Thursday, February 23, 2012

She Asked, “Why Are You Looking...”





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There’s an interesting thing going on in the sky lately and it’s one of those things you don’t need a telescope to observe.

If you look to the southwest right after sundown, the brightest star there, the very bright white star, isn’t a star at all, it is the planet Venus.

A few hours later, if you look to the southeast, the very bright red-orange star also isn’t a star at all, it is the planet Mars.

Venus and Mars are the two planets closest to the Earth. Venus is the next planet nearer to the Sun than the Earth, and Mars is the next planet farther from the Sun than the Earth.

The view in the sky now is one of those situations where the positions of the astronomical objects aren’t tricks of perspective or alignment but are exactly what they look like. As the Earth turns, when an observer on Earth rotates away from the Sun, they see Venus just off to the side, so to speak. Then as the Earth continues to rotate and the same observer gets a view of deep space away from the Sun, Mars becomes visible.

In the southwest after sundown, the second bright star in the sky, the bright star near Venus, isn’t a star as well, it’s the planet Jupiter. Although Jupiter to the eye appears close to Venus, that is simply a trick of alignment and perspective. Jupiter in the solar system is the next planet out from Mars, so really Jupiter is very far away from Venus.

I always ask myself: What’s the difference between knowing this stuff and not knowing it?

Does it matter in any way?

(When Paul McCartney wrote the beautiful two-part song “Venus and Mars” he didn’t know those planets were closest to the Earth. He just liked the way the words sounded together. But later when he learned the astronomy bit, he thought it made the song more interesting and made everything fit nicely.)


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I need a new pair of pants and new shoes.
I have two pairs of jeans. One has a hole.
And both my pairs of walking shoes have holes.

I’ve known people who cut holes in their jeans.

I pointed and asked, “Did you cut that hole,
or was it in the pants when you bought them,
or did it happen accidentally?”

She asked, “Why are you looking at my thighs?”

I said, “You have a hole right by your crotch.”

She didn’t say anything, she just laughed.

But like science I investigated
and discovered she cut the hole herself.

I walk a lot and get holes in my clothes.
It’s wear and tear, it’s not calculation
toward a fashion statement of principle.

Venus is white and Mars is orange-red.

Science is what we do inside our head.







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