Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Stars His Destination

Dear blog readers, it gives me great pleasure to announce last night’s discovery of a new planet in our solar system. Not your remote doubtful Pluto like planet or something in the Oort Cloud; we’re talking about a major gas giant here, one that eluded all astronomers until Dylan stepped into the scene: Planet Jupiya.

Allow me to retrace the short history of planet Jupiya.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of consumerism, I succumbed and bought Stephen Hawking’s two children books, George's Secret Key to the Universe and its sequel George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt. Both books are said to aimed at ten year olds or so and mix interstellar adventure stories with science. Naturally, I thought they would be the best thing to get my not yet two year old son. Hey, one of them books features a pig on the cover, both have a shiny cover, and both feature lots of pictures – the perfect baby books!
On the bookshelf the books stayed for a while, even though I placed them on Dylan’s shelf – that is, the shelf he normally messes with and the one where most of his books are. Occasionally, he would look at the shiny cover or the pig, but that would be it.
In parallel, we started pointing the moon and the stars to Dylan. He’s not out much when its dark, but with the days getting shorter opportunities tend to present themselves more often; besides, the moon can be visible during the day, too. Indeed, Dylan seems to have fallen in love with the moon: he keeps on pointing to it and asking for us to point it out when we drive.
The moon ecstasy got a boost through the introduction of an Atlas of the Universe, a giant astronomy book coupled with maps of the sky and filled with lots of sexy photos and diagrams (which, coincidentally, I bought Dylan when he was two months old). You see, Dylan seems to have a whirlpool fetish: the most exciting event in Dylan’s day, if you were to ask him, is when his bath plug is pulled out and the water goes down the drain to form a whirlpool. He likes it so much he even keeps on asking us to draw him whirlpools. Given that I had always wanted to push Dylan down the astronomy path, I thought showing him pictures of spiral galaxies would help the effort; to the naïve eye they don’t seem too different in shape from Dylan’s bath time whirlpool.
My cunning plan had partial success. Dylan wasn’t too interested in the galaxies, but the moon photos were a hit.

And thus we get to last night. Upon returning from childcare and eating his dinner, Dylan walked to the bookshelf, pulled one of the Stephen Hawking books, and approached me with clear intent on his mind: “Story! Story!”
Obviously, the book’s actual story is too much for him to digest, so I focused on the glossy photos featured in the book (in addition to the black & white drawings that are all over the place). These start with several photos of the moon as seen from earth and as seen from close range (including a photo of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).
Dylan liked it and kept asking for more (or rather, for “Mo-mo”). Problem is, there weren’t any more moon pictures; I had to be creative and make him enthusiastic about the earth photos that followed. The trick worked, and for a few minutes we kept on jumping from “moon moon” to “ert ert”; but I grew tired of that, too.
So I went on to introduce Dylan to other photo subjects from the book. Nebulas and such were of no great interest to Dylan, even the more spectacular ones. I tired the Andromeda galaxy, but it didn’t prove that popular either (for the record, soon enough Andromeda will merged with our Milky Way galaxy – just give it a few billion years and we’ll all be calling Andromeda home). Saturn with its rings was of mild interest, but the trump card proved to be Jupiter – or, as Dylan knows it, the planet with the “eye”.
Later that evening we even had to draw this planet “Jupiya”, eye and all, as a part of Dylan’s pre night time sleep ritual. A new planet had been discovered.

My gamble worked, proving once again that allowing myself to instinctively buy books, even when the purchase does not seem to make much sense, is not too bad a policy. As long as this exception is kept at books alone; they're on the affordable side of things, and they carry lots of wisdom with them, more than anything else.
What's the next step going to be? Well, I was thinking that eventually we should be getting Dylan a telescope. Dylan said he would prefer one that can fit as my SLR camera's lens, so we can take star photos together.


Uri said...


How is the night sky near your home? Do you see more star than in Givataim?

Moshe Reuveni said...

I think we do, mostly because the streets in here are not as condensed and the street lighting not as strong (Melbourne is too big for that).
An hour ago we just went out to see the moon and identify the Southern Cross constellation (there was an article in The Age with explanations for that).
Generally, from our house you can clearly see the Milky Way. The main problem here is clouds: there tend to be much more of them here than in Israel.