Category Archives: Science

Post Totality

The eclipse. It happened. It was one of the most amazing events I have ever witnessed. Denice and I opted to observe it in our back yard. The traffic was just too bad to get to our friend’s house who had the better view. There was a viewing party at a nearby city park, but we decided it would be less distracting to just stay home. I’m glad we did. The eclipse was wonderful, and one of the coolest things about it was the subtle changes in the sounds around us. It created a kind of calm, and besides the sudden emergence of cicada song, eerie silence.

We watched it from first contact, through totality, and a few minutes after most of the sunlight returned. Totality was very brief. It was an amazing experience, but I was over in mere moments, and it is sad to think that I will most likely not see another in my life time.

For those of you who are privileged enough to get to see a total solar eclipse in the future, I would advise against wasting time, at least during totality, with trying to get pictures of it. Even if they turn out good, there are a thousand other people out there, with better equipment, who will get better stills and video. Take it in with your own senses. Look around you. The change in the environment is tangible. Feel the temperature drop. Listen as things go silent, and then as the nocturnal beings emerge all around you. Technology is great, but if you try to experience something like this though it, you will be disappointed.

And now it is time to get back to everyday life. Thanks, Nature! That was a great show.

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Totality!

In a little over a day, I am going to experience my first total solar eclipse. The last time this region had one, I was two years old. I actually have some faint memories of the event, but not of the eclipse itself. Well, not this time. I have taken half a day off from work to witness it without distraction. This is a cosmic event that I will not live long enough to see again, and I intend to be present for it.

Getting the viewing glasses was a little bit of a pain. We made the mistake of thinking we would be able to buy them cheap in the week leading up to the eclipse. Yeah, not so much. They quickly sold out, and we were almost left to the mercy of the scalpers. Luckily, thanks to our local news stations vigilant Twitter updates, I was able to get a bead on a couple of pairs for five dollars each (plus a five dollar handling charge, of course), from our local museum. The funny thing is that my work place was able to secure a whole box of five hundred of them for all of us employees the next day. They couldn’t give them away to us, due to liability issues, but they did “sell” them for one dollar apiece as a donation to a charity that the company supports. It was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. I was able to secure an additional seven pairs. That allowed me to supply my mother, her boyfriend, and sister with glasses. I am also selling the left overs for fifteen dollars a pair, and actually making a good profit (yea capitalism!).

We are still debating on a viewing location. I don’t think our backyard will be ideal for this, because of the houses that surround us on all sides. One of the coolest things about the eclipse is the 360-degree sunset that occurs just before totality. I don’t want to miss that. We need a large, flat expanse, or maybe a hilltop. Luckily we have some family who will be watching it from their hilltop house. We may end up there.

So, for all of you who are fortunate enough to experience the Great American Eclipse, happy viewing!

They’re out There

I just finished watching season one of Supergirl on Netflix. It was extremely cheesy, but I liked it. It ended with Supergirl (Kara), her human family, friends, and a Martian (Jon Jones) having dinner together like a big, happy family. I guess that’s the best thing I can say about the show… it felt good. It’s worth sitting through the generic villains and implausible story lines, to see humans and aliens hanging out like family.

Given the recent finding that our estimation of the number of galaxies in the universe was waaaaaaaaaay off (the actual number is mind numbingly large), it is almost a certainty that there is other intelligent life out there, somewhere. The observable universe, the part of it that is close enough for us to see, may have over two trillion galaxies. Each of those galaxies is the home of hundreds of billions of stars. And most of those stars have planets, a lot of planets, a shit-load beyond all comprehension of planets.  The odds that we humans are the lone flickering candle of intelligence in the cosmos is beyond laughable. The real question is, is it even possible to bridge the vast distances between the stars? If it is possible… if there is anyway  at all for a technologically advanced species to do it, then it is a given that is has been done and is being done.

Some of the brightest minds on the planet think about these things. Steven Hawkings, one of the worlds smartest physicists, takes the possibility of alien life so serious that he warned the world against trying to make contact with them. Reaching out into the cosmos is a great risk, to be sure. If we find them, or, if they find us rather, there is a possibility that they may not value our lives very much. We may be seen as pests to be exterminated off of a fertile planet that is theirs for the taking. Or, a hardworking species of monkeys ripe for enslavement. Or, they may have good intentions, but inadvertently expose us to alien diseases to which we have no immunity. Is this sounding familiar? It should. Remember the Native Americans and Columbus? Things can go to shit real fast.

For giggles though, let’s say that the first aliens we meet are the nice ones, and that they are capable of protecting us from their germs. They would have to be super-advanced. It’s the only way they could have gotten to us. So, they would probably see us as children. A very young and primitive species. Hopefully they would look past our warfare, poverty, oppression and depravity to see that we have promise. It would be a godsend. Such a race of aliens could take humanity under its wings, and help us find our way. They could teach us to use technology as a tool to make life better. In a very short time we could clean the air and oceans, and help the earth recover from the destruction that we inflicted on it in our troubled adolescence. In time, they could even help us to travel to the stars, and maybe introduce us to some of their friends.

I really hope that’s how it plays out. The probably, like professor Hawkings says, is that… yeah, they’ll most likely try to kill us.