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Science Center claims Moon Landing May Have Been Faked

iDTV at the Montreal Science Centre

“Going to the Moon may have been a hoax.”

These were the opening lines in the Montréal Science Centre’s iDTV Newsroom space exploration activity.  I visited the Centre last week while in Montréal, terribly excited and open to experience another phenomenal invitation to the public to get excited about science and technology.  We bought our tickets and entered what is one of their permanent exhibits, the iDTV newsroom.  You take your place at one of the fifteen computer stations in a room that looks a bit like mission control. A virtual news editor offers five choices of subjects for you to research and report on.  I picked space exploration and my 15 year old Ian chose the cloning track.

I was dumbfounded when the virtual news reporter announced the moon landing hoax theory as something to be seriously considered.  Curious, I thought this might be a brilliant attempt to teach critical thinking, allowing the students to watch the media frenzy of bad science and conspiracy theories and compare it to scientific attempts to debunk myths.  I was waiting for something like the CNN interview with Mythbusters on their Moon Landing Hoax episode, or the National Geographic photogallery painstakingly addressing all of the conspiracy theory claims, or even a link to the extraordinarily well documented Wikipedia article.  All three are examples of popular media working hard to present researched phenomenon, and not opinion.

Unlike iDTV, Wikipedia uses the same image and specifies the distortion “The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth” while responsibly highlighting the problem of space debris).

No such luck. What I went on to view were opinion pieces that belayed popular bias reported with selected and distorted facts. In one scene the reporter wears a face of contempt and disdain when she asks “Do we really want to spend money for space exploration?” In a graphic that is displayed about space junk, the thousands of pieces of junk are each individually larger than the International Space Station and hugely distorted against the graphic of the earth.  The iDTV simulation is supposed to allow students to discuss, think about, and form opinions on the topic then record and edit a “special news flash” that plays on the big screen. The goal of the experience was to learn about the work of science reporters and develop critical thinking skills. As a media lab director, I was thrilled to see hands on technology for editing and broadcasting. As a college professor, I would fail a student who based their conclusions on popular opinions and not documented and researched evidence.

Ian, who was experiencing the cloning thread, had a different experience.  He felt it introduced him to timely issues that made him think.  When he listened to my concerns about the space exploration thread, he admitted that he did not look for scientific research in his immersion and would need to re-watch before he could draw conclusions.

My experience in the iDTV newsroom was the exception.  I found the rest of the Montréal Science Centre a delight.  The hands on exploration room was filled with many of the types of activities found in other science centers.  What I found fascinating was the partnership the Centre created with area universities and the displays that highlighted scientific research happening locally.  Just some examples:

  • A display of work being done to create amazing biotechnology using Shape Memory Alloy at L’École de technologie supérieure  in collaboration with a team of the Montréal Heart Institute.
  • A Submarine fiber optic cable exploration tool developed from the Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
  • I could list more, but I don’t want to spoil your visit!

As I watch Ph.D. Comics with their two minute thesis (my 3rd grade media lab students love the one on Whale Barf), and I listen to the Melissa Marshall TED Talk of the need for engineers to communicate well to make science more accessible, I celebrate the great partnership the Montréal Science Centre has struck with local researchers, making space to display a publically consumable snapshot of the fascinating work they are doing.

I wanted to share three final comments before ending this week’s reflections.

One is the hilarious comment I overheard as we had breakfast along Lake Erie on our drive up.  A table of adults were discussing a morning news reports of the Mars One looking for one-way ticket astronauts.

First Adult: “Who would be that stupid, to sign up for a one way ticket to Mars?”

Second Adult (in his 60’s): “If I were young, I’d start training today!”

Astronaut Abby

Two.  I came home to find “AstronautAbby” among my new twitter followers. She is a fascinating 16 year old STEM advocate from Minneapolis who is aspiring to be 1st astronaut to Mars.

Finally, if you want to discover why I am passionate about space, check out recent blogs and vlogs…

Build, Then Build Some More!

Space Robots and Tour of Astrobotics

Buzz and Neil go to the Moon: A Story for Pre-K

Neil Armstrong, Bill Nye and the War on Math and Physics

And keep me in mind if your Homeschool or Moms and Tots groups wants a speaker with some parent and child hands on activities.



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    • Trish on August 27, 2013 at 7:10 am
    • Reply

    Dr. Ellen,

    Regarding your interest in speaking to homeschoolers, Sewickley Library did have a homeschool lunch program as of last school year. The person to contact is Mrs. Crawford the head childrens librarian. Also, I will bring it up to my homeschool group as well. Hope the vacation was a success and we look forward to seeing you in media.

    Best Regards,

    1. Thanks Trish! I will contact her.

    • Deacon Tim on August 27, 2013 at 9:38 am
    • Reply

    Frankly, Ellen, I’d be curious and more concerned about the cloning thing. As you point out, the moon landing “hoax” has been refuted many times in the popular media, but the facts concerning cloning and the use of human embryos is not really discussed too much (though, there are some things happening with regular cells that don’t involved killing human life). That is where our kids are going to need all the facts to discuss things well and make proper choices.


    1. You raise a good point Tim. Next time I’m in Montreal, I will look closer at the thread. Juan Enriquez raising some interesting ethical questions in his many talks. Cloning is addressed in the high school biology text but I haven’t read it carefully for ethical discussions. Let me know if you run across any resources (for kids, teens, and STEM students).

  1. Extra questions on writing; extra answers about writing; let’s see what we
    have got this week in the Mailbag!

  1. […] but definitely wanting an outside group to oversee environmental repercussions). I visited a the Montreal Science Centre to discover an activity designed to teach critical thinking promote conspiracy theories of a moon […]

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