van Gogh

Did you know that the Big Dipper appears in Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone? He painted it in September 1888 at Arles.

The Big Dipper is an asterism – not officially a constellation – but part of  Ursa Major, AKA the Great Bear.

It is difficult, maybe impossible, for you to see the Big Dipper on a November night.  For those of you in the southern U.S. or a similar latitude around the world or in the Southern Hemisphere, the Dipper is below the northern horizon in the evening now.

Here in Paradelle and most of the northern U.S. it can be seen low above the northern horizon if you have a clear view without mountains or trees.

 

stars

The Big Dipper is seen as a Celestial Bear that comes to Earth in November by the Micmac Indians of  southeast Canada. The Celestial Bear’s arrival signals the start of hibernation season and it joins our planet’s bears in returning to their dens.

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When I write a post here, I expect that some people will read it. I add an image or two to engage readers, and I will later check to see if there are any comments, shares and how many clicks the post gets over time.

Does any of the post-posting activity really affect people reading what I wrote? I think it does, to a degree. People click on posts that people share and ones that appear on my “Top Posts Today” list in the blog’s sidebar. Social sharing is real.

But some people like to experiment with it. One experiment is at txt.fyi. Even its creator calls it “the dumbest publishing platform on the web.”  You write something, hit publish, and it’s live, but there is no tracking, no ads, fonts, analytics, cookies, user accounts, logins, passwords, comments, friending, likes, follows or sharing or any of the other social media capital so valued elsewhere on the web.

This morning I posted about the Moon moving away from Earth.  But that was something I wrote on txt.fyi last week. The only way anyone will find the original posting is if I put a link to it elsewhere.

This antisocial publishing platform is simple static hypertext. (You can use Markdown language to add some basic formatting.)  If you write there, it is online for as long as the site remains online – though perhaps no one else will ever read what you wrote.

The site is set up so that search engines are “told” not to index the posts, so Google won’t be spreading the word about my post either.

Where will this text.fyi experiment go? I have no idea.

Why was it created? I suspect that its creator Rob Beschizza – a writer, artist and editor at Boing Boing  – also was curious to see what would come of it. Perhaps something good and new. Perhaps it will all go wrong and it will need to be shut down.

To complete this little meta-circle, I also posted at https://txt.fyi/+/9304a536/ about what I wrote here. And the writing goes round and round…

“Bye Bye Moon” is not meant to be a sequel to Goodnight MoonDid you know that the moon’s distance from Earth varies each month? I didn’t know that until this week, even though I know a lot about our Moon and I write about it at least once a month here.

Our Moon has a rather eccentric orbit and it is moving away from us at about one and a half inches per year. Scientists attribute this to tidal friction with the Earth’s oceans which also slows down how fast the Earth rotates, This lengthens our day by about 1 second every 40000 years.

Okay, it is not something we really will notice or need to worry about, but because scientists can do simulations, they can figure out that four and a half billion years ago when the moon was being formed,  it was only about 15,000 miles from Earth. Now, it is about 238, 831 miles from Earth.

Back then, an Earth day might have been only 5 or 6 hours long and there would be 1400 days in one year. More recently, at least relatively, around 900 million years ago there would be 480 days of about 18 hours each in one Earth year. That would certainly give us a very different lifestyle.

And projecting into the future, we would expect longer days but fewer of them in a year.

Even though we can’t observe these changes within a lifetime, it awesome and full of wonder to me that these changes are happening.

Tonight’s Full Moon is often called the Hunter’s Moon or Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. There are lots of other names out there for the November Full Moon, including  the Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves, Beaver Moon, Moon of the Changing Seasons, Leaf Fall Moon, Trading Moon,  Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Blood Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon,  and the Moon of the Changing Season.

Hunter’s moon is a very common name, but it only applies to November in some years. This is the name for the first full moon after the harvest moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. This year the Harvest Moon was in October, so this month is a Hunter’s Moon.  The Hunter’s Moon was once a feast day in parts of western Europe, and some Native American tribes also celebrated the hunt at this Full Moon.

Many American Indian tribes named this moon for the time the rivers started to freeze and the first snows and frosts came. As a child, my father told me that a frost in the fall or spring is more likely to occur on clear nights. That has some science behind it because thick cloud cover will retain some of the Earth’s heat. He also said that the night of a Full Moon is a likely frost night, but that would only be true if you clearly saw the Moon because it was a clear, cloudless night. Data on first and last frosts compared to the phases of the moon don’t show any correlation. Science ruins a lot of folklore.

Around Paradelle, November is the month when we will likely see a killing frost and some puddles will freeze overnight.  But not on this early November night – even with a Full Moon and no clouds.

 

 

 

I have read many things on how to improve your memory, but one technique that always confused and fascinated me is the idea of a “memory palace.”

Memory palaces are known more formally as ‘the method of loci’ and they help people remember things (facts and opinions) by “assigning” them to various locations within the brain itself. If you imagine the brain as a palace of many rooms, using this technique you would make up a location within your brain to place these facts, like furniture in a room.  You commit the information to a particular scene and place within the memory palace.

This linking of the memory together with the place is what makes it a stronger memory. It is suggested that this “palace” be based on a place that does exist in some manner –  your own home, a place you have visited or seen in some detail in photos  one you have seen before. It is best to have a palace which does exist in some capacity.

A small amount can be placed in a smaller, basic mind palace room like your bedroom. A large amount of information may require a larger mental space.

I describe this quite simply, but it’s not a simple thing to do. I have tried it with little success, although others find it really powerful.

Apparently, one of the issues people have with this technique is confusing locations. They need to be unique enough that you won’t mistake one place for another.

Do you need to recall information in a specific order? You need to set a route through the palace and room.

Other memory techniques also use associating things with certain places and positions and this can be useful for students. This mnemonic system associates things with specific physical locations and relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order, and recollect memorial content. This method is also known as the “Journey Method,” when used for storing lists of related items, or the “Roman Room” technique, which is most effective for storing unrelated information.

The technique is used by the fictional character Hannibal Lecter who sometimes is mentally walking through an elaborate memory palace to recall information, and also to mentally escape unpleasant situations.

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie contains a character who is a memory palace containing the memories of another.

I wrote last week about the legendary Bigfoot and I hesitated to write this weekend about more fringe science, but I have a longtime fascination with time travel and a story about a time traveler caught my attention this past week.

Let’s start out by saying this tale is very likely a hoax, but it captivated fans of time travel, the supernatural and the paranormal.

It started with an online post in November 2000 by someone who called himself Timetravel_0 but would come to be known as John Titor.

John Titor said he was a man from the future, who had been sent to the past (our present) to retrieve a portable computer in order to correct something that had happened in his future world.

John said he traveled back from 2036. He posted on the Art Bell BBS Forums. Art Bell is an American broadcaster and author who was the founder/host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM and a companion show Dreamland.

John Titor’s posts ended in late March 2001 but a number of websites reproduced Titor’s posts and sometimes arranged them to create a kind of narrative.

Titor posted right off pictures of his time machine and its operations manual. As you would expect, Bell’s listeners hit him with lots of questions about why he was here and the physics of time travel. He did engage with others on the Bell forum and also on several other online sites.

IBM 5100

Titor claimed to be an American soldier based in Tampa, Florida in 2036. He had earlier been assigned to time-travel back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. He said the 5100 was needed in order to debug various legacy computer programs in 2036. I haven’t dug deeper into this computer – which seems like an odd old technology that would be needed in the future – but others have commented that it may be a reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. So, Titor was sent back two years before the problem would occur to get the old technology. The IBM 5100 was not a powerful computer and it ran the not very sophisticated APL and BASIC programming languages.

Now in 2000, Titor said he was visiting again for “personal reasons” which included collecting pictures lost in a future civil war and to visit his family.

Titor made a number of predictions – some vague and some specific – about coming events. he described life after a nuclear war, the breakup of the United States into five smaller sovereignties, and the assertion that CERN would discover the basis for time travel sometime around 2001, with the creation of miniature black holes.

Because some of his predictions have already passed and not occurred, people say it was all a hoax. Of course, there are believers that say that Titor or other time travelers have returned to correct things so that these tragedies did not occur.

One of Titor’s “predictions” (not really a prediction since he claimed to be telling us a future history) was of an upcoming civil war in the United States having to do with “order and rights.” He claimed it would begin in 2004 with civil unrest surrounding the presidential election of that year.

He didn’t seem to know that it would be the John Kerry vs. George W.Bush election. This civil conflict build and fully erupt by 2008. Of course, there was unrest during that period and foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush’s War on Terrorism and the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Titor was also big on alerting the public about the threat of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease spread through beef products, which might remind people of “Mad Cow” disease.

Titor said that UFOs were still a mystery in his time, but he thought that extraterrestrials might be travelers from much further into the future.

As a student of time travel, I wondered about all these interactions Titor was having in the past. Wasn’t he afraid he would change something disastrously? Had he seen Back to the Future? Didn’t he know what would happen to Marty McFly if he met himself in the past or stopped his parents from dating and getting married? hadn’t he heard of the Grandfather Paradox in which a person travels to the past and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their father or mother, which prevents the time traveler’s existence.

Titor was unconcerned. He claimed that the “Everett–Wheeler model of quantum physics,” better known as the many-worlds interpretation, is correct. In that model, every possible outcome of a quantum decision occurs in a separate “universe.” No worries about any grandfather paradox. You would be  killing a different grandfather in a different timeline.

By that model, the chances of everything happening someplace at sometime in the superverse are 100%. And so, maybe John Titor did travel back to 1975 and 2000.

On March 21, 2001, John Titor wrote that he would be returning to 2036, and he was never heard from again.

A book titled John Titor A Time Traveler’s Tale was compiled by John’s mother in our time using John’s posts and published as a 164 page paperback. It includes the black and white photos he posted of his time machine and its operations manual. It is now something of a rarity and it sells online for $130-$600. Not bad for a hoax.

John, if you read this, post a comment and give us an update.

http://www.johntitor.com

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