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#1 desertlens

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 01:01 PM

There have been a number of threads related to odd or confrontational questions from friends, bystanders or outreach participants but I thought it might be entertaining to hear about those that were actually intriguing or challenging. I observe alone so that I can concentrate but questions arise when folks find out how I spend my nights. Here's my favorite:

What do you think about when you look through your telescope?
I had to think a bit but replied: Miracles and Beauty.
Their follow-up question was:
Do you think that science kills miracles?
My response was: No... it validates them. I offered to lend them a copy or Richard Dawkins' "The Magic of Reality". They declined.

Would anyone care to share their own experience with "interesting questions?

#2 csrlice12

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 01:58 PM

When someone hollers out "SKUNK"; that's not a question..... :lol:

#3 desertlens

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 02:03 PM

When someone hollers out "SKUNK"; that's not a question.....



No, that's entertainment. :cool:

#4 csrlice12

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 02:18 PM

Happened at a star party with about 30 people and lots of expensive equipment...it was chaos...(but it was entertaining).

Going to have to borrow that "No, it validates them" line...cause it's true.

#5 StarStuff1

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 03:22 PM

Unfortunately it is not really interesting, at least not to a seasoned observer. But still, these questions most often come from someone who is looking through a telescope for the first time. Heard here before but:

How much did this cost (scope)?

How far can it see?

Wow, this is hard to believe! (when observing a galaxy or SN remnant or planetary nebula)

This is from the public. The college students usually ask more pointed questions as they are supposed to be learning things.

#6 desertlens

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 03:52 PM

I get these questions too and have some rather stock answers... less than a big screen TV... about 2 billion light years (3C273)... believe it and enjoy the "wow" etc. But occasionally someone is actually thinking beyond the telescope itself.

#7 StrangeDejavu

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 04:02 PM

Not really interesting, but my Uncle's new wife surprised me with her observation once. My family owns land in northern Florida, we go up once a month and camp. I set up my 4" f/10, pointed it at Saturn and offered to show the family. All the kids were extremely impressed, my Uncle was also amazed. When his wife approached the eyepiece, she looked at it for probably 30 seconds before saying "Why does it look so bad?". She was unimpressed and couldn't grasp why it didn't look as good as Hubble photos. I tried to explain to her how Hubble has no atmosphere and unstable air to look through, and she just didn't understand the concept at all. :foreheadslap:

A friend once asked what was so great about looking at the sky that i'd spend thousands to do so. He then added why I would spend that money when it could be used to make an amazing gaming computer, etc. I had a tough time answering it, but ultimately it came down to the connection I feel when i'm outside alone with Saturn or M13. It's like a mini-vacation for me, where the stresses of life are on hold until i'm finished. :cool:

#8 desertlens

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 12:21 PM

It's like a mini-vacation for me...



Me too. But I do find it odd that there are so few thoughtful questions. I suspected as much when I was writing the original post. I must confess that the question I mentioned is probably the only one I've heard aside from the "usual suspects".

Most people are satisfied with the vicarious experiences provided by Hubble and the remarkably good work of so many amateur astrophotographers. These are beautiful but I'm also fond of a direct experience.

#9 jerwin

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 01:02 PM

I had a woman make me think to myself I need to brush up om my moon landing conspiracy theories before I do outreach again. She was all over the board. She said a friend of a friend worked for NASA and he had moon rocks in his garden, just like they were nothing, but at the same time she said the radiation would have killed them. The front of their suits would have been hundred of degrees while the back of their suits would have been been however cold and there was no frost (which thinking back at this now, you need water molecules to make frost, so that would have answered that one). Their air tanks were bigger than the lander's door hatch. The only one she said that I had heard before was the flag waving in the "wind" that I saw once on Mythbusters.

Takes a certain kind of "crazy" to see someone doing something nice for the public and just stand there and monopolize their time drilling them on stuff like it was my conspiracy secret that I was trying to keep under wraps, and she was about to get me to admit the whole thing was a sham.

Had another guy 3 days later during public solar observing ask me why the sun hasn't burned out. Which was kind of a though provoking question, to wish I only answered, the sun just has so much hydrogen in it, that it can burn for billions of years. But it kind of made me think twice about how big the sun is, how every second it's smashing these particles together, and just how many particles that would actually be for it to take billions of years. The guy turned out to be religious and I think was trying to say the physics of it didn't matter, it only was there because God wanted it to be. And I believe in God so I didn't want to dispute that, I just tried to make him understand that you can look at something beautiful and mysterious without understanding how it works, or even needing to understand how it came about, and that's all we were trying to do was let people in the park see something they've never seen before. I'm not sure if he thought just because we're standing in the park with a telescope, we must all be scientists, and if we were scientists, we must be telling people there isn't a god. Don't really know. Don't want this to turn into a religious debate, just thought this first question was kind of thought provoking, to just try to think of the scale of things.

Jim

#10 desertlens

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 01:29 PM

...a friend of a friend...



... a most suspicious evidence chain... red flags and alarm bells. :question:

#11 sg6

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 01:37 PM

Started out by being asked about a few constellations and stars.

Then came So how do they identify planets orbiting them.
Managed to explain that by describing the 2 main options and that was well accepted, and off she went.

Came back 15-20 minutes later to ask Could I explain cosmological expansion to her.

Think I managed a suitable explanation as off she went again very happy and fortunately for me did not return before we packed up.

All this occured at an Astronomy section of a university on a public evening with several PhD students listening to the conversation, however they all managed to stay out of it. :lol: :lol:

#12 desertlens

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 01:49 PM

sg6,
Actually, these were very good questions and it sounds like she got some good answers. At least she was thinking about what it means rather than what it costs. My compliments to your questioner. :bow:

#13 amicus sidera

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 08:53 PM

I had a woman make me think to myself I need to brush up om my moon landing conspiracy theories before I do outreach again.


Just agree with her (it's usually a her)... they'll often act kind of shocked, then wander away. Either that, or you've got female companionship for the night. You know what they say about the crazy ones...


Had another guy 3 days later during public solar observing ask me why the sun hasn't burned out.



Look worried, take them aside, ask where they heard about it, and swear them to silence "to prevent panic".


I'm not sure if he thought just because we're standing in the park with a telescope, we must all be scientists...


I do nothing to dissuade them of that notion... my goatee, unlit pipe and jacket elbow patches, along with my minion's white lab coats and clipboards, reinforce that perception nicely.

Fred





P.S. For those rigid, humorless souls who might read this, I AM JOKING.






P.P.S. Yes, I really do have minions.

#14 Dr Morbius

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 10:19 PM

Really?

#15 Dr Morbius

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 10:20 PM

:lol: :lol: :lol:

#16 amicus sidera

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 07:16 AM

Well... one minion, actually... and only when she feels like cooperating...


:grin: :grin: :grin:

#17 desertlens

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 11:24 AM

IME, many people are "ground bound" in their perception. Life is complicated and they just can't or wont think beyond a fairly narrow vision. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists want to debunk the obvious so that they don't have to think about the implications. My OP was the result of a lack of interesting questions, which I found curious. It would appear that this disparity is common.

#18 skyguy88

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 04:11 PM

The questions that you are asked depend to a significant extent on what you present. I've done three video based outreach events in the last six nights and more than 150 in recent years and have had plenty of good questions.

I can energize a conversation by introducing the number of galaxies in the universe. That almost always draws a question about how we can know that. That question has been asked so often that I now bring up the Hubble ultra deep field image to demonstrate.

I use a Milky Way model address many issues. Last night when we were looking at M17 on screen someone else pointed out its location in the sky and I brought out the model to show where we are and where M17 is. One of our visitors asked why Spirals have their shape.

Last night I was asked what shooting stars are, whether there are stars outside of galaxies, multiple black hole questions and enough interesting questions to keep me energized for 4 hours.

I think that what gets people engaged and questioning is related to the ideas that you can get people to think about. And that's what makes outreach rewarding for me.

Bill

#19 Noisykids

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 05:32 PM

I had a woman make me think to myself I need to brush up om my moon landing conspiracy theories before I do outreach again.


Just agree with her (it's usually a her)... they'll often act kind of shocked, then wander away. Either that, or you've got female companionship for the night. You know what they say about the crazy ones...


Had another guy 3 days later during public solar observing ask me why the sun hasn't burned out.



Look worried, take them aside, ask where they heard about it, and swear them to silence "to prevent panic".


I'm not sure if he thought just because we're standing in the park with a telescope, we must all be scientists...


I do nothing to dissuade them of that notion... my goatee, unlit pipe and jacket elbow patches, along with my minion's white lab coats and clipboards, reinforce that perception nicely.

Fred





P.S. For those rigid, humorless souls who might read this, I AM JOKING.






P.P.S. Yes, I really do have minions.



i'm picturing Clyde Crashcup here, with Leonardo playing the part of the minion.

#20 Bruce N

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 01:13 AM

Asking why the Sun hasn't burned out is a reasonable question. We know that it will burn out someday- even if its billions of years in the future. Its an opportunity to discuss the life cycle and lifespan of stars.

#21 csrlice12

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:29 AM

"One of our visitors asked why Spirals have their shape."

Cause at the center of spiral galaxies (like our own, don't forget that!) is a giant sucking black hole that will eventually eat the entire galaxy....tell them they have enough time to get their affairs in order.......unless the sun burns out first....... :lol:

#22 pdxmoon

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 12:57 PM



i'm picturing Clyde Crashcup here, with Leonardo playing the part of the minion.


I go more for the Leo G. Caroll look.

LEO G. CAROLL

#23 amicus sidera

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 01:21 PM




i'm picturing Clyde Crashcup here, with Leonardo playing the part of the minion.


I go more for the Leo G. Caroll look.

LEO G. CAROLL



Precisely.

:grin:

Fred

#24 csrlice12

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 02:09 PM

This one from my wife: "You bought ANOTHER eyepiece?"

#25 Noisykids

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:06 PM

leo g. carroll! when i was about ten the family went to nyc and philadelphia to do the tourist thing. we were walking along the street in philly and along comes leo g. carroll. and i gasped.."It's Topper!"






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