I now know the meaning of life, and I discovered it in a most unlikely place — the dentist chair. While getting a broken tooth repaired yesterday, nitrous oxide made the pain bearable. You can control your intake of this familiar anesthetic gas by breathing plain old air through you mouth when necessary. When the drilling and grinding got to be too much, I decided to go deep and breath my full share. It was somewhere in that fuzzy domain that a thought flashed through my brain making me think I had finally chanced upon the meaning of it all: “Repetition.”
That was it. In other words, rhythm. Practice makes perfect. Repeat, repeat, repeat to a beat. What doesn’t repeat in life? From cell division to relationships to history to starbirth and even the insanely regular pulsations of neutron stars, the very definition of repetition. Nature takes one thing and reiterates it nonstop — with occasional variation — to create both intended and unintended consequences.
You only really need a few starting ingredients, because with them you can go anywhere. And maybe that’s why so many of us love music so passionately; rhythm is built into our bones. Not that this is an entirely original thought. Duke Ellington found rhythm long before I was born, and he did it without the aid of laughing gas.
Several hours after the tooth procedure, my mouth hurt like hell and the revelation paled somewhat in its significance. It was a thrilling thought at the time it entered my head, but of course I was on nitrous, so please don’t repeat this to anyone else.
The Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki is on its way to the hothouse planet Venus. Akatsuki will enter orbit on December 7 and study the planet’s thick atmosphere and clouds for at least two years. Venus is the ultimate example of the greenhouse effect gone out of control. Its thick carbon dioxide atmosphere traps enough heat to warm the surface to 850 degrees Fahrenheit, more than twice the temperature required to fry a chicken. Noxious sulfuric acid clouds are blown around the planet by winds of more than 220 miles per hour. Venus is the ultimate study in contrasts: pretty to the naked eye (thanks to its clouds and proximity to Earth) but a close match to the biblical version of hell.
Akatsuki, or “dawn” in Japanese, will create a 3D profile of the atmosphere by examining it in visual, infrared and UV light. It will also study Venusian lightning to help scientists figure out why Venus has lightning in the first place. Lightning on Earth, Saturn and Jupiter is created when powerful winds collide water ice particles which then become electrically charged. When they’re charged enough to overcome the insulating effects of air, lightning sparks between them the same way a spark from your fingertip jumps to a metal doorknob after you’ve dragged your stocking feet on the carpet. Venus is bone dry so water can’t be the cause. Can sulfuric acid create lighting too or there something else in the atmosphere to jump start the process? To read more, please click HERE
Venus continues to tickle our eyes during twilight this month. You’ll find it shining brighter than any other planet low in the southwestern sky a half hour after sunset. A keen eye will spot the planet Mars about two degrees above Venus. The two planets keep pace with one another during the upcoming week and remain close. Telescope users will discover that Venus’ phase almost exactly matches that of the moon tonight or about one day past first quarter.
Oh, and before I forget, the 8-day-moon will be sitting right next to Scorpius’ brightest star Antares this evening, a sight worth a minute or two of your time.