Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lecture notes

And Beyond

The clouds rolled overhead, the stars winking between the cracks in the sky like God catching your eye and saying “I got you.”  I was sprawled out, flat on my back in the dry spring grass, driven outside from a week of stress and uncertainty. The frogs sang in the night, welcoming spring, and the telescope patiently waited for the sky to clear (just like it always does.)  It did, and to the starship I sprang, peering out into Infinity. Ah, there it was. NGC 3593, a starburst galaxy, floated into view, a ghost of a cotton ball in empty space, churning out massive numbers of new stars, yet at twenty million light years, barely visible as a flicker of a thought.  If a light year is roughly 6 trillion miles away, and this is 20 million light years away, that means it’’s...120 million trillion miles away.  Another way to look at it is: there were giant sharks swimming in an ocean above us in the Miocene age when that photon started it’s journey towards my eye.  And remember: this isn’t particularly far away. I regularly observe galaxies two, three, even six times farther away, and that’s from my front yard.  

  This ancient starlight had a healing effect on my worried mind.  For the first time in a week, I felt myself again. Packing up the scope and closing up for the night, the rumble of the trash can wheels on the driveway had a comforting effect of routine, and another thought emerged like the glimmer of the stars of the Big Dipper behind a cloudbank.  It was the marvel that here in this universe of distances unfathomable, I was able to do something that the massive engines of nuclear fission (stars) were unable to achieve - namely, to make the choice to take out the trash. It’s easy to slide into the morass of nihilism in both times of trouble or when gazing into the Abyss of the cosmos.  What does it matter? Well, this simple act does. Right choice swirls with starlight, consciousness stretching along the light years, and the constellations wheel high overhead, nothing above the treetops for a hundred thousand years.    

  It’s truly been a delight to plumb the depths of a few of the mysteries of the Infinite with you.  This series has been a pleasure. I’d like to encourage you to take the next step - start applying that consciousness to expand your gaze outwards to the heavens.  Why? I don’t know. However, there are certainties.  The marveling at the dance of the stars, the advil-sponsored ponderings of the workings of the physics of black holes, and the wide-eyed wonder that a twinkling star invokes in me...all of this has made me grateful to be part of this universe, whatever it is.  

  How might one proceed?  Why, there’s plenty of ways.  Look at the science news. Visit the websites, get your mind puzzled with the physics videos on YouTube.  If you’re so inclined, snag an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a star chart. And, when the wind comes whispering through the night trees, go catch a glimpse of the rising moon.  I think you’ll be glad that you did. I know I always am.  

Clear skies!

  • Josh

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"And then they will fear me"

"It goes "nom nom nom?  It makes that noise?" she asked, suddenly concerned.  You could see bells going off in her head.  "Alert - Alert - Idle conversation has been breached, Level 2 - Pay Close Attention"

  I paused, partway through my impromptu show 'n tell, holding the carnivorous tropical pitcher plant aloft, (Nepenthes, for my fellow botanical nerds.)  "Oh no, it just is what I imagine it would say when it eats a bug, could it talk - but don't worry, it can't" I told the receptionist.  She laughed, apparently relieved.  (Hey, I don't blame her!)

  I take this as quite the compliment.  It seems that we all cultivate a reputation, and somehow, I'm the guy who would  bring a talking plant by the retirement community for fun.  Can't imagine what would give folks that idea...

  Just the other week, I was talking to a resident of another community, and she was grumbling to me about some of her neighbors.  Apparently, a few ladies have taken to riding the elevator for extended periods of their pajamas.  Hey, why not?

  Increasingly, I'm looking forward to being old.  Yes, Life has sadness and tragedy - but also perks with each stage.  Soon, they'll be genuinely concerned when I bring houseplants around...

What's the Godfather say in the movie?  "And then they will fear me!"  

Ha!  Keep in zany, folks, keep it zany...

Going up? 

Monday, March 9, 2020


Hey folks!

  It's been a long time.  Have you seen the moon this evening?  Go take a look - it's better than reading a blog. 

  (Quick stats:  it's the last full  moon of winter, fact courtesy of a new friend I met while observing said Luna in DC.  He doesn't think we've been there, and I do.  We've been talking anyway, in these times of us vs. them.  It's also called the Worm Moon, because our friendly neighborhood invertebrate farmers are about to start some serious tilling - all without a backbone.  Perhaps determination can look weak, but it's the consistency that gets the job done.) 

  See ya in a few!

Clear skies,