Archive for February 2015

Spock’s Final Frontier   Leave a comment


Farewell, Friend…

I heard he had gone into the hospital, but who’d ever think that Spock would die?  That’s as unfathomable as space and time itself!


People of a certain age, such as myself, count their youthful years against the number of Star Trek episodes they identify with.  I was quite young when they originally aired, but I remember seeing them.  Later, in the 1970s, Mom always turned the show on after dinner.  And there he was, Spock, spouting his quiet but firm logic against the perpetually angered and impulsive Kirk.  He had a better grip on things, from his unique perspective.  Half human, half Vulcan, he read into Earthly beings with insight, yet allowed his mature, tamer side to pump out the decisions that allowed the Enterprise to stay afloat in space.

So why wasn’t he the captain, you ask?

No swagger value, I’m afraid.  A quiet, contemplative fellow, Spock chose to pursue feats of the brain instead of the brawn.  And that’s fine, really.  There’s too many jocks out there, and every braniac, nerd, geek and other reject embraced Spock with a passion, because it gave them a great model to follow.  No, you don’t have to be a football player or a cheerleader – the universe needs thinkers, too!

In middle and high school, the same geeky types that were into Star Trek were also into such shows as Dr. Who and Space: 1999.   Even Monte Python’s Flying Circus.  We were the group that got all the strangeness because we didn’t have to worry about what people thought of us – they already thought we were weird.  Our imaginations set us free, launching us into the stratosphere with odd concepts convincingly plausible.  I got a bit stuck on wondering just exactly where in the universe the Enterprise was located, or headed.  How come they never ran out of gas?  Or water?  Or food?  Where did they get their uniforms from?  Who did the laundry?  How did they maintain personal hygiene?  I figured a ship that size had to have an awfully large cargo bay.  Maybe they did purloin provisions from populated planets.

My college friend Linda probably had some insight into these issues.  She devoted her life (at that point, anyway) to two things: music and Star Trek.  She memorized each episode, completely down to the credits.  She possessed an actual female uniform and wore it when the occasion demanded it.  Without hesitation she could name any tiny bit of trivia one threw at her, often showing down many a Star Trek scholar – which she proudly was – often at the price of a beer.

Still, this iconic sci-fi show would be nothing without its iconic star.  Spock beckoned us to live long and prosper, which he surely did.  He leaves us to enjoy the episodes which made him famous and live long in our hearts forever.

Endless Time of Space   Leave a comment


Time.  Space.  There’s an awful lot of it.  The two are a married couple, together for eternity, destined to rule everyone’s ultimate fate but perhaps their own.  What is all that out there, anyway, and how did it begin?

As I drove to work yesterday, whiteness blanketed every surface, including the river I travel along.  The snow disguised every surface, shrouding shapes.  It almost became difficult to see where the river and its banks met.  Where did one begin and the other ended.  For one reason or another, my mind drifted to the endless void of space.  You know, the one that’s situated where our planet and its eight companions hang out.

Sure, there’s loads of theories detailing how the Big Bang began it all.  But what prompted it?  And where, exactly, did that bang occur?  What was the situation, the circumstance, the one moment where conditions were correct to unleash a tide of matter and send it forth for eons?  Say, now’s a good time to create…everything…

Again, there are theories about all of this.  Tracing the creation of the universe to that Big Bang is pretty much where it stops.  My curiosity lies with What Came Before.

In my opinion, some matter had to be gathered together initially to agitate enough to explode.  What created that matter and how much was there of it to launch forth an entire universe of galaxies, novas, quasars and planets?  What created the void wherein the matter floats and drifts?  And like any explosion, the shock waves fly out until they dissipate or crash against a solid surface.  Will the shock waves act as ones that dissipate or like a string on a yo-yo, reaching a limit and then curl back?

It’s a lot to ponder as one’s listening to the band Viet Cong play “Silhouette” on the car radio, driving past a white ribbon of frozen river.

Just to perplex myself even further while I crossed over a bridge, I thought about the time it took to accomplish all of this.  No, not the kind of time-bending that Einstein and the movie “Interstellar” explored.  Just a simple answer.  You know, like 30 billion years.  Or so.  And how long did that void exists before it decided to make a universe?  What came before that?  And that?

I arrived at my destination: a small museum that I run.  Out of time, I pulled into a space and parked the car.  Slipping the key into the door and turning off the alarm, I turned my attention to the matters that awaited me at work, taking satisfaction that there were few mysteries there.  Nothing I couldn’t solve, anyway.

Posted February 19, 2015 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Universe

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Unreal Estate   Leave a comment


“Riccioli1651MoonMap” by G. B. Riccioli – Almagestum Novum

It used to be a common joke, once upon a time: selling a naive sucker the Brooklyn Bridge.  Same goes with swamp acreage.  But the moon?

Con artists throughout time dreamt up plots to sell lunar land as expansive as the graveyard along the Garden State Parkway.  Don’t worry about how you’re going to get there – you’ll figure it out! Where else can you get so much prime real estate?  Tell you what, it’s yours for the price of $100!

Well, there’s organizations selling star’s names to people willing to shell out money for no real reason except vanity – the National Star Registry, for example – but how real is that? Turns out, there’s interest in developing what the moon’s got to offer, and it could possibly be open to anyone with a way up and back.

Before that happens, though, there’s a few important details to consider, starting with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (also known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies).  Simply put, it says the moon belongs to no one in particular but to all humankind, no nation can put weapons of mass destruction upon it, and any nation that places a space object that lands upon it is responsible for any damages caused by said object.

This treaty was created well before the concept of private concerns launching their own scientific/lunar endeavors into space.  But we’re entering a new stage of space conceptualization now.  Private industry is poised to take over where nations once ruled.  Corporations such as SpaceX already contribute to NASA missions.  So what’s next?  The Moon Treaty of 1979 clearly states that no private entity can profit from the moon, and whatever is reaped from the moon must be for the benefit of all.  The United States, Russia and China, as well as many other nations, never signed it.  While there’s no underhanded endeavor to plunder the moon’s riches currently underhand, anyone’s a fool to think that isn’t going to happen as soon as it’s possible.

And really, what’s to stop individuals from going on up and taking what essentially is ungoverned land?  Think about it.  Throughout the history of the Earth, nations have taken over other nations, usurped the powers of other leaders, raped the resources and ruined cultures, all for the sake of greed and profit.  The entire side of the globe where I live (the United States) can thank its present existence to explorers from the other side of it, all in the name of seeing what’s there and what can be done with it.  Never mind that the land was already populated and doing well enough.

Truly, it’s only a matter of time before honest lunar endeavors turn into questionable ones.  In my mind, it’ll begin as an entirely cooperative gesture with clearly drawn lines.  But in the end, a small incident will lead to greater dissatisfaction, and it’ll only be a matter of time before hell will break loose.

In the meantime, enjoy the view.  It might change dramatically during our lifetimes, or those of our descendants.


Of Folklore and Science   Leave a comment

Out on a limb, barely hanging on

February 2 is a big day for a small creature.  Lots of pressure rests upon the back of the above pictured groundhog.  And yes, while he’s enjoying the lovely spring weather in the tree in our backyard, a lot depends upon his interpretation of when that season arrives.

Since it’s really not fair to pin the entire nation’s forecast on one groundhog, many locations throughout the United States and Canada have their own local weather hog.  Their names usually reflect their hometowns, such as Punxutawney Phil (from Punxutawney, PA, where the movie Groundhog Day was set), or Staten Island Chuck (from Staten Island, NY), Balzac Billy (from Balzac, Alberta), Queen Charlotte (from Charlotte, NC) or Winnipeg Willow (from Winnipeg, Manitoba).

If it’s a cloudy day and the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, it’s an early spring.  Should that sun be blazing away in the sky, well, that’s enough to discourage any groundhog from enjoying the weather and so our rotund rodent friend retreats to the burrow.  Counterintuitive?  Yeah, I think so.  I mean, why would anyone beat a quick exit from the sun unless they forgot their sunscreen?

Since I’m in the Hudson Valley, I generally take my predictions from Staten Island Chuck.  I seem to remember there being a closer chuck, but I didn’t happen to hear what his prediction might be for spring, so I’m sticking with SIC.  Seems that he called for an early spring and went back inside.  Or maybe he was a bit reticent in making any sort of prediction.  You see, last year New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio was invited to participate in the ceremony and held up the woodchuck/groundhog for the first time.  Upon holding said animal, it wriggled from his grasp, fell, and died a few weeks later.  This year?  Bill watched.

But really, I’d have to say I agree with what SIC predicted.  It seems like we’re on a Monday snowstorm schedule.  For the past few weeks, we’ve had snow, and just enough to close the schools and prevent me and Andrew from driving to work (but not from our desks at home).  It refuses to snow on the weekends, or if it does, it’s on Sunday evening when we’re attentively watching Downton Abbey.  The last thing I’m wondering is how I’m going to get to work, it’s how anyone finds Mary so fascinating when she’s got to be the least passionate, sex-craving person on the planet, and yet she attracts men in droves (it’s the money, surely).

I digress.

There is no weather science behind the groundhog, nor do they receive any special instruction from their elders that bestows upon them all the magical powers they’ll need to tell us to go get more salt for the driveway and gas for the snowblower.  It all came from a European tradition involving a badger.  Pennsylvania Germans began their tradition here in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the first recorded prediction noted in 1841 from Morgantown, PA (he didn’t say what the groundhog thought about the weather, but I’m sure it wasn’t positive).

As far as I can tell, I’ve not seen any official recognition by the National Weather Service regarding the predictions of any of this nation’s groundhog prognosticating teams.  Given the nature of some of their recent predictions, however, one might think they’ve consulted Staten Island Chuck to see what his take on those clouds moving in from the south and east mean.

I’m going with SIC’s prediction for now: six more weeks.  After all, we’re expecting 6-12 inches come Sunday into Tuesday.





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