October 31 - Dark Matter Day

Posted October 31, 2020

Tonight is all about Halloween - all manner of fun and tricks and treats in the dark - although the costumes and festivities have over the decades spilled into daytime fun, too - and one might argue all month long!

But today is also the day to celebrate the search for dark matter!

Dark matter is nothing to do with "dark magic" or "dark arts" or anything Halloween-y. Instead, it's a topic astronomers and cosmologists are researching. You probably know that the universe is full of stars and planets, asteroids and comets, galaxies and nebulae - but most of the stuff in the universe is not all those familiar things (which we call ordinary matter). Instead, scientists believe that ordinary matter makes up only about 5 percent (around one-twentieth) of the total mass and energy of the universe. 

So that means that we cannot see most - the other 95% - of the universe!

According to current theories, dark matter makes up around 27 percent of the universe (more than a fourth), and dark energy makes up MOST of the universe (68 percent - more than two-thirds)!

How do we come up with these ideas about dark matter and dark energy, if we can't see them or measure them? Well, we see the effects of dark matter's gravity, and we see the effects of dark energy in the acceleration of the galaxies' movement away from one another. 

Of course, further research, more evidence gathering, and new,
testable ideas about physics will give us a clearer picture and maybe revolutionize our current understanding...in the same way that relativity and quantum physics have revolutionized physics in modern times.

So...happy Dark Matter Day!

Also on this date:

Halloween (All Hallows' Eve)

Reformation Day in Switzerland

(Saturday nearest to Halloween)

October 30 - Connecting Europe and Asia!?

Posted October 30, 2020

The thing about continents is that it's hard to agree on which huge land masses get to be continents, and which are just really large islands, and which land masses qualify as separate continents, even if they share a land border.

Only Australia and Antarctica are completely separate from every other continent. In the case of North and South America, some people in the world consider them separate continents, despite the narrow (120-mile) connection at Panama. Other people consider both Americas as one large continent named - you guessed it! - America. 

In the case of Africa and Asia, the Suez Canal (the Isthmus of Suez) is considered by most to be the eastern border of Africa, so Egypt contains a bit of Asia along with all of its African territory. 

The orange portion on this map is the part
of Egypt that is considered to be in Asia.

But in the case of Europe and Asia...

Well! There have been people who call the whole hugest-continent-in-the-world "Eurasia," and there have been many who have drawn a line separating Europe and Asia (the exact placement of that separating line is not always agreed upon!). Quite a few nations are considered to have land in both Europe and Asia, including Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.

It's the Turkey bit that I am writing about today: October 30 is the anniversary of the 1973 completion of the Bosphorus Bridge. This bridge is said to connect Europe and Asia - although of course we have seen that there are a LOT of miles of connection!

One thing that is interesting about this bridge is, not only is Turkey partly in Europe and partly in Asia, but Istanbul - Turkey's largest city, and the city that is the nation's economic and cultural center - Istanbul is ALSO partly in Europe and partly in Asia. It is the Bosphorus Bridge that connects the two parts of Istanbul!

Above and below, the Asian side of Istanbul.

Above and below, the European side of Istanbul.

October 29 - National Youth Day in Liberia

Posted October 29, 2020

Thanking the youth of the nation for their participation and sacrifices is a great idea!

And it's an especially good idea for Liberia, because the average age there is 17 years old!!! WOW, that's pretty young!

To compare, the average age in the United States and China is about 40 years old, and the average age in Monaco (a teeny-tiny principality in Europe) is 53!

Did you know...?

Liberia has the cleanest air in its cities in all of Africa. According to WHO, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China, and other southern-Asian nations have some of the worst urban air quality in the world.

One reason for the relatively clean air might be the lack of smokers. Liberia is among the 20 nations with the fewest smokers per capita (which means per person).

Liberia does not have the biggest tourist industry ever known to humankind...It probably doesn't help that UNESCO hasn't designated even a single World Heritage Site there! (In contrast, China has 55 sites; Germany has 46; the U.S. has 24; Brazil has 22.) 

I think UNESCO should add Sapo National Park
to its list!

Liberia's own airlines aren't allowed to land in Europe (because they don't meet the EU's safety and regulatory standards), and Liberia is sometimes politically unstable.

The Ducor Hotel WAS a 5-star hotel in
Liberia, but it was abandoned in 1989, during
a time of political instability. Now it is a hangout
for kids and possibly for homeless folks.