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6 Myths Everyone Believes about Space (Thanks to Movies)

#3. Meteorites Are Hot

Let's say a meteorite landed in your yard, right now. You run out there and see the thing sitting in a little crater.

Would you touch it?

Hell, no. Not until it cools down, right? After all, these things follow trails of flame through the sky. You've seen it in every disaster movie -- take the scene in Armageddon where the smoking, fiery meteor shower bombards New York, exploding stuff on impact.


It's never Dave's mom's house that these things crash into, is it?

Although we realize this is not the most scientifically accurate of movies, that's the one scene they might have gotten right. Where a meteor lands, you'll find a charred, smoking crater. Right?

The Reality:

Said chunks of rock have been in the balls-shriveling cold of space (about 3 degrees above absolute zero) for billions and billions of years. When they enter the atmosphere, they're only there for a few minutes because of their extreme speed. This means that no matter what Michael Bay would have you believe, meteors just don't have the time to become all scorching hot and explodey before impact. In fact, they're usually just lukewarm when they hit.

Wikipedia
Less dangerous than a Hot Pocket.

But what about the fireball, then? Most everyone has seen a meteor shower, and those bastards are most definitely on fire.

In fact, the fireball has little to do with the actual physical meteor. The flames we see are the air in front of the object being compressed at incredibly high speeds by ram pressure. Basically, the meteor has a layer of air in front of it, surfing the shock wave it creates all the way down. That layer of air is what gets heated to the point of catching fire.

Wikipedia
With those wriggly tails this is all starting to look like interstellar bukkake.

The phenomenon actually does manage to heat up the outer layers of the meteor somewhat, but since those always get blown off on impact, that doesn't really matter. So the next time a meteor lands, just go pick that shit up! Rub it on your face, it's fine.

#2. People Explode in the Vacuum of Space

In the red corner: Human. A tiny, moist creature made of warmth, mushiness and various internal pressures.

In the blue corner: The Vacuum of Space. The ultimate hostile environment, containing nothing but coldness and black hatred toward your mortal husk.

Wikipedia
"I'M A NEBULA. GET A PROPER JOB."

We've all seen how it works in countless B-movies and low-budget sci-fi shows: If you go out there without a spacesuit, space will explode the shit out of you. The pressure inside you compared to the pressure outside you will turn you inside out in the blink of an eye. It made a guy's eyes pop out of his skull in Total Recall, and even Bart and Homer Simpson died this way during a Halloween episode.


Most people (correctly) assume that if the pressure outside an object is greater than the pressure inside, the object goes boom like a balloon in the upper atmosphere. So, if you take a human outside of the pressure of our atmosphere, after a few seconds, it's splat.

The Reality:

Actually, Stanley Kubrick got it right in 2001: A Space Odyssey when astronaut Bowman totally survives a space walk without a helmet. You wouldn't want to hang around all day -- you can't breathe, after all -- but your head isn't going to pop like a meat balloon, either.


If it did, you can bet Kubrick would have insisted on a real-life demonstration.

Fortunately, humans have a bunch of things going for us that balloons don't. The main ones are our skin and circulatory system. The former does its job of containing and protecting our body so well it can actually negate the effect of explosive decompression.

Meanwhile, the latter can adapt to new environments so well that the blood keeps going just fine instead of instantly starting to boil. Even freezing isn't an immediate issue despite the cold environment, as there's not much matter in space to absorb your body heat.

In fact, the main dangers of being out of your suit in space are oxygen-related: breathing, naturally, and also holding air in your lungs, which leads into the lung-inflating trauma scuba divers get when surfacing too quickly from great depths.

prilfish
Why go to space when you can explode your eyeballs right on your own doorstep!

Though that's not to say space won't kill your ass if you just decide to hang around wearing nothing but a respirator and a Speedo. It totally will. It just won't be as hilarious to watch.

#1. There Is a Permanent Dark Side of the Moon

Getty

Well, this one is basic astronomy, right? The moon has a dark side that catches less sunlight than the average ass. It's a freezing, dark wasteland that is eternally doomed to face away from the bringer of warmth that its other side is constantly graced by.

As a result, the dark side of the moon is a place of myth, mystery and fear in popular culture, equally useful for hiding ancient Transformer technology as it is for inspiring freaky, progressive music.


If you play the moon phases backward to this album, you'll hear God telling you to get a girlfriend.

The Reality:

There isn't a dark side of the moon, any more than there's a dark side of the Earth. It's true that the moon is left with only one side facing the Earth at any given time. Facing Earth at any given time, not the sun.

Barring eclipses and other anomalies, this side of the moon gets exactly the same amount of light as the face side, just at different times (on Earth, scientists refer to this phenomenon as "night").

NASA
That's the time when light levels drop to 4 and mobs start attacking you.

We just don't see it ourselves because it faces away from us. There is, after all, a "far side" of the moon, because the same part of the moon is always facing us. But that doesn't mean the other side is bathed in darkness; the whole myth of the dark side is humanity applying the same logic babies use when you put your face behind your hands: "Can't see it? Not there."

Wikipedia
"What's that? Moon ass."

Go to space with Cracked and watch the trailer for our new Star Wars mini-series.

For more things Hollywood's got wrong, check out 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You'd Survive (Thanks to Movies) and 5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies).

And stop by LinkSTORM to see the dark side of Cody's ass.

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