Top of Mind Thursday – April 11, 2024: Eclipsing Reason

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On Monday, we had the first total solar eclipse visible in North America in 50 years.

It was estimated several million people traveled to spots along the path of totality to see this event. Except Mother Nature didn’t necessarily help the cause. Clouds blocked visibility in a number of spots along what was expected to be the optimum route to view this event.

Here in the Bay Area, I looked out my window a couple of times during what was supposed to be the prime viewing time—only to see what looked like the same sunny day we had the day before and the day after.

In ancient times, many people felt an eclipse foretold the end of the world. That makes sense—total darkness during the day at what appeared to be a random time would be pretty scary. Today, there are still those who believe all kind of strange occurrences are tied to a solar eclipse. I suspect they may have been disappointed when the sun came back full strength a little later and the world went on like normal.

This does make you wonder, though, why so many people dropped everything on Monday to possibly watch something so elusive. Some of them are devoted astronomy fans or eclipse chasers. Some just thought it would be fun to wear dark-colored cardboard glasses.

Yet there are miracles of science around us everyday that we totally ignore—from incredible breakthroughs in medical treatments, to next generation technological advances, to the advances we take for granted as we use them (such as vaccines and the Internet). And we don’t need special glasses to see them safely!

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