Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Large Moon

I was just reading an article referenced on Slashdot that supposedly explains why the moon appears much larger on the horizon than when it is high in the sky.

The nuts and bolts of it is that it is just an optical illusion, and that the moon is, in fact, the same size. Many of the comments about the article go to expound on the thoughts in the original article.

Excuse me, an optical illusion? Am I just a dupe? In my experience, the moon appears WAY bigger on the horizon than high in the sky, and the claim that it really isn't flies in the face of my repeated observations since I was a kid!

Now, I'm not foolish enough to assume I'm 100% right, but I had just assumed that the reason was due to a "lens" effect of the atmosphere. When the moon is on the horizon, there is more of earth's atmosphere in the way, and it is thicker, being closer to the earth, that acts as giant lens that magnifies the moon somewhat. This also explains why it is darker, too--the same amount of light is dispersed over a larger area. It also happens with the sun, which appears much larger just at sunrise and sunset than at high noon.

The article, and several of the commenters, say to take a coin or rolled-up paper and hold it up for comparison and the optical illusion will be evident. I think I'll do something even a little more scientific. The next full moon is on July 21. I am going to use my digital camera to take high-res photos of the full moon high in the sky and on the horizon and figure this thing out once and for all. If I'm really motivated, maybe I'll even throw together some ray-tracing diagrams to show what results would make sense.

Whatever happens, I'm sure there will be more to come on this subject. Also, whatever happens, nothing will take away from the coolness factor of a huge moon on the horizon.

Edit: After re-reading this post, I hope my meaning came across the way intended it. I know, of course, that the moon isn't physically bigger. (Duh.) What I meant was that the moon appears bigger. That is, the size of the disc as it appears in the sky, not the actual size of the sphere in space. Hope no one thought I was being too stupid!

Friday, June 17, 2005

I Want Kids, Just Not My Own

First, let me start by saying that I'm not knocking having kids. Some folks are natural born parents. My mom was one of those folks. She had more patience than anyone I knew to put up not only with me, but three more as well. I don't know how she did it, and there is no one--literally not a single person on earth--that I have more respect for today.

I'm not one of those people. I don't hate kids, I'm more of the attitude that I can take 'em or leave 'em. Therein lies the problem. Having kids is a 24x7 job, or at least it should be for optimum results. As for me, I can't even keep a house plant alive. I imagine that it wouldn't take too long for law enforcement to get antsy after you accidentally forget to feed your kid for the third day in a row.

Plus, I remember some of the things I did when I was a kid. In hindsight, some of them were truly disgusting, though I didn't really think that much about it at the time. For example, I remember one time, my mom bought some mint-flavored dental floss to try to encourage me to floss regularly. I thought it was pretty cool that the dental floss was like candy! So one day, when everyone was gone, I snuck into my mom's bathroom and got out the minty treat. I pried the plastic spindle out of the small case, popped the whole spool in my mouth, and proceeded to suck on it like you would stringy jawbreaker. I wasn't a stupid kid, I knew that I had to suck on it carefully so as to not unravel the string. After all, if I wasted the dental floss, I knew my mom would be mad at me, because it was her dental floss, too. After thoroughly extracting the flavor, I carefully took the spool out of my mouth, dried it with some toilet paper, placed it back on the spindle, and popped the whole assembly back in the case. I even carefully threaded the floss through the little hole in the top and routed it to cutter, and no one would ever be any the wiser.

Now it's important to point out that I didn't do this with malicious intent. I was very young at the time, like maybe eight or so. It never occurred to me that other family members would care if I had been sucking on the dental floss they're using to clean their teeth. As far as I know, no one ever found out about my tasty treat, though some might now. (Sorry, sis, I hope you weren't eating lunch while reading my blog...) The point is that if I did have kids, I would probably live in constant fear not so much for their safety, but mine.

I suppose that it's for the best that I don't have kids right now. They would undoubtedly turn out pretty warped, though I like to think that they wouldn't be Dahmeresque. Anyone who has read Calvin and Hobbes knows what kind of dad I would probably be.

On an almost completely different topic, you know what I do want? More neighborhood kids. You know, the kids that play out in the yards. I wouldn't even mind if they played in mine, except that they might trip on the weeds I call my lawn. When I was growing up, there were always a ton of kids out and about in the neighborhood. I myself partook in many a dirt clod war and tree climb. We used to play basketball with a makeshift hoop (which until I got a shiny basketball goal one Christmas was an old bicycle tire). We used to play nerf touch football. We used to go out into the woods and set fires. That last one ended when one of my friends--I swear I don't know who--let one get out of control and the fire department had to come out.

Now I'm usually not one to pine for the good old days, because frankly, I've got too much cool stuff now to play with. But thinking about my weed garden, another thing I really miss are the teenagers trying to make a few spare bucks by mowing people's yards. Though I was the only boy, I never had to mow our grass. When it started getting kind of high, a neighborhood kid would come around and offer to mow it for twenty to thirty bucks. My mom would always agree because lawn mowers were expensive. Now, if you want someone to mow your grass for you, you have to get a "lawn maintenance service." I don't know how much they are, but I'm betting it's more than thirty bucks a mow. My lawn mower cost about the same as four or so lawn maintenance service mowings, so the financial incentive just isn't there now.

No, I think that most of the neighborhood kids are probably inside playing video games these days, and all of the teenagers are working at the local grocery store or McDonald's. Meanwhile, I figured out today that lawnmowers, like cars, have air filters that should probably be cleaned or replaced more often than once every three years. I guess I should have mowed our grass when I was teenager and I would have probably known that already.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Great New Show

First of all, I'm sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. I started three separate entries that are waiting in my "Drafts" queue that I need to edit and post, so there will likely be a few entries posted this week to make up for lost time. :-)

I don't want to sound like a commercial, but I just saw a great new show on television, one that will probably be highly underrated and eventually die because 99% of Americans want to see sex scenes and shoot-outs instead of really intelligent programming.

If you have watched the documentary movie Super Size Me, then you are already familiar with Morgan Spurlock. He's the guy that ate nothing but McDonald's menu items for thirty whole days. I thought it sounded like a dumb idea for a movie, and it would just be wasted time to find out something painfully obvious: live off of fast food and you'll get fat. Well, one day I was bored, and I had heard a lot about the movie, and it happened to be on one of my premium satellite channels, so I watched it. I was delightfully surprised, because I really enjoyed the movie a lot.

Yes, he did gain weight and yes, I fully expected that. What made the movie interesting, though, were the other health affects it had. Also, it wasn't just a bunch of "here I am eating a Big Mac, now I'm weighing in, now I'm eating a Quarter Pounder, now I'm weighing in..." The guy also put in a lot of interesting research and other information about health in general, the fast food industry, and other related topics. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

Now, Morgan Spurlock has a new television show on the FX network called 30 Days, where people walk a mile in other's shoes, so to speak, for a month. The premiere episode was Morgan and his fiance living off of minimum wage for thirty days. Future shows have a Christian living as a Muslim, a straight man living with a gay roommate, and so on. The show had a very Super Size Me feel to it, with documentary information interspersed with the struggle of Morgan and Alex trying to make ends meet.

If you have a chance, I recommend that you catch it when you can, and if you like it as much as I do, you spread the word. The show comes on Wednesday nights at 10:00pm Eastern on FX.