Below is a short story written by an old friend, and I’d like to share it with you, by kind permission.
“A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family.
“The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche.
“My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey.
“But the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.
“Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
“Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
“My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol, but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing… I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked… And NEVER asked to leave.
“More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
“His name? We just call him ‘TV’.”
by Larry Ellsaesser
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For you Sci-Fi buffs out there, that title will be very familiar, as it is the opening line of the Star Trek manifesto. The novel I’m working on at the moment is just that – Sci-Fi, albeit not Star Trek. It nevertheless takes me into space, and that’s always a fascinating thing! So here are a few fun facts about what lies beyond our atmosphere:
- Jupiter’s Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System, and is even larger than the planet of Mercury.
- Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, with a surface temperature of 460°C. A day on Venus is 243 Earth-days long, but its year is only 224.7 days; Venus spins backwards on its axis.
- Oxygen is the third most common element on the Sun, after helium and hydrogen.
- A neutron star is the strongest known magnet in the universe, and such stars are among the fastest-spinning objects observed, spinning up to 500 times per second.
- Since 1992, when the first exoplanet was discovered, there have been 3,728 confirmed planets in 2,794 systems, with 622 systems having more than one planet.
- About 1 in 5 stars comparable to our sun have an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone (known to scientists as the “Goldilocks Zone”). It is assumed that there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone; based on that, there would be 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in our galaxy (and up to 40 billion if you count red dwarf stars as well).
- Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to us beyond the Sun.
- Russia is larger than the entire surface area of Pluto.
- The largest known star is Westerlund 1-26, which is 2,000 times bigger than the Sun.
- Olympus Mons, on Mars, is the largest volcano in the solar system. Due to the low gravity of Mars and the lack of plate tectonics, it has been able to grow to three times higher than Mount Everest.
- Dark matter and dark energy are thought to make up nearly 95% of all matter in the universe.
- The Boomerang Nebula (also known as “the Bow Tie Nebula”) is the coldest known place in the universe, with a temperature of 1 K (−272.15°C; −457.87°F).
- The Sun is growing, but we won’t have to worry about it for a few billion years, when it will become close enough to swallow the Earth.
- On Mercury during the day, the Sun rises, stops, and then sets where it rose. It rotates on its axis exactly three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun, meaning that, if you lived on Mercury, you would only see one day every two years.
- The Sun’s core releases the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second, and its energy is emitted as heat and light.
- The storm on Jupiter known as the ‘Great Red Spot’ has been going on for at least 350 years; it’s so large that dozens of Earths would fit into it.
- A supermassive black hole is thought to be present in the centre of nearly every galaxy, including our own (ours is a runt compared to the average size).
- Shooting stars really aren’t stars; they’re meteors – and even then, they are often only dust particles falling through our atmosphere that vaporize due to the heat of friction with the atmospheric gases. If they are large enough to survive the journey through our atmosphere and impact on the ground, they are called meteorites.
- We are in constant motion; planets move within the solar system, the solar system moves within the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn moves within The Local Group of Galaxies; the local group is moving toward the Virgo Cluster.
- Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard left two golf balls on the Moon in 1971. They’re still there: One is in the Javelin Crater, and the second fell near where the ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment) was deployed.
- The Moon’s Javelin Crater gets its name because on the Apollo 14 mission, fellow astronaut to Shepard, Ed Mitchell, threw the Solar Wind Collector staff as a make-shift javelin.
- Uranus has 27 known moons, all of which are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.
- Jupiter has 69 known moons.
- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have no solid surface to land on, being comprised of gas.
- Did you know that the Earth is actually a ringed planet by now? At the last official count (2013), more than 170 million pieces of space junk debris smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in), about 670,000 debris 1–10 cm, and around 29,000 larger debris were estimated to be in orbit; these clouds (in both the geosynchronous Earth orbit and the low Earth orbit) make it hazardous for spacecraft, due to the dangers of collisions; they basically sandblast craft, which makes the launch of equipment like telescopes or solar panels extremely susceptible to damage.
- Below 2,000 km (1,200 mi) Earth-altitude, debris are denser than meteoroids; most are dust from solid rocket motors, surface erosion debris like paint flakes, and frozen coolant from RORSAT nuclear-powered satellites (according to Wikipedia). Maybe it’s actually a good thing that we can’t make it to other planets to colonize…
Below are images from APOD – enjoy!
Sometimes famous last words occur long before the individual dies; what I mean by that is that a pivotal statement is made, and thereafter (whether immediately, or down through history ever after) the person ends up eating their hat. Here’s an example:
Charles H. Duell, director of the US patent office 1899, is thought to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
But we should never judge a book by its cover; because he never said this! What he actually said was, “In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” ( The Friend, Volume 76, 1902) Quite a different matter.
It was, in fact, an earlier Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth that may have been responsible for the sentiment: In a report to the 1843 Congress, Ellsworth states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.“*
Oddly, you will find the misquote in published books and all over the web; let that be a reminder to us to do a bit of investigation of our own. Don’t even trust news sources such as newspapers or television news, as they are known to hype up, propagandize, invent, or at the very least embellish events. This last link is a short talk about journalism in the US, and it’s an important reminder for everyone in the world that just because it’s in print or on the news doesn’t mean you can fully trust its veracity.