Total Eclipse


Total Eclipse over Greenville, SC
Total Eclipse over Greenville, SC

A friend invited others to her parent’s house inside the totality. It was fantastic placement very near the center of totality, so we got to see it for a couple minutes rather than a few seconds just inside totality. [Photo album]

I experienced the annular eclipses in 1984 and 1994. I was a kid at the time, so my recollection is fuzzy. We also were not in the path, so it got dimmer but not… this.

The sky was BLACK. Night BLACK. Eerily unnerving BLACK. I felt like a quark inside a nearly infinite universe. And then the light returned.

It hands down is the most spectacular moment I have ever experienced. I understand how peoples found this event so terrifying. I understand the physics and have a hard time believing it. I now get why people become eclipse chasers. I could become a junkie for wanting to experience this again and again.

It would be amazing to see the next one in the USA April 8, 2024. It goes over Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine.

We expected traffic getting there and returning home to be horrendous with the interstates, highways, and roads swamped with people. From what I heard, traffic on I-85 was really bad in places, since that was the direct route from Atlanta to Greenville. And it was pretty bad up in the mountains.

Review: Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one falls along the lines of the Elegant Universe as a history of science. Going back to Greek philosophers and moving through developments in understanding the Universe, Singh explains the findings and the contemporary reactions. And also how the world reached being ready for the next step. So it covers much of any number of physics histories but new nuances.

And he uses British phrasing in places that I was not familiar. Guess I should watch more British TV.

View all my reviews

God Lives 9 Light Years Away

This passage comes from the book Big Bang.

[George] Gamow was infamous for his limericks and his sometimes offbeat application of physics. On one occasion, he argued God lived 9.5 light years from the Earth. This estimate  relied on the fact that in 1904, at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, churches across Russia had offered prayers requesting the destruction of Japan, but it was not until 1923 that Japan was struck by the Kanto earthquake. Presumably prayers and God’s wrath wee limited by the speed of light, and the time delay indicated the distance of God’s abode.

The current year is 2013. 2013 – (9.5 * 2) = 1994. If it turned out to be 1995, then that would confirm Gamow and Republican prayers about defeating the Democratic president during the shutdown. OR… Maybe God is only 9 light years away now. Now the math works. Hindsight being 20/20 and all. He’s getting closer to us?


P.S. The whole post is a farce. I do not believe God lives a specific distance away. The passage was funny when I read it. I did the quick math and was disappointed it was just close. It would have been funnier to be right on target.


Challenger Explosion
NASA: Challenger Explosion

Twenty-five years ago today my teachers had us all gather in a classroom. A teacher was being sent into orbit. The intent was for us to see a historic event. Instead we got to see even bigger history being made as the Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch. The disintegration of the vehicle was blamed on failure of the o-rings to contain the hot gases. It grounded the shuttle program.

When I attended Space Camp over a year later, the program was still grounded. One of my hopes was to better understand the cause. The adults instead steered us towards the physics of space flight and mechanics. A black spot on the history seemed to be avoided.

Years later, my eighth grade science fair project was to show how freezing o-rings, especially with water involved, distorted their shape. Some o-rings even cracked. It earned me a second place overall for the school. It also got me to the regional science fair where it did not fare so well.

The Saturn Group

Cosmological Constants

Guess I am pretty dense. As many books and TV shows as I have read or seen about Einstein, physics, and cosmology, I just understood something for the first time since it was extremely plainly laid out for me. An ever expanding universe requires one or more forces to push matter further apart: cosmological constant. Forces attract or repel. Gravity attracts matter. Yet there is something, still unknown, repelling matter.

links for 2007-07-05

Physics for Eight Year Olds

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Hawking to write children’s book:

Physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter are to write a science book for children which will be “a bit like Harry Potter”, but without the magic.

Too bad I don’t have any children to which to read such a book. My favorite college volunteer experience was spending a couple hours a week working with Second graders for a “Human Growth and Development” class. I sensed the teacher’s hesitation at covering the Solar System and stepped in to help her.

The students seemed to enjoy it more than I did. 🙂

We need books like this. At the pace of science and engineering, introductions to these principles need to be introduced at younger and younger ages. My brother tackled Algebra at this age. So I can see many children finding such a book interesting.