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L. L. Bean's Myopic Binocs

Probably the most common question people ask about a telescope is ``How much closer do objects appear''? They really mean what's the magnification of the 'scope, but that's okay, it's obvious what they meant. It's a fair question, but sometimes the answer is certainly not fair.

Take the case of a pair of binoculars advertised in an L. L. Bean catalog. L. L. Bean is a company that sells outdoor-type clothing for active people. They also sell other items like backpacks, camping equipment and the like. On page 40 of their August 1999 catalog they advertise binoculars, but I'm not sure I'd buy this pair. The ad says:

Waterproof, shockproof binoculars that let you see up to 100 yards away (emphasis mine).

Um. I can do better than that with my eyes, and I wear glasses! Evidently that ad was written by someone who has never used binocs before. I'm not really sure what they were trying to say; maybe that you could spot small birds that far. Of course, the bigger the object, the farther away you can see it. On a clear night, though, you can see pretty far away. Even the binoculars advertised will let you see objects roughly ten million light years away (if you're at a dark site). But what's a factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to an advertiser?

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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