Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’


February 22, 2013

2013-02-22Chalyabinsk meteoriteOn February 15 a meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in Southern Urals. With it there came a few sidelights which seem important for me too.

First I was surprised that the fall of the cosmic object started being filmed even before it actually appeared. How did a camera man know where to direct his camera? That’s how I came to know about dashboard cams (in Ukrainian: “video-registers”). They are rare in Ukraine so far, but it looks like they may have a big future. They may be helpful in solving road conflicts: some car insurance companies do not accept claims if there is no video of the accident. Hopefully, the Ukrainian traffic police will be less corrupt with dashboard cameras zeroed in on them.

I was shocked by the commentaries which accompanied the amateur videos of the meteor. They were mostly made of profane words and obscene expressions. I remembered  the videos of 9/11 in New York City. Then you could hear people calling “My God! Oh, my God!” Words are more than just words. They are signs of our education, intellectual ability, way of thinking, acceptance of the reality, of our character, etc. And when I compare what I see and hear on the terrains of the ex-USSR with what I know about other nations, I ask myself: “Why?”, “How long will it last?”  Until recently I had been an idealist. I had kept hoping there might be an end to this moral downfall and a boost would follow. But… there is an example from the history of civilizational development. The harsh conditions of 100,000 ago gave birth to the Neanderthals, who didn’t “improve” when the climate became better but were replaced by the Cro-Magnons. When I was listening to what was said on the videos uploaded on the Internet I thought about the “neanderthalization” of human species in this part of the world. Incidentally, I thought I was the first to invent the term. When I googled the word, I received  463 sites where the word “neanderthalization” was used.

It was also funny to see all those who were sifting the snow for pieces of the meteorite. Each gram of it is said to cost as much as $2,000. It’s quite possible that the total weight of the debris found may exceed the real weight of the space body.

The Russian political clown Zhyrinovsky started screaming that it was the U.S.A. who was testing its secret weapons that way. His ideas might have caught on – considering the anti-American atmosphere in Russia. The thing which remains not clear, however, is why should the Americans test their “secret weapon” over the lake of Chebarkul and not right over the Moscow Kremlin.

For all that, the positive effect of the meteorite’s fall was a suggestion to return the course of astronomy to Russian schools. The course was withdrawn from the curriculum about twenty years ago. If it is restored, there’s a chance that some kids may start looking up into the sky, and even hitch their wagon to some distant star.


October 21, 2011

In September this year the Ukrainian parliament decided not to move the clocks back to winter time later in October. The political background of the decision was more than clear: the pro-Russian government in Kyiv was aping the Kremlin “astronomers” who opted on the “eternal” summer time in the Moscow time zone. But being tethered to the Moscow time meant that the people of Western Ukraine had to begin their day long before the sunrise. The category that was going to suffer most were children – especially those who go to kindergartens and primary schools. When the morning debates started in parliament on October 18, the ruling party representatives argued that the decision to move into winter time would be a “stab in the back”, because exactly on that day (October 18) the Ukrainian and Russian leaders were meeting about gas supply to Ukraine. The discord in the time according to which the Russians and the Ukrainians lived would supposedly “threaten very important economic decisions” at the Medvedev-Yanukovych summit! The difference between the Kyiv winter time and the Moscow summer time would be two hours!! In the Soviet Union the whole of the European part of the country was in the Moscow time zone!!!

However, a few hours of the summit meeting between the Russian Medvedev and the Ukrainian Yanukovych showed that there would be no concessions on the part of Moscow regarding the price for gas deliveries. Yanukovych was definitely offended by the “non-brotherly” stand of the Russian counterpart and the go-ahead for  winter time in Ukraine was given! In the afternoon the Ukrainian parliamentarians voted “for winter.”

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. People are trying make laws of nature politically appropriate. Again and again history teaches us lessons which we will not learn. In the past we called genetics and cybernetics “bourgeois science.” The ignoramus Michurin was rocketed by Stalin into the position of “god” in horticulture (“Soviet horticulture”!). This time there came into being a new branch of knowledge – “political astronomy.”

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