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Brain Teaser #11

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Seniors, fire up some brain power with this brain teaser.

Nora Shekrie paid a visit to her niece, Saffa Moore, at Watts-Amata U. One of the first things Nora noticed was a tastefully framed poster over Saffa’s desk, apparently a long-range photo of some celestial rock.
“Aunt Nora, did you know they just discovered two more moons of Pluto last week?”
“I read about it, but I didn’t realize they had posters out already.”
“Oh, this is just a photo some astronomy buff in New Mexico took. He made posters, and he’s selling them for $10 each on Uzz-Bay. He included a whole web page on the physical features, especially the impact craters. He says he’s working on his PhD. at UNM, y’know, at the Flagstaff campus? That’s where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in the first place.”
“I thought Tombaugh was from Illinois.”
“He grew up in Streator, but he worked at Flagstaff when he found Pluto.”
“Ah. So, what’s so great about these craters?”
“Well, there are these elliptical ones in the upper right, pretty much pointing in the same direction, like they’re probably all the same age, from one big meteor storm. Then there are a few teardrop-shaped ones here and there, and my favorite is this pair, where two of them make a cute little heart right where the moon’s little behind would be. Isn’t it darling?”
“It sure is. But I really think your parents should have a talk with a few people.”
“Because I’m so excited about astronomy?”
“Because you’re not learning enough to know when you’re being cheated.”

How did Nora know?

Show Hint

Hint

Look at a map of the Moon.

Show Answer

Answer

“Saffa, this is a nice piece of graphic work, but it’s fake. First and foremost, impact craters are round. Regardless of the angle or speed of impact, anything going that fast leaves a circular crater.”
“No way!”
“Yes way! Try it with marbles or candy in a tray of flour, or a sandbox, whatever you like. That’s why lunar craters are circular.”
“But he’s getting a PhD. in astronomy!”
“His web site says that, but I doubt it. The Lowell Observatory is in Flagstaff … which is in Arizona, not New Mexico.”
“But what about my $10?”
“I leave that as an exercise for the student.”

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