Notes on the eclipse…

Isaac Asimov in his extended Foundation series (it brings together the Foundation Trilogy, the robot novels, and The End of Eternity) commented toward the end during the search for Earth that humans’ home is an E-type planet with a very large moon. Some gas giants have even larger moons, of course, but Earth’s satisfies the Goldilocks Principle twice over: its distance from the Sun and its diameter are just right so that it just blocks the Sun. That occurs about every eighteen months on Earth, but most eclipses aren’t seen by many people because the Earth’s surface is 70% covered by water.

Eclipses have left their observers agog from prehistoric times to present day. Originally explained via magic and superstition, we now use the magic of technology to observe them. These observations have aided and will continue to aid us in understanding our home star. The eclipse of May 1919 confirmed a prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. While telescopes can now block the solar disk to study the sun’s corona and prominences, there’s something special about the moon doing it for us.

The eclipse occurred a week ago. Because the NYC area wasn’t in the path of totality, I decided to watch the totality multiple times with ABC’s reporters stationed along the totality path. Here are some notes (with annotations from yours truly) that I made during that experience:

The last cross-country total eclipse was 1776. I need to check that. If correct, that eclipse was the most patriotic one.

People were saying all viewers in the U.S. were at a “Woodstock for Nerds.” I was happier just seeing ordinary people, not Sheldons and Leonards, getting excited. Even the Great Denier of Science Fact seemed into it.

I’m not sure the two making their wedding vows during the eclipse got the wedding present they’d bargained for. It rained on them.

ABC’s left-clock announcing the “next totality” must have been created by a lover of oxymoronic phrases. There was no “next”; the moon’s shadow swept continuously across the country. They should have said “next report about totality” or something similar.

“Diamond ring”? Not a bad name, but that and the Bailey’s beads (named after astronomer Francis Bailey) are both due to the sun either peeking and/or diffracting through craters and valleys on the moon. Its limb isn’t smooth by any stretch of the imagination.

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska was built by some accidentally prescient people (what were they imbibing?) and wasn’t lined up at all with the path of the shadow. The real Stonehenge is uncannily aligned, not with the path of any eclipse, but with the angle of the sun at the solstices.

Carbondale, Illinois was called “the crossroads” because the totality path of the April, 2024 eclipse, which will run from Texas to the Northeast (I wonder if I can shuffle off to Buffalo then?), makes an X with the path from a week ago. The people there only saw the last few seconds of the 2+ minute totality because of clouds. Better luck in 2024, gals and guys!

Kelly, Kentucky claims to have had an ET encounter in 1955. That made the venue popular with eclipse viewers from around the world. Were they expecting the ETs to come back? Well, they saw Venus.

Pox on ABC for showing Trump viewing the eclipse instead of the totality in Columbia, South Carolina. The Great Denier of Science Fact didn’t want to take anyone’s orders and tried to view the whole thing without eye protection. Guess he wanted to be blind to people’s needs as well as deaf.

People were crazy coming up with “eclipse songs.” Bonnie Tyler’s is OK for the weddings, I guess, but I’d choose Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” or Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” instead. What would you choose? The most appropriate book is Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, of course, but Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon is a close second.

I’m still enough of a nerd that I prepared a peephole-type apparatus, but I never used it. There’s something less intimate about watching that dot being eaten away on the paper screen. But my wife and niece used it, so my engineering efforts weren’t in vain. Maybe I’ll make like Buffalo Bill in April, 2024 and see the totality in person.


The Midas Bomb (Second Edition). With a plot motivated by signs of the impending financial collapse of 2007-2008, Ponzi schemes, and international terrorism, this first novel in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is as current today as it was back then. The story connects an unscrupulous hedge fund CEO with two Manhattan murders and terrorist attacks. The two detectives team up for the first time. Connecting the two murders uncovers the larger conspiracy. Available in ebook format from Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords (and its associated retailers and lending affiliates) as well as in paper format from Amazon, this novel starts off the series with a bang. Good summer reading!

In libiris libertas….

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