Yesterday evening Laura and I headed to to Furman to observe the transit of Venus, as the planet made its way across the surface of the sun. This astronomical event happens every 120 years, and occurs in pairs, separated by 8 years. The last transit was in 2004, and the next one won’t be until 2117.
It didn’t look like the weather was going to cooperate. Heavy clouds obscured the sun, but there were enough breaks to make at least a momentary observation a possibility. So, we made our way down to the central quad area of the Townes Science Center at Furman, where Dr. David Moffat had two telescopes set up, and where others were gathering.
Continue reading “There’s a little black spot on the sun today…”
Wednesday evening is normally our night to watch Ghost Hunters. This evening, however, we decided to hunt for our own ghosts. Specifically, we were after the elusive Blue Ghost Firefly, Phausis reticulata.
Blue ghost fireflies only glow during mating season, and are only found in isolated areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both the males and females give off a constant bluish glow, unlike the fireflies in our area, which pulse on a regular basis. The males hover about head-height off of the forest floor, while the pale, wingless females glow along the bottom of the forest. The effect is mesmerizing, as these bluish orbs float through the woods.
The fireflies have a very limited range. They are found in undisturbed forested areas, often in the Smokey Mountains and in Dupont State Forest in North Carolina. Continue reading “In Search of Blue Ghosts”
Three seemingly unrelated tales of environmental misunderstanding…
When I was playing disc golf at Furman Sunday afternoon I noticed something unusual. There were weeds everywhere and the place looked badly overgrown. This was most noticeable around several of the park benches and picnic tables around the lake.
Furman usually keeps immaculate grounds. Not a blade of grass is left too long, nor leaf left to clutter the green grass. With students returning and so many families on campus, I couldn’t understand why things were left like this. I figured cut-backs on maintenance were much greater than I had thought.
When I got home and mentioned this to Laura, she set me straight. This is part of Furman’s sustainability program, and the intent is to let portions of the lake shoreline return to a more “natural state.” Of course, one of my fellow alumni and Facebook friends pointed out that this is a man-made lake, so how could it be natural. My reply was that it probably focuses on saving fuel by not cutting down the weeds.
I was only partially correct. What looks like weeds to me are actually carefully selected natural plants, following an extensive landscaping plan. The plan is to create a wildflower meadow along the banks. While the flowers aren’t in bloom, they do look like weeds.
Continue reading “Sustainability, Greenability, and Misunderstandings”
Back last spring Furman University put up an official disc golf course. Sunday was a beautiful (albeit, hot) day, so I decided to spend the afternoon playing a round.
As a student here a quarter of a century ago we played quite a lot of Frisbee golf. We used standard-sized Frisbees (there was no other brand) and picked a target for our next hole, be it a tree, bench, or hapless passer-by. Then we would estimate how many throws it would take to get there, and that would be our par. It was informal, but it worked.
Furman took its first steps toward an official course about fifteen years ago. This first venture was wasn’t much more than what we had done when I was a student. A map was drawn up indicating which objects (again, mostly trees) would be used as targets. The course wound around the mall and PAC building, for the most part.
A few years ago there was an attempt to create a true course on campus, but for whatever reason, that didn’t go through. Finally, in February of this year it was announced that the course would be built. Continue reading “Disc Golf at Furman”
It’s been a busy weekend. First there was the dedication for the new Townes Science Center at Furman on Friday, then there was a birthday party for my mother’s 80th birthday on Saturday. The Townes Science Center is named for Charles Hard Townes, Nobel Prize winner for his pioneering work on maser and laser technology. … Continue reading Dedications and Birthdays
It’s hard to believe the years have passed so quickly. This weekend was Homecoming at Furman, and my 25th Reunion. There seems to be a core group of my classmates that attend these reunions. This wasn’t really the group I hung out with while at Furman, and my friends have been spread out over several years, so we have tended to do our own thing at various Homecoming reunions.
Since this was a biggie, though, Laura and I decided to do the entire thing, and had tickets for a cookout Friday night, breakfast Saturday morning, a luncheon, then a reunion dinner in the evening. My friend Dwight was coming up Friday to spend the night with us and join in the activities. In addition to our 25th reunion, this year marks 50 years that Furman has been located on its present campus. There was much to celebrate, and lots of events planned.
Continue reading “Class of ’83 25th Reunion”
My photo collage, Elements, was hung in the Furman Chemistry offices just in time for the Homecoming weekend. It turned out very well, and black and white was the appropriate choice for the rich red wall on which it’s hanging. We had a time getting this thing framed. Each of the photos is 13″ X … Continue reading Elements at Furman
Over the weekend Laura told me that they were looking for artwork for the new Chemistry Department offices. Furman has completed a renovation of Plyler Hall, which is now part of the Townes Science Center on campus. The Chemistry Department has large blank walls that are just begging for some artwork. Laura suggested something semi-abstract dealing with the classical elements, so I thought I would see what I could create. The image above is the result. Continue reading “The Elements”
This is the “Year of Science” at Furman, and many activities have been planned to highlight the sciences, including dedication of the new Townes Center for Science later this season. One of the activities is a production of Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” at the Furman Playhouse. We (and about half of the chemistry faculty) went to … Continue reading Copenhagen @ Furman
Air Force One arrived at Greenville Spartanburg Airport Saturday evening and the presidential motorcade made its way through Greenville to Furman for commencement. Roads were blocked, and the citizens of our city came out to try to get a glimpse. Some waved flags. Some held signs of various types. One paragraph from the Greenville News … Continue reading The Shrub Comes to Furman, Part Two