I used to travel a lot: more than 250 days and 100,000 miles year in my busiest time as a Sports Illustrated writer. As an editor I don't fly off on assignments as much, but somehow since the start of July I've traveled 30,000 miles and been away from home more than half the time. Perhaps it's because, on top of my (and our) Olympic-related trips, Pamelia and I have been meeting with so many people who will be collaborating with us on Naturalist's Notebook projects in 2013, 2014, 2015...well, for a long time, we hope.
The two of us just completed a whirlwind Northeastern loop that took us to meetings with artists, educators, student interns, a natural-history museum preparator, a book agent, a playwright, two of America's best dancers and an oral historian, among others. We stopped at Yale, in New York City, in Concord, N.H., and at one of Connecticut's most forward-thinking high schools. I think it's a good sign that everyone we met with seemed as excited about the Notebook's current and future projects as we are. As we like to say, it was a supernova trip.
We'll tell you more soon about all the projects and collaborators, but since we're showing a lot of solar photos here, I'll mention that one of our 2013 team members is astrophysicist Joe Snider, who's an expert on the Sun, among many other celestial objects. Joe spent almost three decades as a physics professor at Oberlin College in Ohio but now fixes his gaze on the starwatching-friendly skies of the Acadia National Park area. When he stops by the Notebook, he usually has one of his astronomical inventions in hand. He's constantly creating new devices to help people understand the movement of planets and stars and other basics of the cosmos.
Just the other day, while demonstrating his newly invented solar calendar, Joe noted that, while people often connect sunrise and sunset times with a location's latitude (e.g., short winter days in Alaska), a location's longitude also affects the timing. For example, Maine is so far east that it's almost in the Atlantic time zone with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (Just this summer, friends told us that when they were hiking on the eastern edge of Mount Desert Island their cell-phone clocks jumped an hour ahead.) Because we're so far east, we currently see the sun rise 43 minutes earlier than people do in Cleveland, which is also in the Eastern time zone.
As we look ahead to a sunny 2013, keep in mind that our favorite star doesn't just shine, but also spins. The Sun rotates on its axis once every 25 days, meaning that the next time it completes the full rotation it started this morning, the new year will have dawned and the days, at least in our half of the world, will be getting longer and brighter, whether you're in Maine or in Cleveland.
Come Visit the Notebook We've decided to open the Notebook for three more days of holiday shopping and discovering: Saturday 12/15, Saturday 12/22 and Sunday 12/23. We'll be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Stop by 16 Main St. in Seal Harbor for some warmth and fun on a cold December day.
Climate Change Many of us were dismayed to read a recent letter to the local newspaper in which the writer bizarrely claimed that most experts now agree that the planet has not been getting warmer. In response, an Orland, Maine, man named Rufus Wanning wrote a reasoned rebuttal that I can't resist quoting, at least in part: "The National Climate Data Center says that 2012 is on track to be the warmest year on record. No warming? Tell that to professor Rich Muller of Berkeley, formerly a well-known climate change skeptic. He and his team of a dozen scientists examined temperature data from past decades and centuries to test the claims of global warming scientists. In professor Muller's words: 'The average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. "Professor Muller's research was funded by the Koch brothers, oil and gas billionaires well known for their support of climate denial science...They did not get what they expected. "[The original letter writer] goes on to say that CO2 does not cause global warming. Tell that to Paul Mayewski and his team at the Climate Change Institute at [the University of Maine at Orono]. Professor Mayewski has led many expeditions to Greenland and Antarctica to drill for ice cores. Ice cores have annual rings, like trees, and they trap bubbles of air, preserving samples of prehistoric atmospheres. From this data, professor Mayewski and his colleagues have shown that CO2 and temperature have moved in tandem for at least the last 400,000 years."
Answer to the Last Puzzler The element that makes up almost half of the Earth's crust is oxygen. So in a sense you're always walking on air.
Today's Puzzler A trick question (sort of): Which of these statements about beavers is NOT true:
a) Beavers can close their lips while keeping their teeth exposed, enabling them to swim while carrying branches and keeping water out of their mouth. b) Beavers can hold their breath for more than 15 minutes. c) Beavers store fat in their tails. d) All of the above statements are true e) None of the above statements is true
Credit for the above Puzzler goes to ace Maine naturalist Lynn Havsall. If you would like to subscribe to Lynn's ever-fascinating newsletter, just e-mail her at email@example.com.