Passing Time and the Jug

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

pools and speeding up evolution. Our molten core, perhaps partially fueled by the friction resulting from the moon's pull, is cited as the reason earth has a strong magnetic field. Without such a barrier, cosmic radiation would make life impossible here.

Earth's rate of rotation is also the result of the relationship between it and the moon, and this rate of rotation determines global wind patterns, which establish global weather patterns. The moon, therefore, helps maintain earth's temperate climate.

Is the moon possibly responsible for the emergence of life onto land, the speedy progress of evolution, the magnetic field that deflects harmful radiation and our temperate climate? Remarkably, these theories resonate with the mythologies from around the world: the moon is the mother of humankind, keeper of rain, symbol of fertility, symbol of the cycles of life and death.

Perhaps for all these long centuries, humankind's imagination, intuition and respect for natural cycles taught us as much as science can tell us today. Recall that old proverb: No moon, no man. What a lucky planet we are to have a companion such as the moon.

Lunar Facts

In 1991 a professor at Iowa State University proposed we destroy the moon, postulating that the resulting debris would correct the tilt of earth's axis and create perpetual spring worldwide. His idea didn't take off.

Our mind fools us into thinking the moon looks larger when it's near the horizon than when it's higher in the sky. But the diameter of the moon as viewed from earth can fluctuate from month to month as much as 14 percent because of its elliptical orbit.

Consider yourself lucky if you view a "moonbow," which is the same thing as a rainbow, but the result of moonlight instead of sunlight. Moonbows are fainter than rainbows.

In this era of high-tech communications, even the moon lends a helping hand as a passive radio signal deflector. High powered radio waves are aimed at the moon, which bounces them back to earth. Even amateur ham radio operators use this "Earth-Moon-Earth" technique.

Many marine animals take cues from the moon. Oysters in Holland, for example, time their mating by the moon. European eels wait for the waning moon to begin their spawning migration. And the palolo worm, which lives in coral reefs, always mates in October or November when the moon enters its last quarter. Even in captivity, out of sight of the sky, these worms time their mating precisely in accordance to the moon.

Lunar eclipses helped convince Greek scholars that the earth was round. They saw that as earth's shadow covered the moon, it had a rounded edge, indicating that the earth must be spherical. They accepted this theory as early as the fifth century B.C.E.

A blue moon has nothing to do with color: it is a full moon that appears in a month that has already had a full moon. Because the lunar cycle is 29.5 days, this double-mooned-month only occurs about every three years.

What month will never have a blue moon? February.

Official last words spoken on the moon, December 1972: "We leave the moon as we came, and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed from the crew of Apollo 17."

Most of the year, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each night. September's so-called Harvest Moon is unique in that it rises only 20 minutes later each subsequent evening. In the days before electricity, this early rising moon essentially extended the working day during the busy harvest season.

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