Bob King has news for you: You cannot, with the naked eye, see China’s Great Wall from the moon. UFOs aren’t real. And Bigfoot wasn’t found on Mars — even though there is an image that suggests Sasquatch mid-stride.
And, since we’re here, no one faked the moon landing, and the earth isn’t flat.
King’s new book, “Urban Legends from Space: The Biggest Myths About Space Demystified," from Page Street Publishing, is a chapter-by-chapter debunking of popular celestial lore and will be released on Tuesday. The journalist and science-minded sky-watcher said he started the book two days after retiring from the News Tribune. He will read from the book and sign copies from noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Barnes & Noble.
Q: Where did this idea come from?
BK: It goes to a passion of mine. I love science. I have this logical side of me, a skeptical side, that sort of examines things before I can be sure that they’re true or accurate. That comes out of being a journalist, and I’ve kind of been a scientific guy all my life. I look at things scientifically. I think it’s an awesome way to approach the world — especially the world of nature and to understand why things happen. To me, nature teaches you so many things if you’re open to listen.
Q: Was it easy to come up with that many urban legends?
BK: It was easy to come up with 10-20. By 50, I thought, well, gee. Some things I deliberately avoided because they’re books of their own: Area 51, climate change. I couldn’t deal with those things.
Q: What didn’t make the cut?
BK: What color is the sun. That was one I kind of liked. Maybe it’s because it didn’t have a definitive answer. It’s one of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked. I left it open-ended because sometimes science is like that, too. It depends on how far you are from the sun — whether it looks pure white or has a hint of yellow. The book, it’s a mix of the sort of things people assumed were true, like the dark side of the moon. It also has pseudo scientific ideas in it.
Q: Were there any that you were really excited to dig into?
BK: Flat earth. I was curious about what flat earth was all about. I just thought I would illuminate the subject by writing about it and talk about why the earth can’t possibly be flat. A lot of it — I wanted to provide a basic way of looking at the world that will help cut through the fog of pseudoscience out there. I think we need to be a little more skeptical. That’s what the book is about. A hard look at: Where’s the proof for that?
We live in this bizarre era. We all have a voice, which is wonderful, but sometimes people voice things out of ignorance. It’s hard to tell, for some people, what’s true and what’s not. I really enjoyed the UFOs. It’s such a hot topic. I think people are quite willing to believe something was a flying saucer from another planet. I have told people that aliens must not like me. I’m always looking at the sky; I’ve looked up for thousands of hours. I’ve yet to see a UFO.
Two months ago, a vehicle was in the air with an unusual light configuration. I saw this thing; it was sort of low; I couldn’t make sense of the lights. First I thought, it must be a plane. Then you leap: Could it be?! I waited and looked and realized, aha, I see, it was one of those refueling jets. I’m still waiting for it to happen. I’d love for it to happen.
BK theory on perceptions and UFOs: We leap right away to extremes. I wonder if it’s for a sense of self preservation. We imagine a danger, we imagine an extreme, therefore we are prepared for what might happen. If you’re in the woods, if you hear a sound, you don’t think it’s a bird. You think first it could be a bear. I think something similar happens with UFOs. What I ask people to do is back up a bit. I ask people to watch and see and consider other possibilities. Some people might say, you’re taking the mystery out of the world.
Q: Do people think you’re a fun-sucker?
BK: I’d rather know. It gives me much greater pleasure knowing it was nature or man-made — to know what the phenomenon might be, rather than fantasizing. I love the truth of things, I guess you might say. Let me give you an example. I walked out the door, looked up at the sky and I saw this fairly large white dot in the blue sky off to the north. I looked at it. What is that? I thought it could be a weather balloon. I quickly got my telephoto lens, and it was a weather balloon, and it had a packet of instruments hanging from it. Some meteorologist is monitoring air levels and sending information back. Another mindset: It could be a spaceship going over our area. It’s far less satisfying, making it up.
If you go
What: Bob King reading and signing
When: noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Barnes & Noble at Miller Hill Mall