“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” Continue reading Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)
“Everything that happens before Death is what counts.”
–Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Earlier this week, one of the greatest writers of our time (or any time) was taken from us. I freely admit that I might have lifted a copy of Fahrenheit 451 from my school library, and it became one of those books that just changes your perspective forever. Like The Power of Myth, 1984, and Anthem, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit spoke to me in a way that few books ever can. In addition, as an avid fan of The Twilight Zone, Bradbury holds a special place for having written several episodes of the series. So, to memorialize Mr. Bradbury, I just wanted to mark the end of the week with a post about him and top it off with a fitting tribute piece from a fellow DA Deviant, Gabriel Rodriguez.
In case you missed it Tuesday, the 2012 transit of Venus across the sun was one of the very rare astronomical events we “regular folk” can watch and appreciate with little scientific instrumentation. Like eclipses, transits are one of the few “sciency things” that garner public attention and appreciation any more. Tuesday’s transit, lasting about 6 hours, was the last time Earthlings will get to see our “sister planet” until December 2117. Fortunately, our technology has improved a little bit since the last pair of transits, and we have been afforded multiple opportunities to watch the actual event. I was watching the live webcast from the NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
Events like this always strike me with a real sense of scale and I am imbued with renewed reverence for the Universe itself and for modern science’s efforts to understand it. Venus is nearly the same size as our own planet, yet it looks so small against the burning disc of the sun. There are sunspots that look like tiny flecks on Sol’s surface which are, in reality, large enough to swallow our world whole. Even solar prominences–massive plumes of plasma arcing across the solar surface–that could swallow Jupiter (a planet with a diameter 11 times that of our Earth’s) with little effort.
I think the Warners said it best when they stated that it’s “a great big Universe, and we’re not.”
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center released a stunning time-lapse video of the transit that’s available on YouTube and free download from their website. The footage was shot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and shows the transit in various wavelengths with varying levels of detail. From Goddard Multimedia:
The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum.
The professor told his class one day: “Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple: Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You will e-mail your partner that paragraph and send another copy to me. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back, also sending another copy to me. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back-and-forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely NO talking outside of the e-mails and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.”
The following was turned in by two of his English students: Rebecca and Gary.
(first paragraph by Rebecca)
At first, Laurie couldn’t decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.
(second paragraph by Gary)
Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago.
“A.S. Harris to Geostation 17,” he said into his transgalactic communicator. “Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far…” But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.
He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. “Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel,” Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspaper to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. “Why must one lose one’s innocence to become a woman?” she pondered wistfully.
Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu’udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace disarmament Treaty through the congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu’udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid, Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table.
“We can’t allow this! I’m going to veto that treaty! Let’s blow ’em out of the sky!”
This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.
Yeah? Well, my writing partner is a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. “Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of F–KING TEA??? Oh no, what am I to do? I’m such an air-headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steele novels!”
FUCK YOU, YOU NEANDERTHAL!
Go drink some tea, whore.
The pair received an A+ for their realistic portrayal of gender dynamics.
I have long been a critic of the Transportation Security Administration and its parent Department of Homeland Security since their inception following the attacks on September 11, 2001. That is not to say that I don’t think that we should have security at our airports, but that we should have more commonsense policies that don’t rely on a strategy of general harassment and exploitation of the flying public. The TSA strategy is generally reactive (please remove your shoes because that one guy tried to make them a bomb) and encumbered by bureaucracy. This sort of thing has led to labour slowdowns, periodic line freezes, and other general annoyances that do nothing to hinder terrorism while doing everything to annoy and patronise the flying public. In a way, the TSA simply proves that the terrorists won.