I wouldn’t be a particularly responsible space weather geek if I neglected to report on uppity sunspots. Sunspots AR 1730 and 1731 are getting cranky; currently a 40% chance of M-class and 5% chance of X-class flares in the next 24 hours. Ho hum you say? Most likely the case – but never fear, I’m on the job and will let you know if any spectacular eruptions take place.
I just heard from my sister in Saskatchewan; feeling green with envy as she’s sitting on her front steps watching the Northern Lights dance. Auroras are a magical gift – they find you, wrap their arms around you, and feed your soul. Argh – so jealous.
Solar eruption on the far-side of the sun – courtesy NASA
We were out for dinner with our daughter last night and the conversation landed on Google Glass. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Google Glass, this is a concept known as ubiquitous computing; the idea of fitting computers to every day objects rather than people having to go to computers. Android and smart phones already fill this bill, in many ways eliminating the need for bulky desktops.Google Glass aims to take this a step further by allowing the user to interface with a pair of sunglasses. Google is in talks with manufacturers like Ray Ban, but adds that their goal is for this modular device to attach itself to prescription glasses as well.
Our daughter enthused about the concept for a few minutes, until my husband asked her if she realized the problem with them. A moment of silence followed, we could see her impatience grow – just short of rolling her eyes she relented and asked what the problem might be.
He explained how Google Glass put the GPS in our phones to shame. This device would allow not only our position but every word we spoke, person we met, or conversation we had to be on record. Google Glass is “big brothers” dream come true. A birds eye view of everything we did in a day.
I’ve had a day to ponder her reaction and conclude there was nothing exceptional about it. As alarming as it seemed to my husband and myself, I’ve realized we hail from an era where privacy was truly private. Not that there was the slightest hint of privacy around the single land line in the kitchen, at least when leaving the house I was untraceable. My children have never lived in a world where they didn’t “ping” off a cell phone tower or instant message their friends. Every purchase we make is tracked by store point cards, we “like” on facebook to receive coupons or join discount clubs, we customize the news received – all carefully monitored and digested by big business.
I have nothing against progress – simply hoping we realize the price we pay. My perception of privacy is based on impossibly outdated concepts; I can’t expect my children to understand the freedom of complete privacy. nor could I resist the opportunity to point out the perils of yet another privacy robbing device.
Growing up the prospect of a solar eclipse was big news. Granted the sixties and seventies were different times. I grew up in an age when we all gazed skyward. An era of lunar landings, rockets, and space probes. We sat glued to our B&W televisions as mission control made their final count down. Popular Mechanics magazine was popular and Captain Kirk warped his way across the universe. Quantum physics, string theory, and dark matter were unheard of. Food was cooked on a stove not zapped, telephones were wired to the wall, and nothing short of joy describes packing away the eight track tape in favour of the cassette.
I realize my ponder is lost on anyone under 40 but there is a relevant point.
The future I used to read about has arrived. It’s not the past that makes me nostalgic, nothing makes me happier than sitting at my computer. What worries me is the disconnect from our world. We all move so fast. The world passes by as the “road trip” is replaced with “all inclusive” vacations. Terror describes the reaction to losing a cell phone, the one device many are incapable of putting aside for even the briefest of moments. Texting not talking has become the preferred means of communication, often the only assurance we have of reaching someone. Coffee shops; once the place to meet and exchange ideas,silent but for the faint tap of keys on Mac Books. We have “friends” we’ve never met, debates with strangers, and fail to recognise the irony when shelling out for the latest self help e-book.
It would be unreasonable to expect the realm of possibility to ever include setting aside our modern tools. There will always be a future, technology is unstoppable. What’s sad is how runaway advances have taken away our ability to dream and imagine.
I can’t think of a better way to charge your spirit or feel restored than to gaze at the sky. The Taurids peaked last night so chances of an earth bound fireball are slim. My suggestion is a good old fashioned eclipse. Unless you live in Australia the next total eclipse of the sun on Nov. 14 isn’t much good. Don’t despair there will be plenty more. Given fair warning you can arrange an “event” to watch it with all your facebook “friends” The only catch – you have to actually go outside and see it for yourself.
I always pictured our planet as a perfectly round ball orbiting the Sun. Thank you earthsky for setting the record straight. Earth is actually an “oblate spheroid” it bulges out at the north pole and dips in at the south. There is a 27 Km. difference between the circumference at the equator and the poles.
Six hundred light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, circling a star named Kepler every 290 days, orbits the planet Kepler 22b. Named for the NASA probe Kepler, this is the first confirmed “earth like” planet in a “habitable” zone. the habitable zone is defined as a planet just the right distance from its Sun to support liquid water.
Thorium, the 90th element, is the driving force behind a concept car developed by Cadillac. The World Thorium Fuelled ( WTF ) would have an on-board nuclear reactor, powered by Thorium rather than Uranium. Thorium – more plentiful and less radioactive than uranium – would power a laser which would heat water, creating steam to propel the vehicle. Theoretically it could last 100 years without maintenance, produce no emissions, and be quiet as a mouse.