Grandma is affraid of the end of the world

Yes. She does. Here is how it goes.

My grandma payed us a visit and actually ( really ) asked mom if she could stay the night over because she heard at the news that because of the moon the dam from Bicaz ( a close-by location ) will collapse and flood her home with the entire region. Since we are uphill and away from the danger of "the great flood" she thought she could stay here. She actually brought her meds. She is seriously afraid.

Seems familiar? I heard you guys have Fox News up there and now I am starting to understand what you guys go through.

We shouldn't let this go unnoticed right? So here I go.

After some laughs I started my research and gathered data on the moon/earth from WolframAlpha. Took my pen&paper and my basketball ball and set up an experiment.

From my calculation, if my basketball ( 25cm dimeter ) was Earth then my pingpong ( 3.3 cm after the math ) could be a good aproximation of the moon. As we all know, now, the moon is at its perigee ( it is the closest to Earth ) and everybody freaked out. I then got into a conversation and explained why what she heard was rubbish.

I put the "moon" in her hands and I held the "earth" and I asked her what is the distance, at that scale, that the moon is from earth. She represented about half a meter ( from intuition ). After my calculations, at that scale, the moon would have been about 150 meters far away and I pointed to a stop sign out the window.

She, including my brother, were a little surprised. Despite all that, she kept on saying that what she heard was true because scientists ( non existent ones for sure, considering the media here in Romania ) have looked it over. Well I looked over it and the moon at the basketball scale has been moved from an average of 150m to 140m ( because the moon is at its perigee ) and there is nothing to worry. Just a 7% change in distance and a minor one in gravity.

After further discussions I found out she thinks that the sun/moon caused what happened in Japan. I explained how the plate tectonics move. She still thinks that an eclipse and sun spots are literary 'disaster causers'.

She still wants to sleep over...

Views: 22

Comment by Scarlette Blues on March 18, 2011 at 12:56pm
You gotta love old people. :)
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 18, 2011 at 1:03pm
Make her some hot cocoa and put her to bed.  My grandfather thought that some 'strange looking dust' on his car was 'radiation' from the Chernobyl disaster.
Comment by Radu Andreiu on March 18, 2011 at 3:52pm

OK, here comes Technical Grinch to steal Christmas. :P

I just want to point out that you made some mistakes in your calculations. The (average) diameter of the Earth is  12,735 km (7,913.1 miles), while the diameter of the Moon is 3,475 km (2,159.3 miles). This means that, given the diameter of the basketball (25 cm) the moon would be 6.822 cm in diameter. This would correspond to a radius of 3.411 cm, which is close to the 3.3 cm ball you mentioned. Maybe you meant the radius in the first place, so sorry if I didn't understand this properly. But here comes the neat part, because the distance between the balls would be nowhere near 150 meters, but merely 7.558 meters if we consider the average distance, or 7.0115 meters if we consider the distance at the March 19th perigee, which is still considerably bigger than the half meter your grandma thought would be correct. I think the average distance from Moon to Earth is something like 385,000 km, which is clearly only about 30 times bigger than the diameter of the Earth. That told me your calculations couldn't be correct.

Anyway, interesting fact: (without doing the actual calculations) the distance between the Earth and the Sun would convert into a distance of something like 3.4 - 3.5 km from your 25 cm in diameter "Earth" basketball. That's a pretty big distance, I'd say.


Nice story with your grandma, by the way. I'm fortunate mine is a really sweet barely religious lady. She taught me so many great things about tolerance of different beliefs and humility in holding beliefs. "No one really knows the truth", she told me several times. "All I know is that we need to be kind with and love one another, because kindness and love transcend creeds and faiths as nothing less than a human need". I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that's pretty much the religion my family taught me. It was only after coming in contact with religion teachers at my school that I learned about the intolerance and ugliness of religion. Thank God I'm an atheist now. :)

On a side note, on of my college professors seems pretty scared of the year 2012. I think he plans to make provisions for the "fateful" day of 21 December and wait whatever happens in the company of his family, because "in the end, that's all which matters". That's a nice thought, but I'm relieved that, with one notable exception, my colleagues either weren't really interested in the subject, or just considered the professor's "confession" ridiculous. It's a good sign for my generation.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 18, 2011 at 4:00pm
I believe that Dec 21, 2012 will be the LONGEST night of that thar winter!  That is my prediction.  Thank you, I'm here all week.
Comment by Loop Johnny on March 19, 2011 at 5:40am
@Radu Thx for correcting. I think I forgot to convert cm into km and radius to diameter.


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