Thursday, January 04, 2007

1/4/2007 - And now for something completely different

Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Baltic, Mediteranean [sorry] Kalamazoo, Madison. Cities that I have passed through, that everyone knows well. But there is one city that does not share this universal recognition. Why is that the world never remembers the birthplace of Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern- schplenden- schlitter- crasscrenbon- fried- digger- dingle- dangle- dongle- dungle- burstein- von- knacker- thrasher- apple- banger- horowitz- ticolensic- grander- knotty- spelltinkle- grandlich- grumblemeyer- spelterwasser- kurstlich- himbleeisen- bahnwagen- gutenabend- bitte- ein- n├╝rnburger- bratwustle- gerspurten- mitz- weimache- luber- hundsfut- gumberaber- sh├Ânedanker- kalbsfleisch- mittler- aucher von Hautkopft?

Yes, there is a city called Ulm in Wyoming and you can bet your sweet bippy that I managed to walk through it. With an elevation of nearly 1 mile and a population to match. What can I say about the city? Not much, as it doesn't have a web presence. I understand that they do have a train that runs to Austin, MN.

At rest

I got to live out a sampling of my imagined walk today. As I was on my way to work, my car simply stopped. Well technically, it went from doing 60 to doing 0 in relatively rapid fashion. I had always been under the impression that, if I ran out of gas on the highway, I could coast for miles. In fact, I barely coasted more than a 10th of a mile before coming to a stop on the shoulder.

So a tow truck dropped my car off at a garage and me at work, 5.5 miles away. I realized that this gave me a wonderful opportunity. When my car was fixed, I hiked the 5.5 miles back along the highway to pick up my car. At times, I was walking along service roads, just out of sight of the highway, but often, I was separated only by a low metal barrier. I imagined myself doing this every day for a year, making my way across the country. Quite enjoyable, albeit lonely.

So here's my plan. Every morning I kiss the wife and kids and start off on my walk. Then the chauffeur packs them into the limo and drives them to my next destination. I figure I can't need more than $500,000. I'm accepting a wide range of corporate sponsorships. Exxon-Mobile? Greenpeace?

The universe

There are about 140 moons in the solar system. If you don't count Charon (now, technically, an object revolving around a dwarf planet) there are about 140. To 2 significant figures. Where are all these moons?

Well, Mercury has none. Venus? None. Earth has 1! Mars has 2. So far, so good. Hold on to your hats.

Jupiter: 62
Saturn: 33
Uranus: 27
Neptune: 13

One site I found listed Pluto as having 3. Maybe they're all just Kuiper Belt Objects.

I think that there is some difficulty counting the moons of our outer gaseous giants. I was thumbing through the moons of Jupiter and the problem is that many of the moons follow the orbits of the rings. In fact, it is possible that there is an arbitrary line drawn between the largest objects in the rings and the smallest moons. And although they may not be as famous as Saturn's, each of the four gaseous giants has a set of rings. So it all comes back to Pluto.

Of course.

The problem with Pluto was that the world of astronomers decided that they needed a clear delinear between "planets" and the countless large balls of ice orbitting beyond Neptune's orbit. While that delineation is a little cleaner, problems still exist including: where do you draw the line between a large planet and a small dead star? When is an object part of a ring and when is it a moon? And what about Ceres?

The real purpose of all of this, I am convinced, is to keep astronomers employed. And this blogger, for one, is grateful.

5,500 astronomical steps today. Cheers,


Anonymous magid said...

I've heard about four car woes in the last couple of days. I'm glad you're safe, and the car fixable.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back and here's hoping for more blogging to come!

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