Thursday, January 3, 2008

About the title

The Oort Cloud is a sphere of comets (sans tails) surrounding the solar system about a light year away from the sun. Think of the cloud as a hard candy coating, the solar system as a chewy nougat center. Most of the objects in the Oort cloud have been there for billions of years, traveling in lazy, placid orbits. Every once in a while something big and ornery and entirely unexpected comes waltzing through, twisting the orbit of every object it encounters, flinging iceballs in all directions.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Sometimes the iceballs are flung toward us, and they develop tails as they near the sun. The big, glitzy comets naked-eye comets show up about once a decade, but with a good pair of binoculars you can easily spot one or two small comets a year, even with the light pollution of a medium-sized city. I look for them sometimes, in the back yard, while the rest of my family sleeps. They are easy to spot, fuzzier than the surrounding stars in the background, often trailing faint ion tails.

I like the metaphors offered by old-school Newtonian physics. I'll leave non-local effects, entanglement, quantum mechanics and string theory to others. I prefer the elegance of Kepler's Laws, seemingly random structures, the dance of mass and gravity, the aftermath of great collisions. I like the inevitability and predictability of orbits. I like how almost everything in the universe is a sphere or a disc. I like that nearly everything spins.

I like how nothing is new, everything is a result of previous cataclysms, the pieces merely rearranged.

I can relate.

2 comments:

Nancy Dancehall said...

Amazing.

And I get to read this wonderfulness from you now on a regular basis. Yay me!

(P.S. -- It's not random. Entanglement is everything.)

Clowncar said...

I said seemingly random.

But yes, you write about quantum spookiness much better than I.