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Standing Up for Science in the Shadow of the Eclipse

Megan and I both travelled for our day jobs to areas of totality for the recent solar eclipse on August 21st (me to Charleston, SC and Megan to Sun Valley, ID).  Megan had a conference to work at and I had a talk to give. The eclipse affected both of us profoundly.  Our latest piece in the Huffington Post is just one result of that experience.  We hope you enjoy it, and please leave a comment.   Additionally this week, we received the first advance copies of our latest book "Magnitude!"  See photos and notes on our Instagram pages if you're interested. And many thanks to Jason Major who was with me in Charleston for letting me use his eclipse photos!

 

 

Photo Credit: Jason Major, https://lightsinthedark.com 

 

Today, a growing number of people believe that the Earth is flat and that gravity is a hoax. People are aggressively questioning the legitimacy of climate change and the effectiveness of vaccines. We live in an age where the concept of “fact” is debatable. For people who have spent their careers conducting and, in our case, communicating the value of science, this is a frightening notion.

 

But it also feels like a rallying cry, challenging us to not give up defending science and attempting to connect with everyone who will listen about its discoveries, impacts, and importance. Enter this week’s recent total solar eclipse, which arrived in North America to the wonder of millions on August 21. This was a rare moment to convince new audiences of not only the beauty of the natural world, but to help explain the scientific method that underpins this incredible natural phenomenon.

 

Many of our ancestors saw total solar eclipses as harbingers of doom or destruction. The word “eclipse” comes from the ancient Greek “ekleipsis,” meaning “abandonment.” Homer referred to a total solar eclipse in the Odyssey, writing that “the sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil mist has overspread the world.” The Sun-worshiping Egyptians never recorded eclipses, leading to a theory that they considered eclipses as too evil to even document. Earlier Hindus wrote about a mythological demon that flew through the sky to swallow up the Sun, while Chinese mythology includes stories of a dragon that would devour the Sun.

 

It was useful, if not comforting, to create mythological explanations for why the Sun would disappear, why the birds would stop chirping, why the nocturnal animals would awaken in the middle of the day, and why the winds would suddenly pick up and then, just as suddenly, die.

 

The science of eclipses, however, can be explained by a relatively basic scientific concept: the shadow.

 

Read the rest of the article at the Huffington Post. 

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