September 5th, 2006

krazy koati

And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree

I wasn't there for this part of the Biennale art festival, I only saw it on the evening news. I was right nearby it, though, without realizing. Along the Singapore River, by the Cavenagh Bridge, which everyone visiting Singapore is required to photograph (it has a rather old sign limiting the weights of vehicles on the bridge to something measured in century-weights), an artist whose name I only got as `IEPE' set up a Rain Tree. That is, he hooked up a water pipeline in some fashion to a tree, so that underneath this tree in the midst of a sunny day it was raining.

`IEPE', if that is his designation and not the kind of plastic in his eyeglass frames, said that he would not explain how he made the tree rain, although I'd make a guess at concealed water pipes leading up to the branches. I'd think not explaining how it worked -- or when or where the next ``Rain Tree'' would be -- would be fine for just the whimsy of it, but he went farther and tried to justify it as saying the point was to make people ask what is the meaning behind a miracle, and do we need to believe in fantasy? I liked it better when it was just the children's book whimsy of a rainy tree in a sunny day.

Despite the artist's attempts to make something fun into something ponderous, people were strangely delighted at having controlled, man-directed water falling on them, to the point that some people got plastic bottles to save samples. I'm a compulsive packrat and collector, but even I think that's pretty silly.

So silly, in fact, that I have nothing to do but to go to the far side of the solar system, where interesting things are happening around Uranus. So much for a graceful segue. Ah, but, for the first time a solar eclipse on Uranus has been photographed. Because Uranus is tilted so far over and satellites typically orbit in the plane of the equator, this is the first time that Uranus's satellites have been in a position to cast a shadow on the planet's disc, while there were telescopes with enough power to make out the satellites and shadows. It's been 42 years since they might have been seen, and there were far fewer orbiting telescopes then. Ariel was the first one so spotted, of Uranus's 27 moons; I'm surprised just to find the moon count there's gotten up to 27. Maybe we could get some of them reclassified as Pluto.

Trivia: The rings of Uranus were discovered during an occultation by Uranus of the star SAO 158687 (the initials stand for Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) in March 1977. Source: Jupiter, Reta Beebe.

Currently Reading: War for the Union, 1864-1865: The Organized War to Victory, Allan Nevins.