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Thread: Bad astronomy on howstuffworks.com

  1. #1
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    Bad astronomy on howstuffworks.com

    I'm looking at the howstuffworks.com article on How Stars Work, which starts at http://www.howstuffworks.com/star.htm . Already I've found at least 2 factual errors:

    1. On http://science.howstuffworks.com/star4.htm , it claims:
      In 1924, the astronomer A. S. Eddington showed that the luminosity and mass of a star were related. The larger a star (i.e., more massive) is, the more luminous it is (luminosity = mass3).
      The exponent in that equation is dead wrong. The main-sequence mass-luminosity relationship is luminosity = mass3.5. This might not sound like that big of a difference, but we're talking about an exponent here, and a difference of even 0.5 there is huge.

    2. On http://science.howstuffworks.com/star6.htm, in the "Stars Like the Sun" paragraph, it claims:
      When the core runs out of hydrogen fuel, it will contract under the weight of gravity. [ ... ] Finally, the core will cool into a white dwarf and then eventually into a [/b]black dwarf[/b]. This entire process will take a few billion years.
      A few billion years? To turn into a black dwarf?! That's a usage of the word "few" I've never heard before. No black dwarfs currently exist, because it takes longer for a white dwarf to cool into a black dwarf than the current age of the universe!

  2. #2
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    http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/lightsaber.htm

    I'm not sure this site was ever supposed to be a reference for reality.

    aw, the disclaimer about them not being real hasn't always been there. Less fun without the illusion of suspected reality.
    Last edited by Hugh Jass; 2005-Nov-15 at 03:02 AM. Reason: Add disclaimer

  3. #3
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    It only explains how to operate a lightsaber, not how it works.
    How is it supposed to work?

  4. #4
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    If you click on Rate this Article at the bottom of the page, you can post your criticisms. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to correct the mistakes.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halcyon Dayz
    It only explains how to operate a lightsaber, not how it works.
    I know! Geez. Even the Wikipedia article on light sabers discusses their construction and operating principles.

  6. #6
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    the equation of L~m^3 is a common "back of the envelope" approximation, so the error isn't that extreme.

  7. #7
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    Howstuffworks is full of inaccuracies, I find that at times it's less accurate then Wikipedia, certainly for computer stuff they confuse terminology left, right, and centre.

  8. #8
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    but it is a good starting point to learn about how stuff works. if someone looks something up there, and gets really interested in the subject matter, then they might look into it more deeply and learn more about it from other sources..
    hoiw many people here are interested in space and the universe in general because you used to watch Star Trek on tv, or saw the original Star Wars films in the theater as a kid? they got you hooked, and you started studying the subject, and now all (a lot of) you do is complain about the inaccuracies in those same movies and tv shows..

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by novaderrik
    but it is a good starting point to learn about how stuff works. if someone looks something up there, and gets really interested in the subject matter, then they might look into it more deeply and learn more about it from other sources..
    hoiw many people here are interested in space and the universe in general because you used to watch Star Trek on tv, or saw the original Star Wars films in the theater as a kid? they got you hooked, and you started studying the subject, and now all (a lot of) you do is complain about the inaccuracies in those same movies and tv shows..
    Heh, I don't criticize Sci-Fi, my ability to suspend my disbelief is as strong as ever. I do, however, dislike it when an online source frequently referenced by teachers has inaccurate information and gives you no easy way to fix it. I like wikipedia because anyone who does actually know the topic can correct errors, not so in Howstuffworks.

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