Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

March 15, 2014

History book starts from the beginning

There is a new world history book, using a great variety of graphs. It is the collaboration of an Italian graphic designer, Valentina D’Efilippo and British journalist James Ball.

Their book is “The Infographic History of the World,” published this year by Firefly with ISBN – 13: 978-1-77085-316-4.

There are four sections: In the Beginning (from Universe’s origin to the dawn of human civilization), Getting Civilized (up to the start of the Iron Age), Nation Building, and lastly The Modern World. As well as a table of contents, “Infographic” has a visual index with small pictures for all the major topics.

Here are some of the more interesting points from this book going from the first section onward.

Gravity appeared in the first trillionth of a second of our universe. Within the first second, most of the basic rules that govern our universe were in place.

How far is a light year? If one could go around the Earth 80 times each day, and continue this motion for the next 8,097 years, you would have then covered one light year (about 9.47 trillion kilometers or 5.88 trillion miles).

If you had travelled in a straight line, you would have reached a few distant comets in the outer comet cloud of our sun.

The crustal elements table consists of blocks whose area is proportional to their number of atoms in the Earth’s crust. Oxygen is biggest at 47.4 percent. Carbon, on whose combining power life is based, is only thousandth as common as oxygen in the Earth’s crust.

The total mass of plant life comprises 99 per cent of living organisms on Earth (not including bacteria). The total mass of living humans is about 350 million metric tons (a metric ton = 1,000 kilograms or 2200 pounds).

There are an estimated 4,200 million tonnes of fish. The largest mass of lifeforms on Earth is that of bacteria with 1.3 trillion tonnes, meaning that for each kilogram of humans (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs), there are 4,000 kilograms of bacteria. Even our own bodies have 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells.

As to human beings, an average adult has 95,000 km (or 59,000 miles) of blood vessels and veins. If we to untangle the nerves in our brains, they would stretch 165,000 kilometers (or 102,500 miles). Our mouths contain the greatest number of microbial species, 3,632 on the average.

  Of the domesticated animals, we are outnumbered only by chickens whose current population is 19.4 billion (compared to humans at 7.1 billion). Cows are in second place with 1.43 billion.

As regards empires, based on length of time and area, the British empire is tops; the Mongol empire is number two. The British empire covered about 23 per cent of the world’s land area, just a shade over the Mongol empire at about 21 per cent. The Roman empire was only 4 per cent.

As far as caloric consumption today, the country with the highest adult caloric intake is Austria at 3800 kilocalories with the U.S. a close second at 3750 kilocalories. A kilocalorie (our diet calorie) equals 1,000 calories as defined by physics. Eritreans (in East Africa) take in only 1,590 kilocalories per day, with Haiti at 1,850 kilocalories, second from the bottom.

As for government spending per person, the GDP (gross domestic product) is the best way to gauge different countries. Countries leading in government spending as a fraction of their GDP include East Timor, Kiribati and Cuba, all three with government spending over 75 per cent of their GDP.

The United States with taxes by the federal government, the states and localities has government spending/GDP at 42 per cent. Japan and Russia also have about the same per cent.

Developed countries with higher proportion of taxes than the U.S. include Canada, all four Scandinavian countries, the major countries of western Europe, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: Tonight we have a full moon, the moon rising about sunset and being visible all through the night. The next full moon on April 15 will feature a lunar eclipse during the a.m. hours that will be visible from our area.

The bright planet Jupiter is conspicuous all evening long. Mars, now rising about 9:30 p.m. appears as a bright pink-orange point in the east in the late evening hours. Brilliant Venus rises about 2 hours before sunrise.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

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    Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.

    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

  • Moon-watching easy when you know how

    Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.

    June 21, 2014

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    June 15, 2014

  • Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one

    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

    May 18, 2014

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