Monthly Archives: August 2015

Solar Flares are also a result of the magnetic fields

By watching sunspots astronomers can tell that the Sun takes about 25 days to rotate at the equator and about 35 days at the poles. Each of these sunspots creates a magnetic field. As the sunspots move the magnetic fields move. Because of the different rotation times the magnetic fields eventually get so tangled up that they ‘rearrange themselves’ and this is what creates the 11 year sunspot cycle.

(The Great Courses – A Visual Guide to the Universe)


‘The Rights of Man’ – his other very popular work

After Thomas Paine wrote ‘Common Sense’ he chose to make it open to all publishers to publish without needing to pay Paine for it. This helped make it a bestseller.  After the American Revolution he was celebrated in France at the start of the French Revolution and Paine moved there and was made a French legislator. After he chose to argue against killing the King he lost a lot of support and was stripped of his position and imprisoned in France for 10 months during the Terror. He was scheduled to be guillotined but somehow managed to avoid it by what appears to be a bureaucratic mix up. He was eventually freed and moved back to the United States. Britain considered him to be guilty of sedition for his views about the rights of man and arguing for the English people to get rid of the crown. He had to avoid sailing back to the United States from France for a while so that he would not be picked up by a British warship. Benjamin Franklin was one of his biggest supporters when he first moved to the American Colonies but he had made many enemies across the political spectrum over the years and died an unpopular figure in the United States.

(Book – Thomas Paine – Craig Nelson)

A beautiful voice

Marni Nixon is one of the most heard musical voices in movies. She dubbed the singing of Deborah Kerr in ‘The King and I”, Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair lady” and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story”. She did NOT dub Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” but she did play Sister Sophia in the movie.

(The Great Courses – Great American Music: Broadway Musicals)

We don’t even track meteorites this small

In 2012 an NEA (near Earth asteroid) that was only 17 meters across exploded above the earth 20 kilometers south of the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. When the shock wave hit the city 100,000 windows were smashed and 1500 people were injured. This was the first time in recorded history that multiple injuries were caused by a single meteorite. The energy was about 30 times the explosive energy of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

(The Great Courses – A Visual Guide to the Universe)

The universe wants YOU

Do you want to help solve the problems of the world? You can help even without any specific training. Type ‘Citizen Science’ into your favorite web browser and find a project. Scientists all over the world use people like you and me to solve their problems. From ‘Climate Change’ to ‘Asteroid Hunting’ to ‘Genetics’ and a thousand other topics, you can help. Some projects are as simple as loaning your home computers idle time to help crunch numbers. One of the the first of these was (and still is) SETI@Home. This is one that I participated in for many years. Here is a website hosted by the Smithsonian to help projects find helpers.

(The Great Courses – A Visual Guide to the Universe)

There’s no business like show business

Irving Berlin could not read music, he learned to play by ear. He also could not play the piano except in the key of  F# major on mostly the black keys. He bought a piano with twelve notches and a lever. When the lever was moved to a new notch the keyboard was moved to the next string. This was Berlin could play in different keys by still playing the keys on the keyboard that he was used to playing.

(The Great Courses – Great American Music: Broadway Musicals)

Could this have once been the planet in that orbit?

The entire mass of all the asteroids in the Asteroid Belt is now only about 4% the mass of the moon. The largest two asteroids Ceres and Vesta contribute about 40% of the total mass of the Asteroid Belt. Vesta used to be molten and has an iron core like a planet and despite Vesta’s small size the mountain peak at the center of the crater Rheasilvia is 25 kilometers high and is the second largest mountain in the solar system. (Mons Olympia on Mars is the highest). Collisions with Vesta have created a huge number of meteorites and 6% of all meteorites found on the Earth came from this one Asteroid!

(The Great Courses – A Visual Guide to the Universe)

Surprise! Sex sells seats

The first American blockbuster musical in 1866 was called “The Black Crook”. The audience was mostly men and it was 5 1/2 hours long. The music had no relationship to the show and critics called it tasteless and stupid. It ran for 474 performances in its first run and it had several revivals in the next 25 years. It also contained 100 ballerinas in tights who showed a little more of their legs than was usual for it’s day.

(The Great Courses – Great American Music: Broadway Musicals)