Beauty and Ingenuity: Countdown to March 9 Eclipse

Beauty-and-Ingenuity

The build-up to the Indonesian eclipse continues! This is my latest piece for the Jakarta Globe.


Beauty and Ingenuity: Countdown to March 9 Eclipse
Graham Jones | Jakarta Globe | 19 January 2016

“If we could imagine a day prolonged for a lifetime, or nearly so, and that sunrise and sunset were rare events which happened but a few times to each of us, we should certainly be entranced by the beauty of the morning and evening tints. The golden rays of the morning are a fortune in themselves, but we too often overlook the loveliness of Nature because it is constantly before us.”

It is all too easy – as John Lubbock, a politician, naturalist and friend of Charles Darwin, pointed out in his 1892 book The Beauties of Nature – to take the sun for granted. The same can be said for the moon, “not only, next to the sun, by far the most beautiful, but also for us the most important of the heavenly bodies.”

Every now and then, however, rather like a teacher nudging a student dozing at the back of the classroom, Nature forces us to sit up and take notice. At 5:58 a.m. on Wednesday March 9, the sun will rise in Jakarta as always. But this will not be a routine morning. At 6:19 a.m. a small bite will appear at the top of the sun. It is the beginning of a solar eclipse, the moment astronomers refer to as first contact, when the moon begins to pass in front of the sun.

For Jay Pasachoff, a veteran of 61 eclipse expeditions, first contact is a very special moment. “As an astronomer,” notes Mark Littmann in Totality: Eclipses of the Sun, “he can more readily than most appreciate all the factors that go into predicting precisely when an eclipse will occur and exactly where on earth it will be seen. And when the call ‘first contact’ comes right on schedule, he always finds this ingenuity of mankind astounding.”

Over the course of the next hour, the small bite will grow steadily bigger until, at 7:21 a.m., nine-tenths of the sun’s disk will have disappeared. At this point, it is difficult not to think about the utterly terrifying effect eclipses must have had on mankind before they were properly understood and predicted. If we return to our classroom metaphor, this is not Nature giving the dozing student a nudge; rather, it is Nature slamming a heavy book down on the desk, and giving the poor student the fright of their life.

In Jakarta, 7:21 a.m. is the moment of maximum eclipse: after that, the moon will begin to uncover the sun, and the eclipse will end at 8:31 a.m. Yet in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago, things will become considerably more spectacular. Observers along a narrow corridor that runs through Palembang, Palangkaraya, Balikpapan, Palu and Ternate will see the moon cover the sun’s disk completely, and produce a total eclipse. This path of totality is just 100 to 150 kilometers wide and, depending on the observer’s precise location, totality will last anywhere from a few seconds to three minutes.

NASA’s eclipse web site has an interactive Google Map that shows the solar eclipse path.

Total eclipses provide an opportunity not only to be dazzled by the beauty of Nature, but to probe some of its mysteries. In 1919, for example, Arthur Eddington used an eclipse to test Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. With the moon turning the sky to darkness, Eddington was able to show that the mass of the sun was bending the light from nearby stars. This remains one of the most dramatic experiments in history, both in terms of the science and the international collaboration that made it possible: an English astronomer proving the theory of a German physicist, just a few months after the end of the first world war.

Today, scientists mostly use total eclipses for studying the solar corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, which is visible during totality as a luminous, silvery glow. On March 9, for example, a team of scientists and students from four American universities will be in Indonesia to test equipment for CATE, a citizen-science project that will use a fleet of 60 telescopes to study the solar corona during a 2017 eclipse in the continental United States.

Once again, this is a story of international collaboration as well as of science: American students from Western Kentucky University will be working with Indonesian students from Tadulako University in Palu to select and prepare sites for two of the CATE telescopes. This collaboration is being facilitated through a “Global Communication and Science” educational programme, which is being sponsored by Garuda Indonesia.

“Our students are excited about going to Palu and working alongside the Indonesian students,” says Richard Gelderman, a professor of physics and astronomy at Western Kentucky University. “We’re also hoping to be able to welcome the Indonesian students to the US in 2017, when the next total eclipse comes to Kentucky.”

Important safety note: NEVER observe a partial eclipse with the naked eye. Even if the sun is 99 percent covered by the moon, the remaining crescent is extremely bright and can cause permanent damage to the eye. (The only time it is safe to view an eclipse with the naked eye is during the few short minutes or seconds of totality during a total eclipse.)

There are two main ways to safely observe a partial eclipse (or the partial phases of a total eclipse). The first is by projection, which can be done very simply with two pieces of card: make a small hole in one card, and use it to project an upside-down image of the sun onto the other. You can experiment by changing the size of the hole, and the distance between the two pieces of card. NEVER look at the sun directly through the hole.

The second way is to use a specially designed solar filter, such as eclipse glasses or an eclipse viewer. Even when using solar filters, however, NEVER stare at the sun for long periods. NEVER use normal sunglasses, film or smoked glass, and NEVER use solar filters with binoculars or telescopes (unless it is a specialist telescope filter, and is placed on the front, sun-facing end of the instrument).


 

“Completely Off the Charts”: Indonesia Prepares for March 9 Eclipse

Jakarta-Globe

I’ve written a piece for the Jakarta Globe about next year’s total eclipse and our university workshops.


“Completely Off the Charts”: Indonesia Prepares for March 9 Eclipse
Graham Jones | Jakarta Globe | 19 November 2015
Image: Romeo Durscher

Nyepi – the Balinese Hindu New Year, and a public holiday for all Indonesians – coincides with the new moon of the spring equinox. In 2016 this will be a very special new moon, because it will produce one of the most spectacular things in nature: a total solar eclipse.

On Nyepi Day (Wednesday March 9th) the Earth, moon and sun will become perfectly aligned. The darkest part of the moon’s shadow, which is called the umbra, will strike the surface of the Earth, tracing a delicate line thousands of kilometres long – but just 100 to 150 kilometres wide. Anyone situated somewhere along this narrow path of totality will experience a total eclipse.

“On a scale of one to ten, a total eclipse is a million,” says Fred Espenak, a former NASA astrophysicist and a leading expert on solar and lunar eclipses. “It’s completely off the charts compared to any other astronomical event.”

The umbra will touch down at sunrise in the Indian Ocean, and travel eastwards. At 7:18am local time the umbra will hit the west coast of Sumatra. Seven minutes later it will reach Kalimantan; eleven minutes after that it arrives in Sulawesi. The umbra completes the overland sections of its journey a further 19 minutes later, when it leaves the east coast of North Maluku and heads out into the Pacific.

The largest city on the path of totality is Palembang, where the total eclipse will last just under two minutes. (Fun fact: Palembang also had a two-minute total eclipse during Nyepi in 1988.) Other major cities on the umbra’s route are Palangkaraya (where totality will last two and a half minutes), Balikpapan (one minute in the southern part of the city, less than that in the northern part), Palu (two minutes) and Ternate (two and a half minutes).

People in Jakarta will not experience a total eclipse, but they will (weather permitting) be able to see an 88 per cent partial eclipse. The show starts at 6:19am local time, when the sun is low on the eastern horizon. For the next two and a bit hours, until 8:31am, the moon will move slowly across the face of the sun, from top to bottom. The maximum eclipse will be at 7:21am – at that time, all that remains of the sun will be a thin crescent, the shape of a back-to-front letter C.

Important safety note: NEVER observe a partial eclipse with the naked eye. Even if the sun is 99 per cent covered by the moon, the remaining crescent is extremely bright and can cause permanent damage to the eye. (The only time it is safe to view an eclipse with the naked eye is during the few short minutes or seconds of totality during a total eclipse.)

There are two main ways to safely observe a partial eclipse (or the partial phases of a total eclipse). The first is by projection, which can be done very simply with two pieces of card: make a small hole in one card, and use it to project an upside-down image of the sun onto the other. You can experiment by changing the size of the hole, and the distance between the two pieces of card. NEVER look at the sun directly through the hole.

The second way is to use a specially designed solar filter, such as eclipse glasses or an eclipse viewer. Even when using solar filters, however, NEVER stare at the sun for long periods. NEVER use normal sunglasses, film or smoked glass, and NEVER use solar filters with binoculars or telescopes (unless it is a specialist telescope filter, and is placed on the front, sun-facing end of the instrument).

There will be events held across the Indonesian archipelago to mark the eclipse. One of the most ambitious will be a series of “Global Communication and Science” workshops that I am running with Tadulako University in Palu. Based on the idea that an eclipse creates a unique and powerful ‘learning moment’, the workshops will focus on astronomy, science and English-language communication skills; they will also bring together students in Indonesia and Japan for a series of online, cross-border teamworking activities.

“More than 3,000 scientists from around the world will be coming to Palu to observe the eclipse,” explains Marsetyo Marsetyo, the head of the international office at Tadulako University. “For two minutes on the morning of March 9th, Palu will be the centre of the scientific world. So this really is a golden opportunity for our students to think about global communication and science.”

The workshops are being supported by Garuda Indonesia as part of the company’s community development programme. “Education is a key part of our commitment to corporate social responsibility,” says Fikdanel Thaufik, a Garuda Indonesia vice-president. “We are delighted to be supporting this project, which will build bridges between students in Indonesia and Japan, and help students to become more effective global citizens.”

The next total eclipse visible from Indonesia will come on April 20th 2023, when the path of totality will cross through a sparsely populated region of West Papua.


 

Solar eclipse workshops

This is an “under-two-minute version” of a presentation at ATEM Nishi-Nihon (Osaka Institute of Technology, Umekita Knowledge Center) about my Global Communication and Science workshops.

This year’s conference highlights included Chitoshi Motoyama (Kyoto University of Foreign Studies) on Walt Disney, America and hyperrealism; Aya Luckel-Semoto (Kyoto University) on what “Finding Nemo” and “Pierrot Le Poisson Clown” can teach students about the complexities of plagiarism; and Walter Klinger (my colleague at the University of Shiga Prefecture) on the rhyme that never was in “Frozen”…

Congratulations to Yasushi Nakano, a teacher at Hyogo Prefectural Naruo High School, who won the prize I gave away during my presentation: a Principia mission patch :)


VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Solar eclipses have always provided ‘teachable moments’.

Two and a half millennia ago, a solar eclipse that had been predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales stopped a battle between the Medes and Lydians.

More recently, Tintin used an eclipse to escape from a South American tribe.

Back in the real world, in 1919, Arthur Eddington travelled to the equatorial island of Príncipe to record a total eclipse, and demonstrate that – in accordance with Einstein’s general theory of relativity – the light from stars is bent by the mass of the sun.

An English astronomer, proving the theory of a German physicist, just a few months after the end of the first world war, is one of the great examples of how science truly is a global enterprise.

And this same idea – that science is a unifying force that can bring together people from different parts of the world – is the basis of a project I’m running next year with Tadulako University in Indonesia.

The theme of the project is the solar eclipse of March 9th 2016, which will be a partial eclipse across a large area of Asia and Australia, and a total eclipse in some parts of Indonesia.

We’re running a series of “Global Communication and Science” workshops, that mix astronomy and English-language skills, and connect university students in Indonesia and Japan online for cross-border teamworking activities – including read-throughs of science-fiction movies.

The project is being sponsored by Garuda Indonesia. For more info, please visit tensentences.com.

Language and science workshops

“A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.”
Leonard Nimoy (The Simpsons: Season 4, Episode 12)

At two forthcoming presentations I’ll be talking about a series of Global Communication and Science workshops I’m running next year with Tadulako University and Garuda Indonesia.

Solar-eclipse
Image: Romeo Durscher

The workshops, which are being held to mark the solar eclipse of March 9th 2016, are a mixture of science, astronomy and movie read-through activities. The project will also give university students in Indonesia and Japan the opportunity to collaborate in online, cross-border teams.

Coming soon…

  • ATEM Nishi-Nihon Conference
    November 14th 2015, Osaka Institute of Technology, Umekita Knowledge Center

Student Voices

The neuroELT movement is growing! This year has seen the formation of the JALT BRAIN SIG, the first neuroELT-based MA dissertations (by Rick Eller and Takashi Uemura), and two amazing FAB conferences in the Philippines. Meanwhile, FAB8 – a two-and-a-half day conference at Kyoto Sangyo University that finished yesterday – featured speakers from 12 countries, plus one of the mega-stars from the field of Mind, Brain and Education: Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa.

FAB8 also put the focus on the students; the conference featured these fantastic “Student Voice” videos (below) produced by students at Kyoto Sangyo University and Kansai University. Students answer questions ranging from “What kind of lecture motivates you?” to “What makes me fall asleep in class is…”

Above: Kyoto Sangyo University
Below: Kansai University

“We have to get out of this”

A ginormous ‘thank you’ to two BRILLIANT English teachers who became two AMAZING test pilots!

Monica Sampaio de Lacerda from Brazil and Wynn Nguyen from Vietnam bravely agreed to take part in our first ever “SkypeRead” read-through of the 8-minute sci-fi movie “Exit Log”.

Exit Log 1

The results of our ‘test flight’ were spectacular… Monica and Wynn totally became Amy and Hannah – “How could this happen?” – and they followed up the read-through with a tremendously stimulating and insightful discussion about the complexities of the characters and the story. I learned a lot – a very sincere ‘thank you’ again to Monica and Wynn!

An academic pow-wow, a pedagogical rendezvous…

ATEM_2015

“Er, guys, I think I’ve just deleted all our slides…” From right to left: Martin Stack, Shiho Matsumi and me at the 2015 ATEM National Convention.


Professor Makoto “Max” Kurata, the ebullient president of the Association for Teaching English through Movies (ATEM), called it both an “academic pow-wow” and a “pedagogical rendezvous”… My University of Shiga Prefecture colleague Martin Stack, our wonderful student Shiho Matsumi and I had a great time at the ATEM National Convention last week (7th August 2015, Kyoto Women’s University).

We were presenting “Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes” (you can read the abstract here), which looked at how the framework of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” can be applied to the adventure of learning a foreign language. Shiho summed things up brilliantly with this perfect real-life example:

“In my case, I will leave the normal life to study abroad in five days at Northern Michigan University. I am going to start my journey. I believe that I can come back to usual life as a different person from now.”

Some of the 2015 conference highlights included:

  • Professor Tadayuki Hayashi, the president of Kyoto Women’s University, who gave a powerful opening speech, remarking on the significance of the conference being held in this month, of this year, with a large visiting contingent from Korea (the splendid folks from ATEM’s sister organisation, STEM)
  • Professor Koji Morinaga (Doshisha University), whose presentation on the development of reading materials covered no less than 15 movies – possibly an ATEM record!
  • Dr Mijin Im (Kookmin University), who used some highly entertaining clips from “Modern Family” to outline a three-step-approach for activating long-term memory (based on constructing-a-storyline activities)
  • Dr Carl Boland (Japan Center for Michigan Universities), who demonstrated how the work of the French film scholar Michel Chion – on textual speech, theatrical speech and emanation speech – can be applied to the ESL classroom
  • Professor Takahiro Ono, whose keynote address on the groundbreaking Bi-language Simultaneous Learning programme at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies was absolutely fascinating. (Yes, Bi-language Simultaneous Learning does mean learning two foreign languages at the same time!)

“Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes”

Martin Stack (my co-conspirator at the University of Shiga Prefecture), Shiho Matsumi (one of our brilliant students) and I will be presenting “Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes” at the national convention of the Association for Teaching English through Movies (Kyoto Women’s University, 7th August 2015).

The keynote presentation at the convention will be “Bi-language Simultaneous Learning with the Aid of Movies” by Professor Takahiro Ono, a longtime friend of the legendary Noam Chomsky. We’re also really looking forward to “Character Speech in the Movies: A Sound Design Perspective” by our Shiga neighbour, the amazing Dr Carl Boland.

ATEM-logo

“Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes”

In 1949 Joseph Campbell published “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, in which he aimed to “uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself. The old teachers knew what they were saying.” Campbell identified the fundamental stages in “the adventure of the hero”, and his work has been a huge influence on story-tellers – and movie-makers in particular – ever since.

In this presentation we will explain why we think the Hero’s Journey is a powerful model for the adventure of learning a foreign language. We will also explain how, with very kind support from the writer, director and producer Wes Anderson, we have gone about applying it.

We are involved in two projects that use movies and games as way to develop a range of “21st-century skills”. One of these projects is SkypeRead, which brings non-native speakers from all over the world together, via Skype, to do read-throughs of movie scripts; the other is the WoW-EPIC, which takes students into the language-rich world of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (see “Developing Language and Cross-Cultural Communication Skills via Movie Read-Throughs and MMORPGs”, ATEM Journal, Vol 20).

This year we have re-designed these projects around the framework of the Hero’s Journey, using a 12-point cycle that begins and ends in “the ordinary world”, and crosses over into “the special world”. The 12 points of the cycle are: status quo; call to and refusal of adventure; assistance; departure; trials; approach; crisis; treasure; result; return; new life; resolution.

We are also very fortunate to have received support from Wes Anderson, who has given us the script for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) to use as part of the project. Based on the Roald Dahl children’s story, this stop-motion animation movie takes a uniquely fun and thought-provoking approach to the Hero’s Journey.

FOX: Who am I, Kylie?
KYLIE: Who how? What, now?
FOX: Why a fox? Why not a horse or a beetle or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more like as existentialism, you know? Who am I, and how can a fox ever be happy without a — forgive the expression — chicken in its teeth?
KYLIE: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds illegal.
FOX: Here, put this bandit hat on.