Nov. 20, 2008
A heavy snow, and men my age
all over the city
are having heart attacks in their driveways,
dropping their nice new shovels
with the ergonomic handles
that finally did them no good.
Gray-headed men who meant no harm,
who abided by the rules and worked hard
for modest rewards, are slipping
softly from their mortgages,
falling out of their marriages.
How gracefully they swoon
that lovely, old-fashioned word
from dinner parties, grandkids,
vacations in Florida.
They should have known better
than to shovel snow at their age.
If only they'd heeded
the sensible advice of their wives
and hired a snow-removal service.
But there's more to life
than merely being sensible. Sometimes
a man must take up his shovel
and head out alone into the snow.
It's the birthday of South African novelist Nadine Gordimer, (books by this author) born in Springs, South Africa (1923). She's the author of 14 novels and many collections of short stories, most of which explore the issue of race in South Africa. Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, and she has served as a member of the African National Congress.
It's the birthday of Robert Francis Kennedy, born in Brookline, Massachusetts (1925).
It was on this day in 1971 a ban was placed on the use of the popular pesticide DDT. The American public's knowledge of DDT and its environmental dangers was in large part due to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring (1962).
It's the birthday of astronomer Edwin Hubble, born in Marshfield, Missouri (1889). He majored in math and astronomy in college, then went to law school and started practicing as an attorney. He got bored after just a couple of years and went to get a Ph.D. in astronomy, where he focused his research on nebulae distant objects in the sky that couldn't be categorized as stars. He moved to California to work with the world's largest telescope, which was in Pasadena.
Within a few years, he had begun to make discoveries that revolutionized the field of astronomy. He identified a certain kind of pulsating star, a "Cepheid" in Andromeda then considered a not-well-defined nebula of clouds of gas. At the time, scientists believed that the galaxy that Earth was in was only about 100,000 light years across. They also believed that the Milky Way was the only galaxy in the universe. Hubble's discovery of the Andromeda Cepheid and his calculation of its distance proved that the universe was billions of times larger than scientists had thought.
A year later, in 1925, he devised a system to classify galaxies, based on their shapes. In 1929, he made what is considered his most important discovery when he came up with a mathematical relationship that explained the correlation of a galaxy's radial velocity to its distance from Earth. In other words, he determined that "the farther a galaxy is from Earth, the faster it appears to move away." This led to the conclusion that the universe is expanding. It provided the basis for the Big Bang theory, which claims that the universe started with a big burst of energy matter exploded, and then expanded, and the universe has continued to expand ever since.
In 1990, about four decades after Edwin Hubble's death, NASA launched the Hubble Telescope, the first telescope based in outer space. It captures accurate images of faint, distant objects.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®