All posts filed under: Science

Fear.

We were on the island to learn about prehistoric Aleuts and the ecological past. But between us and Aleut occupation of the place, World War II happened. We hiked across maritime tundra landscapes scattered with symmetrical cereal-bowl bomb craters. We mapped what felt like an endless series of Japanese entrenchment features and the young men on the crew talked about gun emplacements, turkey shoots, and the Pacific Theater of War. They were terribly excited and they stood in the old emplacements waving their arms around, arguing over probable tactics, logistics, and use of terrain in defense of bays. I sighed over my graph paper and measuring tapes because I wasn’t there to learn more about World War II. Nonetheless, I was there, the WWII sites were there, and finally it occurred to me that I was thinking about the soldiers who built and maintained these trenches as people – not as machines of war and history. Young men scrambled in these irritatingly numerous trenches in the same howling wind and rain I was experiencing. Except, …

The benevolent dictator at Christmas.

My absolute dominion over the thousands of beings in my WidedEyedDemesne is of the gentlest nature. This is my moral and ethical choice – as you know, with great power comes great responsibility. In the holiday season, I strive to make the lives of my WideEyedSubjects shine brightly. For Hamish the Corgi, a stuffed Olaf the Snowman waits under the tree – Sven the Reindeer is sitting next to him, having no notion that he is a gift for Miss Tibbit and that his days are short. Fitz (the betta fish are always named Fitz) will have a new moss ball. Wiggins the Ancient Cat received a teeth cleaning and three extractions – the vet tells me this was a gift of life. This almost made my heart swell in direct proportion to the shrinking of the WideEyedTreasury. The hundreds of red wigglers in the worm bin, so content to ooze in the dim moistness – I’ve got three eggs shells and some mushroom stems for them. Wiggle worms, and squirm. Enjoy your holiday feast and …

I went to Space today.

I just watched the Orion deep-space capsule flight test video. I watched the capsule leave Earth, the fiery tails of the booster rockets glowing against a dawn sky, wishing I were one of the 27,000 people who watched it live this morning. Then I saw the blue curve of our planet emerge against black space from a camera mounted on the capsule. The world shrank and space grew. Then, and you have to stay with the video to the end, then the booster rockets detached and the crew module floated alone in space. My heart floated with it. Take five minutes from your day and watch the video. The capsule is home again, splashed into the Pacific Ocean, but for a little while today I went to space with it.

The dogs will not have the last peanut butter cup.

The vastiness of the cosmos has been replaced by wonderment at the intricacies of mammalian interiors around here lately. The WideEyedLaundry is full of gored up shirts and khakis. My mind, in moments of distraction, traces ropey muscles, rubbery tendons, and white bones rather than the sparkle of faraway stars and dark matter. I imagine muscles flexing, tendons pulling, and mighty bison hooves stomping on dusty ground. A buffalo died at the zoo a week or two ago. The strange nature of my job calls on me to transform this creature from fur and flesh to clean, white skeleton. The process involves waterproof shoes, a U-Haul van rental, several students, many scalpels, and protective gloves. Defleshing a bison used to be normal. Well, not yesterday normal, not for me. But most of our human past required the ability to make dinner from something that used to be walking around. Personally make dinner, not abstract-grocery-plastic-wrapped-into-a-frying-pan-dinner. Now, it’s a little strange for most people. I just can’t help but notice the way things go together in there, …

…time is passing at an accelerated rate –

I looked out my office window this morning and saw yellow maple leaves scattered all over the yard. The borage in the garden is barely clinging to abundant life. The bees are a little less busy in the blooms. It isn’t summer anymore. Time is passing. Normally I don’t think much about the seasons changing, except to contemplate on the untidy lack of straightness in our planet’s axis relative to the orbital plane. That bothers me kind of a lot. Things should be straight, not at weird angles making everything all tilty and awkward and winter and summer. But I keep noticing – time is passing. Yesterday was trash day. Our junky old dishwasher didn’t last even an hour out on the curb. And that’s fine, except that I would be willing to swear that it just was trash day the day before that. It only comes once a week so if every day is trash day in my mind, what is happening to the days in between? Time is passing in a blur of …

The moon over my Hammie.

No, actually Hamish the Corgi was too wiggly. He couldn’t get himself settled enough to peer through the 12mm lens at the moon. He kept trying to put his meaty paw on the telescope tube for balance and he was sort of kicking around in my arms. I know he was disappointed, but he can try again next time. I stared at the craters, I like the ones with the impact cone in the middle. I don’t know why. The WideEyedSpouse sort of pushed at me. “Hey, let me have a turn,” he sniveled. I took one more look and stepped back from the Celestron, immediately looking up at the now-puny moon hanging above my neighbor’s house. It was lame in comparison to looking at it with the telescope. After what felt like A THOUSAND YEARS, I politely asked the Spouse to move. “Come on man,” I whined, “you are totally hogging the telescope.” He engaged the selective deafness protocol. “Come ON,” I stepped into his personal space. He put his shoulder toward me. I …

Dark energy and love.

Yesterday evening I was reading about the form of the visible universe in my new backyard astronomy book. The WideEyedSpouse was doing something involving dinner while I sat at the awesome vintage kitchen table. Wiggins the Ancient Cat kept trying to put his butt on the page. Tibbit the Useless rested her chin on my knee. She was bound for disappointment, as I was reading not eating. Hamish the Corgi sat looking at me, learning about the universe through our mental link. Stars. Planets. Constellations. Yeah, yeah. Nothing new there. (Except that I discovered that I should be able to see the Milky Way directly above my house right now and all I can see is the glare of my neighbors’ anti-thief lights. Annoying, but what can do you? Cities are creepy.) Then, I looked at a photograph from the Hubble that captured hundreds of whirling galaxies. They face every which way. They are different colors. Big ones, little ones. Galaxies all over the place in every direction. There are billions of them. I felt …