Monday, July 16, 2012

Quantum of Solstice

The sun tracks lower across the sky each day now...have you noticed?  I do because I tend to wake up everyday at sunrise. Summer's worst heat hasn't even hit and the sun, always a leading indicator of the seasons, is already ebbing. Heat is a lagging indicator. Out here, the best summer days are in the fall when the ocean has finally warmed and the sun sets earlier allowing spectacular seaside sunset bonfires: link  And there are far fewer tourists in September and October. I just hacked up a stack of wooden pallets to use as bonfire fodder this fall.
solstice Look up solstice at
mid-13c., from O.Fr. solstice, from L. solstitium "point at which the sun seems to stand still," from sol "sun" (see sol) + pp. stem of sistere "to come to a stop, make stand still" (see assist).  
The etymology of solstice captures a 13th century optical illusion, when people still thought that the sun moved across the sky by day. It traced a bit higher each day in the summer until the end of June when it appeared to stop and reverse course to a lower arc each day until the end of December when it again stood still and then headed back up. The process appeared discontinuous or "quantized" because each day the motion started in a slightly different place than it began. Of course the whole coupled motion is a continuous process, but imagine being the first to figure how things all really worked: eppur si muove.


  1. I don't believe in the Summer Solstice. I think that the Earth is flat as a pancake and Apollo's chariot rides around it. The rest of you 'deniers' have to live with it - because you can't handle the truth...