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Monday, July 20, 2009

To the Moon, Alice! Google Homepage Touts Inaccurate Lunar Landing Anniversary.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Science news flash to supposed Google geniuses: Astronauts don't leave footprints on suns!

Google, the ubiquitous search engine famously based on complex, supposedly-more-accurate-than-the-competition algorithms, Monday graced its homepage with a glaring, scientific error. The July 17 homepage is illustrated with a painting of the moon's gray surface with a tiny Apollo 11 landing vehicle resting on it -- presumably to commemorate the 40th anniversary of mankind's first lunar steps.

However, Google's tribute only makes sense if one imagines Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leaving bootprints on the sun. Since Armstrong's small step for [a] man, the Earth has orbited the sun 40 times -- that's to say it happened 40 solar years ago. Not lunar years. And only a fool --  or a Web-search company that isn't so good at science after all --- would commemorate a lunar landing in solar years.

Google timed its release of Moonscape for Google Earth to coincide with the ill-calculated Apollo 11 anniversary. The new feature allows users to fly around and explore the moon's landscape of gray rocks, mountains, and craters. It does look like a dirty beach!

But if the Mountain View company wished to honor its reputation as an outfit based on sound math and science, it would calculate the moonshot's anniversary in periods of 29 days, the approximate period of the lunar cycle.

By that standard, a true commemoration of Aldrin's achievement should be held on March 20, 2011, the date of the Apollo 11 landing's 500-lunar month anniversary.

At SF Weekly, we cherish accuracy, and won't be cracking open Google's moon-viewing contraption for another two years. Two solar years.


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Matt Smith


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