Fed Ex Superbowl commercial Bad Astronomy

Contributed by
Feb 5, 2007

I missed the Superbowl yesterday because, well, I don't give a damn about the Superbowl (I stopped caring about football a few years back when when I realized I was wondering which team had more felons on it).

I wish I had watched it though; evidently Fed Ex had an ad that was really, really Bad Astronomy. I searched YouTube, and bang, there it was.

Now I know this is a commercial and it's meant to be silly, but it reinforces so many misconceptions I just have to say something.

The bad science is fast and furious here. We see a base on the Moon, and in the background a meteor flashes by. A meteor, on the airless Moon. Oops! Meteors are formed when bits of rock, ice or metal enter an atmosphere. They create a shock wave in front of them which compresses the air, and compressed air gets hot. The rock heats up, starts to glow, and voila. Meteor. So on the Moon, with no air, the rock/ice/metal slams directly into the surface, making a crater.

OK, then we see the scene inside the lunar base... and everyone is floating. Uh, there's gravity on the Moon, folks. It's 1/6 Earth gravity, but it's there. It's very common, shockingly, for people to think there is no gravity on the Moon (search Google for "heavy boots"), but to see it in an ad can only make things worse for me here at Bad Astro central.

Then it gets worse. Yes! They cut outside to astronauts walking around, and the gravity looks to be Moon normal! That only lasts until one astronaut slaps another on the back, and the slappee is launched into space. Nice trick; even on the Moon a man in a suit would weigh about 35 or more pounds. Try launching a 35 pound weight 20 yards in the air if you'd like, but have your medical insurance paid up before you do.

The final insult? The astronaut launched off the surface is struck by a meteor.

Sigh. My work is never done.

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