More on Heavy Boots

Or is it Moron Heavy Boots?  Ry brought up the “Heavy Boots” phenomenon a while back, but I hadn’t heard of it until he explained it to me and I Googled it.  I was disappointed, but the story didn’t surprise me.  I’ve talked to a lot of people about a lot of things, having been in the service business and in consumer credit, for over 30 years.  Richard P. Feynman wrote about similar experiences he’d had in his teaching career.  It’s sad to realize how many people lack that little bit of curiosity that would lead them quickly to understand some of the basics of their world.

At the music store, I put up a poster-sized photo of the full Earth taken from space.  You’ve all seen it, and some of you will already know when it was taken, based on the history of the mission.  I looked at it a lot, just as a beautiful image that says something about the ingenuity of Man, before I realized that it told us a few other things.  So now I have some questions.  This is my Heavy Boots experiment but it’s on a bit higher level.  These questions are for those who have no idea when the picture was was taken without analyzing the image itself.  Forget the history and the mission, and so on.  It’s a simple question for those who know the basics of our solar system and of Earth’s place in it;
About what time of year was this photo taken?  How can you tell?  Also; About what time of day was it taken?  How do you know?

Here’s another one.  Looking at this image of the moon, assuming you’re facing East.  What time is it?  Why?

One of my older brothers liked to mess with people when we were younger.  When one of his young sisters-in-law asked him what those bumps between the lanes on the freeway were for, he told them they were part of a project for the blind– so blind drivers could tell when they were crossing lanes.  “Really?” came the reply.  He pulled off a lot of that sort of thing, trying to see just how fantastic a story he could tell and still get someone to believe him.  I suppose his behavior could be referred to as a search for Progressive voters.  If you’re ignorant enough, you’ll believe anything if it’s presented just right.  Our coercively-funded schools have that part covered.  They actively discourage learning.

Leno had a bit on his show last night wherein he placed a magician behind the counter at a convenience store.  There were some plastic Easter eggs in a counter display, labeled “Insta-Chick” or some such.  The egg contained a little foam “chick” that would expand in water.  The magician, introducing the new and rare product to the customers “placed one in a cup”, then “poured water over it” and a live chick came out instantly.  People believed it, even after he said they were “engineered in China” such that you could let them dry out again and reanimate them later, and you didn’t need to feed them.  More “Heavy Boots”.  “Vote for me— I’ll give you free health care” or etc. is along the same lines.

I try not to be discouraged.  There are a lot of people who don’t fall for this stuff.  They can tell from looking at a photo of our planet what time it was taken, know that mass exhibits gravity, know that we can’t all get free lunch forever and there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.


15 thoughts on “More on Heavy Boots

  1. Oh, EXCELLENT Earth question – It’s a full circle, so we are looking at the side facing the sun. The south pole is showing, so it’s winter for us, and judging by how far south we are and still having a full disk, I’d guess close to the solstice. We are looking at the east coast of Africa at noon, so I’d guess a bit after midnight Pacific time.

    Moon: Shortly after sunset. Depending on latitude and time of year, exact time will vary.

  2. Cool! I just looked it up – “Blue Marble,” taken on the Apollo 11 moon mission.
    Dec 11, 1972, taken 5:39 EST, which is about 2:39 Pacific time. Not to bad an estimate, though I should have tried to be more precise on the time – I was going to say 1 AM, but I fudged it.

  3. Rolf, Apollo 11 was in July of 1969, the 16th through the 24th.

    Blue Marble, according to NASA, was indeed taken by the crew of Apollo 17, but the date was December 7, 1972.

    AS17-148-22727 (thumbnail)
    640×480 image

    Photo ID:





    Apollo XVII

    Date Taken:


    Film Type:

    View of the Earth seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon
    View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon. This translunar coast photograph extends from the Meditierranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cover in the southern hamisphere. Almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Arabian Peninsula can be seen at the northeastern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is the Malagasy Republic. The Asian mainland is on the horizon toward the northeast.
    Subject Terms:

  4. The picture was taken during the summer and winter.

    Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Some time during the night here in North America.

    Also, the pen would not fall to the ground! It would fall to the Moon!!! 🙂

    I think of the ground as being here on Earth and the Moon has its own surface I would not call ground.

  5. Oops!

    I now see the snow in the Northern Hemisphere. I got the seasons backward.

  6. A full moon, by definition, rises in the east at sunset. It’s at opposition to the sun, 180 degrees away in Earth’s sky.

  7. When my kids got to about 6 years old, they finally started challenging me on the absurd and surreal stories I told them. By their teen years they absolutely knew when I was trying to fool them with some explanation pulled out of my backside. By the time they left for college, they were cynical in the best way about things they were told, and knew how to ask probing questions to get past any initial BS handed them.

    For the best example of this type of parenting I have ever read, see Calvin and Hobbes.

  8. About what time of year was this photo taken?: typhoon season

    How can you tell?: I can see one in the Indian Ocean.

    I win!

  9. Greg – D’oh! Typo! Yes, Apollo 17, not 11. Got the rest of it right, though.

  10. Looking at those links, I am appalled. I would say that reading time and season from that picture requires more complex thought than either knowing that the moon has gravity or knowing what miles per hour means. It should still be withing the grasp of a reasonably well educated person.

    In regard to the heavy boots link, I question the quality of teaching in a class where students have already studied mechanics and gravity in college, but who don’t know the key point that gravity is universal. I would expect the moon to be a key illustration used to explain that all mass has gravity and that all concentrations of mass have concentrated fields of gravity. That said, my daughter is a TA at a University and I have heard enough stories to be unsurprised by the ignorance of college students.

    As a long time SF reader who grew up with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, I’m sure I would have understood these things at a fairly young age. It speaks poorly of our education system, if there are really large numbers of adults who don’t understand even the basics of how the universe works.

  11. @jed; What time zone? Pick one. A particular time in any one zone translates to specific times in all others. If you want to be “worldly” about it, pick UTC.

    Others got it right; Since we see a full “disk” of the Earth, the sun is at our backs and we’re looking near to the solar zenith at the center of the disk (unless they used one hell of a bright flash [just kidding]). It’s noon over eastern Africa. The Earth looks a bit darker on the right hand side of the photo than on the left, i.e the spacecraft isn’t exactly between sun and Earth, so I’d work left (west) slightly from the center of the disk to identify the solar zenith. You can’t see the arctic, but Antarctica is well exposed and the zenith appears to be very near to the tropic of Capricorn, so Earth is near to the December solstice. So that’s it– Earth is a ball orbiting the sun, with its ratational axis at an angle, and that gives us a lot to work with. That fact that the image shows a near full disk helps simplify it a little, but the questions could have been answered from just about any photo of the Earth from any perspective. It’s funny; we use mechanical clocks to tell time, but originally it was done using observations of the sun and stars. From space, the whole planet itself is a “clock” (but the clock is the analogy and the Earth is the real thing). It’s just that simple.

    @fast richard; “Education” isn’t what it’s been cracked up to be. Feynman’s experience at a university in Brazil (IIRC) was that although the students there were scoring very high on their tests, but they couldn’t apply that “knowledge” to the real work in even some very rudimentary ways. they could quote text from their books word for word,. but it didn’t actually mean anything to them. My kids for example, years ago knew that the Earth sun and moon were spheres orbiting each other, but when I tried to explain phases of the moon and suchlike, they didn’t get it. They thought, as many people do, that the Earth’s shadow was falling on the moon, causing the phases, never thinking where the sun might be, or that since the moon is orbiting the Earth it can’t be in Earth’s shadow (what we call lunar eclipse) all that often. I used a flashlight in a dark room with a ball to show the phases. Often people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that some of these basic things are so utterly simple.

  12. If these sort of things were easy for everyone to get, Engineers wouldn’t be special. But damn, the world would be a much more sane place.

  13. @Ron; Such things are easy to get, or would be if our brains weren’t retarded by the “education” process. You look at a ball (or anything else) in the sunshine and you’re telling me it’s hard to determine where the sun is– that only an engineer could do it? I don’t believe you.

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