Alien Life

Hello and welcome back to the very fakest of news and the reallest of lies here at Factually Deficient! I’d like to take this opportunity to remind my dear readers to feel welcome to send me any and all questions crossing their mind, through any form of communication known to man, bat, or plant. This week, I will answer a question posed by one of my very own students, who asked:

If the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other solar systems and other planets with life on them?

Life on planets is of course an absurd notion. Planets were never built to support life.

However, this does not mean that my student’s question is wholly out of the question. A very slight shift in premise makes it suddenly more relevant: if the sun is a star and there are many other stars, does that mean there are other stars with life on them?

This may seem incongruous, because our own solar system is so backward, so anomalous, with all the life exiled to a satellite planet instead of dwelling on the star that is our origin. Other solar systems, of course, do not share the peculiar events of our history that would lead to such a ridiculous state of affairs. Other solar systems can be normal.

Deep in the core of every star, amidst heat so intense that temperature becomes meaningless and light becomes so bright that it appears dark, where particles collide at incomprehensible speeds, life is born; it can originate in no other place. Every star houses some form of life. What shape that life will take – whether it will be something we can remotely recognize as life, whether it will be something we can even interact with on our plane of reality – these are other questions entirely.

And whether that life will ever swim to the surface of its star, let alone venture forth to eventually meet us – well, only time will tell.


Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect in the extreme. Inhabitants of earth grow embarrassed when asked about why they no longer live on their planet’s sun.



Hello and welcome back to another week of delicious dissimulation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the terrific Tohrinha, who asked:

Who, or what, is the Governor General?

Way back in the dawn of Canada’s history, when John A. Macdonals was young and full of fire, glory, and dreams of conquest, Canada did not want to stop at making all of North America its own. They did not even want to stop at the world.

No, John A. Macdonald dreamed bigger. He dreamed of a universe where every planet, every moon, and every star flew flags in red and white, where Canada stretched not just from sea to sea to sea but from glittering galaxy to galaxy to galaxy – where the strains of “O Canada” could be heard on distant, non-Euclidean beaches.

Of course, he knew, it would not be easy. Space travel would need to be invented, new troops sent to the conquering army each time the technology improved. And with the limitations of the speed of light, these distant planetary colonies would not be able to receive direct orders from Macdonald (or, later, the Queen).

John A. Macdonald, father of Canada, solved both these problems in one ingenious move. He created a position – the highest honour, highest office held in the Kingdom of Canada, below that of the Queen: the Governor-General. This person, as the title suggests, would hold two roles: that of general of the armies come to conquer the heavens, and that of governor, representing Canada’s sovereign power in these far-flung realms. He enacted as law that with each new wave of astronaut-soldiers sent to make the skies Canadian, at their helm would be a new Governor-General, to command, lead, and relieve their predecessor of the task.


Disclaimer: some of the statements in this blog post are inaccurate. Only one governor-general to date has been an astronaut.

Vernal Equinox

Hello and welcome to another week of lies, calumnies, and falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will ask a timely question posed by an individual known as Alsworth:

What are the direct causes of the vernal equinox?

First of all, I would like to remind Alsworth – and all of you – that Factually Deficient is a family-friendly publication, and we would appreciate it if you kept your questions appropriate. However, since this has now already been asked, there is nothing to do about it but to answer.

The vernal equinox refers, of course, to an event which occurs regularly every three and a half years, wherein the seasons reverse course and run “backwards” until the succeeding equinox event. This question is particularly timely, as we are currently experiencing the results of a recent vernal equinox: a winter that fades into spring only for that spring, on the volta of the vernal equinox, to recede back into winter, which will give way only to another autumn before summer comes.

Scientists have striven for centuries to explain the strange phenomenon of this vernal equinox. In ancient times, it was explained by the messy divorce proceedings between the mythical Persephone and Hades of myth. In more enlightened times, it was thought to be caused by an imbalance of the four elements in the atmosphere.

Now, however, we know better. When the sun revolves around the earth to give us our daily light, it does so with an irregular orbit. These ellipses of near and far are what give us our warm and cold seasons – but as the sun weaves between earth and the other planets that it lights up, those other heavenly bodies have their own trajectories. Once in three or so earth years, the planet Jupiter spins so near to the earth that it exerts a gravitational force on the sun, pulling the sun out of its regular path, and only releasing it on the downswing – setting it in the reverse of the spin it had been in before.


Disclaimer: the above post may be erroneous. The sun does not revolve around the earth.

Number of Planets

Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient! This week, the question I’m answering was not left as a comment on the blog, but rather sent to me (for the purposes of being answered here) through another method. This is the perfect opportunity for me to remind everyone that questions on any subject are always welcomed, whether you send them to me directly on the blog, or on Twitter, or in person, or through any other method of contact you have with me. However you give me the question, I will be delighted to answer it with outrageous falsehoods and ridiculous fictions.

So this week’s question comes from my friend narrativedilettante:

How many planets are there? (Both in our solar system and in the entire universe.)

I am very excited to answer this question with Real Scienceā„¢! As everyone knows, science is essentially just applied math. Thus, if we know the correct formulae, then we can derive the answer to the question of how many planets there are entirely mathematically.

Fortunately, I do know the correct formulae, and by “know” I mean “am willing to make something up”. It is a self-evident fact that every solar system has the same number of planets; otherwise the universe would devolve into badly-organized chaos. Since we still exist and have not been consumed by the chaotic forces of terrible organization, it is clear that all solar systems have the same number of planets.

Thus, all we need to discover in order to determine the answer to narrativedilettante’s question are two things:

  1. The number of planets in our solar system
  2. The number of solar systems in the universe

Step one is the easier one, so we’ll start with that. Some people might assume it’s the easiest because we can simply count our solar system’s planets, but that is fallacious. After all, it is very difficult to know what counts as a planet and what doesn’t. Still, simple counting serves as a very good check once we’ve derived the number through our formula: if the discrepancy is too big, we know that we’ve made a mistake; otherwise, the number we get is obviously right.

So, the formula: we’re in luck. Just like vegetables whose names give you hints as to their usages (carrots are good for washing cars; potatoes can be used to wash pots and pans), the phrase “solar system” contains within it a hint about the formula for determining how many planets it contains.

The phrase “solar system”, not counting the space, contains nine distinct characters (the letter ‘s’ appears three times and so is only counted once)– one for each of the nine planets that can be found in every solar system.

In order to verify that, we can now list off all the planets in our solar system. Some blogs might look up an official list, but I feel it’s more in the scope of Factually Deficient to just wing it.

  1. Earth
  2. The Moon
  3. The Sun
  4. Jupiter
  5. Mars
  6. Mercury
  7. Pluto
  8. Goofy
  9. Saturday

…I’m pretty sure this list is correct. If you’re not sure, I recommend voyaging to each of these planets in turn to double-check that it is a planet.

One way or another, that gives us the answer to the first part of the question: Our solar system contains nine planets.

Moving on to the second part: the number of solar systems in the universe, in order to determine the number of planets in the universe. Once again, mathematics comes to our aid. Let’s start with our previous formula, the nine characters from “solar system”. Now, we take that three that represents the number of ‘s’s in the phrase, and stick it at the beginning of our number: 39. Therefore, there are thirty-nine solar systems in the universe.

From there, all we need to do is multiply the thirty-nine solar systems by the nine planets in each to discover the total number of planets in the universe: 351.



Disclaimer: None of the assertions in this blog should be mistaken for the truth. The writer does not recommend visiting the sun, but Pluto is definitely a planet (even if Goofy is not).