Insider is a mix of sources and references used in compiling
Stikky Night Skies, trivia, things we left out, and known errors

It also provides some insight to anyone interested in the thinking behind the Stikky method.

If you have a specific question you would like to see addressed here, email: insider1 (at)

The binding. Stikky Night Skies uses an unusual book binding process called Otabind which helps the book lie flat when you are reading it. We tested various bindings and found that readers found the book easier to use when it lay flat, especially pages where they are hunting for star patterns near the binding.

What this book is about: Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is not, technically speaking, a constellation. It is part of the constellation Ursa Major, which means 'great bear' in Latin. These easily recognized parts of constellations are called asterisms. (When the Big Dipper is introduced, on page 52, it is called a 'star group'.)

This is a good example of one of the principles of the Stikky method: don't give beginners more information than they need, even if that means including information that is harmlessly incorrect. An insistence on the whole truth can frustrate beginners by leading them into unnecessary detail.

1: Star maps. The star maps throughout the book were created in Photoshop by placing hundreds of individual stars on a software-generated map.

2: The white stripe down the middle of the page spread. Originally there was no white stripe. But we found some readers mistook two star maps on facing pages for one large star map, so they find an answer on the right page instead of the left. The introduction of the white stripe cured this problem.

5: One type of Finch. The indigo bunting, see page 180. This is a truly remarkable fact. We are unaware that any other species has been demonstrated to have a similar ability. The 1970 study by Stephen Emlen at Cornell also demonstrated that the birds learn which star is Polaris and can be fooled into thinking another star points north (Betelgeuse was used in the study). Emlen, S.T. 1970, Celestial rotation: its importance in the development of migratory orientation. Science, 170:1198-1201.

7: Distant ancestors. One of the reasons that identifying constellations was chosen as the first Stikky book is that it may be one of the first pieces of human knowledge.

9: 30 minutes from now. In testing, readers took an average of just under 30 minutes each for Sequences One and Two and 12 minutes for the Epilogue. This adds up to just over the 'one hour' claimed on the cover.

10: This is Orion. Since Orion is only visible in the northern hemisphere in winter, and since the book was scheduled to arrive in stores late winter, there was a good deal of agonizing over whether it should start with this constellation. The question was settled when an early version of the first 50 pages-which had been put online-generated extremely positive feedback.

14: His shield. There is wide disagreement over what Orion is carrying in his left hand: a shield, an animal skin, a lion's head, even a bow and arrow (though it's presumably challenging to use a club and a bow and arrow simultaneously). We chose shield because we considered it the easiest to visualize.

18: Ten thousand years. Or possibly longer; no one really knows. It is interesting that, when Betelgeuse does supernova, there will be almost no dark skies on Earth for several years. When this happens, sales of Stikky Night Skies will presumably suffer.

49: Betelgeuse again. The original title for the book was 'Betelgeuse' but publicity people advised that, since people don't learn how to pronounce it until they read the book, they would be less likely to walk into a bookstore and ask for it. This was considered a better argument than their other one: the American public might react negatively to an Arabic word.

50: Correctly identified. This is an example of what learning psychologists call 'reinforcement'. Readers get a sense of accomplishment after only a few minutes.

52: The Big Dipper. This page caters for Hindus but not, unfortunately, for Brits, who refer to the Big Dipper as the Plough. The decision to distribute the book in the UK was made after the text was finalized.

59: It's important you can find it. In testing we found that, if a reader trouble finding the Big Dipper, they would be confused throughout the whole of the rest of the sequence and would be unlikely to complete the book.

61: Actually, it's the Earth that rotates. The original draft of this page ran to several paragraphs of explanation plus a special diagram. This final version seems to work just as well if not better.

62: Top 50. See for example

70: Escape to Canada. See for example

89: Sometimes not all the stars. The missing star from the Big Dipper was originally a layout accident.

96: Armpit of Orion. The full etymology is interesting, see

100: It must be either Venus or Jupiter. Brightness from Earth is known as 'magnitude' and really bright objects have negative magnitude. Venus varies around -4, Jupiter -2 and Sirius is -1.4. The magnitude of Mars varies enormously depending on its distance from Earth and it sometimes outshines Jupiter, so this page is technically incorrect. If you want to get technical, download Planet Visibility software at

101: They only move along this line. The line is called the ecliptic. Most star mapping software, such as, can draw the ecliptic for you.

110: Ancient Maya. See for example

121: Reinforce what you want to remember. Behavioral psychologists will note that this is a different usage of 'reinforce' that they are used to. We are talking here about reinforcing memory not behavior.

136: Cygnus myth. As usual, there is more than one version of this story. See for example

142: Milky Way. The galaxy is almost as difficult to find in the first edition of the book as it is in a city sky. This was the unintentional result of printing difficulties.

145: Los Angeles. Referenced in a 1999 LA Times article, see

157: Taurus. The following point edited out of the final edition, thought to be too controversial, confusing, or both: "The stars of Taurus were among those used to prove Einstein's Relativity in 1919, to the enormous excitement of the public of the day. Unfortunately, the experiment turned out to be flawed (though the theory isnít)."

166: Caves of Lascaux. As reported by the BBC:

177: Tougher than before. This page proved, in testing, to be the most difficult in the book. We thought about simplifying it, but decided the warning was better.

206: Buildings or trees. This building, which appears to have a transparent side, is in Notting Hill, London, where the final pieces of design were completed.

229: Next Steps. This section is a distillation of research covering a dozen books and over 100 websites.

232: Uranus and Neptune. An ancient pun on Uranus was edited out here.

What our readers say These are the unsolicited comments of people who read an early version of the first fifty pages of the book, posted on a website.