Monthly Archive for October, 2009

Bite me, Walt Whitman

This is no tiny little jewel box. This is The Jewel Box, a large star cluster visible with the naked eye, if the eye in question happens to be well south of the equator.

Photo taken by WFPC2 on the Hubble Space Telescope.  Click to enplait.

Photo taken by WFPC2 on the Hubble Space Telescope. Click to enplait.

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars ~ mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination ~ stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern ~ of which I am a part ~ perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there. Or see them with the greater eye of Palomar, rushing all apart from some common starting point when they were perhaps all together. What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?

Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1

I have nothing to add.

Thanks to commenter “Dave” over at Bad Astronomy, for reminding me of this quote.

Wasted in the Great Unknown

Vacant crowded streets of stone
Recall a memory, unknown.
Beneath the neon, not outshone
By women tan and thin.

Displayed like sirens from inside
Where crystal walls the world divide
And by revealing, coyly hide
A golden mannequin.

Which lightly trying to beguile
Mind to thoughts more versatile
Removing clothing, thoughts, and smile
Opening to view

So much of skin, a golden lotus
Hoping for a moment’s notice.
Yet my thought, sad and remote is:
All I want is you.

Flower Power

It’s all about the bikes.

Bikes here, bikes there. Bike rush hour! In Soviet Netherlands, bikes take precedence over cars. Vaaaht a caahntry!

The daily ride from the hotel to the university, about 2 miles, is bike paths all the way.  Some roads go like this, in cross section:

  1. sidewalk
  2. grass median
  3. Northbound bike path
  4. grass median
  5. curb
  6. car parking lane
  7. Northbound car lane
  8. Southbound car lane
  9. car parking
  10. curb
  11. grass median
  12. Southbound bike path
  13. grass median
  14. sidewalk

Even in downtown Utrecht, bricked tight as any old-school European city, the bikes win.  Wide lanes on the sides of the street, and the cars have to fight it out for the middle.  A park right in the middle of where you need to go?  No worries, there’s sure to be a bike trail across it.

And no hills!  Nothing but flats.  But no glass on the road, so not that kind of flat.  Although always a headwind, or so they say.  I haven’t particularly noticed.

Check out the tornado-shaped plastic flower arrangement here at SRON, apparently made from discarded bike tubes.  With the talcum powder still on.  I love it!

Note to pedestrians:  The word “fiets” sounds like a cognate for “feet”, so you might think “fietspad” means footpath.  Wrong.  “Bike path”.  Really, that should be your first guess.  I’ve been here five days and haven’t been in a car yet.

It’s all about the bikes