Sometimes I like to simply sit still and try not to move – to look up into space and ponder the stars.
Light travels really quickly. As a youngster, I discovered, while standing at the edge of a lake, that I could see a man splitting maple for his winter fire, about a half-mile distant on the opposite shore, swing a sledgehammer, and a short time later hear the hammer hit the steel wedge he used to split a maple log. Even at that distance, the disparity between the speed of light and the speed of sound was easily measurable, though at my then young age it was merely a curiosity.
I look “up” into the night sky and look at light reflected from stars so far away some of them have not existed for millions, maybe billions, of years.
Last week, an unmanned spaceship named New Horizons, nine months after departing Earth, zipped within 8,000 miles of our last planet, and continued on toward … well, we’re really not sure what it will find. But that’s the point of such trips, isn’t it.
In the same week, while peering through a telescope we’ve stationed about 93 million miles from the site of a certain well-known terran battlefield, we found, a mere 1,400 light-years from the same battlefield, a planet that might support life as we know it. Imagine a civilization out there staring back at this blue marble we are riding, wondering whether anyone lives here.
I went for a walk in the woods one day with the granddaughters, in search of the source of a creek which flows from the county where I live in south-central Pennsylvania, across the state line into Maryland, and joins the Monocacy River east of Thurmont.
A paper company once owned the particular piece of forest, 2,500 acres of the first tree farm in the state that gave birth to the nation’s forest conservation movement. There was a time when men with axes and horses took to the woods to cut trees and drag them to a nearby road, from whence they could be carted to the mill. Axes gave way to chainsaws, and horses to huge, powerful tractors called “skidders,” but even then, logging was a slow process. I know; I was raised where logging and paper making was the primary industry.
Chainsaws have been replaced by machines with air conditioned cabs from which one operator can virtually denude a mountainside in a matter days, instead of the months or years once required, leaving the owner to pay taxes for several decades while waiting patiently for trees to grow to usable girth. Glatfelter, owner of that 2,500 acres, had decided to sell the land, to let someone else pay the taxes and “call us when you’ve got wood to sell.” … Continue reading …