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General Astronomy >> Outreach

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EdZ
Professor EdZ
*****

Reged: 02/15/02

Loc: Cumberland, R I , USA42N71.4W
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Skylook123]
      #4955321 - 12/07/11 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


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Traveler
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/19/07

Loc: The Netherlands
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: EdZ]
      #4956117 - 12/08/11 12:51 AM

These are great suggestions edz!

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EdZ
Professor EdZ
*****

Reged: 02/15/02

Loc: Cumberland, R I , USA42N71.4W
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Traveler]
      #4956411 - 12/08/11 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


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billyo
super member
*****

Reged: 07/03/04

Loc: TEXAS
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: EdZ]
      #4956839 - 12/08/11 01:52 PM

Nice perspective Edz.

The hobby needs to somehow be careful of elitism.


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ion
professor emeritus


Reged: 04/26/08

Loc: Bortle Scale 2
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: magic612]
      #4997523 - 01/02/12 01:45 PM

Quote:

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.


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FirstSight
Duke of Deneb
*****

Reged: 12/26/05

Loc: Raleigh, NC
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: ion]
      #4997694 - 01/02/12 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.


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George N
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/19/06

Loc: Binghamton & Indian Lake NY
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: FirstSight]
      #5000011 - 01/03/12 09:27 PM

Quote:

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.


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George N
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/19/06

Loc: Binghamton & Indian Lake NY
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: ion]
      #5000057 - 01/03/12 09:56 PM

Quote:

Quote:

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.




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!


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Matthew Ota
Hmmm


Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Los Angeles, California
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: George N]
      #5031527 - 01/22/12 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.


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and75
member


Reged: 08/31/10

Loc: Hungary
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists [Re: desertstars]
      #5938319 - 06/24/13 04:27 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...

Edited by and75 (06/25/13 02:15 AM)


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Doc Willie
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 03/31/10

Loc: Mid-Hudson Valley, NY, USA
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: ion]
      #5952946 - 07/03/13 11:37 AM

Quote:


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.




Hmph.



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Gil V
professor emeritus


Reged: 09/09/12

Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Doc Willie]
      #5953011 - 07/03/13 12:16 PM

Bean flew in Apollo 12. No rovers flew until Apollo 15.

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Matthew Ota
Hmmm


Reged: 04/30/05

Loc: Los Angeles, California
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Skywatcher2011]
      #5955419 - 07/04/13 11:56 PM

The most common question I hear is:

"How much does the telescope cost?"

I explain how I got a $4000 telescope for $300 by cobbling together used parts.

The next question is:

"How much does the telescope weigh?"

I tell them it weighs five grunts...as it takes some physical lifting work to unload and load it into my truck, and to mount the OTA/Fork assembly onto the tripod/base.


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csrlice12
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Matthew Ota]
      #5955709 - 07/05/13 08:44 AM

It's a homing beacon to the mother planet and the invasion fleet should be here within minutes now........appears Earth has been sucking up photons with large tube photon accumulators without MWOA (Milky Way Owner's Association)approval.

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csrlice12
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Handling odd questions and conspiracy theorists new [Re: Skylook123]
      #5956097 - 07/05/13 01:21 PM

Quote:

My situation was somewhat like Jason's, except they were not home schooled; they were high schoolers pumped up by their Christian Academy background to be nearly street corner preachers. It so disarmed them when I manipulated their concept that it stopped them in their tracks. It is difficult to try to have them learn something when they are not interested in the eye candy nor the science facts. There were on a mission of self-validation. I gave them a comfortable escape for themselves. If they wanted to introduce the concept of an all-omniscient presence responsible for all that we see, then I led them acknowledge this presence in the laws of nature, and their responsibility to learn the manifestation of these laws. They ended up darn close to being science groupies so they could find their creator's presence in the works. Rookies. I felt relieved when no adult teachers or parents showed up to get the A Team involved in the discussion. The kids were ready for a verbal joust, and I think they were stunned a bit at the outcome. I think I was the one astronomer who treated them with respect as long as they showed the willingness to engage in a conversation. I've had some at the Grand Canyon Star Party that were so dogmatic I did not engage, but changed the topic.

My toughest verbal opponents just might be my younger sister and brother-in-law; they are convinced that the earth is hollow and that UFOs are the vehicles of an underground civilization that enters and leaves the underworld through a hole near the North Pole. And about twenty other fringe beliefs.




How do you know they're your sister and brother-in-law and have not been taken over by aliens from the center of the Earth?????


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