Sunday, May 23, 2004

Moon milk and music

My sister had a present for Helena, a book I'd espied earlier this month.

(It reminds us both of a book from my own childhood,
Wiersze dla Kaji, by Joanna Kulmowa and illustrated by Janusz Grabianski. Full of whimsy and wonder, text and illustrations both.)

Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes, is utterly charming. Henkes has the inspired notion that Kitten sees the round white moon as the ultimate bowl of milk.

The review in The New York Times describes the flavour of the drawings. "Henkes uses the advantages of today's printing technology with care and a well-disciplined eye."

The pictures are creamy and dreamy. The text is simple and repetitive (in a good way). And there's a kitten!

The book is a hit with Helena. Repeatedly she offered it up to my sister and urged to be sat on her lap and read to. Helena sat rapt for the whole story. Twice.

I was jealous. Why would Helena sit still for my sister but not me? What was I doing wrong? To my relief, Helena's reading habits soon returned to squirmy normal. But she's improving every week.

Helena's enunciation is also much improved. We have "cheek," "down," "babcia" (grandmother), "ciocia" (aunt), "delicious," and "Where do you think you're going with that?"

J-F meanwhile is becoming an expert astronomer, to help Helena with her astronaut studies.

The universe is 156 billion light-years wide! (I think they mean in diameter.)

There's ice on Mercury.

What do you do with a piece of the Moon?

Brian Greene talks about life, the universe, and everything — and string theory — in interview at The Atlantic Online.

Inside an electron, inside a quark, inside any particle that you've ever heard of, there is something else. It's a little filament, a little filament of vibrating energy. It kind of looks like a tiny, tiny vibrating string, which is why we call the theory "string theory." The wonderful idea is that in the same way the string on a violin can vibrate in different patterns, which our ears would hear as different musical notes, these little strings in string theory also can vibrate in different patterns. They don't produce different notes, however; they produce the different particles. So an electron is the string vibrating one way. A quark would be a string vibrating a different way. It's kind of like a music of the spheres injected into the microscopic makeup of the universe.

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