4 BILLION MILES AWAY: NASA’s minivan-sized New Horizons spacecraft just visited the most distant object ever explored, a rocky, 20-mile-long object 4 billion miles from Earth called Ultima Thule. The mission was first conceived 30 years ago.
By the spring of 1969 I had two more classes to take to fulfill my requirements. I needed to take public speaking and a literature elective. Public speaking was required of all students seeking a career in teaching. I was so fearful of it I put it off till the very end. Turned out I feared for not, I loved it.
The literature class I decided on was Science Fiction Literature. Both classes were summer classes and I quickly learned that Catholic nuns went to school in the summer and they were serious about getting all the As. The other lesson was that literature teachers who are serious fans of Sci-Fi also take summer classes.
On this day, July 20, 1969, an age-old dream of mankind became a reality, a guy named Armstrong put his foot on the surface of the moon.
This is one of those occurrences where most people can tell you where they were when it happened. I was a student at Cal-State Fullerton and living in Whittier, CA. I was scheduled to work during the landing so I took a small black and white portable TV to work. Like so many I was awe-struck by what unfolded on that 12″ screen.
Shortly afterwards David Gray appeared at my door and handed me a $100 bill. Because of something his minister had read in the Scriptures he had given me 100-1 odds that a moon landing would never happen.
Where were you on that July, 1969 day?
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FACTOID: Polls show that in today’s America over 40% believe humans and dinosaurs inhabited the planet at the same time. Educationally it’s like we’re in a race to return to the dark ages.
FACTOID: As ubiquitous as it now is the World Wide Web didn’t really become available to the public until 1994. Just twenty-one years ago.
There’s definitely wrong when people who are not receptive of scientific principles are in charge of making scientific decisions for the US Senate. It’s almost like we’re headed into another dark age.
If anyone had watched me in elementary school they may have predicted I’d grow up to become a social studies teacher. As far back as I can remember I loved maps and geography. I loved looking at maps and wondering what life in various parts of the world would be like. All these years later I recall reading stories about a Navajo child in the desert Southwest making ice cream from ice that fell from the sky as hail. Or, a child living in the jungles of the Malaysian Peninsula and tended to his family’s elephants.
I grew up in Southern Ohio, I spent some summers in South Carolina, and during my time in the Navy I was stationed along the East Coast of the United States, mainly in Rhode Island. Common to all was an abundance of water Turning on one’s water faucet and having cool clear H2O flow forth isn’t much of a concern.
In 1964 I packed up my 1960 Chevrolet Biscayne and headed for California. Someplace in Oklahoma water became an issue and the green fields and forest of the East turned into parched, treeless, grasslands.
West of Flagstaff, AZ I stopped for gas and was advised to buy a burlap water bag to hang on the hood ornament in case I had trouble crossing the desert. In Needles. CA I was, for the first time in my life, asked to pay for a drink of water. I filled the gas tank and walked into the adjoining restaurant and asked for a glass of water. The waitress sat it down and said, “Ten cents please.” With a shocked look on my face I asked why and was told they had no wells and all water had to be hauled in by tanker truck.
FACTOID: Pluto never made a full orbit around the sun from the time it was discovered to when it was declassified as a planet.
FACTOID: For what the Iraq War has and will cost the United States we could have more than halfway reached the goal of sustainable clean energy utilizing wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Now lets just toss in the cost of the war we are still waging in Afghanistan, the longest war in the nation’s history, and we may not be having the current argument about fracking.
Richard Dawkins, an avowed atheist, recently expressed that, “ultimately said he believed that religious fanatics with access to the most destructive products of science posed the biggest danger to human civilization.” Hearing this many Americans would equate it with a nuclear armed Islamic radical. But just consider a president Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum with their finger on the trigger of America’s nuclear arsenal. There’s also no shortage of irony in these science deniers employing the weaponry of science to wipe out our foes.
My parents preached that the only means for my brother and I to attain a decent life for ourselves was to get an education. For a many years I simply discounted and/or ignored their advice. By the time I the US Navy was through with me I had more than matured a little. Armed with that maturity I decided to heed the advice of my parents and go looking for a college door that was willing to open for me.
The more I studied world history the more convinced I became that the single most important factor that dragged us out of the Middle-Ages was advancements in knowledge, especially scientific knowledge. Most of us no longer die at age of forty or believe that the earth is at the center of the universe. If cancer and other plagues are to be conquered it will be advancements in science and medicine that does it. Not some primitive voodoo priestess conjuring up ritual spells.
If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or some other social network you really don’t need any suggestions on how to waste your time, you’re already there. But, just in case you still need ideas here’s one you may take a liking to. A constantly updated view of the earth taken from the International Space Station. In the time it took me to study the website and type this paragraph the ISS traveled from the open North Atlantic, West of Ireland to Bulgaria. Traveling at 17,143 MPH it is now over Saudi Arabia. Click HERE to visit the ISS site.
I recently had lunch with a former student who has lived for many years in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband were back in Ohio visiting relatives and during our conversation she ask, “Where did all the lightning bugs go?”
Having not given the subject much thought it did prompt me to think that lightning bugs do not seem as prominent as they once were. Thinking back I can recall the air over a soybean field being totally aglow with fireflies on a warm summer night. We could look out our living room windows and see dozens of lit up bug tails in the clearing of our woods.
These days, now that I’ve begun paying attention while taking the dog out at night, I only see the occasional flicker among the trees and bushes in our yard. So, I did a quick Google and discovered that lightning bugs are indeed an endangered specie. It is believed by some scientists they will be extinct within the next forty to sixty years.
The major factors threatening them is loss of habitat and light pollution. I’d probably add wide-spread use of insecticides and too many kids stuffing too many bugs into too many mayonnaise jars to the list.
Read more on lightning bugs and what you can do to help ensure their future. Click HERE.
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