Fact and Fancy about the Moon: Pseudo-science, Science Fiction, Poetry, and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Lunar EPO

Andrew Fraknoi

Foothill College & the Astronomical Society of the Pacific


1. To understand some of the mistaken ideas students and the public have about the Moon’s effects on the Earth and our lives (note that this is different from scientific misconceptions about the Moon’s motions, which will be covered in week 7)

2. To get to know at least one science fiction story with good astronomical information about the Moon and to see how the Moon can still play a role in inspiring modern science fiction.

3. To come up with your own examples of the Moon in popular culture and to think of ways of integrating interdisciplinary approaches in your education and outreach work.

Week Four Homework

1. Read the short story Walk in the Sun and describe two lessons this would teach a student about the Moon.

2. Have a discussion with your family or a group of friends and come up with at least ten examples of the Moon in popular culture. (This could be songs, movies, products, etc. -- for example, Eclipse gum or the songs Blue Moon and Walking on the Moon by the Police.) If this is fun, see how many you and your group can come up with and from how wide a range of popular culture.

3. Ask students or coworkers what they have heard about the effect of the full moon on human behavior. If they give you a blank look, hint at what they may have heard that people in emergency rooms, police and firefighters, or staff in baby delivery rooms say. Try to get a diverse range of people to talk to you about this in the course of the week and tally their responses into general categories. There is a widely shared sense among the general population that the full moon causes crazy behavior (“lunacy”) and we will talk a bit about this during the week. But it would be nice to see if you can find evidence of this belief among people you work with.
4. Please look through the Moon in Popular Culture Resource Guide and describe how you might use some of these resources in your EPO work.

Extra Credit

If you are interested in more general interdisciplinary approaches to astronomy education, you might check out one or more of the following papers:

Music in Astronomy Education: http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=193

Dealing with Astronomical Pseudoscience in Education:

Astronomy and Poetry in Education: http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=10

Teaching Astronomy with Science Fiction: http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=33