Sun Worship


Earlier this month celestial lovers throughout south and central Africa got to enjoy a spectacular solar eclipse that produced a ring of fire as the Moon transversed across the pathway of the Sun. The peculiar occasions when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up together doesn’t happen too often. Such a rare event has historically been linked with all sorts of predictions and paranormal expectations.

The funniest recording of a solar eclipse is, perhaps, also the earliest record. Occuring in October of the 2137 B.C., two royal astronomers, Ho and Hi, offended the fourth Emperor of China’s Hsia Dynasty,  Chung-K’ang. The eclipse was an unexpected event. The poor astronomers were unprepared to perform the customary rituals that should have taken place. The pair of official stargazers were drunk and failed to launch the traditional arrows and beat out the right rhythm on the gongs and drums so that the Sun could be delivered from the mythical beast that was attempting to devour it.

Convinced that chaos would soon consume the empire, the astronomers were summarily executed as an appeasement sacrifice for their drunken dereliction of duty.  A public record of their death was translated in 1839 by scholars to reveal an amusing verse indicating that, although brutal in enforcing their expectations, the ancient Chinese did have a sense of humor:

“Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi,

Whose fate though sad was visible –

Being hanged because they could not spy

Th’ eclipse which was invisible.”

In November of the year 569 an eclipse was recorded before the birth of the Prophet Mohammad in 570. There are many religious historians who link this eclipse as the moment of Mohammad’s conception. Interestingly enough Mohammed’s son Ibrahim died at the age of two-years-old during the occurrence of a solar eclipse. Mohammed wrote of this event as a sign sent from his God, Allah, of personal condolences. Muslims today still consider eclipses significant religious events. When the recent eclipse occurred mosques throughout Africa had special calls to prayer for safety and deliverance from harm.

Perhaps the most significant solar eclipse in modern history is the one of May, 1919. Commonly called “Einstein’s Eclipse”, it is considered to be the solar eclipse that changed the universe. For more than 200 years scientists had accepted Isaac Newton’s principle that the space of the Universe was as inflexible as mathematical principles.  Einstein set out to challenge this longheld belief. Einstein believed gravity was curved and flexible, affected by the mass of planetary bodies. He proposed that warping of space allowed planets to remain in their orbital paths, gravity distorted by the mass of a celestial body, the greater the mass, the stronger the force, which would result in more bending of light. This was to become known as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

When the 1919 eclipse occurred, British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington led the charge for an experiment to take advantage of the expected eclipse. Eddington traveled to Principe which is in the Gulf of Guinea off of Africa’s western coastline. A horrible thunderstorm threatened to ruin Eddington’s chances but, fortunately, by afternoon the skies had cleared. Eddington’s celestial photographs and measurements were compared with photos and measurements recorded by Andrew  Crommelin at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The findings were announced by Britain’s Royal Society’s Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson. It was announced in London on November 6, 1919 that Newton’s theory had been disproven by Einstein’s new Theory of Relativity.

To make sure that you are ready for the next opportunity to view a solar eclipse, log on to www.timeanddate.com and keep a watch on the countdown clock for eclipses listed under their Sun & Moon tab. It seems we are only about 5 months away from the next big event.  There is a handy search window everyone can use to see if their city or country is going to be in the most fortunate position of being able to see the eclipse.

To view a solar eclipse it is important to wear protective eyewear. A homemade viewbox can also be created called a pinhole camera. All you need is a box with a small hole on one side for light to pass through and project an inverted image of the eclipse on the opposite side.  Below is a video with an example of how to make and use a homemade pinhole camera. One tip: The bigger the box the better the view.

 

 

Sources:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

www.timeanddate.com

Image Credit: cherokeebillie.files.wordpress.com

 

Rub A Dub, Dub, Nelson Needs A Tub


It’s pretty common for researchers and common man to first think about the coastal dwellers who will be displaced by rising ocean levels due to climate change. Thoughts also quickly turn to coastal species of plants and animals that may fare even worse, having nowhere to turn, and thus possibly becoming extinct.

One thing that is rarely considered are national treasures that sit seaside or within a harbor. What will happen to the likes of the Statue of Liberty or Nelson’s Column? What of the Doe and Stag columns that welcome sailors into safe harbor at the island of Rhodes? How many wonderful works of art will possibly be swallowed up by the seas and lost to landlubbers because of climate change?

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Statue of Liberty, USA, image source:  www.pamojasisi.blogspot.com

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The Doe and Stag, Rhodes, image source: http://www.superstock.co.uk

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Unconditional Surrender, San Diego, CA, USA, image source:  www.yelp.com

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Annie Moore (first registered Ellis Island immigrant), Cobh, County Cork, Ireland, image source:  www.friendlysonsofpatrick.org

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The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark, image source: http://www.thousandwonders.net

And these are only a few that the gringa was able to search for and find. There are very few land-locked nations. Every country with a coastline has something to lose. We all have some artistic skin in the game. Beautiful, historic works of art are destined for watery graves, sooner or later, because of climate change. There may be a few heads bobbing above the waves but most of them will be forgotten by future generations except for adventurous scuba divers on photo safari.

Experts indicate that fossil fuel pollution accelerated climate change will continue to affect our planet even if we switched tomorrow to alternatives. We have passed the tipping point. It’s possible we have caused enough damage to affect significant change for the next 100,000 years. Over that period of time, as global temperatures continue to rise, sea levels will, too. Possibly as much as fifty meters (150 feet).

That means that timeless works of art that look out upon the seas and oceans of this world will definitely be inundated to oblivion. But to understand the true scope of the course our lifestyles have plotted for our planet, consider Nelson’s Column which is located well inland, at Trafalgar Square in London. Models of climate change predict that by the time this cycle has run its course, only half of the column will be visible above the water line.

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Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London, UK, image source: http://www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com

Before these dramatic events reach their fulfillment, mankind will have undergone dramatic migrational upheavals. As much as one fifth of the world’s population is expected to be affected. Rough estimates put current world population at about seven billion. That means that about one billion and four hundred million (1,400,000,000) people are going to have to move.

Dear readers, consider the strain Europe is undergoing right now with a Syrian refugee migration.  The United Nations reports that over nine million Syrians have fled their homes since the civil war began years ago. Estimates put the numbers spilling into Europe at about one million, but those numbers are questionable. Imagine if the refugee numbers Europe had absorbed had been one thousand fold. That’s the kind of numbers scientists are talking about where climate change migration is concerned.

There is no technology available to build any seawall adequate to protect the populations of coastal cities. They will have to relocate. Eventually. Period. There is no going back. The best we can hope for is that if we start tomorrow with zero carbon emissions we might be able to spare future generations from a worst case scenario (as if).

And, since that’s not going to happen, the gringa says invest in some scuba gear, sturdy suitcases, and quality maps of inland locales if you are a coastal dweller. If you live on secure high ground, perhaps you should build a guest house or two, or three, or maybe even forty. It may be the humble beginnings of a future hotel and housing empire for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

 

Source:  www.uk.news.yahoo.com

 

Image Source: www.news.yahoo.com

Scientists Have Feelings, Too


So often the subject of climate change is politicized and scientists are treated as if they have some kind of hidden agenda. The gringa assures the dear reader that most scientists are scientists because they love science. At their very core they are dreamers and artists who move through the world of science with an idealism that their knowledge can help make the world a better place.

So, rather than delve into criticizing these folks as being part of some sinister conspiracy to take over the world, think about how they feel about what they know and how everyone else is reacting to their publication of their work. It may very well change how you feel about the subject. Perhaps it may even light a fire within your own heart to do your best to be a part of changing the world for the better.

A website, www.isthishowyoufeel.com, has documented dozens of letters from scientists who study climate change. These letters are responses to  Author Joe Duggan who put this simple question to scientists: “How do you feel about climate change?” The gringa was extremely interested, to say the least.

I have only touched on highlights of their responses. To read the handwritten letters in their entirety (except for one that was typewritten), you will have to visit the website or, if you’re lucky, the most recent location where the letters are exhibited. You can also find that information on the website.

Professor Emeritus Neville Nicholls, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Australia is:

  • Confident we will adapt, reduce emissions and slow global warming

Dr. Anna Harper, Research Fellow, University of Exeter is:

  • Powerless about the power of those who are resisting action
  • Discouraged that the public is not understanding that we cannot wait to act
  • Frustrated that others cannot be convinced that we are being irresponsible
  • Optimistic for the opportunity to redefine how humans live
  • Hopeful in man’s creative and innovative talents

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is:

  • Frustrated to be in a nightmare where no one realizes the threat is real

Dr. Jessica Carilli, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston is:

  • Dismayed
  • Depressed at how humans have destroyed natural habitats and how so many don’t care
  • Powerless
  • Sad
  • Overwhelmed of the problem’s magnitude
  • Hopeful in politicians and grassroots movements that want to bring about change
  • Unwilling to give up
  • Amazed at human ingenuity to create solutions

Dr. Carlo Buontempo, European Climate Service Team Leader, Met Office Hadley Centre is:

  • Tired, especially of debating the subject
  • Outraged at the human species lack of response
  • Optimistic in collective knowledge

Agus Santoso, Senior Research Associate, University of New South Wales is:

  • Overwhelmed by the debate
  • Intrigued by the science
  • Tiresome of the political motivations behind debate of the subject

Professor Donald J. Wuebbles, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois is:

  • Concerned about the legacy we are leaving future generations
  • Hope in humanity’s history as problem solvers

Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology, University College London is:

  • Challenged because climate change makes all other global challenges worse
  • Optimistic as conditions continue to improve for humanity worldwide

This is just a sampling of a few of the letters that can be read in their entirety on the website www.isthishowyoufeel.com. The gringa loved reading all of these letters. I felt much closer to these elusive creatures that are so often reduced to lumps of data on paper.

Despite their levels of frustration, almost all of them are confident and hopeful. That speaks volumes to the gringa that if these folks are staring the facts and models in the face that predict the extinction of humanity, yet remain hopeful and confident that this problem can be averted, I will sleep well tonight. And, tomorrow, I will reapply myself to being a part of the solution.

How ’bout you, dear reader? How do you feel about all this mess?

Source: http://www.isthishowyoufeel.com

Photo credit: www.practicalpedal.com