TigerBlog stood outside last night at about 9:30 or so and looked up at the starry night.
Back when he was in college and had to finish his natural science requirement, TB took a semester on astronomy, figuring that it would be rather easy, right?
Instead, it was one of the most difficult classes he had in his four years at Penn. And also one of the best.
As an aside, the exams in that class were the most unique TB ever took. They consisted of clusters of unrelated questions, and there would be seven clusters on the test, with three or four or five questions in each cluster. Students then had to pick any five clusters to answer, so the test also consisted of evaluating which clusters posed the biggest overall risks.
In other words, as the test was going on, you first had to figure out cluster-by-cluster which questions you could best answer and which ones you couldn't. If you were 100% sure of two of the five questions in one cluster but only reasonably sure on four of six in another, you had to decide if the risk was worth it.
Evil genius, that guy was.
Anyway, TB learned two amazing things in astronomy.
The first was that on Jupiter, the equator spins at a different rate than the poles. As the teacher explained: "On Earth, every part spins at the same rate ... well, except for Buffalo."
Not sure why he picked on Buffalo, but it was fairly humorous.
The other little nugget was one that still freaks TB out to this day. The stars in the sky are so far away from Earth and it's taken the light so long to reach Earth that it's likely that the star doesn't exist anymore.
Wow. That's wild. You're looking at stars that aren't there anymore and haven't been for millions of years.
TB is looking out his window at the football stadium. It's still there. The clouds above the stadium are still there.
But the stars? Gone.
As TB looked up at the stars last night, he wore a t-shirt with a light sweatshirt. And why wouldn't he? It was 62 degrees yesterday in Princeton, and right now it's 55 degrees, with a high of 61 expected.
Of course, last night was Jan. 31, the final day of the month.
It snowed in January, once, about three inches or so. Two days later, it was in the 50s, and almost all of the snow was gone.
Last year, there was snow covering the ground for the entire month of January. It actually snowed for the first time on Dec. 26, 2010, and then it wasn't until March that all the snow was gone.
This year has been radically different. It snowed, as you may recall, on the final Saturday of October, destroying the Heps cross country championships and a bunch of home events against Cornell.
That was followed by an extraordinarily warm November, December and January.
And now it's February, which means the start of practice for several spring sports in the Ivy League.
As TB walked into the building today, he saw women's lacrosse players on their way to practice. Their male counterparts were already going, while baseball and softball begin today as well.
Of course, the rest of Division I has been at it for awhile already, and in fact this Saturday is the first Division I men's lacrosse game - Detroit at Delaware.
Princeton opens the lacrosse seasons on Feb. 25, which is three weeks from Saturday. The women are at Villanova; the men are home with Hofstra.
In fact, the men's season begins with three home games in six days, with the Hofstra game to be followed by Princeton-Manhattan on Feb. 28 and Princeton-Johns Hopkins on March 2.
Is it a big disadvantage to have the rest of Division I start practicing so much earlier?
Probably on Feb. 25 it will be, but the goal is to playing the best in May, not February.
In fact, during a usual winter, why would a lacrosse team want to be practicing outside in January?
This hasn't been a typical winter though, not for the weather.
Hopefully that trend doesn't change.
After all, as of today, it's spring.