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Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists

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#26 astroRoy

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 04:34 PM

Galliger said it about Hollywood. "It's like a bowl of granola, what ain't fruits and nuts is flakes." I figure the idea of outreach is to educate - even the granolians.

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#27 StarGeazer

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 02:15 PM

Galliger said it about Hollywood. "It's like a bowl of granola, what ain't fruits and nuts is flakes." I figure the idea of outreach is to educate - even the granolians.


:funny:


:roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao:

#28 Skywatcher2011

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:01 PM

At the last outreach there was a guy who was really itching to get into a heated debate with me over the moon landings. He was quite literally laughing when he asked, "How do you know we really landed on the moon? How can anyone believe that?" I was in no mood to get into it and simply told him he should look at the entirety of the evidence. Its not ancient history, it happened in the last 40 years and most of the people involved in it are still alive. And in case ya didn't notice, the government ain't real good at keeping secrets. The moon landing deniers are essentially from the same camp as the 9/11 Truthers.

#29 StarStuff1

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 02:56 AM

One of the most often questions I am asked at a public outreach session is "How do you know that object is so and so?". When I used to use my personal scope I would answer "Because I have had three decades of experience looking and finding that object."

Now I use the club's 12-in Meade LX200 with GoTo. I answer "Because this scope has a GPS and automatic computer locator to find these thisngs". People understand this much easier and faster.

If someone asks if we can see the flag on the Moon I tell them that it is pointed straight at the Earth and so is too small to see. Depending on their reaction I usually chuckle and explain the real reason.

#30 freestar8n

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 04:43 AM

I think this is an interesting thread and I have similar experiences, but one thing I didn't see mentioned here (unless I overlooked it) is the question, "How much did this cost?"

I get that question from kids and adults - and even when they don't ask I can tell they are wondering it.

The way I answer it, which I think would be accurate for the setups many, but not all people have is, "Cheaper than a boat." I am not a boating person - but I believe the typical cost is pretty high relative to a typical star party setup - so it is an accurate reply that doesn't give away too much info - and makes owning such a setup not seem unusually exorbitant.

Things could be worse in terms of questions. I know someone who gave a long talk on native american artefacts to an elementary school class, and at the end he asked if there were any questions. The first was, "Why are you bald?"

I do occasionally have religion-based questions and I just talk about - whatever you believe - it's cool to look at the stuff up there. One guy tried to tip me a $20 after that.

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#31 desertstars

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 08:28 AM

That's a good point. I get the "How much does it cost?" question every single time I set up in public, whether it's a formal outreach event, or my driveway in view of dog walkers and neighbors. I usually respond first with what the basic rig I'm using (usually the SVP 8EQ) would cost. Some people are surprised it's not a lot more, other sort of choke and turn pale. At that point I explain the vast array of options for folks getting started. Those who are intimidated by the Newt's price generally raise an eyebrow when they learn they can buy a telescope as powerful as the one through which they just looked, but at a fraction of the price.

#32 MikeBOKC

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 08:32 AM

I always answer the cost question with "this basic scope costs about $2800 and the eyepieces and other accessories probably about another $1500." More often than not the response is "wow, I would have expected it to cost a whole lot more." In several cases I found that they were asking specifically because they were considering entering the hobby (or in some cases gifting a scope to children) so it sometimes helps expand the hobby to discuss costs. Hard to realize soemtimes, but people unfamilar with astro gear often think it is extravagantly expensive, usually over-estimating the real cost by multiples.

#33 tedbnh

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 06:15 PM

I am in the market for a 6" Orion dob, just to be able to bring it out to sidewalk events. Even brand new, at $299 it's infinitely better than any of the junk people will buy by the thousands this year at Walmart etc. (I use a mount which tracks for sidewalk astronomy, just for the convenience but I love showing people how good the view is in a small dob for real cheap money these days.)

My 8" dob is also great but a little much to recommend to a beginner as a first scope.

#34 frolinmod

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 09:26 PM

I am in the market for a 6" Orion dob, just to be able to bring it out to sidewalk events. Even brand new, at $299 it's infinitely better than any of the junk people will buy by the thousands this year at Walmart etc.

So true. However, I'm not impressed with the very short focal length Orion 6" dobs. They might be good for very small children, but for any kid over 8 and certainly for any adult I'd go with a 6" F/8. Taller and so easier to look through.

#35 DarkSkys

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 01:05 AM

I've had a few people want to talk UFO's, I usualy tell them in my opinion it's I don't know, I have never seen one and the fact that I personaly Have never seen one, doesnt mean it isnt possible.

I usualy just clam up when someone goes on a religious tangent. I'm here to show people the wonders of the usniverse, not discuss theology.

#36 tedbnh

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 02:47 PM

So true. However, I'm not impressed with the very short focal length Orion 6" dobs. They might be good for very small children, but for any kid over 8 and certainly for any adult I'd go with a 6" F/8. Taller and so easier to look through.


Sorry I should have been more clear, I was in fact referring to the Orion 6" F/8 dob (XT6, or XT6i if they want the Intelliscope option).

You are probably referring to the 4.5" Orion dob (XT4.5) and yes, that is way too short for most people.

#37 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 06:20 PM

Let's see. The Moon is about 250,000 miles away, and a telescope might max out at around 300X. That means you're seeing the Moon as it would appear from a distance of about 800 miles. Next time ask them if they think they could see a flag that was 800 miles away.

#38 desertstars

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 06:46 PM

Let's see. The Moon is about 250,000 miles away, and a telescope might max out at around 300X. That means you're seeing the Moon as it would appear from a distance of about 800 miles. Next time ask them if they think they could see a flag that was 800 miles away.


That's a good response. I'll have to keep that one in mind.

#39 magic612

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 07:48 PM

Let's see. The Moon is about 250,000 miles away, and a telescope might max out at around 300X. That means you're seeing the Moon as it would appear from a distance of about 800 miles. Next time ask them if they think they could see a flag that was 800 miles away.


That's a good response. I'll have to keep that one in mind.


I like that too. Even taken to a bit more of an extreme - 1000x - produces a result that they will comprehend quite readily, I'd imagine.

#40 Skylook123

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 11:10 PM

Nicely posed, Joe; a straightforward and easy to understand analogy that perfectly defines the condition.

#41 EdZ

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 04:25 PM

When asked How I know what that object is?
I engage in a discussion about maps of the USA and then maps of the states. I ask if they can tell from memory where some of the major cities are on a map. Of course everyone jumps up to say I can tell, I know. Know one wants to be viewed as not knowing where real basic places are on a map. That then leads into discussion that constellations are like states and stars within a constallation are like the major cities. If you can learn a map of the states, then learning a map of the sky is the same thing. As to how I point my scope right at it, then I might show my finder scope or my red dot finder with a brief explanation of how they work.

regarding cost of equipmet
I explain that some equipment can be bought relatively cheap, for a few hundred dollars, but that some can be much more costly, sort of like cheap and expensive cars and houses. I add, If you are interested in purchasing equipment for yourself or someone else, see me afterwards and we can discuss your needs and the intended use and users. I can give you some specific advice to you personal situation. If they approach me afterwards I will share specific details. Some people will press with questions, just because they want to know stuff that they have no business knowing. At that point I might point to one of my setups and say, something like that can be bought easily, then I might point to another setup and say, but it took me several years of saving before I had enough to buy that setup. The less I say is better.

When asked questions in a religious vein;
I almost always answer that I have studied the sciences of astronomy and light and optics, but not the theological studies of religion. It took me years of study to understand the subjects I know. It would take me more years of study of theology to fully understand and answer questions about religion, so I'm not really qualified to answer that question.

Typically I'm conducting outreach for small groups, scouts, school groups who have signed up for a program, etc. Occasionally there will be one person who will continually try to stump me. All the questions will be directed at finding something that I cannot answer. I'll answer all the easy stuff. If I realize this is all from one specific individual, I turn it back on them by saying;
I'm affraid that question is a bit beyond the scope of our intended program. Some of what you are asking would require additional research and study. I may have some books I can recommend for you and I can help you with a short list of the topics you would need to research if you are interested in additional study to find your answer. See me afterwards if you'd like and I can direct you to additional resources.
People whose mission is to stump you will almost always back down. Kids who really want to learn, if they approach me later, I'm more than happy to direct them to further resources and even share some of my books.

edz

#42 Traveler

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:51 AM

These are great suggestions edz!

#43 EdZ

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 09:06 AM

I also make it a point to NEVER belittle anyone or laugh or joke at anyone's questions.

What might seem silly to me may be dead serious to the questioner. Everyone I engage with gets the same respect as if I were in the classroom. After all, everyone is there to learn. The fact that there are no walls around us or books and desks makes little difference.

You never know what unsuitable response might turn off that person from ever asking questions again. That should be avoided at all costs.

edzz

#44 billyo

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 01:52 PM

Nice perspective Edz.

The hobby needs to somehow be careful of elitism.

#45 ion

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 01:45 PM

I ask them if the have seen the movies of the lunar rovers driving on the surface of the Moon.


I have no doubt we went to the moon but the least believable aspect has to be the notion that they brought an automobile up there and went for a spin. :lol:

#46 FirstSight

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 03:41 PM

The folks whose presence at an outreach event make me a bit nervous are those whose religious background make them firm believers in the "young earth/young universe" paradigm. The answers to many questions people have at outreach events often unavoidably involve answers that obviously are at least implicitly in sharp conflict with that paradigm. Far more often than not, you have no clue (or tactful way of inquiring) whether the questioner might be from that camp of belief before you venture your answer, and if that turns out to be so, whether that person might be inclined to initiate an awkward debate with you instead of simply shrugging and moving on politely.

I once participated in an outreach for home-schooled children where this explicitly came up from one mom when I was answering some questions about the craters visible through my telescope in the first-quarter moon that was up in the sky. Fortunately, the brief discussion with the mom about my answer stayed mutually respectful and non-confrontational, but I was a bit on my guard the rest of the evening about the possibility of a similar encounter with another parent when answering a similar question by their e.g. twelve-year old child. Fortunately, that did not happen. However, I decided that though I would avoid giving any unnecessarily provocative answers, neither would I dilute any answers to scrub scientific reality from them either. That approach has worked for me so far at outreach sessions, but the possibility of someday running into someone primed to engage a religion-infused debate with me over the answers is something I'm not sure I'm well as well-prepared to defuse as I'd like to think I would be.

#47 George N

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 09:27 PM

The folks whose presence at an outreach event make me a bit nervous are those whose religious background make them firm believers in the "young earth/young universe" paradigm. .......


I think that you can just say that you are there to offer views of the universe thru your telescope and that you *not* there to engage in a public “religious belief vs science debate”. Make clear that you will answer any questions asked with what is generally accepted in the scientific community, while acknowledging that scientific knowledge is always subject to improvement based upon additional observational and experimental evidence. You can add that people looking thru your telescopes have every right to interpret what they see in accordance with their own belief system, but that if they disagree with the findings of science they will have to determine what is “wrong” with the science on their own.

I am aware that “home schoolers” who actually request an observing session at a public observatory (or visit to a science museum) can be a problem if their intention is to shield their children from what is generally accepted in the scientific community. I don’t understand why they would not want their children to hear what “the scientists say” and then make whatever religious adjustments or disagreements they feel are needed. The kids are going to hear it all eventually anyway. These folks need to know what they are coming to if they “sign up” for an astronomy out reach session, and decide ahead of time if they will not find what is said acceptable for their children, rather than trying to force others from presenting what they want.

#48 George N

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 09:56 PM

I ask them if the have seen the movies of the lunar rovers driving on the surface of the Moon.


I have no doubt we went to the moon but the least believable aspect has to be the notion that they brought an automobile up there and went for a spin. :lol:


About a year ago I had a chance to discuss this with one of the guys (Alan Bean) who was a passenger on one of those “spins” and he said that he was rather upset with the “crazy driver" he was riding with's poor driving! :grin:

#49 Matthew Ota

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 01:44 AM

Just tell them
"Excuse me I have to attend to my next client." meaning the next person in line to look through the telescope.

#50 and75

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:27 PM

OMG if I examined statistically all the questions I have EVER got on public outreach, the result would be this:

"How much does this scope cost?" -> 60%
everything else from the big bang to the moon landing -> 40%

interesting, how people are material... btw every time I hear this, my answer is: "Sorry, my scope is not for sale, I made it, I love it, I would never sell it..." but when they aren't satisfied this, I usually tell: " No matter if a telescope is cheap or not, that is not the heart of the matter. The most important is that a department store telescope is enough to observe what Galileo Galilei saw through his simple scopes."

Moon-hoax: fortunately I don't hear about it too often. When somebody says "I read on the Internet (where else...: ) that we never landed on the moon" I reply with the other popular theory: "I also read on the same page that when we did NOT landed on the Moon, the astronauts - especially the one who was NOT there - saw little gray aliens and UFOs behind the big rocks, how can you explain this anomaly???"
... big silence every time: )))

But my favourite conteo was the "nibiru, running towards the Earth" Running, but never arriving... Now it seems this story is dead, fortunately...






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