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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seasons of the Years


We've been watching Game of Thrones, where summers and winters last for years. Except, how do you know? Isn't that how you measure a year? By the passage of seasons? If summer ends, and winter comes and goes, and now it's summer again, isn't that one year? So how do these Game of Throne players know how long a year is? Possibly they have some other method of measuring time, like counting days (except it's always dark during the winter), or cords of wood burnt, or number of deer consumed at the dinner table. I suppose they might have some more sophisticated method of measuring time, but given that none of the characters in this story have any interest outside of eff-ing and fighting, it doesn't seem likely. Lives of nerds don't make for dramatic stories.
     Or it could be like Methuslah in the Bible, who seemed to confuse years with months. If you are living in the tropics I can see how it would be hard to measure the passage of a year, all seasons are pretty much the same: hot. A month though, that's pretty easy to tell, just look at the moon. The moon is pretty reliable. Moon - month, think there might be a connection between those two words?
    But here we are talking about events on Saturn and we are using our own Earth-centric time system. A year on Saturn lasts 30 Earth years. Axial tilt is 26.73°  which is pretty close to Earth's own tilt of 23.5°, so Saturn has seasons much like Earth does, just much longer. Winter would last for seven or eight years, just like it does in Game of Thrones. Could it be that Game of Thrones takes place on Saturn? No, don't be silly, the people would have to be a hundred times as strong, breath ammonia, and be able to see in the dark. I mean, Saturn is a long way from the sun. Here on Earth the sun at arm's length appears to be about an inch in diameter. Out around Saturn, the sun would look like a BB.
   Anyway, winter is over in the Northern hemisphere of Saturn, the long night at the North pole is over and we can now see what's there, and what's there looks like a hurricane. That's good, some kind of familiar natural phenomena, not aliens with advanced technology. That hexagon thing though, that is mighty suspicious looking. That could be aliens. Just for reference, Saturn is 75,000 miles in diameter, about nine times the diameter of Earth.
    One last item, Andy claims there is no ocean beneath the hurricane, but how does he know? He hasn't been there. He's one of them scientist type guys who cook up explanations for stuff you can't see. Talk to other people, and they say there is an ocean down there:
This is surrounded by a thicker liquid  metallic hydrogen  layer, followed by a liquid layer of helium-saturated  molecular hydrogen  ...
 It's not a water ocean, but that wouldn't do you any good anyway, the sun would be too dim to be able to get any kind of tan.

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