Marilyn Serves a Planetary Fruit Salad

Marilyn is Wrong Copyright © 2000 Herb Weiner. All rights reserved.

Ask Marilyn ® by Marilyn vos Savant is a column in Parade Magazine, published by PARADE, 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA. According to Parade, Marilyn vos Savant is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame" for "Highest IQ."

In her Parade Magazine column of April 30, 2000, Marilyn used fruits and seeds to provide a "rough approximation" of the scale of the solar system.

The Readers Object

Jack Lawless <> was the first to write:

In our Sunday Omaha World Herald Parade Magazine, Marilyn offered a reader a way to visualize the planets as fruit, using the Sun as a twelve inch pumpkin. She says: Mercury - tomato seed 50 feet away, Venus - pea 75 feet away, Earth - pea 100 feet away, Mars - raisin 175 feet away, Jupiter - apple 550 feet away, Saturn - peach 1025 feet away, Uranus - plum 2050 feet away, Neptune - plum 3225 feet away, and Pluto - strawberry seed about a mile away.

This is completely wrong. The pumpkin would have to be about 30 inches to make the other fruit the right size and this would make all of the distances off by more than 100%. Marilyn (the smartest person in the world) is wrong again.

I also received an email from Paul A. Below <>, who recommended Marilyn again on the Bad/Bitesized Astronomy Bulletin Board, a feature on Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy web site.

Here are two links I found on that Bulletin Board:

Herb Responds

In Marilyn's defense, she stated that she was providing a "rough approximation." Her approximation is within an order of magnitude, and is therefore not completely wrong. I'll let the readers decide on this one. last updated May 3, 2000 by