Category Archives: Lighter Moments

‘Galactic Tick Day’ Celebrates Sun’s Trip Around the Galaxy

My Comments: Every now and then something surfaces that has nothing to do with finance, but is both interesting and useless. This is one of those things.

By Calla Cofield, Staff Writer | September 6, 2016

Every time the Earth makes one complete loop around the sun, humans celebrate the journey with some kind of New Year’s holiday. So why won’t we celebrate every time our solar system completes one loop around the center of the galaxy?

Such a holiday may have just arrived: A group of science enthusiasts have established “Galactic Tick Day,” which celebrates the journey that the sun takes around the nearly circular disk of the Milky Way galaxy.

Unfortunately, the sun completes one galactic circuit about 220 million to 250 million years. To make the holiday more compatible with human lifetimes, the creators of Galactic Tick Day divided the sun’s journey up into smaller chunks, so that the holiday arrives every 1.77 Earth years. The next Galactic Tick Day, according to their calendar, falls on Sept. 29. [Stunning Photos of Our Milky Way Galaxy (Gallery)]

David Sneider, one of the creators of Galactic Tick Day, said the motivation for inventing this new holiday is “kind of loosely defined,” but mainly the group hopes it will simply bring some awe and excitement to people’s lives.

“Hopefully, some people will realize that the sun is in motion, when they may have thought it was stationary before,” Sneider told “And perhaps for people who already know about this motion and know something about astronomy, if they’re educating their peers and their friends … that’s also something really nice.”

Invigorating ideas

Sneider is 26, lives in northern California, and is a self-described entrepreneur and “startup guy,” who works on the “commercial, strategy and messaging side of things.” He isn’t a scientist (there are no professional scientists behind Galactic Tick Day), but he likes discussing big ideas from science — such as when a person on Earth stands very still, he or she is still moving around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour (110,000 kilometers per hour), and around the galaxy at something close to 514,000 mph (828,000 km/h).

This is a fascinating fact, and in Sneider’s experience it can lead people to meditate more deeply about their place in the universe. In his spare time, Sneider volunteers with Black Rock Observatory, a group that “brings meteorites and telescopes to art and science festivals in California,” which is one of the places where he can discuss these cosmic ideas with people.

“All of these scientific facts, when you put them together and start synthesizing [them] it becomes very invigorating,” Sneider told “Given this expanse and this spaciousness in which we find ourselves — and you can picture in your mind’s eye the Earth as the pale blue dot — when you start going down that line you really get these nice feelings and understanding that we are a human family. This is a planetary society. Whether we like it or not we’re all in it together. And to be able to have that level of conversation and kind of see people arrive at insights similar to that through science education is really amazing.”

Calculating a galactic tick

Even at such a mind-boggling speed, it takes the sun somewhere between 225 million and 250 million years to make a full orbit around the center of the galaxy. (Estimates vary because of various unknowns, including the exact distance from the sun to the galactic center of mass, and whether or not the sun has always been at the same distance from the galactic center.)

The folks behind Galactic Tick Day went with an estimate of 225 million. Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, which means it has lived through about 20 complete loops around the galaxy.

To celebrate the age of human beings, we have to know the exact day on which they were born. Since the exact birth date of the sun is a bit vague, the creators of Galactic Tick Day had to pick some other specific starting date to start counting the passage of galactic years. (New Year’s Day, for example, is used to mark the passage of the Earth’s journey around the sun, but it is essentially an arbitrary date).

Sneider and his friends chose Oct. 2, 1608, the day that Hans Lippershey filed the patent for the first telescope.

That day was selected in honor of the “telescope’s power” in bringing about “awareness of the nature of the universe,” according to the Galactic Tick website.

If the sun travels in an approximate circle around the center of the galaxy, then that circle can be divided up into degrees — every circle is 360 degrees. Every degree can be divided up into 60 pieces, each called an arc minute. Every arc minute can be divided into 60 arc seconds. (These units can also be used to measure the distance between objects on the sky). The creators of Galactic Tick Day then divided each arc second by 100 (a “centi-arc second”).

Sneider said they call each of these centi-arc seconds a “tick,” sort of like the tick of a second hand on a clock. Every time the sun completes one centi-arc second in its orbit around the galactic center, they will celebrate Galactic Tick Day.

With that in mind, the sun moves through one centi-arc second of its orbit around the galaxy every 633.7 days, or 1.73 years, and Sept. 29, 2016, will be the 235th Galactic Tick Day.

Because it happens every 633.7 days, Galactic Tick Day won’t fall on the same calendar day every time it comes around. Fans of the holiday will have to calculate when the next celebration should be.

Citizen science outreach

Galactic Tick Day is a great celebration of science, and it is also an example of how social media is making it possible for just about anyone to kick off their own science outreach projects. Sneider and his friends aren’t affiliated with any science organizations; currently, they don’t have any celebrities (scientists or otherwise) pushing their message out. (Sneider did reach out to multiple science news outlets, including this one, and there’s been some coverage). A YouTube video describing the holiday has a few thousand views, and a Facebook event page (location: Earth) has been shared by a few hundred people.

“It’s just an idea … It’s successful if people are talking about it,” Sneider said. “I’m actually pretty surprised to see how excited people are getting about it. The fact that we’re having this conversation, to me, is amazing. ‘Cause initially in starting it, the thought was this can be a long-term project. It took the founders of Mother’s Day about two to three decades to get that going. And you know, if this has some iota of traction in the next 10-15 years, I’ll consider that a success.”

Sneider said he and the other founders are planning their own event for Galactic Tick Day in San Francisco that will include talks by space scientists and interactive events that relate to the cosmos. The event is not listed on the Facebook page, but Sneider said anyone interested in attending should message the creators on Facebook.


Do You Have Crows in Your Neighborhood?

crowWe do in ours, and they can be noisy from time to time. Here’s a crow story you might enjoy.

About 200 dead crows were found near Topeka, KS. and there was concern that the crows may have died from Avian Flu.

A bird pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and he confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu, to everyone’s relief.

However, he determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

Kansas then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine the disproportionate percentages for truck versus car kill. The Ornithological Behaviorist determined the cause in short order.

When crows eat road kill, they always set-up a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger.

His conclusion was that all the look-out crows could say “Cah,” but none could say “Truck.”

Have a nice day.


Farnarkeling is a sport which began in Mesopotamia, which literally means ‘between the rivers’. This would put it somewhere in Victoria or New South Wales between the Murray and the Darling. The word Farnarkeling is Icelandic in structure, Urdu in metre and Celtic in the intimacy of its relationship between meaning and tone.

Farnarkeling is engaged in by two teams whose purpose is to arkle, and to prevent the other team from arkeling, using a flukem to propel a gonad through sets of posts situated at random around the periphery of a grommet. Arkeling is not permissible, however, from any position adjacent to the phlange (or leiderkrantz) or from within 15 yards of the wiffenwacker at the point where the shifting tube abuts the centre-line on either side of the 34 metre mark, measured from the valve at the back of the defending side’s transom-housing.


2012 Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners!

Several years ago a college friend who lives in New Jersey but whom I have not seen in 50 years introduced me to Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Most of us are familiar with the the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night…”. What we aren’t familiar with is the rest of the sentence penned by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in 1830 which reads as follows: “…the rain fell in torrents – except at occassional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

The contest began in 1982 and was/is the realm of a Professor Scott Rice of San Jose State University. The idea is to compose the opening sentence to the worst possible novel. My favorite winner is from 2008. It was penned by Garrison Spik of Washington, DC and reads as follows: “Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped ‘Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, NJ’“.

I think I wrote a blog post last year that talked about this but with the news about economics and such being so pessimistic, decided today was a good day for something a little lighter, something that will end your week on a high note.

Here, then, are some of the winners from the 2012 contest.

Overall Winner
As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting. — Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England

Winner: Crime
She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI

Winner: Historical Fiction
The “clunk” of the guillotine blade’s release reminded Marie Antoinette, quite briefly, of the sound of the wooden leg of her favorite manservant as he not-quite-silently crossed the polished floors of Versailles to bring her another tray of petit fours. — Leslie Craven, Hataitai, New Zealand

Winner: Purple Prose

William, his senses roused by a warm fetid breeze, hoped it was an early spring’s equinoxal thaw causing rivers to swell like the blood-engorged gumlines of gingivitis, loosening winter’s plaque, exposing decay, and allowing the seasonal pot-pouris of Mother Nature’s morning breath to permeate the surrounding ether, but then he awoke to the unrelenting waves of his wife’s halitosis. — Guy Foisy, Orleans, Ontario

From Among the Rest:

Corinne considered the colors (palest green, gray and lavender) and texture (downy as the finest velvet) and wondered, “How long have these cold cuts been in my refrigerator?” — Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE

The real problem with the “many universes” interpretation of quantum mechanics is that if it’s true, then somewhere, in some universe, anything you can possibly imagine has already happened, which means that somewhere, another version of me has already finished writing the rest of this science-fiction novel, so I’m not feeling real inspired to do it myself. — Steve Lauducci, Bethlehem, PA

He got down from his horse, which seemed strange to him as he had always believed that you got down from a duck or a goose. — Terry L. Johnson, Tularosa, NM

Her fixed gaze at dinner reminded him so much of an owl that he found himself wondering when she would regurgitate her meal into a pellet and told the waitress they didn’t need a dessert menu. — Leah Sitkoff, New York, New York

Take Back America!

Perhaps this is what the Tea Party has in mind when they argue that we should take back America.

About Thomas Edison

You’ve seen them — the stories on the Internet purporting to explain some everyday term or aphorism in some weird way, totally off the wall. Well, we’ll begin with one…

In his laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ, back in the 1870s, Thomas A. Edison was hard at work developing an efficient artificial source of light. (It is not commonly known that his chief assistant was a Native American. Because he had mastered a veritable arsenal of technical skills, his tribal name was Many Hands — a tribute to all that he displayed.)

In 1877 Edison came up with the ideal combination of materials and source of energy.

After many preparations he scheduled a press conference where his new ‘incandescent lamp’ would be announced and demonstrated. The day came, as did many reporters. On the dais, Edison made a speech announcing the new device, and threw back a curtain to display a large glass globe with a filamentous center. He ceremonially flipped a large electric switch and — nothing happened.

There was instant consternation (and some derision) from the attending reporters. His assistant immediately jumped behind the dais and whipped out a screwdriver from his pocket. He worked on something back there and then said, “Try it again, Boss!” Edison once again flipped the switch and the room was bathed in a bright glow that illuminated the entire room.

Edison had done it again! — A whole new and popular invention. But he did not take all the credit for himself. Rather, he spent some time telling the reporters how much of this was a group effort, and singled out his assistant for his last-minute contribution.

So the event was headlined as “Many Hands Make Light Work.”

That’s the story on the Internet and of course you saw it coming. But there is some small amount of truth in it. Edison really did have a Native American chief assistant who made major contributions to the effort. And Edison was indeed grateful to him, and told him that as a reward he could ask for anything he wanted within his power to give him.

Many Hands pondered this for a while, then said he was satisfied with what he had and did not want anything more for himself. “But,” he said, “You know that I come from a small tribe which was displaced and now living in Oklahoma. Being still a part of the tribe, I wonder if you could perhaps do something for them in my name. I propose that they be among the first groups to actually have an Electric Light installed there.”

Edison spent a moment thinking about this, seeing the suitability of it, and realizing the publicity possibilities. So he readily agreed to the proposal.

It took some time to assemble everything, but finally a private train left New Jersey including with it a flatcar loaded with wires, cables, hardware and tools, a large incandescent lamp and a Dynamo. A few days later, the train pulled up onto a siding at the reservation.

It was a broad, treeless very dry plain. Here and there were some ramshackle buildings, obviously dwellings, a few not much better buildings for governmental functions, stores, etc. At the center of the community was a huge circular tent-like edifice. One could see many persons entering or leaving this structure.

Soon, at a meeting in one of the government buildings, Many Hands introduced Edison to the Tribal Council, and he explained to them what he desired to do to honor his assistant. The Council listened attentively. Edison then inquired where they would like to have the light installed.

The Elders spoke privately among themselves for a few moments, then reconvened.

They formally thanked Edison for his offer and accepted it, saying they greatly appreciated the honor done to Many Hands and to their tribe. They said they found they had two considerations to fulfill.

One was to ensure every member would witness the honor given to Many Hands and the tribe and, from a practical point of view, to have the light placed where it could be of greatest use to the tribe. They’d arrived at a solution but apologized in advance if it seemed a bit impolite…

For the first, they realized there is one thing that every inhabitant of the reservation must do, and because of the arid and primitive conditions of their land, the tribe designated one and only one place to carry it out. That is the communal latrine.

It was that huge tent they saw when they arrived. Being so huge, it was also very dark within. The Elders reasoned that this is the one place on the reservation every resident is sure to visit, and a lamp in such a place not only would remind them all of Many Hands’ contribution, but also provide a much needed service that could only enhance the significance of his contribution.

Edison realized the wisdom of this unusual decision, and readily agreed to install the light up in the apex of the tent. Within a few days he installed the Dynamo, strung power cables up to the main light, and placed a number of other lamps at strategic spots within the tent. There was a ceremony and the lighting system was dedicated and turned on.

Thus, Thomas Edison became the first man in history to Wire a Head for a Reservation.