Specular Reflections
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Thoughts on Life, Science, Writing and the Universe at Large

Sunday, February 11, 2007
Miscellaneous Ramblings on a Sunday Night

I really should be sleeping, but the moon is on my mind. My little house backs on to some woods and every once in a while we hear coyotes howling, which sets off our dog as well. I don't know if coyotes howl only on full moon nights or whether that is a canard invented by ignorant humans --- one of these days I should do a mini-study of my own. But in any case NASA announced recently that the moon has gone metric by international agreement, so the only places on Earth and the Moon using the old English system are the United States, Liberia and Burma. Future missions to the moon will be in terms of seconds and kilometers and kilograms --- yay!

The moon is both prosaic --- because we take it so much for granted --- and poetic. Poetic not only because of its luminous beauty but because it reminds us that we are part of a much larger universe. The stars are too remote, the sun in the daytime too bright. But the moon is so clearly another world, its battered, cratered, rounded profile so familiar and yet alien. And there are mysteries there still --- for instance the notion that the moon is geologically dead is now being challenged by new evidence of gaseous upwellings below the surface (yes, a flatulence problem). There are stragely beautiful things like dust fountains that hang over the airless surface. Every rock that hits the moon leaves an impact that cannot erode away because there are no such agents as wind or water. Imagine being scarred each time, never healing. Only another impact can obliterate a crater. How tragic, somehow!

The moon is a source of much mystery, myth and metaphor. I wonder what it will be like to stand there, to live there, to walk its low-g surface, to have static-cling-moondust messing up one's electronics. As it loses some of the old mystery, will it gain new meaning? Will future generations see it as a giant step toward other worlds?

Will our grandchildren stand upon it and look beyond Earth to Mars?

Will they bring pet coyotes?

posted by Vandana 8:37 PM
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