Planets

I started trying to calculate the movements inside our solar system, but it is a lot more complicated than I ever thought it would be.

First of all, you have the Earth rotation. The easiest way to describe the Earth rotation is to do it relative to the sun. The rotation in a day is not 360 degrees. Earth is orbiting around the sun, so since the position of the Earth is different the angle to the sun changes over the course of a day. One day is of course the time it takes for the sun to appear in exactly the same position as before, for example zenith. If you look at the time of zenith and the rotation of the Earth between two such times, there is 360 degrees rotation of the Earth plus the orbit movement so that the Earth has to rotate a little bit more before the sun is back at zenith again. This turns out to be 360.9856 degrees.

Earth’s orbit is what we call a year. It takes 365.2422 days (Earth rotations) for one year (orbit) to complete. The orbit is actually an ellipse, it is not a circle. The amount of “ovality” that an ellipse has is called eccentricity. Earth’s orbit does not have a constant eccentricity, it changes over time from 0.000055 to 0.0679. When the orbit is more eccentric, there are larger differences in the amount of sunlight during summer/winter on the northern/southern hemispheres because the sun is not in the center of the orbit. It takes 413’000 years for the orbit eccentricity to complete one cycle. The current eccentricity is 0.017 and we are going towards a more circular orbit. Jupiter and Saturn are the influences that cause the eccentricity to change, because they pull the Earth away from the sun during part of their orbits. As the eccentricity changes, the speed of orbit also changes, so that the time of one year is always the same. Earth has a slower orbit when it is close to the sun and a faster orbit when it is far away from the sun. When the eccentricity of orbit is close to zero then the changes in orbital velocity is also close to zero. The eccentricity itself is also circulating, so that the point of the egg-shape is rotating around the sun. This is called apsidal precession. Apsidal precession takes 112’000 years to complete a full cycle. Finally, there is some wobble to the orbit, like if you spin a plate before it lies flat on a table there is a wobble, but the orbital inclination has a rather small effect with a 100’000 year cycle.

We also have something called axial precession. The rotation of the Earth has a center from the north pole to the south pole that we call the axis. This is where the rotation speed is slowest. Compared to Earth’s orbit, the axis is tilting. This makes the northern hemisphere be closer to the sun for part of the year and farther from the sun for another part of the year. It also means that if we look up on the stars in the night, one star will appear to stand still whereas the others move in circles due to the Earth’s rotation. Axial precession means that the axis is moving in a circle, so that the star that appears to be standing still constantly changes. Right now, the star Polaris in the Ursa minor constellation is our northern star, but eventually the north star will be in the constellation Draco instead. The axial precession has a cycle of 25’771.5 years. Additionally, the angle of the axle against the orbit changes over time. Right now, the axial tilt is 23.44 degrees, but it changes between 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees. The next minimum occurs in 11’800 CE.

That’s it for Earth. The sun is fairly simple, it has a rotation time around 25 days that doesn’t really impact much at all. The moon has an orbit around 29.5 days and a rotation that keeps it facing the Earth with the same side despite the orbit.

When you get into other planets, it gets a whole lot more complicated. Mercury, Venus, and Mars don’t have moons so they are not too complicated by themselves, but for Saturn and Jupiter there are lots of moons to consider. All large objects will modify gravity wells and the movement of heavenly bodies. Making an accurate model of the whole solar system is just way more complicated than I ever imagined. Not sure if I will ever finish this project.

Seasons

When I was a kid we had monthly calendars where the name of the month was surrounded by flowers in the summer, yellow leaves in the autumn (or rain), snow in the winter, etc. Every month has a clear association with it. Old viking names for the months were related to harvest in the late summer, then butchering in the autumn, the Yule feast, then the marrow sucker where you didn’t have much to eat, etc. So the seasons are associated with food and weather, and of course light or darkness.

Living in Thailand, I feel weird. All the time, I find myself humming Christmas tunes, because my mind keeps waiting for that season to arrive and it should have been here 2 years ago. Every day is the same. Thai tradition say that they have three seasons: winter (or dry season), summer (season of fruits), and rainy season (autumn). To be honest, I never saw any difference. Every day is fucking hot. Every day has a bit of rain, except for a few weeks around spring months. Floods from excessive raining can happy any time anywhere. The sun rises the same time of day every day, and sets the same time of day every day. The food is the same every day all year round. Pad thai, pad siew yew, kao pad gai, kao pad goong… Always the same selection at the restaurants, and the stores don’t really sell food for cooking because very few people cook at home. I tried growing some vegetables and spices on our balcony; they all die from the sweltering heat.

All my life I thought that the cold is so annoying, and I was dreaming about living in a warm climate. But with the cold, you can put on clothes and you are fine. With the heat in Thailand, you just never stop sweating. We are running the air condition on max cold, and I am still sweating. Walk outside, the shirt is drenched in sweat in a few minutes. There is no point in taking a shower, because when you come out of the shower you just keep getting wet from all the sweat. There is no escaping the heat. Cold is easy to avoid. Just stay inside where it is warm or put on clothes when you go outside. Easy peasy.

All my life I thought that the darkness of the winter is so annoying, and I have been using special lights to simulate the sun. First few weeks in Thailand, I was amazed at how well my biorythm worked with the constant sunlight hours. But after a year or so, my daily pattern is the same here as back home. I am equally tired when I get up in the morning, if not more because the heat makes you tired too. Despite years of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with the winter darkness giving me depression, I miss the changing of the seasons. Winter depression is bad, but the extra boost of energy you get in the summer light compensates for it. With no seasons, there is just the same routine every day, time disappears and I feel like I never accomplish anything. Nothing in my life is moving forward, but time is flying without me hardly noticing.

There are many things that I used to think of as negative with living in Sweden. Cold, darkness, distanced people, incompetent politicians and leaders… But in light of living in Thailand, Sweden looks like paradise to me.

Visent

Visent is the germanic name for the european bison. Bison is the greko-roman name that was predominantly associated with the american bison. The two variants look alike, but the american subspecies is plains-dwelling while the european subspecies is forest-dwelling. There used to be a mountain-dwelling subspecies too, but that has been exterminated by human hunting.

Googling for visent is autocorrected to the first name Vincent. This is really annoying, because it makes it more difficult to find information about the european subspecies. Visents were exterminated in the wild, but have been repopulated from 12 visents that were kept in zoos around the world. Today there are around 3000 visents, with about half of them living wild in Poland.

We used to have visents in Sweden, in Götaland and to a lesser extent in Svealand, but we have killed them all off. The largest Swedish population of visents are in Blekinge in a park where they have around 50 animals. The wild boar was similarly locally exterminated, but has been reintroduced. Wild boars cause big problems when they get into rural areas because they plow up gardens while looking for food in the soil. There have been numerous protests where people want the wild boars gone, but the ones that would remove them would be the hunters, and the hunters want to keep them for sustainable hunting. That is why the wild boar population in Sweden is growing today.

I think it would be really nice if the visent could be reintroduced in the same way that the wild boar was reintroduced. With big game, it is a bigger problem. Moose are already scarce in the south of Sweden because of too high hunting pressure. Visents would probably also be killed off if they were roaming wild. Nevertheless, the reintroduction of wild boar shows that it is possible to do something like this, if the hunting community agrees to let the species reproduce until a sustainable harvest is possible.

The biggest threat a visent could cause is in traffic, where – just like with moose – a collision might lead to death for the people in the car. Other than that, moose are a lot more dangerous than a visent and we allow them to roam freely so why not visents?

Welcome to Japan

I always loved Japan. Great food, interesting culture, great achievements in science and technology. They are rather racist and being a foreigner in Japan can be difficult, but you might also argue that they have reason to think that they are better than everyone else.

What held me back from going to Japan is the constant threat of earth quakes and tsunamis. It is such a random way to get killed, you don’t have a single chance to defend yourself. We have gone anyway, and enjoyed it greatly. There are positive sides to active volcanoes, like hot springs (onsen bath). But it is a bit nervous, especially after Fukushima when you start thinking about what happens when a nuclear plant is affected by an earth quake.

Now North Korea enters the stage. Nuclear weapons and hydrogen bombs. They direct most of their ill will towards USA, but it’s not like South Korea and Japan are safe.

Then we have Russia who are in an active conflict with Japan about those islands, and they are invading countries left and right these days. I wouldn’t put it past Russia to invade Japan.

Meanwhile, China is building their armies and economy. Several countries in Asia are starting to recognize China as the world #1 superpower in place of USA. Who knows what they are up to, in the end. China and Japan are not exactly best of friends.

Then we have global warming and rising sea levels. Most of the Japanese live along the coast, and depend on fishing and aquaculture. Even if we ignore rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans and other effects will impact the aquaculture. What happens when the Japanese will have difficulties feeding their population, since the farm lands are not enough to sustain everyone?

I am really starting to feel like a visit to Japan is kind of “now or never”. The longer you wait, the higher the risk will be for going there. It is not looking too good for the Japanese.

Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for about 10 years now. Past few years, it’s been on the phone. Yesterday, I removed the app from my phone.

It wasn’t so much because I hate Facebook. I mean, I post on there once or twice per month maybe. Mostly I just use the chat to keep up with my family. But then there is Skype and Line and many other alternatives available, so I just don’t see much of a reason to keep it around.

They say that people who use Facebook a lot get depressed. Honestly, I would rather think it’s the other way around; if you’re depressed you’re filled with apathy and instead of actually doing anything you end up browsing Facebook all day.

I’ve had my share of depression in my life, but I never associated it with Facebook or those social apps. When I’m feeling down I escape into computer games. Poof, suddenly the weekend is over and you didn’t even notice it.

My laptop still has a tab of Facebook open in Firefox, of course. I’m not completely cut off from the world. But I’m not really that interested in checking it out. Usually I just go there to click Like on something Angsana posted to show her support.

Hot or cold

Is it better to be too hot, or too cold?

All my life I said that I don’t like the cold. I always said that being too hot is better than being too cold, because when you’re too hot you’re just sweating but when you’re too cold you just die (or at least you get numb and pain at the same time and move slow etc).

Now I have lived for two years in Thailand, where temperatures often rise above 37 degrees. It is impossible to cool off by sweating. If you go outside, you will get hotter, and hotter, and hotter, until you collapse. I don’t understand how Thai people do it, because they don’t even seem to break a sweat despite being overheated. I’m telling you, I spend every moment I can indoors where there is air conditioning. As a tourist to Thailand, I said AC is retarded just use a fan if you’re hot. That may work for a short time, or near the coast where the sea and winds keep things cooler. But inland, where it is like a desert only it rains more often, I could not survive without AC. Even with AC I have heat rashes and various skin infections on a regular basis. The human body is not built for this, at least mine is not.

So give me cold any day. Even -40 degrees, where the air is so cold you can feel the ice crystals forming in your mouth and throat if you breathe too fast, it’s better than 40 degrees warm. In cold weather, all you need to do is put on some more clothes and it’s OK to be outside. In warm weather, what do you do? You just sit indoors like a prison.

Sweden has part of the year around 20-30 degrees warm. It’s not too warm, you can still cool off easily. Some small part of the year is disgustingly cold. Even if that cold would be worse than the heat, which it isn’t, then at least it’s not all year round.

The only way to live near the tropics is if you live near the sea, or if you have the option of a pool where you can dip in to cool off. Neither of which are true for most of Thailand.

New beginnings

Our son is born in a few weeks, or maybe tomorrow, who knows. Celebrating that, I am once again making over my personal website, and my old wordpress installation wasn’t up to date.

Here is to new beginnings. And a clean slate to start over. The old stuff is still on the site, and indexed through Google, possibly elsewhere too.