Wednesday, August 16, 2017

No, The Eclipse Won't Poison Your Food And Won't Mean You're About To Die

If you haven't heard that a total solar eclipse is going to cross the United States on Monday you really have been living under a rock.
No weird space aliens or anything are going to
get you during the eclipse, so relax

Everyone who has seen such an eclipse says it's just an amazing experience as the darkness descends. It is otherworldly, and probably for some a little scary. That's understandable.

What isn't quite as understandable is the beliefs some people still hold about eclipses. NASA felt compelled to put out a fact sheet to debunk some popular theories as to what might happen.

For one, you won't go blind during the eclipse, unless you insist on looking directly at the sun as the eclipse unfolds.  Some people apparently think blindness happens just if you're in the path of it, ignoring all the people who remained just fine and eagle-eyed after they experienced an eclipse.

Then there are wackier notions. An eclipse is really just a shadow. The moon gets in the way of the sun, so you can't see it, and things go dark. It's that simple.

So, no, there won't be any strange, dangerous radioactive or cosmic rays killing us, poisoning our food if you prepare it during an eclipse, or killing your fetus if you are pregnant. So fix that sandwich during the eclipse and if you're a mother-to-be, go out and look at the event. Your kid is going to be fine.

I can understand that in ancient times, before we understood what eclipses are, that people would think the world is ending, or that something bad was about to happen. After all, who'd expect to be out on a sunny day and then the  sun suddenly decides to gradually fade to black. Pretty weird, huh?

Still, a few people nowadays have a bad experience shortly after an eclipse and think the celestial event caused it. When really the bad experience was just random bad luck.

So no, if you get sick after the eclipse, it's probably because you used spoiled mayonnaise when you made that sandwich during the eclipse.

Eclipse paths are random, and some areas over time have seen them more often than others. Here in Vermont, the last total eclipse hit parts of the state in 1932. A total eclipse is scheduled for northern Vermont in 2024.

Which means a corner of northeastern Vermont will have seen a total eclipse twice within a century.

However, as I listened to VPR yesterday, I learned the poor city of Rutland, Vermont keeps missing the path of total eclipse.

Rutland last had a total eclipse in the 1300s and won't have one again until the 2300s. So about 1,000 years.

Sorry, Rutvegas.

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