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The Dougal effect and the Partridge

By Hamish Johnston at the AAS meeting in Seattle

The jetlag and non-stop astronomy must be getting to me because I can’t stop thinking about various aspects of astrophysics in terms of my favourite sitcoms.

For example, Father Ted brings us the “Dougal effect”, whereby the actual size of an astronomical object cannot be inferred from its observed size alone. Distance must also be considered and Ted explains this to Dougal using nearby toy cows and a distant herd of real cows. “These are small… but the ones out there are far away,” is the best way to define the effect.

Then there’s that astronomical unit of temperature defined in I’m Alan Partridge. Alan uses a microwaved apple pastry as a weapon, discovering “It’s hotter than the Sun”. To calibrate your thermometer to one “Partridge” put a petrol-station pastry in the microwave for eight minutes and presto.

Well, that’s all from me in Seattle. I’m about to fly back to Blighty and I’ll be looking for astronomy references in The Inbetweeners, which is featured on the in-flight entertainment system.

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