The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Astronomy, Rock Guitarists, and Editorial Mistakes

I doubt that I will ever stop being amused at the rather bad vocabulary of people who should know better. Case in point - I recently found out that Brian May, the lead guitarist from the band Queen, holds a PhD in astrophysics. I thought this was pretty cool, so I decided to see if he had written anything for non-professional audiences, and indeed he has. He co-wrote a book that describes the history of the universe and it's projected end. If his writing is anything like his speech on the subject, I can only expect that it is clear and well-written (I'll be buying a copy for my partner, a Queen fan and a budding science fan).

That's all pretty damn cool. But in the review section of the above link, there's this gem of a quote:

"Highly recommended for community library astrology collections and for anyone who wants a unbiased look at the universe itself." -- Midwest Book Review

This is being recommended for astrology collections? Don't get me wrong, I am fully in favor of people who are into astrology actually getting some background in science and learning that astrology is nonsense, but I kind of doubt that this is what the reviewer meant to imply.

It's a weirdly common mistake, though. I once had a housemate who was absolutely convinced that astronomy was the superstitious thing with the newspaper columns and 1-900 numbers, and that astrology was the science with the telescopes and math and whatnot. I had to show him several books on the subject (including Phil Plait's footnote about this in Death from the Skies) for him to believe me that is as astronomy that was the science.

Of course, within a week, he was back to confusing the words again.


Brian J. said...

It's a logical mistake, really - one would expect the word with the suffix "-ology" to refer to a scientific field, like most similar terms.

Anthroslug said...

True. But I still find it funny.