Here’s my thing. I’m at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con with 160,000 crazed people. So, when I get into line, to start a bit of conversation I say, “Hi. I’m trying to meet everyone at this year’s Comic-Con. I have only 159,900 people to go. Where are you from?”
While at a press conference waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich to appear, I chatted with several media representatives who may be adding Astronomy to their reading lists in the near future. // All photos: Michael E. Bakich
After a few chuckles, I’ve had some great conversations with people from Oregon, England, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and more. And when they find out what I do, the comments start flying. OK, my questions help a bit.
Anyway, here are seven misconceptions about the magazine that I’ve heard here with brief excerpts from my responses.
1. It must be expensive.
The average Comic-Con attendee this year probably spends more than $2,000 for plane tickets, lodging, food, and stuff. Your mileage may vary. A subscription to Astronomy costs only 2½ percent of that amount. And 12 issues will keep you informed all year long.
2. I took astronomy in college, and the prof turned me off.
Sorry to hear that, and I hear it more often than I’d like. Our magazine, however, is written to be accessible. You’ll find stories that relate to what’s in the news now and what’s in the sky now.
3. Not much happens anymore.
This one, which I heard from two different people, surprised me. Professional astronomers are breaking news on an almost daily basis. New planets, new spacecraft, new telescopes … you won’t be bored, trust me. And on the observing side of things, more than a dozen viewer-worthy meteor showers occur each year, a bright comet may come along at any time, and even our lone celestial companion, the Moon, offers a different fascinatinf face each night.
Why so serious? Even a character as crazed as the Joker (the one on the right!) is described in comics as a person with some serious scientific chops.
4. I’m not into tech-speak.
We do use big words occasionally, but we also define them (sometimes with words, sometimes with illustrations). We’re not writing detective mysteries here that you have to solve; we’re writing popular scientific stories that we want you to understand -- indeed, that we get paid to help you understand. Try it. You’ll like it.
5. Getting into the hobby is expensive.
As with most hobbies, you can spend $10,000 for top-notch equipment. Or, if you choose, you can spend nothing. Our ancestors followed events in the sky, even predicting some, without any equipment at all. For starters, your eyes will do just fine. You don’t need a telescope. That said, once you get into the hobby, you will want one.
6. I can find all the info online for free.
Quick answer: No, you can’t. Some of what we produce is based on cutting-edge research, other write-ups come from our editors’ own experience, and many of the products we review are appearing in the public forum for the first time. Quicker answer: Even if you could find a whole issue’s worth of info, it would take you days to compile it. We do the hard work for you.
This picture shows one of my roommates, Daniel, whose avatar’s name is Seiryu. We’ve had great discussions about some of the facets of the cosmos that interest him. Just about everyone who attends Comic-Con is into one of the scientific fields to some degree.
7. I don’t like going out at night.
We may have to work on this one. In the meanwhile, however, you could use a small telescope equipped with a solar filter to observe the Sun. It’s not just a blank white sphere. There’s lots going on. Lacking a solar setup, you can scan our pages for mind-blowing images to ogle, day or night. Indeed, in many a reader’s opinion, the visuals we produce are worth the subscription cost on their own. As photo editor, I agree.