Friday, February 15, 2008

Supernovae in the news


Image Credit: The Onion

It's difficult to find good science reporting in the news. By the time science news has been translated into a press release, digested by journalists who have some (but typically not extensive) science training, re-written into an article, and trimmed by editors with little or no science background, the resulting news often bears little resemblance to the initial annoucement, and the science content is greatly watered down. So, when an article about science comes out that almost manages to get facts straight, it is a joy to behold.

Yesterday, I was made aware of this article in the satirical newspaper The Onion. (Note to readers: although this article is fine, the Onion often contains material inappropriate for people under 18 years of age, so some of the links from this article are likely not for young eyes.) The article jokes about how NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal has become scared to play for the Phoenix Suns ever since he learned that the Sun is a star, and that aging supergiant stars tend to end their lives in tremendous explosions.

The article then goes on to describe several types of supernova explosions, and the descriptions are somewhat, though not completely, accurate. Whether the author of the article has taken an astronomy course or whether the article simply used some clever Wikipedia and Google skills, I don't know. But we in the Astronomy Department found it quite funny (probably funnier than we should have).

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