Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The moon and lack of culture

By Martí­n Bonfil Olivera
Published in
Milenio Diario, July 22, 2009

Last Monday, on the 40th anniversary of the day humans stepped on the moon, the radio talk hosts of El Weso, a popular Mexican radio show on W Radio (of which I'm a fan) showed a regrettable lack of scientific culture.

When the question of whether the moon landing was real popped —you might have heard the nonsense that it was filmed in a TV studio—, they answered "we'll never know"! And singer Fernando Rivera Calderón added that going to the moon was "useless" (I wonder, my admired Fernando, and what about poetry? Do you think it serves any purpose? These are the wrong questions to ask). It had to be Rodolfo Neri Vela, the first Mexican to go to outer space, who amended them for good.

The problem is not that our lack of information and our tendency to believe in complots carry us to be unsure even of one of the greatest scientific-technical achievements in history. What's alarming is to confirm that science is still absent from the average Mexican popular culture, and that it is being suplanted by all kinds of absurd beliefs.

More examples: astrologer Amira, also in W Radio, announces "Did you know that the positions of the stars can directly influence your health, your finances and even love? No lady: we know perfectly that the position of the stars does not directly nor indirectly influence that at all, and to propagate these false ideas and on top of it charge for them is a fraud. Why can't the Mexican consumer protection agency do something about it?

On Friday, a columnist from MILENIO Diario published that on "December 21 of 2012… there will be an astronomical phenomenon that occurs every 26,000 years: the sun will align with the center of the milky way… where there is a black hole, manufacturer and deestructor of stars". He adds that the Mayas mention this specific day as the final date in their calendar". (It's a shame that to be able to speak of an alignment you need at least three points, that black holes don't manufacture stars, and the supposed "end of the world" announced by the Mayas is another nonsense story).

As a final offense, just outside my house there was a sign: "Loose weight with laser. 100% natural" (a 100 % natural laser??)

There's no doubt: the lack of scientific culture of Mexicans is galloping. We science communicators could very well double our efforts.

(translated by Adrián Robles Benavides)

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