Do You Ever Ponder the Moon?

Do you ever ponder the moon? Do you understand how important it is to life on earth, or do you view it as something that always has, and always will be a permanent fixture in the sky? Is the moon simply a familiar occurrence  with nary a thought to the role it plays in our lives? Would it surprise you to learn that without the moon, life on earth would be radically different.

Compared to other moons in the universe, ours is massive. At about a third of the size of earth, it is by far the largest of all the known moons. The gravitational pull of the moon is the force that creates ocean tides, it also keeps our planet tilted on its axis; resulting in our four predictable seasons. From plankton to sea turtles, moonlight is the maestro that that dictates behaviour.

Without the strong gravitational pull of the moon, we would be at the mercy of the sun’s gravity. It would tilt our axis back and forth. The poles could become lush jungles as the countries around the equator languished under miles of ice. The jet stream, ocean currents, and our concept of seasons would be replaced by unpredictable swings – likely too much for most life on earth.

I don’t expect that the moon will be going anywhere soon. The point of this ponder is to think about how incredibly lucky we are to even be here. We squabble about the existence of God, commit atrocious acts in his name,  debate global warming, squander resources, yet forget to consider the delicate balance of circumstance that allows us to  thrive. Every once and a while we need to stop and look at the moon.  Perhaps by gazing at it we will be reminded of our good fortune,  finally understanding that it doesn’t matter how or why we’re here.

Everything we know; all that we take for granted, works as part of a vast system called the universe. Take a moment to ponder the moon, and let it be a reminder of how lucky we are. Maybe then it will start to sink in that we’re behaving very badly, and wasting precious time.

Very Inspiring Blogger Nod

Many thanks to Petril41 at Dear Kitty for the Very Inspiring Blogger nomination.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

This nomination carries some rules and responsibilities. First – thank and link back to the person who nominated you. Second – nominate 15 other bloggers you admire, and notify them of the honour. Last – tell 7 things about yourself.

Seven things about notestoponder….

1. I gave flowers to Queen Elizabeth when I was twelve.

2. I have dried flowers from Queen Elizabeth’s bathroom. (She dropped the puck at a hockey game when I worked backstage at the arena)

3 This is my 248th post.

4. My post ‘Pondering Stephen Harper” has received the most views, with 967.

5. I’m not able to wink or whistle.

6. I can’t turn out the light at night unless I’ve checked space weather.

7. Given the opportunity – nothing would make me happier than to be a storm chaser.

My Nominees….

Unhappy Zombies

I heard a story on the news today equating interest in zombies with a general upswing in an unhappy society.The reporter explained that Sarah Lauro, an English professor at Clemson University studied zombies while working on her doctoral degree.  The main focus  was “zombie walks”, something she called a phenomenon. A zombie walk is when a group gathers in a park or city space, lurching about in full zombie splendour. Lauro claims that zombie walks started in Toronto in 2003, gaining popularity as the Iraq war blew up in our faces. She claims zombie fascination is part of a historical trend – a way to express cultural and economic dissatisfaction.

“It was a way that the population was able to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn’t been listened to by the Bush administration” Sarah Lauro

Lauro states that she has no interest in violence,horror movies, or video games yet has started taking part in zombie walks as a way to understand the mentality.With all due respect to you Sarah – what a load of rubbish. Unhappy people don’t react by playing dress-up, they turn to religion, buy guns, or yell at their families

I have to ponder why we justify unhappy zombies yet are too mummified to address actual cultural phenomenons like the explosion of fundamentalist Christian thinking. Unhappy people are too busy stirring the abortion pot, condemning gays to hell,blaming the 1%, or simply shutting down for zombie shenanigans.

With any luck Sarah will get the zombies out of her system, grow up, and take a long hard look at how unhappy people actually react.

COPUOS Thanks to The United Nations

COPUOS (Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space) was established in 1958 by the United Nations. Meeting once a year in Vienna, the original 18 counties has blossomed over the years into 74. The idea behind this annual meeting was to discuss matters of space for the common interest of all people, and to maintain “peaceful use”.  Technology progressed, so did COPUOS; the cold war faded – topics of discussion turned to space debris, near earth asteroids, satellite navigation, and disaster management

This year COPUOS did something that warms my heart – space weather was added to the agenda.

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog on a regular basis; understands how strongly I stand on educating the masses in matters of space. It boggles my pondering mind why solar wind, sunspot activity, and geomagnetic disturbances are not part of the daily weather reports.

By adding space weather to the COPUOS agenda, the United Nations acknowledges the potential ass kicking our sun could deliver. I won’t hold my breath, but the possibility exists that with the UN on board I just might live to see the day when everyone knows what a CME is.

Oh Louisiana

Stories pop up in the news about misguided school curriculum in America; for the most part I dismiss them as isolated cases on a slow news day. As a Canadian, I suppose it just seems too preposterous for educators to push bibles or deny evolution. Sure, you can send your kids to Catholic schools, or enrol them in any number of private institutions – that said; in most Canadian provinces    evangelical and private schools are obligated by law to teach evolution and LGBT rights. Under no circumstance imaginable would publicly funded schools be allowed to stray from an open minded curriculum.

When I heard about Louisiana’s Voucher School Program, I started to ponder. It may be my age as the story that peaked my interest reported these schools teaching “hippies” were dirty, draft dodging, immoral, Satan worshippers. I grew up on the Vietnam war, remember the Kent State  riots, and wore a flower or two in my hair – this did not sit well. The following is a page from the book America:The Land I Love, used as an 8th grade history textbook in Louisiana voucher schools.


My decision to learn more about voucher schools didn’t make me any happier. In a nutshell the program is the brain child of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He publicly defends his “education reforms” as a chance to help poor and under privileged students receive a better education.  Low income families can apply to the state for a “voucher” that will cover the cost of enrolment in participating private schools. In January District Court Judge Timothy Kelley ruled the program unconstitutional, as it used  money intended for public schools. The case is under appeal, and the program continues.

So what’s the big deal, aside from the dirty hippy reference and questionable use of public funds? Ponder some of the other gems in the voucher school curriculum.

The KKK was a “force of good”, most slaves were treated well, dinosaurs and man lived at the same time, and fire breathing dragons may actually have existed. The link below to Mother Jones has a list of knee slapping jaw droppers Louisiana believes well educated children need to know.

I can’t decide whether to laugh or scream. Oh Louisiana – there must be a better way.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Farewell to Stompin Tom Connors

Stompin' Tom Connors 080313Stompin’ Tom Connors

On March 6, 2013 we lost a truly great Canadian with the passing of Stompin Tom Connors. I listened to an interview today on CBC Radio; taped last year –  mesmerized by his stories, it was his genuine love for this country  and all the small towns he played that made me proud to be Canadian.

Stompin Tom got his start in 1964 at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario. A nickel short of the 40 cents needed to buy a beer, the bartender let him play for his suds. He stayed for close to a year before hitting the road again, trademark guitar slung over his shoulder. He rode the freight trains and hitch hiked from one side of the country to the other, playing, writing, and talking to people any chance he could. He didn’t care for fame or fortune; only the chance to share stories of the country he loved.

He recorded close to 50 albums over nearly 5 decades; yet it was the live shows that fueled his soul. Refusing to accept the JUNO award he won, illustrated his fierce disdain for music marketing and commercialism. He bristled at the thought of Canadian musicians leaving for America to “make it big” then returning once or twice a year to accept an award.

Stompin Tom Connors saw something in Canada that set this country apart.He listened, understood, and joyfully sang about coal miners, steel towns, fishermen, and farmers.

Best known for “Good  ‘Ol Hockey Game”, a song which is practically our national anthem – we salute you Stompin Tom, you brought a smile to our faces, and will truly be missed.

I like the send off given today in parliament by the NDP caucus.

C2013 A1 -AKA – Siding Spring

Comet C2013 A1 was discovered on January 3, 2013 by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory. Believed to have been thrown from the Oort cloud; this one is poised to give Mars a little trouble. On October 29, 2014 estimates place it within 37,000 Km. from the surface of Mars.

A lot can happen to this projection in the next year. This isn’t a single asteroid, rather a massive comet with a nucleus estimated anywhere from 15 to 50 Km, and a tail up to 100,000 Km. This tail isn’t just along for the ride; it’s made up of smaller rubble and frozen gasses – often with a mind of their own. C2013 A1 is passing close enough to the Sun at the moment to melt some of these frozen gasses, sending them hurtling into space. Often this action is enough to change the course of a comet, though best guesses  are placing money on a close call rather than a direct hit.

Mars may be spared an impact estimated at 25 million times more powerful than a nuclear bomb – it has no chance of escaping the massive tail. Without question it will be spanked by unknown quantities of space junk.

There is no chance that Earth will be in harms way. At least not this time around.

There's a chance, albeit slim, that a comet upwards of 50km wide could slam into Mars in 2014.

AFP/Getty ImagesThere’s a chance, albeit slim, that a comet upwards of 50km wide could slam into Mars in 2014.

Comet Pan-STARRS

On March 5 Comet Pan STARRS will make it’s closest approach to earth. At 28 million miles away, it will be visible to the naked eye. Discovered in June of 2011 by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa; while officially C/2011 L4 – they dubbed it Pan STARRS after the telescope used (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System)

Pan-STARRS photographed by Michael White – New Zealand

Six Degrees

Ponder this – The average temperature of earth during the last ice age was only 6 degrees cooler than it is now. The industrial revolution of the 19th century heralded the age of burning fossil fuels. Since our industrial blast furnace began belching noxious fumes – average temperatures have increased by 1 degree. A single degree; responsible for glaciers calving at unprecedented rates, and massive 100 year storms becoming all too frequent.

A study by the International Social Survey Program was recently published by the Science World Report. Covering 33 countries over a 17 year period from 1993 – 2010; it concluded global warming is becoming less and less of a hot topic. Only 4.7% rated the environment as a pressing concern, with most people calling it a national rather than personal problem.

A story in the news today reported on rising food prices due to recent drought in North American farming regions. Within a few years dry land farming will surely become one for the history books. America’s corn belt was devastated last year, with the lowest rainfall in decades. Call me crazy but this should be seen as something far more than somebody else’s problem.

Big oil seems to have figured it out; at least a few big old Texas oilmen. T. Boone Pickens purchased 68,000 acres in Roberts County, Texas; along with the rights to drain 50% of the water. He sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer – the largest aquifer in America. In 2008 the Bush family purchased 100,000 acres in Paraguay – strategically placed over Guarani Aquifer; considered to be the largest in the world.

We need to start thinking about climate change from a different point of view. The debate over its cause will continue to rage, our hand in hastening natural cycles is no longer the point. The world is changing; our weather will become increasingly violent, and the ice will melt faster than it can be replaced. If we can move on to acceptance there’s a fighting chance to wrap our heads around the problem.

Six little degrees is all that stands between us and the last ice age. It doesn’t take much to turn our comfortable existence upside down.