Category Archives: Hot Topics
By Lon Maxwell and Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department
I blame my sister, it is completely her fault that I refuse to lend out books without making sure the other person understands that if it is not returned to me in the condition they borrowed it, they will buy me a brand new book. I’ve been reading, a lot, ever since a teacher told me to try actually reading the books instead of just looking at the pretty pretty pictures and making up a story. I was hooked, and bought ridiculous numbers of books. So of course, at times I was treated as a miniature lending library because of my “surplus.” I was very generous at first, especially to my sister, until she brought back one of my Harry Potter books SPLIT down the spine. SPLIT!! I repaired my poor book to the best of my abilities (I’m still waiting for it to fall apart again), and then my sister brought back another book that had WATER DAMAGE. It’d been sitting in the RAIN! THE HORROR!!!
Needless to say, I was tired of being brought back books that I had to repair (it wasn’t just my sister, but as the little sister, I feel it is my duty to put as much blame on her as possible for my quirks). Then I found out that someone who had been reading my copy of Pride and Prejudice until it was literally falling apart (who shall not be named), was buying themselves a brand new copy because they loved it sooo much they needed a copy of their own (after destroying mine). So when they showed it to me, I gave them the book they had destroyed and told them that the new copy was now MINE!!! There may even have been evil laughter. And glowing eyes… and the possibility that I grew three feet…. ANYWAY, suffice to say, that I now have rules about book lending and how others treat my books. And then I realized, these are good ideas for ANYONE. ALL books should be treated well. So a co-worked and I have decided to share ideas for, HOW TO READ A BOOK!
Take it away LON!
There are many suggestions on posture and physical attitude for reading properly, but I think they’re really just nonsense. Find the way you like to read at whatever moment you have. I have known people to hang upside down in chairs and read like that for hours. How you adjust your body is whatever suits you and your environment (I certainly wouldn’t recommend the upside down posture for, say, the bus). Maybe try book yoga.
This brings us to the book itself. For something made out of trees, books are remarkably fragile. You never want to bend a book cover back around the spine of a book. I’ve see many a paperback fall apart because someone felt it would be easier to read if they could view one page at a time. In hardbacks, this is impossible, but paperbacks are sufficiently pliable to be contorted this way. The problem is that the signatures (the individual sections of pages) are glued to the spine. When you bend the book past a certain degree the glue cracks and you can end up with chapter 27 floating free in the wind while you run after it.
When you want to mark a page, never dog ear the corner. Folding paper creates a point of weakness. Over time the corner will break off. Use a bookmark whenever possible, which means always. You don’t need one of those tasseled slips of laminated card from by the register at your favorite book store. Use whatever you have to hand. If you search your pockets wallet or purse you will most likely find a receipt from something. These make excellent improvised place holders. You will want to avoid things that may have food residue or adhesives on them as these can degrade the paper over time, so that gum wrapper is not the best idea.
Often you will find that you run across a section or passage of a book that you want to preserve or share. Writing and highlighting in books has two camps, those who shudder at the thought and those that think we who shudder need to take a deep breath more often. I hate running across a used book that I’ve been seeking for ages only to find the pages marked up by some prior bibliophile, and librarians will go apoplectic when they find it in the lending books. Personally, I endorse the use of sticky notes and flags, but only for temporary use. The preservation department of the Smithsonian Institute thinks differently. The notes and flags do leave behind an adhesive that will attract dirt and can contain chemicals harmful to the paper over time. If there is something that impresses you so much that you want to preserve, annotate or expound on it, then purchase a little journal to record the passage and your thoughts. You can even note the page in your book journal to return for later perusing.
Now for the big no-nos:
- Don’t read while you eat. Think about a bag of Cheetos and your favorite tome. Imagine how every page would end up with greasy orange fingerprints if you ate them while reading. I’m pretty sure that my wife would murder me and never feel a moments remorse if I got cool ranch powder on her first edition of Visions of Cody. The thing is, all food has these residues. They’re just not the color of orange highlighter. Food residue contains acids and oils that damage paper as well as attract bugs that eat paper like roaches. Always eat lunch while reading? Your bookcase is full of enough food particulates and paper to make a cockroach buffet.
- Don’t read in the tub, regardless of whether the book is in the tub with you or not. Paper and water do not play well. That includes the humidity that steams up your mirrors. The same goes for the beach with the added dangers of sand and salt, camping with its grime and weather, and boating with all of the above and an unsteady platform on which to place yourself. I know the joys of reading on the beach and while camping, so if you do decide to chance it, try to save it for those cheap mass market books you pick up at the pharmacy or grocery store.
After all this you may think that I’m some sort of book preservation fanatic, and you’d probably be right. I work in a library after all. However if you enjoy books, you most likely want to share that love with others. Give them the best possible book when you loan them out by avoiding simple damage. If you like these suggestions and want to learn more about preserving your collection as a whole, please see our printed material preservation article.
By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department
It’s National Library Card Sign-Up Month, a time when we encourage young people throughout the U.S. to sign up for their very own library cards and harness the power of reading and literacy-based learning. For those of us who are a bit more “seasoned” and have had our library cards since dirt was invented, this month can be a time of reflection, introspection and enlightenment.
September makes me remember one of my favorite childhood books: The Velvet Room, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. After an unwanted move to a new home, the book’s twelve-year-old protagonist Robin finds herself exploring an abandoned old house nearby. What she finds there – a mysterious alcove encircled by red velvet curtains – changes her life.
Never in my young life had a character resonated so completely with me! I think the main reason was that Robin was a bibliophile, a lover of books. Here is how Ms. Keatley Snyder describes Robin’s fascination with the velvet room and adjoining library:
“Next she began to look at the books. That was only a beginning, because it would take weeks to look at all of them and years and years to read them all. Some of the books looked very old, with their stiff leather bindings and old-fashioned print, but others seemed fairly new. She picked out a collection of fairy tales and went back to the alcove… intending only to try it out, to see what it would feel like to curl up with a book, as if she belonged there; but the cozy comfort of the draped alcove was soothing, and soon she was deep in the story of the White Cat.”
Like me, Robin understood that magical pull of the words on the page and the other worlds to which they can transport you. What about you? Are you a bibliophile?
You may be a bibliophile if:
- You know the names of all the dwarves in The Hobbit.
- You know your library card number by heart, backward and forward, despite the fact that you can’t seem to remember your Social Security number or your best friend’s birthday.
- Your house has a lot of bookshelves, and they are chock full of books – as are the end tables in your living room, and the nightstands in your bedroom. You may also have many boxes of books in your closets, attic, or basement. (Get them out of that basement, before they get damp and musty!)
- Despite the old adage, you sometimes do judge a book by its cover (and the cover design, as well as the art inside, the typeface used, the feel of the paper, and the quality of the binding).
- You’ve overslept and been late to school or work, because you just had to get to the end of that mystery novel at 3 a.m.
- You’ve caught yourself inhaling the smell of a leather-bound book or running your fingers over the embossed type on the cover.
- You have an amazing assortment of bookmarks, book lights, sticky notes and such – but never enough.
- You have several reading apps on your cell phone, e-reader or tablet, which you always keep charged so you can fill the dull parts of your day (say, waiting for a doctor’s appointment) with reading.
- You really find it impossible to read just one book at a time.
- You’ve used flash cards to learn the Dewey decimal system.
- You know that Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world can be found at 636.80929 MYR, with the letters denoting the beginning of author Vicki Myron’s last name.
- You love words, word games, word puzzles, and the “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” quiz in Reader’s Digest.
- You were one of the five kids in your high school English Lit class who loved the subject. (After all, discussing Hamlet’s tragic flaw was so much more interesting than going to the movies.)
- You know the difference between a haiku and a sonnet, and you love them both equally.
- When you are shopping in a new town, you find yourself gravitating into a quaint used book store. (You feel strangely disappointed if the town doesn’t have such a store.)
- Your idea of the perfect day is either a) staying in your pajamas and reading in bed until it is dark, b) spending the whole day at the library and checking out the maximum number of books allowed, or c) spending the day in a rocking chair on the front porch, with all of your favorite books and magazines piled beside you for your reading pleasure.
- You have at least one dictionary in each of the most lived-in rooms of your home.
- You’ve either actually read War and Peace just for the challenge of it, or freely admit that you’d rather read more books that you enjoy than one really large volume of literature.
- You could add five or six more points to this list, and you’ll probably try.
Do these descriptions ring true for you? Well then, you are a certified bibliophile, with all of the perks, discovery, and learning that go along with that designation. Congratulations!
Library Resources for You
If you are a bibliophile, WCPL has a whole library full of resources for you! Check out our website Reader’s Corner, where you can learn about the Library’s book clubs and browse through our carefully selected booklists, website suggestions, and database offerings.
You may also be interested in these books about reading, readers and libraries (all are available at our Main library in Franklin):
- The readers of Broken Wheel recommend, by Katarina Bivald ; translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies (F BIVALD)
- Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books, by Azar Nafisi (9 NAF)
- The End of your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe (616.994092 SCH)
- The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo, by Paula Huntley (949.71 HUN)
- How Reading Changed My Life, by Anna Quindlen (813.54 QUI)
- Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan (F SLOAN)
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, by Nina Sankovitch (028.8 SAN)
- Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron (636.80929 MYR)
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
Since man learned that there were things in the natural world that he could bend and shape to make his life easier, inventors (however primitive they may have been at the start) have sought for new ways to make our lives easier. In some instances these inventions were stumbled across entirely by accident. Others, revolutionary at their time of inception, have become so common place that we rarely even remark on their origin. Yet these inventions and inventors have transfigured our daily life.
Think back to a time when early man began to use fire. Now we didn’t invent fire, it was most likely gathered naturally from lightning strikes and then kept burning in family shelters for up to centuries. Evidence of this can be found in a cave in China where a fire was kept burning for so long it left a bed of ashes twenty-two feet deep[i]. What they invented was a method to make fire on their own. Now, when you light your fire pit, gas oven or even just start your car, you don’t think about the amazingly complex reactions you’re continuing or their inventor. Similarly, many of the everyday inventions we use don’t even occur to us to be special.
Arguably the biggest impact on everyday life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries comes in the form of the automobile. While steam trains predate the car, they were limited to the areas that their tracks ran leaving those outside the rail service stuck using the same method of transportation we’d been using for 5,000 years, the horse. Now a carriage comes along with nothing to pull it other than the torque provided by a new method of harnessing that fire our ancestors shepherded so carefully. It’s no wonder that some people thought the whole thing a ridiculous fad. Similarly, when we deigned to light our homes for thousands of years we burnt something: oil, wax, fat or natural gas. It is an amazing leap to move to light bulbs, something that just glowed with the application of electricity. The idea that you could just use these metal and glass contraptions that you hooked in to deadly electricity was considered quite dangerous, even by people who were used to lighting volatile natural gas in their lamps.
As you can see these inventions, along with vulcanized rubber, powered flight, assembly lines and telephones, made the turn of the nineteenth century a time when anybody could completely restructure our daily lives with the newest inventions. All of these things we take for granted were harebrained schemes and crazy pipedreams.
While many innovators have pushed the boundaries of our world with a will and determination, some have stumbled across ideas and devices completely by accident. Things we’re all used to as models of modern engineering were originally flubs, failures and freak accidents.
Take the microwave for instance. Now you get home after a long day at work, too tired to cook and you throw some leftovers in a magic box for a minute or two and it comes out hot and ready to eat (well, except for the middle, that’s still ice cold). You’d think some scientific genius would have brought this gift of intellect to us, but actually not so much. A man working with an especially strong magnetron to improve radar for the Raytheon Corporation noticed something odd. The gentleman in question was Percy Spencer, a self-taught grammar school dropout who worked hard enough and had enough natural brilliance to go from the paper mills of Maine to developing and producing radar equipment for M.I.T.’s Radiation Laboratory. He noticed that while working with the magnetron, the chocolate in his pocket melted. He wasn’t the first to see this, just the first to investigate why it happened. From this radar experiment he went on to try it on another food source, targeting a direct radar beam on the food produced a result, and now 70 years late countless households reenact his first experiments nightly when they microwaves bags of popcorn.[ii]
Matches were an accident as well. The lighter may seem newer, but it actually predates the match by three years. The new-fangled match was created when an English Pharmacist noticed a buildup of chemicals on his stirring stick. When he attempted to scrape off the offending chemicals, the stick ignited. That must have been a bit of a shock to Mr. Walker, the pharmacist in question. [iii]
By far my favorite happy accident was the Popsicle. Eleven year old Frank Epperson had been mixing a powdered fruit flavored beverage with a wooden stick. He left the drink out on a cold night and it froze. In the morning he warmed the glass and removed the ice block with its wooden stirring stick still frozen inside. By chance he took a lick of the ice and now children everywhere have one of their own to thank for one of the most famous frozen treats. [iv]
Even being at best absent minded, at worst lazy, can lead to one of the greatest inventions of all time. Dr. Alexander Fleming hadn’t cleaned his lab before leaving for his summer holidays. When he came back he found an untidy workspace that included some exposed petri dishes. Some had a strange mold on them that repelled the bacteria around it. After a little tinkering and some concerted mold culturing, Fleming was able to reproduce the accidental experiment, leading to the development of penicillin.[v]
Some inventions come into being like embryos, bearing a slight resemblance to the finished product. There are a great number of these out there that were crazy when they were first proposed, but are now gaining traction.
- Yves Rossy may have finally perfected the Jet pack we’ve all been waiting for.
- The Inter auto, a spool to spool map that moved as you drove was like a nascent GPS.
- The Laryngophone, a means for speaking over telephone lines without use of your mouth has become the modern day throat mics of pilots.
- Hugo Gernsback once decided to make a wearable pair of small cathode ray tubes to produce a 3D television experience. This concept is finally coming to fruition with google glass and all the VR headgear attachments you can buy for your smart phones.
- Even the idea of the radio controlled lawn mower is reaching fruition. Who doesn’t want a remotely operated spinning blade moving across your yard? Roomba is readying a yard version of the famous vacuum for market.
The future may hold glorious new devices or more feasible innovations on weird ideas from the past. More unforeseen consequences may lead us to new discoveries. Something you see on the “as seen on TV” shelf may turn out to change the lives of every person on earth. You never know.
[i] The Cartoon History of the Universe Vols. 1-7 By Larry Gonick, 1990 902.07 GON
By Dr. Billy Teets, Outreach Astronomer at Vanderbilt University
August 21st is quickly approaching as one of the most anticipated days of 2017. For the first time in 38 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. mainland. Partial and even annular solar eclipses have been visible since then, but for those who have had the rare opportunity to ever witness the splendor of a total solar eclipse, partial and annular solar eclipses cannot compare.
Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and casts shadows on our planet. For the Moon to be able to obscure the Sun, it has to be in the new moon phase. We have new moons approximately every 29.5 days; however, we have solar eclipses about every 5 1/2 months. This discrepancy is due to the slight tilt of the Moon’s orbit with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. At most new moon phases, the Moon will either appear slightly above or below the Sun in the sky, so the shadows it casts miss the Earth. As time passes the apparent annual motion of the Sun in the sky and the daily motion of the Moon in its orbit eventually bring the two bodies to one of two points (known as nodes) in which their paths intersect. If the Sun and Moon are on the same side of the sky then a solar eclipse occurs. It is not surprising that approximately two weeks before or after a solar eclipse we experience a lunar eclipse in which the Moon passes through the shadows of the Earth. In that two-week period the Moon has had time to move to the opposite side of its orbit and the Sun has not moved substantially on the sky. Thus, the Moon is now on the exact opposite part of the sky as the Sun, allowing Earth to cast its shadow on the Moon. On August 7th, two weeks before the August 21st eclipse, the Moon will indeed undergo a lunar eclipse; however, the U.S. will not be able to observe it as we will be on the day side of our planet during the lunar eclipse. By the time we rotate to the night-side of Earth, the Moon will have moved out of our shadow. Oh well, the U.S. will still have the opportunity to observe a beautiful total lunar eclipse on January 21st, 2019!
The August 21st total solar eclipse will be special for several reasons. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible from both U.S. seaboards since 1918, and Nashville is the largest city in the path of totality. For this particular solar eclipse, observers will have up to 2 minutes and 42 seconds of total eclipse (“totality”), but this value greatly depends on location, especially with respect to the centerline of the path of totality. With this being the first total solar eclipse on the U.S. mainland in nearly 40 years, millions of people are anticipating the opportunity to witness this heavenly spectacle. Numerous events focused around the eclipse are being held in cities all throughout the path of totality as well as outside of the path. Nashville also has many groups that are planning festivities and viewings on August 21st (a growing list of events can be found here).
But, as with real estate, observing a total solar eclipse is all about location, location, location! There is no, “I’m close to the path of totality so that will be good enough.” IF YOU ARE NOT WITHIN THE PATH OF TOTALITY, YOU WILL NOT SEE THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE. The closer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer the duration of total eclipse you will experience. Observers are encouraged to move towards the centerline, but that will actually take some planning. First of all, excitement for the eclipse has really been gaining momentum over the past few months, and many people (some estimates say well over two million) will be flocking to Nashville to witness totality. As you can expect, this is going to create major issues on the interstates and even side roads, especially as totality is about to occur. People will be stopping alongside and in the middle of the highways and getting out of their vehicles to see the totally eclipsed Sun – the interstates may literally be parking lots. The point here is that if you are planning on viewing from a specific location, then plan on leaving very early in the morning or even a day or two before. Many hotels are already booked solid, so the chances of getting a room in or near the path are pretty slim now. It is advisable to keep a close eye on the news of road conditions.
So, what can you expect to see during the three hours of solar eclipse? For the majority of the time, the Sun will only be partially obscured. It will take almost 90 minutes for the Moon to move completely in front of the Sun and then roughly another hour and a half for it to move back out. So, in all, most people will get to see approximately three hours of partial eclipse. During this time, proper solar filters (not sunglasses) must be used to protect your eyes, cameras, telescopes, etc. If one has a properly filtered telescope, then the partial eclipse would provide an opportune time to get an up-close view of the Sun as the Moon gradually covers it. It may be possible to observe sunspots (cooler areas that appear as black blemishes on the solar surface). Some astronomy enthusiasts may even be able to observe prominences (enormous clouds of gas lofted up from the Sun’s surface) during the partial eclipse by using a special type of telescope known as a hydrogen-alpha telescope. The long durations of the partial eclipses provide ample time for one to take pictures. Also, be sure to take a look under the surrounding trees – as sunlight passes through the gaps and holes in the tree leaves, numerous images of the partially eclipsed Sun will be projected on the ground.
As the last few minutes of partial eclipse pass, one will be able to feel the tension and excitement filling the air. By this time the vast majority of the solar disk is invisible and only a few percent of the Sun’s photosphere (the technical name for the solar “surface”) are illuminating the surrounding landscape. If the day is clear, then this time will provide a very dramatic lighting that many often describe as “eerie” or “surreal.” If you have a good view of the northwest you will notice that portion of the sky is darker and growing darker – you are seeing the umbra approaching at roughly twice the speed of sound! In the final few seconds before totality, as the last percent of the Sun’s surface is still just peeking around the silhouetted Moon, the dramatically diminishing sunlight will begin to allow the corona to take center stage. The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun, and even though the gas of the corona is several million degrees Fahrenheit, it only glows about as bright as the full moon. The last bead of light visible from the Sun’s surface, along with the corona surrounding the eclipsing Moon, form a spectacular “diamond ring” in the sky.
The effect only lasts a few seconds before totality begins and a few seconds just after totality ends. The faint corona is safe to observe with the naked eye; however, one should not look directly at the “diamond” as direct viewing of any portion of the Sun’s surface can damage your eyes in a matter of seconds.
Once the diamond disappears, the corona will blaze forth in all of its glory – totality has finally started. By now people are screaming, cheering, clapping, crying, you name it! Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event for most people. Some people become addicted to seeing them and travel the world in order just to be in the path of totality for those precious few minutes.
During totality one MUST remove any protective eyewear and observe the corona with the naked eye, for solar glasses will completely block out the corona. The corona will appear very tenuous, and you may see some structure in it that is caused by the Sun’s complicated and ever-changing magnetic field.
Right around the edge of the Moon’s silhouette you might even see some reddish-pink tufts barely sticking out from around the Moon – these are prominences, which are now visible to the naked eye. Depending on your observing location one portion of the Moon’s edge may appear outlined in a pinkish-red hue – this is the lower atmosphere of the Sun, which is known as the chromosphere. The coloration is the distinctive hue of hot hydrogen gas – the main component of the Sun and all stars.
It will be difficult to peel your eyes away from the beauty of the corona, but remember to take a least a few seconds and look around at the rest of the sky. During totality, the sky will be dark enough to observe a few planets and stars. Venus will be visible in the upper western sky while Jupiter will appear about halfway up in the southeast. Both will appear as very bright stars. Mars and Mercury will be located close to the eclipsed Sun and appear as moderately bright stars. A few of the true stars, such as Sirius and Arcturus, will likely be fairly easy to spot if you know where to look. Don’t forget to look around the horizon as well – though the sky above you will be fairly dark the majority of the horizon itself will illuminated. Try to keep an eye out for odd animal behavior as well. Birds have often been reported to exhibit roosting behavior around and during totality (birds flock in to roost, roosters crow, etc.)
It will also be difficult during totality, especially in this age of technology and social media, to suppress the urge to snap pictures and text. Don’t think about selfies. The precious seconds of totality will pass by quicker than you think, and you don’t want to spend all of your time looking through a viewfinder or staring at a phone screen. The end result will be no different than if you stared at a picture of the eclipsed sun on your computer. Experience this eclipse! Take in the splendor of the event with your own eyes. Try to live in the moment so that you can remember it vividly for the rest of your life. You may never get another chance like this, especially if the skies are completely clear.
If you are going to take away anything from this article, then here are a few key points to remember:
- Do not look at any portion of the Sun’s surface with your naked eye during the partial eclipse – you MUST have appropriate eye protection when any portion of the Sun’s surface is exposed. Do not look through an unfiltered telescope while wearing solar eclipse glasses – the focused sunlight will melt the glasses in seconds and then cause permanent eye damage.
- During totality, when the entire solar disk is obscured by the Moon, you MUST observe the total solar eclipse with your naked eye. Any protective eyewear will make it impossible to see the total solar eclipse and you will miss the spectacular part of the show. Remember, the corona by itself is safe to look at naked eye.
- It is NOT recommended to observe the total eclipse with a telescope as this requires using an unfiltered telescope to view the corona. This is dangerous because one does not know the exact moment when the solar disk will begin to emerge from behind the Moon. Less than one percent of the Sun’s surface is easily enough to cause permanent eye damage in a short period of time, especially when looking through an unfiltered telescope.
- Photographing the partial eclipse is recommended since you will have close to three hours to do so, but remember that your camera can be damaged by the unfiltered Sun. Therefore, you must use an appropriate solar filter to prevent your camera from being damaged.
- Photographing the total eclipse is NOT recommended (even without using a telescope) solely for the fact that we will only have a maximum of two minutes and 42 seconds to see the total eclipse. Due to the large dynamic range of the total solar eclipse, it can be fairly difficult to capture a good image that really shows the awesome splendor of a total solar eclipse. There are, however, websites, magazine articles, and even books that deal with the subject of how to photograph a total solar eclipse. Experienced eclipse observers have also stated that even the best images they have ever seen of a total solar eclipse do not convey the beauty of what you will see with the naked eye. They also recommend that if this is your first total solar eclipse you should only focus on actually seeing it with your own eyes because it will be an experience that you will never forget. Don’t waste those precious seconds trying to take images – people all over the United States will be taking images, including professional photographers who have had experience photographing total solar eclipses.
Good luck, and here’s hoping for clear skies across the U.S. on August 21st!
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
By now, anyone who has strayed into the modern miasma of pop culture is familiar with the concept of giant sharks dropped in L.A. by water spouts while has-been and never-will-be actors line up to kill or be killed. It’s ridiculous. It’s impossible. It’s ludicrous. It’s not as weird as some things found in nature.
One of the most common types of odd phenomenon is the optical illusion. Our atmosphere likes to play with light a great deal more than you might expect. Take for instance the green flash. This odd blink of green light just as the top ridge of the sun hits the horizon is rumored to bring good luck in love. In actuality it is the light of the sun’s journey through more atmosphere than any other time that absorbs the lower wavelengths of light, leaving green. It’s also visible right as the sun hits the horizon at dawn, but being diurnal creatures, most of us aren’t watching for it then. Other optical phenomenon, when light and water, ice or dust interact includes sun dogs (small sun like balls on either side of the sun), light pillars (a ray of light going straight up from the sun when it is near the horizon) and arcs or rings around the sun. The most impressive are, or can be, the fata morgana. The fata morgana is a mirage caused by the drastic temperature differences in the atmosphere causing something to appear to be floating in the sky. They can be as basic as a boat appearing to be above the surface of the water to as complex as the city in the clouds seen over Foshan China in October of 2015.
The atmosphere can produce other bizarre things as well, in the form of weather phenomena. Frost flowers form on plants and frozen surfaces. They’re actually two separate phenomena. The ones that form in meadows are windblown frost crystals that accumulate into curling petal-like structures. The crystal structures at sea are formed from ice crystals freezing from the atmosphere creating long chains the stretch out similar to ferns or cacti.
Another amazing weather phenomenon is the Catatumbo Lightning. This is a raging lightning storm in Venezuela with an average of 280 strikes per hour, ten hours per day up to 260 days out of the year. The air and water currents make for a spectacular light show that has been going on for years. Although it pales in comparison with the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, a cyclonic storm that has been continually observed for over 300 years, and was probably seen earlier than that.
Tales of fish or frogs falling from the sky date back to Pliny the Elder in the first century. The predominant theory involves tornados or waterspouts picking up the animals and depositing them outside their natural habitat. There have been documented occurrences of everything from fish to frogs, to even jellyfish in England in 1864 and spiders in Australia in 2015 (no sharks though).
Natural climate activity does not have a monopoly on the unusual event front. Animals have a few crazy occurrences of their own. Crop circles have been seen all over, but under the water? Seven foot diameter patterned circles popped up off the coast of Japan. The cause is a mating display by one species of puffer fish.
Also underwater are great tube-like things called pyrosomes. The structures look like jelly fish and can stretch up to 60 feet in length, but they are not actually a single organism. Each tube is composed of hundreds or thousands of individual organisms that are actually clones of one another. These zooids such water in through mouths on the outside of the tube and all expel the water thrught the center, creating a jet like propulsion.
The red crabs of Christmas Island also observe an insane mating display. Every year in late October or early November millions of crabs make a journey from the mountains to the sea shores to mate and release their eggs on the tide. They cover the ground and cause roads to be closed. A month later a seething carpet of ant sized baby crabs return from the water and make their way back into the mountainous forests to mature.
When we think of something that is as plain as plain can be we often go to water as an example. However, water can elicit some strange effects while doing nothing out of the ordinary. At the confluence of the rivers Negro and Amazon you can see two separate rivers flow within the same banks, one brown and one black, for miles until they truly merge. In Alaska a similar situation occurs when glacial melt water encounters the sea. Both of these situations result from different particulates in the suspension of the particular body of water in question. The Negro is a slow moving river with a lot of vegetation that steeps in the river like tea, while the faster Amazon carries a lot of sediment. The Glacial melt also meets the differently dense ocean carrying particulates the leave a clear line where one starts and the other stops. The most extreme examples of this are the underwater pools. Yes, SpongeBob was right, there are pools of water under the water but I don’t think anyone wants to take a dip here. High salinity and dissolved methane mean that almost anything that goes in this pool is not leaving.
In some cases, Mother Nature is trying to add insult to injury. Imagine frozen wastelands with explosive bubbles and volcanic lightning. Methane comes back here as bubbles are forming in arctic lakes. These dangerous little spheres are close to the surface too. All it takes is an ice axe, a lighter and an extreme lack of sense to create a fountain of fire for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The methane rises from the ground beneath the lakes and usually passes through into the atmosphere, but during the winter the bubbles can be trapped, waiting for a thaw or adventurous ice fisherman. If flaming ice wasn’t bad enough try volcanic lightning. Dirty thunderstorms, as they are called, occur when the particles in a volcanic eruption build up static electricity the discharge occurs with a bolt of lightning. So you may be able to be struck by lightning while running away from lava and pyroclastic flow.
While not reaching the level of sharks dropping from the sky in danger, the natural world sure does have its share of weird and amazing phenomena.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
On July 14, 1881, Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Those are the facts, nothing but the facts. Oh, but the legends on these two and how they are linked forever in history makes this killing as important as the OK Corral in the annals of history.
So, who exactly was Billy the Kid? History gives him several names: probably born as Henry McCarty, and took the aliases Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney. Information is sketchy about his early years: it is known that he was born in New York City in to a poor Irish family. Not much is known about his early years but he ended up in New Mexico Territory in 1873. Again, not much is known about him at this time, but 4 years later he arrived in Lincoln County, New Mexico. This is where he makes history, mostly of the notorious type.
Lincoln County had just been established and was divided between two factions of cattlemen, the John Tunstall/ Alexander McSween side and the James Dolan faction, allied with the county sheriff William Brady. William Bonney (Billy the Kid) joined the Tunstall side, which was ultimately the losing side as well. Each faction had enforcers (gunfighters and criminals). Tunstall was murdered and in revenge, his men, “the regulators”, killed the sheriff. That brought on what came to be called the Lincoln County War, a five day gunfight and siege battle. The regulators were surrounded, McSween was murdered and the Tunstall men that were able to escape scattered. Billy the Kid was on the run for two years before being captured by Pat Garret the first time. The Kid was tried, convicted and incarcerated. He escaped from jail, after shooting both guards, and rode off into the sunset—for a while.
And Pat Garrett?? More is known about him (there usually is for lawmen). He was born in Alabama in 1850, but the family moved to Louisiana in 1853, and lost everything after the Civil War. In 1869, he headed west, resurfacing in 1876 as a buffalo hunter. As the buffalo disappeared, he headed to New Mexico territory. He became a ranch hand for Pete Maxwell, married and had children. Pat Garrett was sworn in as the new sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880 with the understanding that he would clean up Lincoln County. Several times he almost caught Billy, but each time he slipped away or Garrett was given the wrong information. He finally caught him, arrested him and put him in jail. Garrett was away from jail when the Kid escaped. Eight months later, Garrett found out that Billy was staying with Pete Maxwell, at his ranch. He came at night, and shot and killed Billy the Kid.
Almost immediately, Billy the Kid became a folk legend, which in turn mage Garrett seem an assassin. Garrett wrote a book about tracking and killing Billy. It didn’t sell well, but has become quite the collectible. The book was later found to be full of errors and imaginative tales. It was ghost written by a friend of Garrett. Pat did not run for sheriff again, but moved with his family to Texas and briefly became a Texas Ranger. He returned after a year or so to Roswell, New Mexico where his ranch was. He had several businesses that never prospered and moved back to Texas in 1892. In 1896, he returned to New Mexico where he was appointed sheriff of Dona Ana County. He was nominated by President Teddy Roosevelt as customs officer in El Paso, and confirmed by the Senate. He burned his bridges with Roosevelt and was in deep debt the rest of his life. He also was highly disliked for killing Billy, as the Kid had become a folk hero. He was shot in the back as he was going from his ranch into town. His murder was never solved.
As time passed, some people started the rumor that Pat Garrett either shot somebody else and claimed it was Billy or helped him fake his death. Someone even claimed to be Billy in the 1940s. Even so, historical records show that Billy’s body was identified by several different people—most generally agree that Pat Garrett got the right man—Billy the Kid.
- Billy the Kid was involved in at least nine murders. He was said to have committed as many murders as he had years—he was killed at age 21. (He may have been his own best publicist.)
- Over 50 movies have told this famous historical event. He worked on his reputation before his death, and afterward his legend only grew. The first movie was the silent film in 1911, entitled Billy the Kid. Other stars who played him on the silver screen have been Paul Newman, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez (in Young Guns, which we have in our collection.)
- When Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico, Billy the Kid found another champion. Richardson was a New Mexico history buff and was publicly thinking about pardoning William Bonney posthumously. Before Billy the Kid died, he appealed to then governor, Lew Wallace (who while in office wrote Ben Hur!) for a pardon for his role in the Lincoln County Wars. Wallace agreed, but the pardon was never given to him because he was killed. So when Richardson was thinking about this pardon, he churned up old history. The descendants of Pat Garrett started a petition to stop the pardon from going ahead. Bill Richardson is no longer governor of New Mexico, so this pardon will never happen, but it just goes to show that the past is not that far away.
By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
Someone told me they thought that living in Williamson County is like living in the “Australia of America.” Just like in Australia, there are many strange bugs here as compared to the rest of the world. This is most certainly an overstatement, but due to our mild winters, Williamson County does have significant insect concerns. Some insects are mostly nuisances, such as Japanese Beetles munching on tree leaves. Other insects, however, can cause significant injury or damage. What follows are five of the bugs of Tennessee that register higher degrees of fear among residents of our area. We will go from number five to number one.
Numbers Five and Four: Hard working but harmful Beetles or Borers. Most give little thought to various beetles that fly about our area, but those who manage our forests and those who love beautiful landscape trees soon learn to respect the menace that certain beetles pose. Landowners and cities see some of their favorite, older shade trees die within three years after being attacked by the Southern Pine Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer.
5. Emerald Ash Borers (EAB)
Adults are dark green and fly in Tennessee especially in May and June. They spend the rest of the year as larvae eating away under the bark of ash trees, leading to the decline and death of their host tree. EABs emerge from the trees as adults and leave a small, distinctive D-shaped hole in the bark.
4. The Southern Pine Beetle
It is native to our area, causing extensive damage to pine trees during times when its population expands. When Tennessee’s southern pine beetle population gradually began to build in 1998, the beetles killed close to 350,000 acres and $358 million of pine in the years that followed.
3. Imported Fire Ants (IFA)
Lest the reader think I am exaggerating, I will quote from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture regarding this newcomer to the county which has a low tolerance for humans.
Imported Fire Ants (IFA) were accidentally introduced into the United States from South America, beginning in about 1918, and have spread to many counties in Tennessee, including Williamson County…. Imported Fire Ants are very aggressive when disturbed and cause a painful sting that produces a small white pustule about 8-24 hours following the sting.
Fire ant colonies build mounds that may be 10 inches or more in height, 15 inches or more in diameter, and 3 feet or more in depth. ….
Imported Fire Ants cause harm and economic losses in a variety of ways. Stings from fire ants inflict intense pain to millions of Americans each year with thousands requiring medical treatment. A small number of people develop a life-threatening allergic reaction to IFA stings. The number of human fatalities resulting from IFA stings is not known due to lack documentation. However, there have been confirmed deaths due to IFA in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Imported Fire Ants also attack and kill domestic animals and wildlife as well as destroy seedling corn, soybeans, and other crops. Fire ant mounds can damage farm equipment and lawn mowers. IFA are attracted to electrical equipment and chew on insulation, resulting in short circuits and interference with switching mechanisms. Fire ants can shut down air conditioners, traffic signal boxes, and even airport runway lights. Approximately $2 billion in damage, including costs for insecticide for fire ant suppression and eradication, is caused by IFA in the United States each year.” [https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-businesses-ifa]
2. Yellowjackets (Paper Wasps, and Hornets runners up)
UT Assistant Professor of Entomology, Karen Vail, tells us: “Yellowjackets are often considered the most dangerous stinging insects in the United States. They are more unpredictable than honey bees and will sting readily if their nest is disturbed….. During late summer and fall, yellowjacket colonies are near maturity and large numbers of workers forage for food. Sweets support large populations of foraging
wasps. They are particularly fond of sweets (e.g., fruit, soft drinks, ice cream, beer), but they will also eat meats, potato salad and just about anything we eat.”
Many county residents are unaware of where yellowjackets build their paper nest. They nest mostly underground, which makes their presence harder to detect. They can be highly aggressive and sting multiple times.
1. The Brown Recluse Spider
The most feared bug of Tennessee as reported by several exterminators is the brown recluse spider.
Most of us are familiar with the Brown Recluse, if not by sight, then certainly by its reputation. I have unfortunate personal experience with the Brown Recluse, receiving two bites over the years that left the horrendous pain and scars that their bites can sometimes do.
So I am an informal “expert” on the spider, trying to avoid being bitten again. I even discuss them with our “bug man” exterminator named Joe from All-Pest Solutions, who sprays our house four times a year. He recently added to my knowledge about the spider when I explained the enormous size of one I saw last week. The “bug man” said that Recluses do get that big, but no bigger. What I saw was likely a female adult (larger than the males) in her prime (who can give birth to 130 little recluses just like that). So they will be around.
But the exterminator also gave me some good news. He said, “Did you know that they can’t bite you without help? Their mouths are too small. They have to be mashed or pushed into the skin, most often by ourselves, and then they have the force to bite.” I asked for clarification, “You mean if one just gets on you, or you hold it in your hand, it can’t bite you?” “Yes, that’s right. They have to have help.” That was news to me, and good to know.
Something else came out about the spider during my second bite (this one to the temple of my head from lying on an old, rolled up blanket for a pillow while camping). The venom of the Brown Recluse is interesting. It is only 15% or so actual poison, so it basically tricks the body into turning on itself in reaction. It is powerful through deception. Further, unlike the immediately painful and burning bite of the Black Widow spider, the Brown Recluse bite seldom hurts at first. In fact, the venom, for the first 24 hours, tends to create a state of euphoria (extreme gladness) in the human victim. I experienced this very thing. But afterward, the effects of the tricky venom begin to turn living tissue into dead tissue. The victim must wait and see just how deep the wound will go.
By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department Total Boox is an app that provides another way to read digital books while you are on the go or at home sitting in your favorite reading spot. The app is available for Android, Amazon Kindle and iPad users. Some great features of this app include; no waiting lines, you can read books offline (you only need to be online to download books), there is no return date, and once the book is on your device, it stays on your device until you decide to delete it. So you can keep books on your device for as long as you have the app and read them as many times as you want without having to re-download. Another perk of this app is that if you get a new device all of your books will be automatically downloaded onto that device so you do not have to search for them again. I’m going to take you through the app from start to finish and I hope that you will consider adding this as a way to read more books in the future!
If you need visual help to learn how to use the app you have two options. One option is a user guide located at the bottom of every page under the heading “readers” and shows you how to best use each section (pictures are provided as part of the guide). The other option is a YouTube tutorial.
An important detail is making sure you get the app that is for libraries so you have FREE access to books. Once you have downloaded the app and open it you will be prompted to login. To login make sure you have Williamson County Public Library selected then enter your library card number and pin, the next screen will ask for your email address.
Once you have completed those steps you will be taken to the “home” screen which in this case is the “My Library” page. From here you have two options: you can either click on “Get Books It’s Free!” or the “+” to create a new shelf. By tapping on the “Get Books It’s Free!” iconic book you will be taken to a page that has several options. These options include sections titled “editors’ picks,” “featured authors,” and “just arrived” sections and have several books to browse through by scrolling right to left. By tapping on a book cover you will be given the synopsis of the book along with the option to read it or download the book, by selecting to read, it will automatically open and if you select download the book will be placed on your “My Library” page.
The other ways to find books include the search area (great for if you know the title or author), browsing through the categories tab or browsing through the shelves tab. If you want to search by category you are in luck there is a wide variety of categories to choose from, 28 total. Of those 28 categories, 18 have sub-categories. This is a great way to browse for something if you have a specific idea in mind or you know you want a historical fiction book. The shelves tab is an awesome option for getting a lot of books from specific categories onto your “My Library” page quickly. For example, there is a shelf titled “Great books to take on your next flight.” In this shelf there are a total of 15 books (for right now), a brief description of the type of books in the section, who shared the shelf and when it was last updated. By clicking on the download button all 15 of these books will be available to you with the shelf title on your “My Library” page. None these books are automatically downloaded to your device you still have to click on “read” to have them available to read without the internet.
Once you have a book open there is a pop up tool bar (tap in the empty area on the bottom of the page) with 5 options at the top: Home, Table of Contents (for the current book), Font size, Browse Bookmarks (for browsing where you have placed bookmarks for the opened book before), and Add a Bookmark. Also to be found when you tap in that empty space is a drag bar that allows you to jump further ahead or behind in the book which is much easier than going page by page.
Back on the “My Library” page you can create your own shelves by moving around the books you have downloaded or selecting “copy” from a book that’s on another shelf and moving it to the desired shelf. You also have the option to delete your books when you desire, all you have to do is tap on the book cover and select the delete option.
While you might not find the most popular books and authors in this app I think it’s worth the time to get to know and it search around, because you will find classics, books in your favorite genre you wouldn’t of normally read and who knows what other good books you might run across. I already have a shelf downloaded and two books ready to read!