Thursday, June 12, 2014

Open Letter to Discovery Kids

Dear Discovery Kids / Paragon Publishing,

My son recently got this book as a gift:
It is a nice enough book, with lots of pictures, many of them nominally 3D. I guess that counts as "bringing learning to life." However, one (non-3D) picture caught my eye:
Firstly, I am please to see that Pluto is not in the picture. Nevertheless, there is something very wrong with it. Discovery Kids, I'll give you a few seconds to see if you can find it. ... ... See it yet? And no, I'm not talking about the bizarre green color of space -- maybe it's a garish false-color IR photo or something. What I concerned about is the source of the light in this picture. I was under the impression that the Sun is the primary light source in our solar system. Yet, there appears to be a far brighter light source off the the left hand side of space, since the sides of planets Saturn, Earth, Mercury and Uranus that face the Sun are all in shadow! (Yet, strangely, the Sun isn't?) This is a pretty sad mistake.

I wanted to find the source of this image. A quick look at the photo acknowledgements showed me that the way you produced this book was to simply use a ton of stock images, with a handful NASA images thrown in:
Now, granted you don't want to spend lots of money to make a cheap book, and you could have chosen even worse stock images (check out this one; it has the sun shadowed!), but if you're trying to produce educational books, at least make sure it's correct! This isn't a "subtle" mistake like the Wrong Stars In Titanic Movie debacle, this is something glaringly obvious on the main focus of a two-page spread that you should have caught! When I asked my five year old son what was wrong with the picture he figured it out, so your editorial team should definitely have caught it. I hope you do better in your other books.


  1. Saturn is also looking way too big compared to Jupiter.

    1. Yeah, and the orbits aren't to scale, either. I just figured there was a log (or some other arbitrary) scale to account for sizes and distances. Or maybe Jupiter is just "farther away" so it looks smaller? :-)