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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gravitational waves and polar cold

Today, a team of scientists announced the first detection of gravitational waves. It's kind of a big deal. Actually, it's a huge deal, an incredible scientific achievement, the result of decades of effort. It proves the existence of something Albert Einstein predicted and then dismissed a century ago. Will this detection be repeated in the future? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, a "polar vortex" is taking up residence over the northeastern United States. This resulted in brutal and persistent cold during the previous event. The Winter of 2015-2016 has been unusually warm in the northeast, and this period of intense cold may be shorter in duration than the previous two. Its timing may be just right to interfere with my plans to go to one last poetry reading at the Old School House in Springville this Saturday, before I no longer have weekends off after my schedule changes next week. (I had to schedule vacation time to be sure I can make it to my own poetry reading on February 27.)

The Winter of 2013-2014 was so cold that it killed many hardy perennials in my yard. The Winter of 2014-2015 was even colder, and resulted in a "Silent Spring": bird populations did not return until much later in Spring than usual, with a very different species distribution than in the past. (Spiders also showed up much later in the year, though many people probably did not have a problem with this.) As a result of the missing birds, I had a bumper crop of cherries for the first time since I planted the trees in 2002. But that is a story for another post.

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