April 6, 2005


a few of my favorite quotes from non-major astronomy exams i graded last summer:

how are extrasolar planets detected?
"extrasolar planets have been detected and it is known that they exist in our solar system"

"extrasolar planets have been detected through syncrotron radiation"
what is the trip to venus that requires the least amount of energy? draw if nessasary

"least energy orbit to venus is at the solstice when the sun's gravity is least"
"follow the gravity pulls from planets and let the spaceship ride that wave from one side to the next"
and about 50% of the rest said something gleamed entirely from science-fiction movies and never discussed in the course like,
"use a gravity slingshot by going around the moon"

"slingshot around the sun"

"gravitational slingshot..."

"take a slingshot and hit me between the eyes with a sharp rock because i'm a retard"
ok, that last one was made up, but the rest are actual quotes.

most of the people in that class seemed to think that short answer questions in astronomy are like the ones in english or some other dopey humanity subject, as in: partial credit no matter what you write. they are not. if something is completely wrong it's completely wrong. and astronomers know it, because you see, in science there is such a thing as a right answer. i handed out many a zero that day my friends.