Archive for March, 2008

John Harrison

March 24, 2008

Today is the anniversary of both the birth (1693) and the death (1776) of John Harrison. Harrison was a clock maker that figured out how to accurately determine longitude.

Mariners had been able to determine latitude, but not longitude. Because of this, they could not actually determine their location while at sea. This was a major problem. The British Parliament established a large monetary reward for the solution. The scientific minds of the day figured that the solution would be astronomical. Harrison decided to approach it as a time keeping problem. Even though he solved the problem, the scientists and politicians refused to recognize his accomplishment. They made him do extra work before they would declare him the winner of the prize. After waiting years, Harrison finally appealed to King George III. The King conducted his own experiments and declared that Harrison had achieved what had been required. Harrison received £8,750, but never received the official award. He died 3 years later on his 83th birthday.

Harrison’s story is recounted in the excellent book, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, and also was told in a dramatic television show shown in the United States on A&E.

One of the best lessons of Harrison’s story is that the solutions to problems may not be found where we are looking. Not only could the “experts” of the day not solve the problem, but were also incapable of seeing the answer once it was solved because it didn’t conform to the answer they were expecting. Sometimes we need to search the unexpected to find solutions to our problems.

Another lesson is not to judge the quality of a person’s thoughts or actions by who you think they are. Let their actions speak for themselves. The scientists refused to think that a “mere” clockmaker could solve a problem that the “great” minds of the day could not solve.

Below are photos of 3 of Harrison’s time pieces, each an improvement on the model before.


Happy New Year

March 24, 2008

Until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, the official New Year began on March 25th.  At least this is how it was done in Great Britain and it’s American colonies.

The Gregorian Calendar corrected the problems of season shift.  The Julian calendar didn’t match the seasons.  With 12 months of unequal length and the addition of a Leap Day every four years, the Gregorian Calendar solved that problem.

Happy Easter

March 23, 2008

Robert Fulghum, in his newest book, What On Earth Have I Done?: Stories, Observations, and Affirmations writes of an experience in Crete. He says that the Cretans make a much bigger celebration of Easter than they do of Christmas. Christmas is a quiet time, celebrated with the family. Easter is a big deal. When he asked why, he was told that babies are born everyday, but the Resurrection of the Lord, now that doesn’t happen every day.

Christmas and Easter, in my mind, are twin holidays. Christmas is the birth of our Savior and Easter is the celebration of His resurrection. Both deal with new life–when a spirit joins its body–birth to a mortal body and the resurrection to a perfected body.

Easter is a time the remember, not only Christ’s resurrection, but also His gift of the promise of resurrection to all.

What Do You Do with the Third Shoe?

March 22, 2008

I saw this truck on the way from from work on Thursday.  I’m wondering who needs 3 shoes.  What do you do with the third shoe?  Is it for a spare?  If you buy a spare shoe, should you get a right or a left?  I’m confused.

Today’s Full Moon

March 21, 2008

Today’s full moon is a special one. It’s the full moon that determines the date of Easter. At 11:41 today, the moon will be full and the fancy formula for Easter goes into effect. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. The equinox was March 20, 2008. Today is the full moon. And Sunday, it will be Easter.

Does Easter seem early this year? It should. Based on the information in an e-mail that I received–Easter can only be one day earlier and hasn’t been this early since 1913 and won’t be this early again until 2228.

Here is the e-mail:

Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. This year, Easter will fall on March 23.

Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives…and only the most elderly of our population (95 years old or above) have ever seen it this early before. None of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier.

The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228, 220 years from now). The last time it was this earl y was 1913 (so if you’re 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that).

The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.

So Happy Pascal Moon today!

Spring is the Season for the Aurora

March 20, 2008

One of the things on my To-Do list is to view the Northern Lights. NASA has an article stating that the time around the vernal equinox to a good time to view the aurora. Since the aurora is caused by outbursts on the Sun and the Sun isn’t effected by seasons on Earth, it is a mystery why Spring is a good time for the aurora. The article explains the phenomenon. Be sure to check out the interesting video clip featured at the end of the article.

Spring is Ready to Spring

March 19, 2008

Tonight at 10:48 PDT, the Sun will cross the Equator, the Vernal Equinox occurs, and Spring will begin. Theoretically, at the equinox, we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. In Los Angeles, today the Sun rises at 6:57 am, with sunset at 7:03 pm. We have 6 minutes more of daylight than night now and are picking up 2 to 3 minutes of daylight each day.

Happy Spring!

More on Obama’s Pastor

March 18, 2008

Check out yesterday’s article by Victor Davis Hanson at Works and Days for his interesting take on Barack Obama’s pastor.

He concludes with this:

Obama is superbly educated, bright, very well-spoken, and politically astute. So what happened? He did not grow up or frequent the proverbial “middle America”, a much different place than the Ivy League or south Chicago. Had he, then the first time he or she started in with that nonsense someone would have set them straight. But being indoctrinated in the abstract by Harvard law professors and in the concrete by Rev. Wright warped his sense of what America is and is about. All America wanted was for Sen. Obama to condemn Wright with the same passion as he rightly did, say, a Don Imus or the Clintonian race-baiting, to hold Wright to the same standard of censure as he does any other abject bigot. And when he failed that test repeatedly, he lost America—and I don’t think he is ever going to get it back. When he starts in the messianic speeches about healing, and going beyond race, and a new political kindness and honesty, millions will hear in the background only the coarse shouting of a hate-filled Wright “God Damn America!” and the softer falsetto-spoken whispers and excuses of “scholar” and “my pastor” and my “uncle.”

Happy Pi Day–And Pi Hour

March 14, 2008

Stacy tells me that it is Pi Day–3.14.

It’s now 1:59 p.m, Happy Pi Hour.

Being Judged by the Friends You Keep

March 14, 2008

The idea of being judged by the friends or the company that one keeps is being raised in the presidential campaign. There have been several rounds of advisers in either the Clinton or Obama campaigns first saying something, then being called on the carpet and being dismissed. Now the big story is Jeremiah Wright Jr., Barack Obama’s longtime pastor.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. For quite some time, the Afro-centric positions of the church have received attention. Now, recordings of Pastor Wright’s sermons have been publicized. Put mildly, they are full of racist, bigoted, and hate-filled rantings. Click here for a Fox News report on it.

Senator Obama has been a member of this church for over 20 years. He counts Pastor Wright as an important personal adviser. He and his wife were married by Pastor Wright and their children were baptized by him. It is easy to make the assumption that he has heard Pastor Wright preach these ideas. If he wasn’t in attendance, he could easily know of them.

So, the big question. Is it fair or appropriate to judge Senator Obama for the statements made by his pastor?

I think it is appropriate. It is important to consider how our political candidates make their judgments. What are their standards? How do they judge good and evil?

Barack Obama has chosen a bigoted, anti-American pastor as his spiritual adviser. He has stated that he doesn’t think that his church is out of the mainstream. Just those two facts cause me to question Obama’s judgment. Considering the long-term relationship, I’m not sure how Obama can explain his way out of this situation. If the roles were reversed and a white candidate’s longtime pastor was heard preaching hate-filled sermon against non-whites, it would be the end of the candidate’s political future.