Like Sand Through the Hourglass, So Go the Galaxies

patch of sky covered by grain of sand contains 10,000 galaxies

If you want to obscure your view of something, a grain of sand is probably not the first thing that you would choose. It is so small that it is hard to think of too many things it could cover.

Would you believe that a single grain of sand is sufficient to block out your view of 10,000 galaxies? The Hubble Space Telescope has proven there are over 100 billion galaxies. Even though you can’t see them, the sky is simply lousy with galaxies — each containing about 1,000,000,000,000 stars.

Next time you might feel tempted to dismiss a grain of sand of insignificant, hold it out at arm’s length and contemplate what might be behind it. The patch of sky it covers contains more stars than you could count in your lifetime.


One Small Step for Man… One Giant Leap for Deadlines


Neil Armstrong’s footprints narrowly avoided being rejected as an astronaut. His application to NASA was one week late. Fortunately, Armstrong’s friend, Dick Day, worked at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center and happened to notice the application when it arrived after the deadline. Day slipped the application into the pile of timely applications, thus paving the way for Armstrong’s footprints on the lunar surface.


Go Ahead and Sleep In … You Have Extra Time

Does it feel as if time moves more rapidly as you get older? Cheer up, because that is a scientifically-proven myth. In reality the days are getting longer. Due to the slowing of earth’s rotation, days grow longer by about 1.7 milliseconds every century. 


Now Free to Pursue E.T.

ETAs of 1991, U.S. citizens are free to pursue contact with extraterrestrial beings or their vehicles without legal repercussions.

On July 16, 1969 — the same day Apollo 11 departed for the moon —  the “Extraterrestrial Exposure Law” (C.F.R. Title 14, Section 1211) was adopted. This law was in response to concerns about contamination that could endanger human life as a result of contact with little green men, their ships, or anything that “touched directly or came within the atmospheric envelope of any other celestial body.”

The law did not criminalize reaching out and touching E.T. or his ship, but it did require the person who made contact with anything related to a NASA manned or unmanned space mission to be quarantined at the discretion of a NASA quarantine officer. Failure to comply with the quarantine requirements could subject the offender to a $5,000 fine, a year of imprisonment, or both.

The law was repealed in 1991 upon a finding by NASA that it had “served its purpose” and was “no longer in keeping with current policy.”

Still, it would probably be a good idea if you wash your hands after handling anything that has been in space — alien or otherwise.


Looking for a Hot Deal on Some Real Estate?

sun soldWhen Maria Angeles Duran of Vigo, Spain started her real estate venture, she knew there was great demand to purchase property that gets plenty of sunlight. What better place than the source of sunlight, itself?

Finding that no one claimed ownership of the sun, due to a 1967 United Nations agreement prohibiting any nation from claiming exclusive ownership of celestial bodies, Duran claimed the star for herself and registered her ownership with a notary public in 2010. She based her right to ownership on the fact that the treaties say nothing about individuals owning celestial bodies; they only prohibit nations from staking a claim.

“There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first,” Duran said.

A page from Duran's notarized claim to the sun
A page from Duran’s notarized claim to the sun (click on photograph for a larger image)

Confident that her claim to the sun was valid, Duran began selling solar parcels at the low, low price of €1 per square meter. Granted, that is about the cheapest real estate you can find anywhere, but Duran can afford it. With 6,088,000,000,000,000 square meters available for sale (compared to 150,000,000 square meters of dry land on the entire planet Earth), she still stands to rake in a respectable profit.

Ms. Duran began marketing the real estate on eBay, with the promise “buy new object, unused, unopened, undamaged. Shipping is free.” Each buyer would receive a diploma of acquisition, verifying the purchase. Before long, Duran sold €1,200 worth of orders to 600 suckers customers before eBay stopped the sales. Citing their policy against sales that could not be touched or transported, and because they believed it could be a scam, eBay canceled the sales, thus preventing Duran from collecting the money from her customers. Ebay still charged Duran €128 as its commission on the canceled sales.

Believing that her starry-eyed business model had been improperly grounded by the company, Duran sued eBay for breach of contract, claiming €10,000 in damages.

In June 2015 a Spanish court cleared the way for the lawsuit to proceed, and as of this writing, the trial is scheduled for mid-July 2015.


Another First for the American Space Program

The first musical instruments played in space -- now on display at the Smithsonian Institution
The first musical instruments played in space — now on display at the Smithsonian Institution

On December 16, 1965, astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were on Gemini 6 when they transmitted the following message: “Gemini VII, this is Gemini VI. We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, up in a polar orbit. He’s in a very low trajectory traveling from north to south and has a very high climbing ratio. It looks like it might even be a … Very low. Looks like he might be going to reenter soon. Stand by one … You might just let me try to pick up that thing.”

The astronauts then played Jingle Bells on a harmonica and bells, thus earning their place in history for playing the first musical instruments in space.

You can hear a recording of the transmission here.