Friday, May 22, 2009

Mars Hoax and Media Literacy

Media Literacy is a major component of the Mass Communication, Culture and Media Literacy class that I teach as an entry into the Coker College Communication major. Today, Frank Baker, a South Carolinian and Media Literacy maven distributed a Yahoo news story about the Mars Hoax that is now circulating around the internet - AGAIN. Here is a short piece of that article:

Mars Hoax Circulates: 'Big as the Moon!'
Wed May 20, 3:51 pm ET

Once again it appears that a Mars hoax that has widely circulated through the Internet since its first appearance during the summer of 2004 has begun to circulate yet again. It comes in the form of an e-mail message titled "Mars Spectacular," which originated from an unknown source.

In turn, this message has gotten passed on to others who couldn't resist forwarding it to their entire address book.

The e-mail declares that on the night of Aug. 27, the planet Mars will come closer to Earth than it has in the past 60,000 years, thereby offering spectacular views of the Red Planet. The commentary even proclaims, with liberal use of exclamation marks, that Mars will appear as bright as (or as large as) the full moon.

The problem is that "Aug. 27" is actually Aug. 27, 2003. Mars made a historically close pass by Earth that night (34.6 million miles, or 55.7 million km). The Hubble Space Telescope used the opportunity to make a great photo of Mars. But even then, to the naked eye Mars appeared as nothing more than an extremely bright yellowis

This year, Mars is actually much dimmer and far-less conspicuous than in 2003. (end of snippet)

You can see why we need to demonstrate the idea of media literacy because when so much misinformation circulates it takes time we should be using for some more real information. Anyway, this is one concept we talk quite a bit about Mass Communication, which is being offered in the Fall Semester 2009 at Coker.

1 comment:

  1. I had to clear my parents up on the cell phone do-not-call list e-mail that has been popping up since 2004.

    A quick search on clarifies many of these hoaxes...