Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For all space geeks, the news this week is that a high school student, on his third day of interning at NASA, discovered a planet. For all Star Wars geeks, it turns out that it’s not just your ordinary planet, but a very rare circumbinary planet with two suns, like Tatooine, the planet where Luke Skywalker grew up.
He made the discovered this past July at the very beginning of his internship; he and other astronomers have spent the last six months confirming the find. The planet is now called TOI 1338b and looks to be almost 7 times bigger than Earth.
Apparently not only are circumbinary planets rare, they are even rarer to find since the way that most planets are confirmed don’t work due to timing of the planet passing in front of its stars. So this is quite an auspicious start for the high-schooler who has said that he does intend to continue his studies in astronomy and astrophysics.
If you could be known as the discoverer of something, what would it be?
I went over to Tom and Lori’s last night to help them with some last-minute packing. When I got there, Lori handed me a small bag with my name on it. “We got this for you at the State Fair.” What you need to know is that Lori and Tom love the State Fair as much as I do. We usually meet up once or twice a year, although we don’t spend long periods of time together, as we like different things. They love to shop in the Grandstand and Lori loves to sit through lots of radio shows. Oh and she loves Math on a Stick.
When I started to open the little bag, I said “this isn’t going to make me cry, is it”? They both said no but as you can guess, it did make me cry. A little rock with the Chinese character for friends. It’s exactly the kind of item that I would never acquire for myself but will now keep forever.
So we cried a little last night and I’ll go home mid-day today to wave goodbye as they depart the neighborhood – so probably some more tears at that point too. Remind me to take tissues.
What can make you tear up?
Yesterday was a day of sitting and people watching in airports. In Minneapolis, we waited for our flight to Sioux Falls at a gate where people were boarding a plane to La Crosse , WI. For some reason, several of them were preoccupied with their phones and nearly missed the flight. Husband is a U of W grad, and I took delight teasing him about the strangely disoriented Badger passengers getting on the flight to Wisconsin. I suggested they were too drowsy from eating all that cheese. Husband joked that the Badger motto was “Don’t bother me, I’m watching the game”. I told him that my college motto rather loftily described me as an “informed person sent forth to influence the affairs of the world at the same time being dedicated to the Christian life.” Sometimes I think I would rather watch the game and eat cheese.
What motto from college or high school or family are you supposed to live up to? How are you doing with that?
Yesterday in 1684, Isaac Newton’s paper on the theory of gravity was read to the Royal Society by Edmund Halley. I wonder how it was received? Did they nod and say ,“Oh yes, I can see exactly what he is getting at”, or did they scratch their powdered wigs and shrug their shoulders, thinking “Poor Isaac has been spending too much time sitting under the trees.”
Hard sciences were never my strong suit in high school and college. Neither was mathematics. for that matter, although I was pretty ace at Psychology statistics in graduate school. In college, the Physics majors I knew often said that Physics was a way of investigating God. I was just glad I didn’t have to take any physics classes. Biology, now that was a subject I could embrace. I don’t know what it means that my poorest grade in college was in bowling, a physical education class I despised. Maybe if I had taken a Physics class I would have been a better bowler.
What came easily to you in school? What was difficult? What would you like to learn about now?
Today marks the anniversary of the first publication of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1768 in Scotland. I love encyclopedias. I loved the World Book set my parents got me and I read it all the time. Wikipedia pales in comparison, I think, to holding a real encyclopedia in your hand.
What are your favorite reference books?
This past Sunday was an early Thanksgiving Feast, a potluck at our Unitarian Fellowship. Husband is on the planning committee for that, so we ended up roasting two 12# turkeys. There is still some leftover turkey.
The next morning I woke up realizing “Oh, we get to have Turkey, Eggs, and Onions for breakfast!” This is a dish I learned about when married to Wasband, and living in and around New York City. He was from a Russian Jewish tradition, though I suspect this dish is more an East Coast thing than Jewish. (East coasters eat turkey all year round – a good inexpensive fowl to have any time.)
It was quite a learning curve when I arrived in New York with Wasband in 1974. I had absorbed four years’ worth of San Francisco and coastal California culture, and thought of myself as rather worldly. Ha! Within a couple of months I experienced living (briefly) in a household with completely different family dynamics from mine (and a strong Brooklyn accent); a new religion, though they mostly practiced what I call “Holiday Judaism”; and the death of Wasband’s father, with all the rituals and drama that surround that.
A couple of months later we were living in our own apartment in Brooklyn, and I had found a job being messenger for a typographic firm in midtown Manhattan. As I ferried packages of type from one building to another, I was a pretender to a whole new set of cultural mores – riding the subway up and down Manhattan (from, i.e., Wall Street to Central Park); ordering “kwahfee” or buying a pretzel from a street vendor. At first, Wasband’s friends were my only social circle. Then one woman invited me to join her Ladies Poker Night, so I was able to have some of my own experiences with other “real New Yorkers”.
After two years, I left all that for the more familiar Midwest territory. But I’m very glad I was able to experience these other cultures. And once in a while I’ll do something that reminds me of that time, which makes me smile.
When have you adopted customs of a culture different from the one you grew up with?
What’s your favorite thing to do with Thanksgiving leftovers?
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been taking Guinevere to dog classes on Monday nights for a few months. While the training is a nice benefit, the main reason I take her is for her “social anxiety”. She is afraid of everything and because of that she acts aggressively because she thinks she needs to protect herself from all that everything! She’s doing fairly well and I think we’ll keep going even though she would prefer not to.
Because of this fear, I tend to think of her as not too bright, but I learned a long time ago that she can tell time. YA works mostly nights, usually getting home between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Guinevere knows when that time frame rolls around and she reacts to every noise she hears that might possibly be YA’s car coming home. And take a look at those ears; they hear A LOT. The earlier part of the evening, she is calm but beginning at 8:30, she’s on alert.
I learned Monday night that she also knows the night of the week. I got home from work at the regular time, had a bit of dinner, fed them – all the usual stuff. Then I headed upstairs to watch TV for a bit since we don’t have to leave for class until 6:30 or so. Suddenly at about 6:15, Guinevere started to cry and whine. She was on the bed with me, so she hadn’t hurt herself, she just started to fuss. She kept it up until I put the leash on her and put her in the car, where she was quiet right up until we turned into the parking lot of the dog school. Then she started to cry again – a pitiful cry that makes it sound like I’m sticking her with a hot poker.
Guess I’ll have to revise my thoughts on how smart she is. Now that she knows the nights of the week and how to tell time, it’s probably only a matter of time before she can spell!
Have you had any pets too smart for your own good?