Posts Tagged ‘M13’

So I guess it was J. M. Keynes who said “In the long term, we’ll all dead.”  Fair enough.  But what about our society, our species, and our planet (or even–despite Keynes– us, once we figure out how to stop ageing)?  I’ve already written a post about what our goals should be as a species, over, say the next few hundred years.  But what if we move beyond this timeframe?  I find it’s always good to give you some perspective.  And it helps us to answer, in a more serious fashion, that high-school and comic-strip metaphysics question, ‘what is the meaning of life?’  One can actually be more precise than one might think, nowadays.

When I was a kid, I was a big astronomy buff.  I memorized most of the constellations and their brightest stars; I remember standing out on frigid, crystal-clear winter evenings and checking out Aldabaran in Taurus, the Pleides, Betelgeuse the red giant  in Orion, and Rigel, the ginormous blue star at the other end of Orion.   I subscribed to Astronomy magazine, saved my allowance and bought an 8″-wide  mini ‘light bucket’ dobsonian telescope, which was very economically priced by the way, and when it arrived, it turned out that it was made of a big tube of cardboard, painted red.  That was a bit of a disappointment, but the thing was still so big, that it was magical.  On summer evenings, my best friend and I, and maybe a parent or two, would sit on our back porch in the dark; we had an unobstructed south view, and we were on a bit of a hill, so we could clearly see Scorpio crawling along the southern horizon; the sinisterly red Antares is truly wicked in the context of the scorpion, and is perhaps my favourite star.  Although Vega in Lyra is also a favourite.  With my telescope, I remember checking out the globular cluster near Antares; my favourite was M13 in Hercules.  They still looked incredibly faint and patchy through the lens, and my parents would never have chipped in to buy a camera and tracking apparatus to take photos, but it was magical nonetheless.  At first I wanted to be an astronomer, until I realized that they have to be total math whizzes, and basically just spend their entire time looking at and analyzing data streams.  It seemed unbelievably sterile and tedious to me as a late teen, and so I went for the arts and language instead.  And the really interesting stuff, theoretical physics and cosmology require a math ability that I might have had, but I jumped off the math train in middle school, and once you’re off for a year or two, you can never catch back up.  At any rate, it’s been a bit too long since I’ve really enjoyed the stars on a summer’s evening.  Many years of living in urban apartments have driven a wedge between me and the sky, even though now we finally have the possibility of enjoying it again from our back porch.  (more…)


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