The Prague Astronomical Clock

The Prague Astrolabe

An intermittent interest in astronomy helps me to come to terms with our human smallness and, it seems more and more likely, transience.

Most of my preparation for our Spring 2015 holiday in Central Europe was spent on Vienna, Poland and Hungary. I did not read up on this unique clock, a particularly brilliant example of human technological creativity, built in 1410.

The clock measures three kinds of time: common civil time, Old Czech time and, unique in the world, Babylonian time, which is related to the zodiac and sidereal time. If you compare the tower clock (11:30) to the roman numerals that indicate Czech civil time (10:30 in Roman numerals – the golden hand pointer is halfway between X and XI) will show that Prague when we were there on April 13, 2015 used Summer Time, equivalent to DST in North America.

The magnificent astrolabe is beautifully explained on this site. It shows how the clock works in excellent English using several moving depictions. (I can’t vouch for the Russian, German or Czech.)

A worthy way to spend your time if you have an interest in astronomy and inventiveness or if, like me, you need a welcome escape from contemplating the vulnerability of our species… if it maintains its present, social trajectory.

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What? No Birds?

A couple of species that just might outlast us...
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz… B??

Whaaattt? No birds?

Looks like the environmental Rip Van Winkles among us, after letting Monsanto, Bayer et al. poison everything that isn’t a profitable crop, are finally getting a rude awakening:

CBC’s Ontario Today asked people to call in and report what species they’re not seeing now that they used to see. The many responses were scary. Here’s one dramatic example:

Russ, a farmer from Acton, ON, has seen 50 barn swallows every year in his barn. This year: NONE. Suddenly, none.

The 23-minute podcast is here.

We snored through the Monsanto Roundup years and even the recent Bayer Neonicotinoid bee-killing years. “Health Canada” is a disgrace to its name, in recent years just a follower and a pawn of agribusiness and big pharma. And, down south, Monsanto is close to being favoured with draconian legislation that will nullify a ton of existing local American laws against GE crops!!

Maybe the accelerated vanishing of our feathered, fellow-vertebrate friends like barn swallows and (in our back yard) hummingbirds, will wake us up to the global threat to the entire food chain caused by pesticides that are hugely potent and woefully undertested. We are blind to the critical importance of the tiny, even microscopic, living things in this world, without which the bigger things like us can not continue to survive.

Gotta be a better way than snoozing our way to mass extinction…

We must learn to tread gently on our earth. We’ve been struttin’ way too long, John…

Hummingbird at feeder
Ruby-throated at our feeder in 2012