Sunday, July 29, 2007

Once upon a time, 3

Not so long ago, there were some very fine cliffs overlooking the sea. On the cliffs lived a chough with a mind full of keen observations and lovely red legs like stalks of coral, neither of which she knew about.

In the sea and rocks below, there lived an otter who was an amateur astronomer. She kept her telescope and an increasingly chaotic collection of back issues of Astronomy under a rock.

The chough and the otter were great friends. They liked to talk about everything under the sun. The otter cracked crab claws and talked about Mars, and the chough stalked around beautifully, like a feathery fragment of night in the sunshine, and worried about things. I just don't know, she said. Life is so mysterious.

That's true, agreed the otter, lying on her back and combing her tummy-fur.

I don't know how to do it, said the chough.

What? said the otter, opening and shutting her nostrils.

Life, said the chough. The answers are all hiding. It's like the dark side of the moon.

The otter polished her nose. Did you know that the moon wiggles a bit? It's called libration. Over time, you can see 59% of the moon's surface from the Earth.

The chough put her head to one side. Really? she said.

Yes, said the otter. You can see more than you can't.

Moral: Sometimes gravity is working for you.

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