In this country, we have a very bad habit of believing everything that is in "print". Whether its in a "non fiction" book, newspaper, magazine, internet site or even a 'factual flyer" most Americans have this strange notion that "if its in print - hell, it must be true." The process of "critical" thinking is often discouraged, and rarely are the 'facts' challenged - by the public or even on lj for that matter.
But as bad as the prevailing belief of the printed word being 'gospel' - this goes hand-in-hand with the general lack of checking background sources and citing proper references in many articles and other publications. Yesterday at J's, I found this little Fun Facts Card sitting on his kitchen table. His grandson Jordan got it while dining at that bastion of good taste Burger King. Entitled "Let's Explore Space" it featured a pretty image of M8, the Lagoon Nebula, a beautiful emission nebula in the constellation of Sagittarius. So much, so good - I thought its nice that a fast-food place was promoting "astronomy".
However, the other side of the card was to prove to be far more interesting. :-)
Here are the printed "fun facts" given:
1 - The Earth's distance from the Sun is 93 million miles!
2 - We live in the Solar System known as the Milky Way! ..err, WTF?!
3 - There are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way - give or take a "few"!
4 - If you were to count 1 star every second, it would take you 3000 years to count all the stars in our solar system! Imagine if you lost count and had to start all over again! Holy shit batman, we hit the jackpot (of stupidity)!
OK, the mistake in number two is just plain dumb and could be very easily verified by the slightest amount of research. But the slick-assed twit (probably some Burger King MBA making 4x my salary) never even bothered to check that the Milky Way is a galaxy - an aggregate of billions of stars (including our Sun and the solar system), clusters, nebulae and molecular clouds.
They did save the "best" for last - first the math error, followed by an astounding compounding the stupidity of "fun fact" number two. First, the math:
1 day (solar) = 86,400 seconds
1 year (365.242 days) = 365.242 x 86,400 = 3.16 x 10^8 seconds
"3000 years" = 3000 x 3.16 x 10^8 = 94.7 x 10^9 seconds, NOT 400 x 10^9, which is 4.2 times too small.
So OK, they're not competent in math. But fuck me, taking 3000 years to count all the stars in the "solar system" ? HELLOOOO.. hint, err..."clue" - there is only one star in OUR solar system at its called the SUN. Even a cheese-chewing, bloating excuse of a zoo chimp will sooner or later point at the brilliant light in the sky and go "ook" long before then.
And they actually paid some idiot to make up these questions and design/distribute these "fun fact" cards?