Tuesday, June 08, 2004

TRAVERSING THE SUN. Fox News reports that lots of people turned out to watch Venus traverse the Sun. They were mostly foreigners and Democrats, as all the Republicans were going to pay last respects to Ronald Reagan or watching it on television. This goes to show that there really is a lot of leisure time available in the world. For every sweat shop in the world, there are ten people lined up at telescopes to see this black fleck go across the Sun. It is somewhat like getting a fly on your big screen television.

These events affect people differently. Some react scientifically. You know, Like the King Of Siam in the movie saying “It’s scientific!” For example, two American experts observed the event in Greece because they want to solve the mystery of “the black drop effect". That makes Venus look teardrop shaped instead of circular when it gets to edge of the sun. In reality, it is a sweat drop shape, because it is so hot there.

Some people find great personal pleasure and satisfaction from attending these events. Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts, said it was like a fine French wine for the people who know about it and enjoy it. The only difference is you don’t have to feel guilty because no one French benefits from it.

Some people, of course, don’t get it. Dorcas Tam, age 7, in Hong Kong said "How come the sun had a black dot in it?" Her mom replied “because I said so, that’s why”.

All over the world, wives said to their husbands “Honey do you know Venus is crossing the sun?” and received the same reply from behind the newspaper “Huh”.

Some people are just really eager to participate in what they feel is an important event. They want to say they were there. They want to write it in their journals, like “Today, I witnessed a seminal event. I saw Venus actually go across the face of the sun. Like a mobile pimple. It was awesome. It changed my life. Somehow I am different. I feel it.” It just sounds better than writing “today I had to wear the same jockey shorts for the third day in a row because I forgot to do laundry.”

The extreme example of this was in Hong Kong. Rain and clouds obscured the event, but 100 people or so showed up at the Hong Kong Space Museum. I bet they didn’t put that in their journal. Except maybe the depressed ones, who wrote: “Today I went to the museum to see Venus cross the sun. It was cloudy. I want to die.”

Australia promoted the event as especially relevant to them. Australia’s east coast was discovered by British explorer James Cook on his way home from viewing the 1769 transit in Tahiti. He was looking for a Starbucks. Those people really got around back then didn’t they? I wouldn’t go as far as Dallas to see this. Of course, he did not have television.

Evidently, most Australians were not too impressed, either. Only 40 people showed up to look. And they all thought there was free beer.

Other people have religious experiences. For example, Nemr Ramzi, a ten year old from Palestine said "This is so educational. It teaches you about the universe and God Almighty's wonders."

Nemr is a little challenged in the area of physics, however. He also said "One day, I want to be a pilot and reach up there." I hope someone tells him to only go at night.

Here is another one. "Spectacles such this reinforce my belief that there is a Creator, and we are just tiny specks within this universe," said Zulkarnain Hassan, 26 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We’ll probably have this on the video screens in church Sunday while we sing.

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