Thursday, June 22, 2006

Happy Solstice (yeah, right).

I received a "Happy Solstice" message from someone close to me. While wishing them no ill whatsoever, I felt like sharing my own thoughts on the matter.

As a fan of Western reductionist scientific principles I was drawn to musing on the possible reason why the sun might not 'rise'. I came up with:

1. The sun stopped shining.

2. A large, opaque extra-terrestrial object (such as an Arcturan Mega-Goat) suddenly parked its hairy ass somewhere between the Sun and Earth.

3. The Earth stopped spinning.

Other than that, well, yup, the Sun will generally rise as usual.

On (1) - the bad news is, this will happen sooner or later. But there's probably a billion years to go. As the Sun runs out of hydrogen fuel and starts to consume heavier elements, the most popular scenario is that it will gradually expand and swallow all the inner planets (including Earth). Bummer.

On (2) - many of your friends who have chemically prepared for the Solstice might worry about this. Goats are usually friendly, but are omnivores and have large appetites. I would recommend further research to establish whether goats prefer red planets to greeny bluey ones.

On (3) - Newton's Laws suggest that if, for some reason, the earth did suddenly stop rotating (and therefore the Sun not rise one morning), you would most certainly know about it, even if you were in bed at the time:

  • Earth rotates Eastwards (i.e. towards the "rising" sun) at approx. 1000 miles per hour at the Equator. About 600 miles per hour at European latitudes.
  • You are rotating at the same speed, snug in your bed.
  • Earth stops. (This is unlikely as it would require a huge force to be applied to something that's very large, very heavy, and basically 99% molten rock so quite squishy and hard to get hold of). A large meteorite might just do it.
  • You, your bed, your house, and everything else that's not tied down initially keeps on moving at 600 miles per hour to the East.

This is likely to be quite noisy and uncomfortable, and so people would (briefly) wake up.

You can therefore banish any lingering spiritual guilt you may feel if you are not standing in some damp field with other beardy weirdies, swaying and singing out of tune.

I suggest that you pass this tip on to your earthy friends, so that they don't have to get out of bed each year specially just to check. On the other hand it's mostly harmless and probably quite good fun, and you might even get lucky afterwards ...

Friday, January 20, 2006

I've been playing about with KPL (Kids' Programming Language), my first little program is a Celestial Mechanics simulator - try it out here.