, and then afterwards when they see the HB's claims, they'll be ready to laugh at them. (the claims not the HB's)

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    Thanks again everyone, I'm feeling much more comfortable about this whole thing. You all have provided me with a wealth of information that will really help me in addressing this lesson. I've decided to leave the video for after we've sufficiently covered the positives and how they work, unless someone brings up the hoax beforehand, then I'll address it as it comes.

    I really feel the most important lesson is not to learn how photography and telescopes work, or even about the moon, but to teach them to question things that they see or hear. This is kind of an ongoing theme of mine. I don't know if anyone saw that hideous mini-series "Category 6 Day of Disaster" about 2 weeks ago. I used that as an extra credit assignment for them to watch and pick out 10 examples of bad science. My whole teaching philosophy is to teach these kids how to think for themselves. I know I have to teach them facts and make them memorize some things, but what I really want is for them to learn how to question the world around them and not just believe what someone tells them is true. And I want them to know how to find answers on their own when they come across something that they donít understand, just as I did by coming to you all. With all the useless knowledge they fill peoples minds with, I think itís a good idea to jam some things in there that they might actually use too. Well, I'm going to jump off the soap box now and work on my PowerPoint.

    Thanks again for everyoneís help. If anyone has anything else they feel I should know, please tell me; Iím always open to suggestions.

  16. #16
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    Best of luck with the presentation, Heather. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I hope we hear from you again.

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    Please stop in any time. We'd be very interested in hearing what went well and what went badly.

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    I have a suggestion for the lighting/shadows question that the hoax proponents always use, such as non-parallel shadows.

    Have the kids try and take pictures that show parallel shadows on Earth. Playground equipment, like swings and a jungle jim, work really well. The shadows look really good. Of course they never look parallel.

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    Heather, I congratulate you on your attitude toward your class and your students. Helping them learn to think critically is far more important to them and to the rest of society than any specific set of facts that most of them will forget shortly after the class ends (if that long). You have a valuable opportunity with the class you have, and I'm glad there are teachers out there like you.

    An important point to consider is if you help them "discover" facts about the way the moon works, the way lighting works, etc, they are far more likely to accept, retain, and defend that knowledge. Thus I think you are right to come up with hands-on demonstrations for them to perform.

    I think the Fox video can be used as a tool to demonstrate the ability of slick productions to misrepresent facts. You can especially stress the presentation methods, such as:
    1) the unanswered questions (whether or not answers really exist);
    2) the editing of official response (cutting NASA spokesman Brian Welch(IIRC)'s responses to simple rejections instead of allowing any description/discussion or actual rebuttal);
    3) presenting limited and selected information (i.e. representing the LLRC as if it were just like the LM, and showing 1 dramatic test failure as if it were representative of the whole performance of the vehicle; misrepresenting the cause of the crash as a design/handling problem rather than as a mechanical failure like all mechanisms are at risk for);
    4) bringing up scare topics such as radiation and technical subjects like the Van Allen belts and then obscuring real information to leave the audience uneasy and uninformed;
    5) "suggesting" connections to other unproven and controversial government coverup/conspiracy topics to justify the case by the reason that if there's question here and there, then it's more likely;
    6) misrepresenting statements, such as Grissom's famous act of hanging a lemon on the trainer as if he were commenting on the actual flight hardware.


    An important part of presenting the video, I think, is to make clear before you present it that (1) this is every bit as controlled and edited a program as an infomercial or a big screen movie - it is NOT a documentary, NOT a news program. (2) The creators have a specific story to sell, and only want you to see what they show you. They want you to accept at face value when they state no one has answered a question that no one has.

    One thing you might do is discuss the moon and specific details, discuss pictures and gravity and dust and what they would expect. Ask them to describe how things should behave and why. Use demonstrations and cameras and lighting. Then after you have set the stage and got them thinking about it, then present the video as a discussion tool. One way is to stop the video after each segment and discuss it thoroughly. Talk about the above mentioned tools, talk about why the HB would claim what he claims, how he could test his claim, how you have already tested the claim. Reinforce after each segment what they are and are not telling their audience. Don't wait till the end and try to do it all at once, but do it a bit like Clavius - claim, answer. Challenge them to figure out what is wrong with each conspiracist claim.

    Good luck with the project.

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    Mission Accomplished!

    Well everyone, sorry it took me so long to get back on here. But my presentation went very well, thanks to a lot of help from everyone here! We actually had a lot of trouble getting the fox thing on vhs, so I ended up showing them a good video about the Apollo missions first. Then I did my own PowerPoint presentation of the hoax, and by this time I had the video, so I showed clips rather than the entire video. I told them I was playing the part of the hoax believer and couldn't be reasoned with at this time. I told them instead to jot down their ideas on how to refute me. Some of them couldnít contain themselves though, so we ended up hearing some rebuttals as we went through. And the next few days were spent going back through all of the points and figuring out how they were wrong. Most of it was refuted based on their ideas, not mine, which worked out very well. There were a few issues (like the van allen belts) that they didn't have enough knowledge to dispute, so I showed them facts about those points to guide them in the right direction.

    Overall it went very well. I was somewhat stuck for time, so when I do this again I will allow more time for discussion and experimentation. I liked the idea of giving them time to come up with their own explanations rather then breaking it apart as we went. It gave them more time to think on their own. They really got into it and we had some great discussions. They were actually very upset when I couldn't get the video made. One of my students ended up making it for me because they wanted to see it so bad. I really tried to emphasize the point that this wasn't entirely about the moon, and how it was more about being critical of so called facts. I think it helped them realize that they shouldn't just accept anyone's explanation, and they need to think for themselves.

    I think I would do a little more structured plans next time. Maybe actually have them write down their ideas to be handed in, because a few students did just sit on the sidelines even though I tried to pull them in to our discussions. I asked them at the end to honestly tell me (by a show of hands) if they believed that we really did land on the moon, and everyone raised their hand. So I guess it was a success! Thanks again everyone! You all were a great help to me.

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    Good job, Heather. Your students are lucky. I wish I had a teacher like you when I was in high school!

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    I did, thankfully. so on behalf of what all your students will be telling people the rest of their lives, but may never tell you, you are the coolest teacher!

    just a quick response to some of the things said earlier--if you don't tell people that material is controversial, that there are actually people who'll deny it, it's easier to convince them that you were part of the conspiracy. besides, I think it's a really interesting way of showing what's different on the Moon and what's the same.
    _____________________________________________
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    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    Congratuations Heather! =D>

    Sounds like you are fortunate to have a good class of kids, and they are fortunate to have a great teacher!

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    Heather

    Let me echo AGN Fuel's comments. It's great to see teachers willing to put the time into projects like this. And it's great to see the kids got a lot out of it. =D>

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