## The Green Flash

The green flash has nothing to do with the red Flash of comic books. They are an optical phenomena that sometimes occur just after sunset or right before sunrise.

With the right conditions, a distinct green spot is briefly visible for just a second or two above the upper rim of the Sun’s disk.  It may look like green ray shooting up from the sunset (or sunrise) point.

These green flashes occur because the Earth’s atmosphere can cause the light from the sun to separate out into different colors.

They can be seen with the naked eye looking at a very clear and very distant horizon. Looking at a location near an ocean improves your chances.

The time to view is at the last moment before the sun disappears below the horizon. Don’t look too soon because the sun can dazzle (and possibly damage!) your eyesight.

The flash doesn’t occur at every sunset or at every location. It is an atmospheric trick. I have yet to catch one, but I keep checking whenever I am near an ocean sunrise or sunset.

## Coincidences

I came across a book at the library this past week quite by coincidence. Well, maybe..

The book is Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence. Don’t be frightened by it being written by a mathematician, Joseph Mazur. It is about the seemingly improbable, surprising moments in our lives that seem to be coincidences. Maybe you attribute those events to serendipity. Or Fate. Look at some of the synonyms for coincidence: correspondence, agreement, accord, concurrence, consistency, conformity, fluke, harmony, compatibility. Do you attribute these kinds of events to coincidence or something else?

Others have said that “extremely improbable events are commonplace.” In 1866, the British mathematician Augustus De Morgan wrote, “Whatever can happen will happen if we make trials enough.”

What are the odds of being hit by lightning  once? More than once?  Roy Sullivan, a park ranger in Virginia who spent a lot of time outside in all kinds of weather was struck 7 times.

Enter the mathematical concepts of probability. This was one of those things that actually interested me in that rare interesting math class I was required to take.

Have you heard of the birthday paradox? What is the lowest number of people who must be in the same room to make it likely that at least two people will have the same birth day and month? Answer: 23. With 30 people in the room, the probability of a shared birthday is about 0.7 (or 70 percent).

Joseph Mazur knows that we are intrigued when someone wins the lottery four times in a row. How did you react when you learned that Abraham Lincoln had dreams that foreshadowed his own assassination? Creepy?

That statistics course you had to take may have taught you about correlation and causation. People confuse the two. Maybe cavemen believed that waking up caused the sun to appear.  You talk about a friend you haven’t talked to in years and they call you on the phone that day. Correlation does not imply causation. A correlation between two variables does not imply that one causes the other.

Some of Mazur’s examples seem to be “pure coincidence.” You find  your college copy of Moby Dick in a used bookstore in Paris on your first visit to the city? How do we explain the unlikelihood of strangers named Maria and Francisco, seeking each other in a hotel lobby, accidentally meet the wrong Francisco and the wrong Maria, another pair of strangers also looking for each other?

Mazur asserts that if there is any likelihood that something could happen, no matter how small the probability, it is bound to happen to someone at some time.

“What are the odds?” is what you might say in one of these situations. Like a déjà vu experience it might feel like some ripple just went through time, space or your universe.

In the paper, Methods for Studying Coincidences, mathematicians defined a coincidence as a “surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection.”

In The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day, David Hand says that principle “tells us that events which we regard as highly improbable occur because we got things wrong. If we can find out where we went wrong, then the improbable will become probable.”

It’s no coincidence that ukuleles are popping up in ads on Facebook and other websites this week for me, because I was searching and looking at them on Amazon.com last weekend.

There’s the joke about two guys in a Dublin pub drinking and discovering a series of amazing coincidences in their lives. Another patron listening is stunned by the coincidences. But the bartender says, “Nah, it’s just the O’Reilly twins have been drinking too much.”

theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/the-true-meaning-of-coincidences/

washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-improbability-principle…

Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life

There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives

## The Hum

As someone who has suffered from tinnitus for a few years, I empathize with people who live somewhere that is known to have “the hum.” What is the hum? It is a low-frequency humming or droning sound whose source remains unclear.

This phenomenon, or collection of phenomena, has been reported in numerous places in the United States and beyond. The low-frequency humming, or rumbling, or droning noise is not audible to all people, which makes it harder to track down and harder for some people to believe.

These hums are associated with an area and one famous one is the “Taos Hum” in New Mexico. Though it has received quite a bit of attention, only 2% of the population has the ability of hearing it. Of course, that 2% finds it to be not only irritating but mysterious and frustrating.

I have to admit that my first contact with a hum was from watching a 1998 episode of The X-Files titled “Drive.”  Agent Mulder’s theory is that extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves might explain the Taos Hum.

These “hums” are not the only “unexplained sounds” out there that some people can hear while others can not.

People describe the hum as being comparable to that of a distant diesel engine idling. All of the logical explanations – machinery, household appliances, traffic noise – have been investigated and ruled out. That leaves much room for speculation, fringe science and theories that are psychological to the paranormal. Sure, secret government mind control experiments and underground UFO bases have been listed as possible causes.

Reports of the Taos Hum go back more than 20 years. Researchers at the University of New Mexico set up sensitive equipment in the homes of some of the people who claimed to hear the hum but nothing unusual was detected. Each “hearer” described it as compared to a different frequency between 32 Hz and 80 Hz and similar results have been found in an British study.

Hearers are both male and female, with middle-aged people being more likely to hear it.

Though hearers can move away from the hum and not hear it (so it’s not tinnitus) they can’t block it with earplugs. It is often described as vibrating within their bodies.

There is now a World Hum Database and Mapping Project (and a blog with updates) that started in 2012 to build detailed mappings of hum locations and to provide a database of Hum-related data for professional and independent researchers. I looked on their map and found reports all around my part of the country.

## A Trapper’s Full Moon (and maybe even a Moon pillar)

February 3rd is the Full Moon for 2015.  For the Cherokee, it is the Bone Moon or “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens” – even though we know that they are not fixed. On this site, I have called it by some of its other names: the Snow, Storm, Ice Moon, and the Hunger Moon.

It is a tough month of winter for most of the United States. This month’s Full Moon names were most associated with the harsh weather or depleting stores of food. It makes sense for a Hunger Moon, maybe even a Bone Moon, as the food and meat is gone and only the bones remain. When I am hiking in the woods, I sometimes come across the bones of animals that did not make it through the winter. White bones, picked clean by hungry animals, white on the snow and even more so in the light of the Full Moon.

Our Colonial ancestors called this simply the Winter Moon or the Trapper’s Moon, a name that came from eastern Algonquin Indian traditions. Though the tradition is (thankfully) not as common today, this would be the time when it was optimal for trapping beaver, fox, and mink as their fur would be at the fullest.

This is a good time to witness the phenomena of “Moon pillars.” I have never seen Moon pillars which are optical phenomena that are most likely to occur when the Moon is low to the horizon, the air is cold, and ice crystals are angled in a position in the atmosphere where there is direct light in a straight column directly above or below the moon.

A light pillar is created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with nearly horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also appear to come from the Moon or even from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.

There are billions of micro-sized ice crystals in clouds (even in warmer weather) or in minute snow crystals, and as these column-shaped ice crystals drift earthward, they tip and tilt. There are “upper pillars” that are formed when light is reflected downward toward our eyes and “lower pillars” when light is reflected upward from the topmost crystal faces.

I have read that the best time to see them is at sunset when a storm front is approaching (there might be a veil of cirrus clouds in the west). If those crystals happen to be nearly perfectly horizontal, a narrow column is a result. If they are tilted at various angles to the horizontal, then a pillar of light spreads into what might look more like broad feathers to the Moon’s sides.