World renowned astronomer makes stop in Tyler - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

World renowned astronomer makes stop in Tyler


Dr. Phil Plait made a couple appearances in Tyler on Tuesday. Who is Phil Plait? He's a world renowned astronomer who takes the myth out of science. At Tyler Junior College he told students and faculty that the world will not end this year.

We caught up with him at Moore Middle School where he spoke about the possibility of a planet smashing asteroid hitting the earth and, he says, Hollywood doesn't have that one right yet.

Can you stand an egg on end the first day of spring? Dr. Phil Plait says yes... but you can also do it any other day of the year if you're patient.

Actually, he was surprised to hear none of the students in attendance had heard that myth. He likes to think that maybe bad science like that is being forgotten, which is sort of his mission.

Today he attacked incorrect solutions aimed at a possible extinction event: blowing apart the killer asteroid.

"In fact, blowing it up is one of the worst things you could do," He said.

He goes on to explain it might just crack it in half or tear it into a whole bunch of smaller radioactive meteors, which may actually be worse. And, it would be really hard to do.

"They're coming in ten or twenty times faster than a rifle bullet, so just even hitting them is hard. And then, detonating your bomb when its coming in that quickly? You'd have to have like millisecond timing. There's just no way to do it," he said.

He says the answer lies in football.

"Hit it just like a linebacker hitting a quarterback and push it out of the way," he said.

But, if we can't move it, we can just head to the nearest solar system, right?

"It would take tens or even hundreds of thousands of years to get there," He told the students.

Well, I certainly don't have the patience for that trip. Then the good doctor opened it up for questions.

"What about exploring out of our galaxy, The Milky Way?" A student asked.

"What about exploring out of our galaxy, The Milky Way? Unless we can invent faster than light travel, and I don't know if that's even possible, but until we can do that we're stuck here. We'll never even be able to get out of our solar system let alone our galaxy," he answered.

I took the opportunity to ask him a question burning in the minds of many East Texans:

"What about ancient aliens?"

"What about them? I'm not at liberty to say." He said.

He said he didn't work for NASA..maybe he works for a different branch of the government.

If you'd like the chance to ask Dr. Plat this question, or maybe a different question, he's holding an interactive lecture called "Death from the skies" tonight at 6:30 at the Center for Earth and Space Science on the TJC campus.

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