Light Years Ago

Spotted this in The Times today: Letter reference...

Sir, Mr Martin Morris (letter, October 13) says the light we see from stars is out of date in the sense that it left the object often many light years ago.

A light year is a measure of distance, not time. Stars are often many light years away. I wonder if they have pedantry in space.

Yours faithfully,


80 Mannamead Road,

Plymouth PL3 4SY.

October 13.

Ah well, at least they were brave enough to publish this as a correction.

I was just thinking though - when it comes to the public understanding of science, scientists don't often do themselves any favours; to steal an example from my brother's fiancee, think about a nuclear container. Nuclear fuel is, according to the public perception (and rightfully so to a certain extent) very very dangerous. It needs to be handled and transported very securely and carefully; what do scientists decide to put it in? A flask.

Imagine you're a member of the public. Your perception of a 'flask' is a vacuum flask that you keep your tea warm in. Not the most robust thing you've got to keep things in - in fact, one of the more fragile things! So why on earth are nuclear fuels transported in them?

Physicists/scientists in general need better communications skills - and to think about things like this!

Posted in astro blog by Peter on Friday 22nd Oct 2004 (17:45 UTC) | Permalink
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