onsdag, augusti 16, 2006


I qualify as a junior geek. Way junior. My math skills are comfy only to long division and multiplication and in science I got as far as learning that iron is Fe, not Ir, and there I stopped. The last time I entered a science fair was the 4th grade. I filled huge black poster boards with the night sky, one of the Northern Hemisphere, one of the Southern. I was so proud, but I also realized that it was certainly not inventive. Still, it captivated me. But how things are fascinates me more every year, enough to read books like Earth, Annals of a Former World (McPhee), and the Short History of Nearly Everything (Bryson).

I hadn't been to the Greek Islands in seven years. Back then, I traveled the more obscure Dodecanese, a group of islands that run up the most easterly parts of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Turkey. The night sky mesmerized me. I would stand on the old walkways along the tired ports and look up. Once ferried away from Rhodes and on up to Simi and Patmos, we would be far enough from city lights to see skies were filled with stars. I would romanticize over how they must have traveled those seas three and four thousand years ago. I never would have thought of it or figured out how to do it, but just standing there became one of those moments stored not so deeply in my memory. It's always there.

On this trip we limited ourselves to the more populated Cyclades, and therefore did not have the night vision needed to see all but the strongest constellations. So the Big Dipper and Casseopia's W/M really stood out. (It's amazing to think that that are comparatively close to where I live latitudinally, so the constellations were familiar.) I wish, however, that I had had this planosphere that I recently found at the Washington Jefferson College site. I am sure it would have impressed the group of people I was with, especially given the resounding, "uh, hunh" when I pointed out the rare glimpse of the Milky Way. Yep, would they have been impressed.