Thursday, September 18, 2008

The OCD Astronomer (Me)

I must be a real pain in the neck to just about everyone I come in contact with. I am OCD (obsessive-compulsive) about details. When someone says or writes or does something that I recognize as incorrect or potentially incorrect, I instantly become fixated on that thing.

As you know from the previous blog, I have been watching the free astronomy course online. I pointed out in that blog one glaring error (at least to me it was glaring) that the professor made about the VLA. Well, I could not just shrug it off, I also went to his forum and politely pointed it out there in a post. When the professor posted his answers today, he had ignored my post. So I emailed him, politely noting that he had not mentioned my post in his post:

"You didn't respond to my remark about the VLA's location not being in Arizona, and about editing the first lecture to correct it to New Mexico. Is that not doable? Otherwise I am finding the lectures to be enjoyable. Thanks"

So he emailed me back and I was pleased that he had answered and acknowledged his mistake. So I put his answer on the end of my previous blog as a postscript for you to read. (See previous blog below.)

I then sent him another polite email to thank him for answering my email:

"Thanks for responding. I have now viewed 3 of the lectures. I was just getting ready to watch the next one, but the site was down. Time flies as I watch them. I also like your sense of humor. I told my husband that I think your mind is going so fast as you are lecturing that sometimes your mouth can't keep up. That is when you occasionally misspeak. Most of the time you catch it. Once in a while you don't--like most of us! Thanks again. PLH"

Later I began to watch Lecture 4. It was so-o-o-o-o-o elementary (and tediously so) on the motion of the moon, that I decided to skip it and move on to his latest lecture, number 5.

I was disturbed when, in Lecture 5, he misspoke at least twice more. I mean, I was HIGHLY disturbed. I began worrying about his students who would be tested on this lecture, and write down what he said, and then get it marked wrong on the test!

What to do??? Should I post the errors in the forum where others would see, including his students? Or should I again send a private email?

I decided to post my observations in his forum. This is what I said:

(First slip of the tongue:)
"During lecture 5, you apparently misspoke when you said, speaking about zenith and horizon, that 'if you go up on a hill, it [the horizon] can actually be less than 90 degrees' [from the zenith]. I believe you meant more than 90 degrees."

(Second slip of the tongue:)
"Also, with that triple photo of the position of the sun at summer solstice (at left), equinox (in middle), and winter solstice (at right), you said that the photos were of sunsets. However, they could not be sunsets, you must have meant sunrises."

I could not NOT attempt to correct these mistakes. It is going to make me crazy that hundreds of people will watch these lectures and believe every word. Or become very confused. And he is NOT able to correct them, he says.

I hope he responds in the forum to these mistakes, but, unfortunately, only relatively few will see the forum. It makes me crazy. During Lecture 5 he was making fun of the misinformation that circulates on the internet every August about Mars. I have had personal experience with two individuals in our ward who have rushed up to me to tell me what they just heard about Mars (which is incorrect nonsense). To correct the mistakes, the professor must do it verbally and on camera in subsequent lectures. Otherwise, his mistakes stand. Forever!

If I were the teacher, I would die of embarrassment to have my mistakes endlessly accepted as true by future watchers.


Davola said...

You gave him the old one-two, didn't you.

DebbieLou said...

It sounds like maybe they should just have you finish off the series, or at least preview the videos before they are posted.

shydandelion said...

Whoa..I no longer have confidence in the world of academia...