I was starting this blog seriously about extra-terrestrials, but this morning was laughing at Scott Simon’s interview with Dame Edna Everage1, and had to share. For example, “she” mentioned her mauve hair…
He said, “Well Edna your hair is still a natural, very, very natural mauve.” I was born, by the way, Scott, with this color. I was. It’s very unusual. Very unusual. … But, I said to the doctor, “Well what can you do?”
Well, I was not ROTFL, but I was LOL when “she” talked about adding a double chin:
On how she’s kept her looks all these yearsh
It’s so simple. Now, I looked at my face about 10 years ago … and I thought to myself, “What have I done? A pact with the devil? Why am I looking so young and so unconventionally lovely? Why?”
And, I thought what I need to do is to age myself in some way. I have to look normal. People won’t believe it! So I went to Brazil, and I saw the top man there, of course, a cosmetic surgeon. And I said, “Look, I need to look my age!”
And he said, “Well Edna, you must have some little crow’s feet! … We’ll give you some crow’s feet.”
And he said, “What you need – your neckline is perfect! You haven’t got that horrible turkey neck.” He said, “You need a little soft, double chin. A soft little pillow, a little cushion under your chin.” …
“And do you know what he did? I saw him delving in a sort of white box, a freezer. And he pulled out a little shrink-wrapped package. It looked like a chicken breast. And he said, “We’ll stitch this on. And it will settle in. And it will give you a lovely double chin.”
And I said, “What is that?” He said, “What? More like what was it, Edna … That was Elizabeth Taylor’s left love handle.”
Elizabeth Taylor’s love handle is now my soft, little chin. And if you look at it very closely, you can see some indentations where Richard Burton’s fingers held. … Isn’t it beautiful? It’s history in my face. History.
Life in the Universe
Last Monday’s lecture was Amazing Discoveries: A Billion Earth-like Worlds by Laird Close, Professor of Astronomy, Steward Observatory2. On Mount Graham (the research arm for the Department of Astronomy, in the the Pinaleño Mountains northeast of Tucson) they are looking for Goldilocks planets (which are not too hot or too cold, but just right), Earth-like planets. Here is the UA Science Lecture Series lead-in the lecture:
One of the most fascinating developments in the last two decades is humankind’s discovery of alien worlds orbiting stars near our Sun. Since the first such discovery in 1995 there has been a truly exponential growth in the detection of these new planets. Scientists have been puzzled and surprised by the diversity and extravagance of these new extra-solar systems. For example, we now know the most common type of planet is actually missing from our own Solar System. Recently, the space-based NASA Kepler Mission has discovered thousands of new worlds and suggests that one in five Sun-like stars may harbor an Earth-like planet. We will take a grand tour of some of these amazing new worlds, specifically noting where life might already exist, beyond our Solar System. The latest developments and difficulties of direct imaging for life on an exoplanet [extrasolar that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star] will be discussed.
According to Wikipedia, the Milky Way… contains 100–400 billion stars. If one in five Sun-like stars may harbor an Earth-like planet, and we use a conservative estimate of 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, then there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy (also from Wikipedia).
This is the Department of Astronomy’s blurb about the professor: Laird specializes in novel astronomical observations utilizing new adaptive optics instrumentation. He is utilizing adaptive optics (which removes the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere) to study at very high resolution: low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and extrasolar planets… He is the head scientist of the Magellan Adaptive Secondary AO [Adaptive optics] system in Chile.
He explained how a deformable mirror can be used to correct wavefront errors in an astronomical telescope, such as the one in Chili, shown in this diagram.
Today, the largest telescope in the world is the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, with two 27-foot mirrors made in the SOML, Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (beneath Arizona Stadium, home of the UA Wildcat football team), and that telescope has had a lot of exciting discoveries; at least Professor Laird Close told us so, at least 27 times. It was pretty amazing to think that telescope could see, from Phoenix, two dimes he’d hold up in Tucson. (Which is how we can see so many other planets.)
But the Giant Magellan Telescope (artist’s concept here), also constructed in our SOML, will be more than 80 feet in diameter and is planned for completion in 2020. The GMT will be located on a mountain top in Chile (where, according to Wikipedia, the night sky in most of the surrounding Atacama Desert region is not only free from atmospheric pollution, but in addition it is probably one of the places least affected by light pollution, making the area one of the best spots on Earth for long-term astronomical observation). Obviously, Tucson has the best mirror lab in the world!
In Joan Didion’s recollections of the year after her husband died, The Year Of Magical Thinking (which was pretty depressing, but you could probably identify if your spouse had just died), she spends a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and quotes D.H. Lawrence, I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. But disagrees: This may be what Lawrence (or we) would prefer to believe about wild things, but consider those dolphins who refuse to eat after the death of a mate. Consider those geese who search for the lost mate until they themselves become disoriented and die. I feel worse for the dolphins and the geese, (and all of the great apes, and elephants, who grieve) because they cannot understand death, where we at least can. (BTW – Misao Okawa, the world’s oldest human being, has officially turned 117. She lives in a retirement home in Osaka. Would you want to live that long?) This segues into a poem about Death of a Tulip by my friend, Krista:
Have you watched a tulip fade?
It is so simple, really –
a few white petals
on a long slender stalk
once rooted with its family in the good earth.
A gentle gravity
begins their journey,
the petals in a graceful
each hour, each day
a bit more
each time you glance their way
marked by their firm, juicy
skin, soft and supple.
This gorgeous tulip
welcomes your long look
into the heart
of its very being.
the petals reach out sideways
open to the world
finding their way
inviting your relationship.
Then in full innocence
they begin to fold downward.
Their shiny vibrant softness
Soon these dear familiar petals
are dry ruffles
a dancer’s skirt,
its fluted edges
embroidered with a wisp
of earthy brown.
The drape is ever more pronounced,
the flower’s soul pushing
delicate sepia striping
from its center.
* * * * *
Reach your arms high overhead:
a baby seeks its mother
at infinite slow intervals
arms fall open
open to the world
now parallel to the earth
at last they stretch across the universe
you can embrace it all
and all can come to be enfolded
the transformation to a dancer,
hands gently fluttering to your side.
Intimate tulip friend,
in your center
the soul of Georgia O’Keefe