Posts Tagged ‘connections’

My once-a-shoebox pinhole viewer.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog about the Transit of Venus, which will occur today, June 5, 2012 and will not occur again for another 105 years.  I sketched out a diagram of how to make a pinhole viewer to watch the event and posted it and it here and my blog brought up an interesting conversation with my friend, Doug.

I told him that I realized the last time I had made a pinhole viewer was when I was in Baldwin School.

He replied, “5th grade.  Solar eclipse.”

And he was right.

nasa.gov photo of an eclipse viewed from Turkey.

I didn’t know Doug back then, but he knew when the event was because we were both in 5th grade at the time, and we both had made pinhole viewers, and we both had spent a week talking about space in our 5th grade classrooms prior to the big eclipse.  And many, many other classrooms full of kids and office buildings full of adults emptied outdoors on that spring morning to watch an event that has fascinated people since the beginning of time.

The most unique power of events like the Transit of Venus or an eclipse is the power to connect people.  In these situations, the planets and the sun aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary.  They just happen to cross paths from our line of sight and they move out of alignment with no more cosmic fanfare than what they moved into it with.  The part of the event, then, that is so extraordinary, is the grand marking of time across huge swaths of the planet.

The moon landing. Photo credit space.com

Life is fragmented and is only becoming more so.  Occasionally, there is a moment where time is marked in such a dramatic way to so many people that, years later, people will say, “where were you when…?”  But as a culture, we no longer gather around a single radio or a television set and share an experience.  Everyone alive for, say, the moon landing will always remember it as the same broadcast.  When world-changing events happen today, we consume media from a hundred different sources, through a hundred tinted lenses, and remember the moment a hundred different ways.

But then, there’s the pinhole viewer.

The Transit of Venus that I’ll view through my homemade pinhole viewer will mark a little moment in time, and the universe probably won’t take any notice.   It won’t happen again while I’m alive, so it’s neat to see it tonight.  The TOV isn’t going to have the same level of excitement as a full solar eclipse, but it can remind us of something very important: All over the world, we’re looking out at the same cosmos.  We don’t all share much, but we do share that.  And I’ll be looking at the heavens today through my once-a-shoebox  pinhole viewer and someone else who I don’t know in a place I’m not thinking about will do the same thing.  And maybe that little bit of sharing across time and space is enough to make us all feel a little more connected.

Click here to read my first blog on this topic. Learn more about the Transit of Venus and how to turn a shoebox into a pinhole viewer!  Also, PLEASE write comments! I’d like to know what *you* think!

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