February 24, 2014

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A Fanatic's Moon

image from BBC Futures

This is LPOD, so where is the Moon in this image? It is inferred. This is a still captured from an hour-long BBC-Scotland science video from 2011 that I have only just seen. Called Do We Really Need the Moon?, the video is typical BBC, with superb graphics and animations, a passionate scientist narrator, and only slightly-muted bombastic music. This reminds me of the great science videos done by Carl Sagan and more recently Brian Cox, for we see the narrator standing in desolate but awesomely beautiful places, feet wide apart, staring down the universe. The narrator here is Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a space scientist and self-styled lunar fanatic who has just replaced Patrick Moore on The Sky at Night TV program. The Moon video focuses entirely on the Moon's gravity affects on the Earth, rather than the Moon itself. The two main topics are the Moon's role in producing tides and in stabilizing the Earth's tilt. Starting with remarkable video of an onrushing tidal bore in a Scottish loch the story turns back 4 billion years when the Moon was 20 times closer to Earth and the tides were vastly more extreme. The image above shows how those ancient tides would submerge New York City, and animations depict the flooding of low areas all over Earth. George Wetherill was the first to describe how the Moon limits the range of tilt of the Earth. This video talks excitedly of how a billion years from now the Moon will be so far away that the Earth could tilt over on its axis causing climate catastrophes. Overall, I found the narration too intense and the video too long - provoking a siesta before the end. But the animations are first rate and would be excellent additions to talks to schools and public audiences. And we should all be grateful anytime the Moon is in front of the public for an hour.

Chuck Wood

Yesterday's LPOD: Interworld Comparison

Tomorrow's LPOD: What is This?


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