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: The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was originally Glasgow University Gifford Lectures for the theme The Search for Who We Are in 1985. Sagan does a great job explaining difficult concepts clearly and with compelling evidence. Unfortunately, in several places I also knew about the contrary evidence which undermines his position. That they were not addressed very much disappointed me.

I mentioned this book in my Evidence blog post a few days ago. The search for proof is never ending because new information leads to new questions not satisfactory answers. So why do we continue to search? Because we want to know. Maybe we even feel entitled to know. (I also mentioned it in my Missing Hydrocarbons when I learned the point methane condenses is way out near Saturn not Earth, so why does Earth have life?)

View all my reviews

Healing Is Anti-Entropy

The Science of Healing Places was on the radio this morning. A statement near the end to the effect that healing is life or a part of life reminded me of something. Entropy, aka the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is the force behind why when you break a glass it cannot be reversed and come back together. Similarly, it works on our bodies and cells to destroy them. Bonds break. The odds of them joining without an intervention is low.

Yet the organization of our cells runs counter to entropy. Bonds regularly join and break on what seems like demand. Take breathing as an example. Red blood cells enter the bloodstreams of the lungs. Oxygen collected there takes the places of carbon dioxide by bonding with iron. Those red blood cells travel to different parts of the body where cells strip off that oxygen and carbon dioxide joins up with the iron.

Healing though is cells recognizing a malfunction of the body and bringing resources to bear in restoring the organization of the structures. Amazing to consider this goes on without our conscious consideration.

So, death is when these reorganization mechanisms have shut down. Entropy can then break down our cells at as normal.

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.

Tearing the Fabric of the Cosmos

Scientists plan an ultrapowerful laser to tear apart the fabric of spacetime to see what is inside. Everyone knows when you cause a rip in the spacetime continuum, bad things happen from Star Trek. Know science wants to destroy the universe.

arielwaldmanFreakin’ laser beams! Actually one of the most awesome lasers coming from of science in the next few years:

Ariel Waldman

The laser requires 200 petawatts of energy, aka 200,000 terawatts. A problem is world-wide production of energy by coal, oil, natural gas, solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass combined is just 21 terawatts. So they plan on huge batteries to store up the power. That seems like a really bad and enormously expensive idea. Saving up that much power when resources are already on edge increases the price for the rest of us.

A Laser to Give the Universe a Hernia? : Discovery News

3 days ago … Those pesky physicists are at it again; they want to build a laser so powerful that it will literally rip spacetime apart.


Originally posted to Storify.

Vibration-Induced Drop Atomization

Something really cool from Georgia Tech.

… a small liquid drop is placed on a thin metal diaphragm that is forced to vibrate by an attached piezoelectric transducer. The vibration induces capillary waves on the free surface of the drop that, upon attaining the critical conditions, begin to eject small droplets from the wave crests.

They call it Vibration-Induced Drop Atomization. If the embedded video below fails, check it out on Youtube.

TED Talk: Leonard Susskind: My friend Richard Feynman

What would be in your sandwich?

Richard Feynman wrote a couple of my favorite books: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out and The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist. It was reassuring to find someone who held similar views on the world.

Susskind’s The Black Hole War is on my to-read list. Guess I should bump it up higher in the list.

Baha’i Science Quote

In the furor over a bacterium using arsenic where normally it would use phosphorus, I looked up this quote. This has no direct bearing on the discovery other than why science is important.

If we look with a perceiving eye upon the world of creation, we find that all existing things may be classified as follows: first, mineral — that is to say, matter or substance appearing in various forms of composition; second, vegetable — possessing the virtues of the mineral plus the power of augmentation or growth, indicating a degree higher and more specialized than the mineral; third, animal — possessing the attributes of the mineral and vegetable plus the power of sense perception; fourth, human — the highest specialized organism of visible creation, embodying the qualities of the mineral, vegetable and animal plus an ideal endowment absolutely absent in the lower kingdoms — the power of intellectual investigation into the mysteries of outer phenomena. The outcome of this intellectual endowment is science, which is especially characteristic of man. This scientific power investigates and apprehends created objects and the laws surrounding them. It is the discoverer of the hidden and mysterious secrets of the material universe and is peculiar to man alone. The most noble and praiseworthy accomplishment of man, therefore, is scientific knowledge and attainment.

Science may be likened to a mirror wherein the images of the mysteries of outer phenomena are reflected. It brings forth and exhibits to us in the arena of knowledge all the product of the past. It links together past and present. The philosophical conclusions of bygone centuries, the teachings of the Prophets and wisdom of former sages are crystallized and reproduced in the scientific advancement of today. Science is the discoverer of the past. From its premises of past and present we deduce conclusions as to the future. Science is the governor of nature and its mysteries, the one agency by which man explores the institutions of material creation. All created things are captive of nature and subject to its laws. They cannot transgress the control of these laws in one detail or particular. The infinite starry worlds and heavenly bodies are nature’s obedient subjects. The earth and its myriad organisms, all minerals, plants and animals are thralls of its dominion. But man through the exercise of his scientific, intellectual power can rise out of this condition, can modify, change and control nature according to his own wishes and uses. Science, so to speak, is the breaker of the laws of nature.

Consider, for example, that man according to natural law should dwell upon the surface of the earth. By overcoming this law and restriction, however, he sails in ships over the ocean, mounts to the zenith in airplanes and sinks to the depths of the sea in submarines. This is against the fiat of nature and a violation of her sovereignty and dominion. Nature’s laws and methods, the hidden secrets and mysteries of the universe, human inventions and discoveries, all our scientific acquisitions should naturally remain concealed and unknown, but man through his intellectual acumen searches them out of the plane of the invisible, draws them into the plane of the visible, exposes and explains them. For instance, one of the mysteries of nature is electricity. According to nature this force, this energy, should remain latent and hidden, but man scientifically breaks through the very laws of nature, arrests it and even imprisons it for his use.

In brief, man through the possession of this ideal endowment of scientific investigation is the most noble product of creation, the governor of nature. He takes the sword from nature’s hand and uses it upon nature’s head. According to natural law night is a period of darkness and obscurity, but man by utilizing the power of electricity, by wielding this electric sword overcomes the darkness and dispels the gloom. Man is superior to nature and makes nature do his bidding. Man is a sensitive being; nature is without sensation. Man has memory and reason; nature lacks them. Man is nobler than nature. There are powers within him of which nature is devoid. It may be claimed that these powers are from nature itself and that man is a part of nature. In answer to this statement we will say that if nature is the whole and man is a part of that whole, how could it be possible for a part to possess qualities and virtues which are absent in the whole? Undoubtedly the part must be endowed with the same qualities and properties as the whole. For example, the hair is a part of the human anatomy. It cannot contain elements which are not found in other parts of the body, for in all cases the component elements of the body are the same. Therefore, it is manifest and evident that man, although in body a part of nature, nevertheless in spirit possesses a power transcending nature; for if he were simply a part of nature and limited to material laws, he could possess only the things which nature embodies. God has conferred upon and added to man a distinctive power — the faculty of intellectual investigation into the secrets of creation, the acquisition of higher knowledge — the greatest virtue of which is scientific enlightenment.

This endowment is the most praiseworthy power of man, for through its employment and exercise the betterment of the human race is accomplished, the development of the virtues of mankind is made possible and the spirit and mysteries of God become manifest…. (“The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l Baha during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912” (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982), pp. 2931.)