September 3, 2013

Happy Tues. Gray here after a gray weekend with some rain. Temp 51.

We rocked out over the long weekend with two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, JC Superstar and Cats. The first is really an opera and the other is T. S. Eliot’s Practical Cats set to music with lots of dance. Both are good shows, but couldn’t be much more different. Each film was a restaging of the original, JC from a 2000 show that toured GB and Cats was filmed in 1998 after it had been seen by 48 million theater goers in 40 countries. Both are well performed and the video and sound are excellent. JC has English subtitles available, which in my ancient days I find helpful, though you mostly wouldn’t need it for this show. Cats doesn’t have captioning, so you may want to read the (fun) poems before watching the program so you know what a Jellicle cat is. Next up, Phantom of the Opera.

We’ve also been watching an excellent series of lectures on progress in astronomical research made possible by the Hubble Space Telescope. The lecturer is professor of astronomy at Northwestern University, and he’s very good. For this series of 12 30-minute lectures he chose 10 HST images that are both beautiful and also instructive in terms of what “we” have learned about space since Hubble was launched in 1990 and initial problems repaired in 1993. People made jokes about Hubble when it turned out that the optics had an engineering problem that produced out of focus images. When astronauts from the Space Shuttle installed corrective technology in 1993, scientists were astounded by the quality of the images the bus-size telescope began to send back to NASA HQ.

HST orbits the earth every 97 minutes, and research time of the telescope is in great demand. Only about 10 percent of research proposals are approved. The lecturer, David Meyer, is on the committee that evaluates research proposals. He knows his stuff and is an outstanding explainer of astronomical principles and theories. Each half-hour lecture is so packed with information it feels like an hour. The HST images are beautiful and what they reveal about the universe we live in is mind-boggling. There are lots of helpful charts and diagrams explaining how we know what we think we know about our 13.7 billion year old universe. Well worth watching. Kids and adults should find it fascinating but very deep in places. I’m going to give it a rest for a few weeks and then watch it again. We got it at the public library.

Experiencing Hubble DVD

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