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Posts Tagged ‘Moon

“Doubt thou the stars are fire”*…

 

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Solar storms are a relatively regular occurrence.  But in 1859, a massive solar storm occurred; solar flares created the one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record.  Telegraph service failed… but otherwise the event was largely a curiosity.

A new study calculates that our sun may produce another ‘superflare’ in the next 100 years… and suggests that the resulting damage to electronic systems on which we’ve come to depend could be devastating.

How much more disruptive would a superflare be? It’s hard to say because the damage would seem to be incalculable. A superflare even a hundred times more powerful than what we normally experience would almost certainly hit every unprotected electronic system on Earth in some fashion, disrupting or outright crippling powergrids around the world, disabling machinery and manufacturing, blowing out cell phones, satellites, and all the rest. Transportation systems depend on electronics, as do utility systems, communications systems, in short: everything could just stop working overnight, even though we probably wouldn’t feel a thing.

If the superflare was thousands of times more powerful than normal? For all we know, it could send humanity back to the Age of Sail practically overnight–at least until we can repair or replace the entire planet’s electronic infrastructure, a tall order when you have no power transmission to manufacture replacement electronic components and we’re all reduced to communicating using carrier pigeons and old fashioned letters…

The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude to the 1859 flare, but it passed Earth’s orbit without striking the planet, missing by nine days.  For more on what we might expect of we’re not so lucky next time, see “Massive Superflare Eruption from Sun within 100 Years Possible, New Study Says.”

And for more background see: “Solar Flare: What If Biggest Known Sun Storm Hit Today?

* Shakespeare

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As we slip on our shades, we might spare a thought for Giovanni Battista Riccioli; he died on this date in 1671.  He is known, among other things, for his experiments with pendulums and with falling bodies, for his discussion of 126 arguments concerning the motion of the Earth, and for discovering the first double star.  But he is perhaps most remembered for introducing (in in Almagestum Novum in1651) the current scheme of lunar nomenclature: he named the more prominent features after famous astronomers, scientists and philosophers, while the large dark and smooth areas he called “seas” or “maria”.  The lunar seas were named after moods (Seas of Tranquillity, Serenity) or terrestrial phenomena (Sea of Rains, Ocean or Storms).

440px-Giovanni_Battista_Riccioli source

 

Written by LW

June 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“You can’t trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it”*…

 

New Yorkers like to say their tap water is the best in the world. Surely, then, it’s worth a $1.99-a-month subscription to drink it when you’re away from your sink—right?

That is the concept behind Reefill, a startup that aims to bring the subscription model to the simple, free act of filling up a water bottle at a café. The company wants to build 200 smartphone-activated water fountains inside Manhattan businesses, less to make money off the Nalgene crowd than to hit Dasani, Aquafina, and the wasteful consumption habits of bottled water–guzzling Gothamites…

Just as one field of startups is dedicated to doing what Mom won’t do for you anymore, another is reviving the infrastructure of the 19th century. Uber eventually found its way to the bus; Reefill, to the public drinking fountain…

Top up at “The Startup That Wants to Sell You a Subscription to New York City Tap Water Explains Itself.”

* W.C. Fields

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As we pine for the days of bigger visions, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that President John F. Kennedy gave the historic speech before a joint session of Congress that set the United States on a course to the moon.

In his speech, Kennedy called for an ambitious space exploration program that included not just missions to put astronauts on the moon, but also a Rover nuclear rocket, weather satellites, and other space projects.

Read the transcript here.

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Written by LW

May 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”*…

 

“Machiavelli” by William Mortensen

Anton LaVey was a fan, and so was Ansel Adams who called him the “Antichrist.” William Mortensen was clearly no ordinary photographer.

Born in Utah, William Mortensen spent the formative years of his career in Hollywood working as a still photographer on Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings, among other gigs, before setting up shop in Laguna Beach in 1931. Mortensen’s experiences in the fantasy factory of Hollywood provided a solid starting point for his jaw-dropping exercises in imaginative manipulation. Consciously channeling the Old Masters of centuries past, Mortensen tirelessly executed dozens of astounding portraits and evocative “scenes”—pictures so ravishing that the viewer is often bound to question their status as photographs…

Read more of Mortensen, and see more of his work, at “William Mortensen– the Anti-Christ of Photography.” There’s even more in this short (23 minute) documentary, Monsters and Madonnas:

* Diane Arbus

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As we fiddle with the focus, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that John William Draper took a daguerreotype of the moon, the first celestial photograph (or astrophotograph) made in the U.S. (He exposed the plate for 20 minutes using a 5-inch telescope and produced an image one inch in diameter.)   Draper’s picture of his sister, taken the following year, is the oldest surviving photographic portrait.

An 1840 shot of the moon by Draper– the oldest surviving “astrophotograph” as his first is lost

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Written by LW

December 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Fly me to the moon”*…

 

email readers click here for interactive video

Do you long to go to space? With space tourism stalled and NASA’s Mars mission years away, you probably won’t be able to get up close and personal with Earth’s neighbors any time soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience them, thanks to two new 360-degree views of Mars and the Moon…

Take 360-Degree Tours of Mars and the Moon.”

* Frank Sinatra (lyric from Bart Howard’s composition, originally titled “In Other Words”)

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As we sample the cheese, we might send high-flying birthday greetings to Octave Chanute; he was born on this date in 1832.  A civil engineer who was a pioneer in wood preservation, primarily as applied in the railroad industry, he is better remembered for his application of these techniques first to box kites, then to the struts in the wings of gliders.  Through thousands of letters, he drew geographically-isolated aviation pioneers– including Orville and Wilbur Wright– into an informal international community: he organized sessions of aeronautical papers for the professional engineering societies that he led; attracted fresh talent and new ideas into the field through his lectures; and produced important publications.  At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine.

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Written by LW

February 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

It’s not too early to think about *next year’s* Fathers Day…

From the silly…

The Cabana Islander holds up to 6 people. Impractical in a swimming pool, it’s really only useful in a big body of water, like an ocean, where you might fall asleep and drift out to sea.

The only good thing about this $364 piece of inflatable plastic is that when you do, inevitably, wake up somewhere over the horizon, you’ve got up to five other family members or friends to eat. Just make sure you bring someone weak when you set sail for disaster, since you’ll need to conserve as much energy as possible in the process of overpowering them to eat their body.

…through the sillier…

This computer mouse hides a digital scale inside and has a little compartment to stash a tiny amount of weed. This would be more practical if a desktop computer wasn’t a big square box with a ton of empty space where you could put a full-sized scale and several ounces of weed.

Customers who bought this also bought a plastic bic lighter that you can store an even tinier amount of weed in. Who are all these customers and what are they doing with their tiny pieces of weed?

… to the tasteless…

 “I have a clean!”  Thanks once again, capitalism, for reminding us that one of the greatest Americans in history can be reduced to a joke for a few thousand bucks. We laugh and destroy the few people willing to put their lives at stake to ensure a better future for the next generation. One day the sun will swallow the Earth, and the rest of the universe will breathe a sigh of relief.

…and the downright insulting…

“Unless your the worlds most fuckable man, you need Sure Fuck Cologne!” (sic) says the manufacturer.   They also brag it “drives women into a Hot Sexual Frenzy!”  If that’s true, it must smell an awful lot like having a full-time job.

… it’s all at The Worst Things for Sale.

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As we contemplate commercial creativity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1178 that “The upper horn of the moon split in two … a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out fire, hot coals & sparks”: an asteroid or comet collided with the moon resulting in a violent explosion that created the Giordano Bruno crater.

The upper horn [of the moon] split in two.  From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
Gervase, Friar and Chronicle at Canterbury, who witnessed the event

NASA photo of the Moon’s Giordano Bruno crater

source

Written by LW

June 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

The Eternal Auditorium…

Guglielmo Marconi, one of radio’s early pioneers, believed  that sound never dies; Nate DiMeo, of the podcast The Memory Palace, explains…

In his 60s, having suffered a series of heart attacks, Marconi dreamed “of a device that would let him hear lost sounds, let him tap into these eternal frequencies. He would tell people that if he got it right, he could hear Jesus of Nazareth giving the Sermon on the Mount…”

At the end of his life he could sit in his piazza in Rome, and hear everything that was ever said to him or about him. He could relive every toast and testimonial. And we all could — hear everything: Hear Caesar. Hear Shakespeare give an actor a line-reading. Hear my grandmother introduce herself to my grandfather at a nightclub in Rhode Island. Hear someone tell you that they love you, that first time they told you they loved you. Hear everything, forever.

There’s more in Rebecca Rosen’s appreciation at The Atlantic, “The Museum of Lost Sounds,” where she links to the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s sound archive.  You can hear the whole of DiMeo’s Marconi piece, “These Words, Forever,” here, and more of his wonderful podcasts at The Memory Palace.

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After we candle our ears, we might send both birthday greetings and notes of condolence to Johannes Hevelius; he was born on this date in 1611, and died on this date in 1687.  A councilor and mayor of Danzig (Gdańsk), Hevelius was an avid– and important– astronomer who worked from observatories he built across his city’s rooftops.  From four years’ telescopic study of the Moon, he compiled Selenographia (“Pictures of the Moon”, 1647), an atlas of the Moon with some of the earliest detailed maps of its surface.  A few of his names for lunar mountains (e.g., the Alps) are still in use, and a lunar crater is named for him. In Prodromus Astronomiae (1690), Hevelius catalogued 1564 stars, discovered four comets, described ten new constellations (seven of which are still recognized by astronomers), and was one of the first to observe the transit of Mercury.

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Written by LW

January 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

And that’s the way it is…

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Arguments rage as to how the U.S. sailed into the economic eddy in which we’re caught, and as to how we should navigate out.  (Your correspondent’s thoughts, FWIW, are littered among the postings in his other blog.)  But the situation is what it is…  a situation that the folks at ProPublica have profiled, current as to data available this month.

Some selections:

– Annual rate at which the GDP grew this year: 1.3 percent between April and June, 0.4 percent between January and March
– Average annual GDP growth from 1998-2007: 3.02 percent
– Total jobs lost since January 2008: 8.7 million
– Total jobs recovered since January 2008: 1.8 million
– Unemployment rate in July 2011: 9.1 percent
– The “natural unemployment rate”: 5 percent
– Months that the unemployment rate has been around 9 percent or more: 28
– Number of unemployed people in July 2011: 13.9 million
– Number of long-term unemployed people in June 2011: 6.3 million, or 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Number of long-term unemployed people in July 2011: 6.2 million, still about 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Years it will take to get back to an unemployment rate of 5 percent: four years if we’re adding jobs at 350,000 per month; 11 years if we’re adding jobs at the 2005 rate of 210,000 per month

More at ProPublica… In an economy the fundamental premise of which is consumption, and in which employment gains demand a GDP growth rate of over 2%, it’s a sobering picture.

As we contemplating re-stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1835 that the New York Sun began a series of six articles detailing the discovery of civilized life on the moon.  Now known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles attributed the “discovery” to Sir John Herschel, the greatest living astronmer of the day.  Herschel was initially amused, wryly noting that his own real observations could never be as exciting.  But ultimately he tired of having to answer questioners who believed the story.  The series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction.

The “ruby amphitheater” on the Moon, per the New York Sun (source)

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