CSotD: Rocket science and other simple topics

xkcd is a dependable source for mindbending scientific concepts, but I was way ahead of them on this one.

It’s the type of “I knew that” which makes you feel good, because the response is “Wouldn’t it be great if more people knew that?”

Back in 2006, I wrote a newspaper series for kids called “Stories in the Stars” that combined astronomy and mythology, or perhaps I should say I assembled it, since I called in two on-line friends, Sherwood Harrington, coordinator of the astronomy program at DeAnza College and author of a star guide for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and Brian Fies, author of all sorts of things, to not simply vet my work but provide most of the information on which it was based.

And then I had it illustrated by Dylan Meconis, who is also the author of all sorts of things and in this case was tasked with creating illustrations of the stories that she could then re-cast as star charts.

I suppose the teaching guide challenged teachers as much as it challenged me, but one of the main things I came away with was that the concept of “winter constellations” and “summer constellations” had less to do with the time of year than with the time of night you were most apt to be out there looking up.

As xkcd notes, they’re up there all the time, whether blotted out by the Sun or sparkled across the night sky. It’s a revelation that says less about the sky than it does about how we process the universe around us.

This Andertoons (AMS) fits in with all that, because exploring the universe should be fun and, even without a giant kaleidoscope, can be, and should be, pretty trippy.

BTW, it was in working on that series that I learned from Brian and Sherwood that, thanks to light pollution, very few people have ever seen the Milky Way. As someone who grew up under dark skies, I was both thunderstruck and depressed. Being part of the lucky 20 percent is more discouraging than ennobling.

And now I’m wondering how many kids have ever put down their tablets long enough to peer through a kaleidoscope. Perhaps I shouldn’t.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Too Much Coffee Man

Bliss — Tribune

This Juxtaposition is a bit of a cheat, since Shannon Wheeler’s piece ran just over a week ago, making it technically ineligible under CSotD rules, but the synchronicity is too good to pass up. I’m also claiming a right of personal privilege, because my mother, as she approached her late 90s, said she just wanted to see Trump out of office.

Well, she’s still around and he’s out of office but, as with the folks in this pairing, she still hasn’t achieved what she wanted. Now I’m wondering if any of us will live long enough to see a restoration of what we thought was normalcy.

You know, for a day when I intended to focus on humor, things aren’t exactly going that direction.

Well, humor is like the stars: It’s out there. You just can’t see it at the moment.

Today’s Pardon My Planet (KFS) isn’t exactly boosting the humor quotient.

I’ve often contemplated how artists (of all types) process their world, because it seems they have to stand apart from it in order to get perspective. Some, as this little fellow has surmised, come from abusive backgrounds, while some stand apart because of being immigrants or LGBTQ+ or otherwise in a culture that sets them apart.

It’s why I have very limited patience with people who want to banish writers, composers, painters and such for having had unacceptable personal lives. If Byron had not been “mad, bad and dangerous to know” he also wouldn’t have been worth reading. That whole crowd he hung with was sociopathic but produced brilliant work.

And, while I can’t watch “Manhattan” without gagging, “Annie Hall” remains a brilliant movie. Similarly, I admire the works of James Joyce but I wouldn’t have wanted my sister to marry him.

That thing about not watching how the sausage is made applies to art as well as legislation.

I’m assuming that this Lockhorns (KFS) was already drawn, colored and in the can before we started hearing reports of law firms canceling hires because of students who voiced the wrong personal opinions about the current Mideast war.

Well, one report, but it got a lot of play.

We heard “this will go on your permanent record” so often throughout school that I think it had become meaningless white noise by the time it became a threat about protesting the Vietnam War or smoking mary-jane.

Funny thing is that the same people who raised us on stories of Robin Hood and Zorro never explained why we should want to go work for the Sheriff of Nottingham or the Alcalde anyway.

Speaking of powerful bad guys, Non Sequitur (AMS) raises the issue of transparency in government, and the perils or benefits of CSPAN.

When we started debating cameras in Congress and in courtrooms, the objection raised was that the people involved would start performing for the audience rather than focusing on the job at hand.

I’ve seen clips of the McCarthy hearings and the hearings into the Cosa Nostra, but don’t know that they were broadcast live and in their entirety the way the Senate Watergate Hearings were.

I remember watching the Watergate hearings, and they were too tightly focused for anyone to do much grandstanding. By contrast, the Jan 6 broadcasts were reports rather than investigations, with highlights intended for the audience of material already seen and evaluated by the investigators.

But Wiley has Congressional hearings pegged accurately: They are about five percent legitimate investigation and 95 percent self-serving performances for the folks back home.

The Knave of Hearts got a fairer trial in Alice in Wonderland than anyone appearing before a confirmation hearing or investigation on CSPAN.

Give your evidence,’ said the King; `and don’t be nervous, or I’ll have you executed on the spot.

Well, just as fair, anyway.

But speaking of delivering the verdict before considering the evidence, let’s return to the topic of astronomy. If nothing in today’s funnies has made you laugh, this should do the trick.

Come back tomorrow!

Or I’ll play this again

11 thoughts on “CSotD: Rocket science and other simple topics

  1. Over the Hedge had an hilarious cartoon recently where Hammie is told that the Sun is up ‘even after it went to bed hours ago’. He assumes that the Sun is having a great party.

  2. I’m still not old enough to hang around for the Lawrence Welk-style musical number show. It’s good to know this level of entertainment and production is universal.

    1. Is there an age when Lawrence Welk style shows become your entertainment of choice? Assuming you’re not so old, that’s the music you grew up with as the choice of your peers…..

      1. Choice of your elderly babysitters. Or, gawdhelpus, your parents. My peers watched Shindig, Hullabaloo and Where the Action Is. Elder sibs watched American Bandstand.

  3. Thanks for the mention, but you give Sherwood and me too much credit and yourself not enough. You produced a terrific series on a fun topic. Newspapers were lucky to have you.

    I still remember realizing that when people talked about the Sun being in Gemini (or whichever), that meant that you couldn’t see Gemini because it was by definition up in the daytime, but if the sky weren’t blue or you were in outer space that’s the constellation the Sun would be in. Young mind blown. I gained some respect for ancient astronomers who mapped the motion of the Sun through stars they knew were there even though they couldn’t see them.

    I saw that Non Sequitur yesterday and marveled at Wiley’s draftsmanship. He’s always solid, but that’s a really tricky angle–looking up through a hole in the floor with a lever, a rope, a trap door!–and it reads crystal clear. Wonderful cartooning.

    1. Thank you, Brian, I greatly appreciate that, especially coming from such a fine draftsman as you. But I have to tell you that there were a few people posting in the comments section of my GoComics page saying they didn’t “get it”. For them, it didn’t read crystal clear.

  4. Urban light pollution masking the Milky Way relates to another form of urban poverty – not traveling. In addition to forests and national parks, that summer family vacation drive yields dark skies and abundant stars.

    You occasionally mention your readers in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors there are in for a night sky shock. The stars, and the Moon, are in the “wrong’ place.

  5. Astronomy has always been one of my hobbies since I was a kid, and yes outer space is pretty damn trippy even without a kaleidoscope.

    1. And yeah, light pollution sucks. On very clear nights I can see Orion and maybe the Big Dipper, but that’s it.

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