September 25 – Kamarampaka Day

Posted on September 25, 2017

Today is the anniversary of the abolishment, in 1961, of the Rwandan monarchy.

Here are some interesting things about Rwanda:

  • People only eat meat once or twice a month. Today might be an important enough day to warrant a meal with meat!

  • More than half of all meals eaten in Rwanda include sweet potatoes, and about half include beans of some sort. 

  • A special day might warrant beer made of a cereal grain called sorghum. Instead of each person drinking beer getting his or her own glass of beer, a large pot is placed in the center of the room with multiple straws.
  • Rwanda is called the "Land of the Thousand Hills." Lovely: 

  • Rwanda is a colorful place. Check out Rwanda in blues, greens, pinks, and multi-colors:

  • Rwanda is known for its wonderful animals:

Also on this date:

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September 24 – Anniversary of the Failed Attack on Lomé in Togo

Posted on September 24, 2017

Lomé is the capital of the West African nation of Togo.

On this date in 1986, about 50 men attacked a military barracks that served as the home of the then-President of Togo.

They must surely have been trying to either kill or capture President Eyadéma Gnassingbé, but instead security forces captured the dissidents (which means people who try to revolt against a government). Of course, some of the attackers as well as some civilians were killed in the attack.

It seems strange to me to celebrate the anniversary of a failed attack, but perhaps the president wanted to remind his people that attacks against him will fail?

You see, President Gnassingbé was a dictator. He was a military general, and he swooped in with armed forces and grabbed power, named himself president, and ruled over Togo for 38 years! 

Gnassingbé died in 2005, but now his son rules and rules and rules. This son has held elections, but every time he wins his opponents complain that the election was rigged - and given the fact that political opponents are often killed, it seems very likely to be true.

Hopefully someday Togo will enjoy democracy.

In the meantime, let's enjoy a bit of Togo:

Lac Togo (Togo Lake)

The Atlantic coast

Markets in Lomé

You know I love waterfalls - and Togo has some nice ones!

Also on this date:

September 23 – Valuable and Not-so-valuable Astronomical Observations

Posted on September 23, 2017

Today is a very special day, according to people who have been watching the planets and the stars carefully:

It's the end of the world!

Wait - what?

Some Christian numerologists have been claiming that either the Rapture or the Apocalypse or the beginning of the end or The End is going to occur today - and they say that the reason for their prediction is that there was a solar eclipse, a hurricane, and a flood from the hurricane.

Never mind that there have been lots of lots of solar eclipses, hurricanes, and floods. In this case, they say, the dates of these events go along with a bit of prophecy from the Bible. 

Never mind that you can probably find SOME sort of eclipse and huge storm and flood, somewhere in the world, on any given date of any given year. It's not like the Bible specified that the eclipse would be seen in the United States and that the city of Houston would be flooded!

The numerologists also claim as support for their prediction an alignment of planets and constellations that match a Biblical prophecy. The Moon, Sun, and Jupiter will all be in the constellation Virgo.

Never mind that this occurs every 12 years.

They claim that, before being "in" the constellation Virgo, the Sun will be in the constellation Leo along with Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

Apparently the two alignments don't occur together all that often - but they have happened four times in the last 1,000 years, so the coincidence certainly isn't unheard of. The numerologists, of course, claim that it is unprecedented - that it has never happened before.

Naturally, most Christians don't believe all these claims and are warning other Christians not to hang their faith on what are basically conspiracy theorists.

On this date in 1846, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovered the planet Neptune. 

Now that we have built space probes that
can take up-close photos of planets, we
know what Neptune looks like.

But when Galle first spotted Neptune, it just looked
like a faint star among hundreds of other stars!

Galle was looking for Neptune in the region of the sky predicted by French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier. The third scientist who gets credit for Neptune's discovery is British mathematician and astronomer John Couch Adams, who also tried to compute the orbit of Neptune and who also predicted its location. His prediction was a bit farther off from reality than was Le Verrier's, but at the time there was consensus among astronomers that both deserved credit for the discovery of a new planet.

The fourth person on this poster, Heinrich d'Arrest, was
a German astronomer who made a suggestion to Galle
that helped Galle spot Neptune.

Science tends to be a very cooperative activity. Lots of people
get at least some credit in making discoveries!

Now, here's the interesting thing - I was talking about Christian numerologists making predictions, earlier, and now I am talking about mathematicians and astronomers making predictions.

These two uses of the word prediction are totally different creatures! 

Numerologists look for divine (god-related) or magical relationships between numbers and events. Because a lot of numerologists start with the idea that they want to show a relationship between X idea and Y number, they are often able to build a case that looks pretty good - if you don't think about it too hard.

But when numerologists make an actual prediction - you know, a prediction about the future - like the current prediction that world will end today - they are pretty much always wrong. They are basing their prediction on only religious or mystical ideas, so it's not surprising that they are always wrong.

The mathematicians and astronomers who predicted the existence and orbit of Neptune were working with theories of planetary motion that had been worked out in the early 1600s by Johannes Kepler and explained by Sir Isaac Newton in the late 1600s. For more than two centuries, scientists had been able to test those theories and make correct predictions about planet's orbits and the positions of the Sun and the Moon.

Indeed, the numerologists themselves use those theories to know when the Sun or Moon or particular planet is going to be in a particular constellation. The correct predictions of science were used without too much thought; they wasted all of their intelligence on trying to figure out mystical connections between dates and Bible verses and ... well, all of that stuff that doesn't end up being true.

Still, you may be wondering how the planetary motion theory (known as Kepler's Laws) helped Galle, Le Verrier, and Adams to discover a planet.

Well, as scientists observed Uranus, a planet that had been accidentally discovered some years before, they realized that their predictions of its orbit didn't quite match its observed orbit. Something seemed to be tugging at it. Something big.

A planet X?

Adams and Le Verrier (each not knowing about the other's work) took the careful measurements and observations of astronomers and went to work trying to compute the size, distance, and orbit of the unknown planet that could cause the perturbations of Uranus's orbit.

And that's how Galle knew where to look, and what to look for. 

This makes me grin all over again, because one of the Christian prophets-of-doom (a man named David Meade) predicted that today we will see for the first time another Planet X, which Meade sometimes calls Planet X but other times calls Nibiru (not sure where he got that name). Meade says that it will appear in our skies today, and it will pass quite closely to our planet in October, causing enormous volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. 

 Again, don't sweat the predictions that are based on absolutely nothing. Instead, look to science for predictions that work!

Also on this date:

(4th Saturday in September)

(4th Saturday in September)

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