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Drake Observatory series to study science fact vs. science fiction

April 9, 2010
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The difference between science fact and science fiction will
be the focus of a public presentation at the Drake Municipal Observatory on
Friday, April 9.

The event, titled "Fact vs. Fiction," is free and
open to the public. It will start at 8 p.m. at the observatory in Waveland Park
on the west side of Des Moines, 4898 Observatory Road, off of Polk Boulevard.
Parking is available adjacent to the observatory.

"Fact vs. Fiction" will explore whether or not
science fiction is a poor mirror of the truth.

"As Arthur C. Clark said, 'Truth, as always, will be
far stranger.' And the more we learn, the more this proves to be true,"
said Herbert Schwartz of Drake's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The lecture will touch on 17th century English author
Jonathan Swift, who wrote about the moons of Mars, their size and revolutions
with fairly accurate description about 150 years before they were discovered.
It will compare this accuracy with the inaccuracy of science fiction, and
determine the ability of fiction to mirror the truth.

This semester's series will focus on what astronomers and
the public believe to be true, but are often wrong. Topics will include basic
assumptions by the public regarding space and our universe, the doomsday
predictions of 2012 and others and the questions astronomers have yet to
answer.

Each week there is a
non-technical, illustrated presentation by Charles Nelson and Schwartz. Every
presentation is followed by the opportunity to view several stellar objects
through the large refracting telescope and several smaller reflecting
telescopes.

The programs are held regardless
of the weather, although the selection for observation is subject to change due
to sky conditions or other special circumstances. Individuals, families, and
small groups are welcomed to attend. A parent or responsible adult must
accompany children.

The schedule for the remainder of the spring series is
listed below:

  • April 16: "Seeing Is Not Believing"
  • April 23: "The End of the World STAR PARTY"
  • April 30: "There Be Dragons!!!"
  • May 7: "The Mystery Remains"

For more information, contact
Drake's Department of Physics and Astronomy at 515-271-3141.