Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Fireweed... how's this for nature's fireworks?

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a holiday that is perhaps more well-known for blowing things up than it is for actually celebrating the independence of the United States. I've never been a fan of the holiday, because of the fireworks with their loud blasts, spent shells littering the street, and the smoggy air the next day. Not to mention their penchant for setting homes on fire and causing the loss of various bodily appendages.

Who would want that when we can just look outside and see natural "fireworks" far more spectacular than any set off by a fuse? We can point to the wildflowers bursting with color in yards, on trails, and along the roadside. When night falls, we can look up to the dark skies overhead and appreciate the stars twinkling silently, the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, or the occasional meteor flashing through the atmosphere.

Take a look at the film below from Wild Northwest Beauty Photography, featuring plenty of natural "fireworks" in the Oregon skies.

Again, the line from the Christmas carol comes to mind, as "the silent stars go by." Rather the silent spectacle of stars than the jarring explosions of sulfurous fireworks! But then I got to thinking: are stars silent? If we were to stand right next to the sun (without burning up, of course), what would we hear? I imagined that the fiery furnace of hydrogen fusing into helium would sound like the roar of a rocket booster, or perhaps it sizzles like an egg being dropped into a sputtering skillet. Perhaps it was a quiet whoosh like a furnace igniting, or maybe it was loud and explosive after all, like an entire fireworks stand going up at once. After doing a bit of googling, wouldn't you know, I discovered there are researchers aplenty studying the sounds of the sun. Researchers at Stanford University have compiled several different audio recordings of the sun. Take a listen!

The sun is much quieter than I had expected! As it turns out, the low grumble of fusion in our closest star is at a frequency too low to be heard by our limited human ears. With the assistance of technology, we find out that the sun sounds more like the murmur of an idling engine than exploding fireworks... a sound that I discovered is excellent white noise for fussy babies, as I listened to the solar audio recordings with my two-month-old son on my lap.

Now if only we could celebrate the Fourth of July by pulling up lawn chairs in the gathering dusk, tilting our heads heavenward and relaxing to the murmuring stars twinkling above. And maybe throw in some ice cream. Who's with me?

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