There`s a new series on Netflix called Stranger Things; my kids have been bugging the hell out of me to watch it. They say it’s awesome but I can’t really write about it because I haven’t seen it. I just wanted to mess with your mind for a second and make you think that I was going to write about it. I’m actually going to write about the effects of the recent total eclipse, because there is lots of eclipse-related weirdness out there if you take the trouble to look for it.
For example, animals are known to go weird during a total eclipse and some of this weirdness is outlined on a site I found called World Book:
“4. Unnerved animals.
Many people around the world have noted unusual behavior in some pets and wildlife during solar eclipses. Animals may appear to be restless, “spooked,” or simply confused by the sudden midday twilight…Researchers in Zimbabwe have noted that hippopotami and impalas exhibit alert and anxious behavior following an eclipse. You may notice that the birds stop singing during the eclipse, or that your pets behave in unusual ways.”
I don’t have a pet hippopotamus, but I found this image of a young hippo who was undoubtedly extremely anxious during the eclipse, until it was comforted by its Therapy Oxpecker It doesn’t look very anxious to me; it just looks a bit sly, like maybe it’s thinking about biting your head off if you so much as look at it sideways.
It’s not too surprising that animals might be disturbed by eclipses, since they tend to be more in tune with cosmic forces, but many authorities (some of them residents of Earth) believe that eclipses can also exert profound and lasting effects on humans, such as fatigue, weakness, feeling off-balance, increased shoe size, an urge to switch to a different brand of toothpaste and sudden fixation on some of the crazy stuff found in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue.
All I know is that some weird things have happened to me just before and since the eclipse and I feel like I should tell you about them.
Weird Thing #1: I develop a sudden inability to read labels with font size 4 from three metres away
We’re doing renovations at the lab, including installation of large tanks for outside storage of liquid nitrogen and liquid argon. So recently I found myself standing about three metres away from these tanks with my friend Dave, who has a great Scottish accent and also happens to be Scottish.
I innocently asked Dave which one was the argon tank and which was the nitrogen tank, and he impishly said,” The one labeled ‘Nitrogen’ is for nitrogen and the one labeled ‘Argon’ is for argon.” Then he started slapping his thigh and rolling on the ground laughing, and saying ,”I thought you were supposed to be smart,” or words to that effect. But I have to admit, it was kind of hilarious at the time.
In my defense, here are closeups of the tank labels. Even from less than a metre away, they’re still mighty hard to read. Darn that eclipse.
Weird Thing #2: New information about the Earth’s magnetic field comes my way
Just before the eclipse I got this email alerting me to a paper that had been published in Frontiers in Zoology entitled: Dogs Are Sensitive to Small Variations of the Earth’s Magnetic Field. (Hart et al. Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:80) This got my attention right away so I checked it out. The authors studied 70 dogs over a two-year period during which they observed 7,475 separate instances of defecation and urination (involving the dogs) and took careful note-follow me closely here-of the orientation of the long axis of their bodies (note that I am once again referring to the dogs) during said defecations and urinations.
For what its worth, over 37 breeds of dog were studied including a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a German Shepherd-Schnauzer cross, a Transylvanian hound, and a Wis Poopski or maybe it was an Oobah Poopoo. I forget.
This is an actual photo of one of the study subjects, a young male Copo Fahrtima, which has apparently had a large wire frame complete with compass needle surgically-implanted on its back, squatting to do its business.
I’m kidding. The dog is definitely squatting to do its business but the compass motif has been digitally superimposed on the image strictly for emphasis, like one of those phony shark- debate images you see everywhere these days.
This image is obviously fake because the shark in the photo is a female. No Navy SEAL in their right mind is going to get into this type of situation; everyone knows you can’t win a debate with a female shark.
But in any event, the data from the dog study is definitely not fake. It clearly shows that when the Earth’s magnetic field is quiescent (as in the “0%” circle below) dogs have a definite tendency to poop facing Magnetic North, but when the Earth’s magnetic field is wandering around like crazy (as in the “>2%” circle below) dogs tend to perform their eliminatorial duties facing in random directions.
I’m currently trying to see if my dog Mickey is following this pattern but I only have a dozen or so data points. I might need another year or so.
Weird Thing #3: I am once again gobsmacked by something I spot in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue
I was sitting in a certain room in my house, facing North, and perusing the latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue (Motto: “There Are Definitely Too Many People Out There With More Money Than Brains”) when I saw something that just about knocked me off my perch. Here it is:
So many thoughts ran through my mind that I can’t begin to put them all down, but here’s a brief sample:
“What the $%^!!*&# is that?”
“Which way is North?”
“What idiot would actually buy one of these?”
Turns out that any idiot with $5,000 can buy one. (You can get an optional air pump for $79.95) The Inflato-Pub has a spacious 75-square foot interior into which you can place your “preferred bar accessories, garden gnomes, lounge chairs or other decorative accents.” If I were you I would leave the dartboard outside.
Well, I think that’s enough strangeness for one total eclipse. I’m thinking about going to watch the next one on July 2, 2019, visible from Easter Island. That’s a long way to go though. I might save up for a Skyrunner instead.
On sale now at Hammacher Schlemmer. (Other Motto:”We Also Sell Life Insurance”)