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Thread: Bad science in my atmospheric science textbook

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    Bad science in my atmospheric science textbook

    Last spring I took an atmospheric science class. I still have the book, because it was too interesting to sell back. I was looking through it, and read this:

    "Although solar radiation travels in a straight line, the gases and dust particles in the atmosphere can redirect this energy. This process, called scattering, is responsible for illuminating a shaded are of a room when direct sunlight is absent. Scattering also produces the so-called diffused light that accounts for the brightness of the daytime sky. In contrast, bodies like the moon and Mercury, which are without atmospheres, have dark skies and "pitch black" shadows, even during daylight hours." [all bold, italic and quotations are from the text, not added by me]

    Wow. I had forgotten about that. Apparently, though, I had stumbled across that almost a year ago, because, for the benifit of the next owner if I sold it, I had written, "Not true. Dust and gases are not responsible for shadow illumination. Illuminated objects around the shadows are responsible. The moon and Mercury do have black skies, but not all the shadows are pitch black."

    If anyone cares, it's from the textbook "The Atmosphere" by Fredrick K. Lutgens and Edward J. Tarbuck, sixth edition.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2004
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    Cool! I'm reading the very same book to prepare for Science Olympiad. I'll check it out.

  3. #3
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    Aug 2003
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    Brady! Where have you been man? Why does it seem like I haven't seen you around in awhile...

  4. #4
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    In contrast, bodies like the moon and Mercury, which are without atmospheres, have dark skies and "pitch black" shadows, even during daylight hours.
    Even during daylight hours? Are the shadows still there at night? Is Schroedingers cat dead?

    The sky we have does contribute to shadow illumination as does light reflected from other objects. In the case of a partially cloudy sky the sunlight reflected from clouds can increase the output of a solar panel in the sun by 30%. I wouldn't go too far with your "find" as they may well be referring to an ideal case of a flat plain with no other object nearby to reflect light into the shadow.

  5. #5
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    May 2004
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    I have a book entitled The Atmosphere, too (shocking, eh?), but it's by different authors.

  6. #6
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    Re: Bad science in my atmospheric science textbook

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Clifton
    I had written, "Not true. Dust and gases are not responsible for shadow illumination. Illuminated objects around the shadows are responsible.
    Dust and gases are a large part responsible for shadow illumination, though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan
    In contrast, bodies like the moon and Mercury, which are without atmospheres, have dark skies and "pitch black" shadows, even during daylight hours.
    Even during daylight hours? Are the shadows still there at night? Is Schroedingers cat dead?

    The sky we have does contribute to shadow illumination as does light reflected from other objects. In the case of a partially cloudy sky the sunlight reflected from clouds can increase the output of a solar panel in the sun by 30%. I wouldn't go too far with your "find" as they may well be referring to an ideal case of a flat plain with no other object nearby to reflect light into the shadow.
    I know that the atmosphere, which is illuminated by the sun (which is why it is blue) illuminates shadows, but the book stated that that is the ONLY way shadows are illuminated. The paragraph made no statement about the conditions necessary for pitch-black shadows (which would be perfectly flat ground, or at least no illuminated objects in view of the shadow). It merely said that due to the lack of an atmosphere, shadows are pitch black. Moon hoaxers probably would love that paragraph.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Yeah, I've been really busy at school... I'll be coming on everyday over winter break though.

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