January 15th, 2008

krazy koati

Adrift in a world of my own

My parents have some curious notions about me that are maybe plausible but not correct. One of the notions my mother has is that I have a clear idea of what objects are visible in the sky at any time. It's a reasonable idea, since I've been interested in planetary science and astrophysics since -- well, I don't have any memories of any time before I was interested in them. I haven't been reading obsessively about the planets recently because it is really hard to keep up with all the amazing things being discovered and I'm hoping that I can clear out all the very funny wrong ideas I picked up from books that date back all the way to 1959 and replace them with things that are less abundantly wrong (eg, no, the Pacific Ocean is not the scar left over from the Moon escaping).

Anyway, while I know a decent amount about the various major bodies of the solar system, I only have a hazy idea of where any of them are at any time. If you get to more than ``what quarter is the Moon in'' I'm basically lost. The Moon I only really know because it was worth tracking New and Full Moons while in Singapore because they'd often correlate to some sort of holiday or festival. Still, now and then my mother asks what planet that is she's noticed. This is relatively easy if she asks while the planet's actually visible, since there is that whole color-coding scheme, but when it's overcast or she's asking when it isn't visible I have to take a wild guess. Usually, I guess Venus.

The most recent time she asked what the planet in the east just after sunset was, I again answered Venus on spec, and it was about ten minutes before I realized how that was almost as wrong an answer as I could give just sticking to the naked-eye observable planets. Looking it up, she was almost certainly seeing Mars.

Turner Classic Movies sent me a note, ``You asked us to remind you that "Wild, Wild Planet, The" is playing on TCM on Fri. January 18, 03:45 AM EST.'' I do indeed remember asking it to remind me of that, but that was months ago and looking it up at the Internet Movie Database I have no idea why I'd want such a reminder. My guess is, someone on my friends list recommended it as a spectacularly bad movie (it's in the ``eye-bleedingly bad movies'' block of Friday overnights), so, whoever recommended it, this is probably the time.

Trivia: Mariner 10's television camera had a focal length of 1500 mm, a focal number of f/8.4, and shutter speed range from 33.3 ms to 11.7 seconds. Source: Atlas of Mercury, Merton E Davies, Stephen E Dwornik, Donald E Gault, Robert G Strom, NASA SP-423.

Currently Reading: The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England, Robert B Shoemaker.