Playing Timpani on the Fourth of July!

Here’s a picture of my daughter Lexi and her friend Connor trying out our new timpani (kettle drums) during our Fourth of July cookout. New timpani? In the back yard? Does this require a little explanation?

Last Sunday, Allysen was scanning our town email list, and she came across an unusual item: Things being discarded during clean-out of old school building, including this, that, and two kettle drums. “Do we want kettle drums?” she asked me. “Why not?” I said, and we hopped into the trusty Ranger to go take a look. Sure enough, two old but serviceable-looking copper kettle drums were beside the dumpster. Soon thereafter, they were in our back yard.

I played snare and bass drum (and clarinet) in my high school marching band, but I haven’t played any kind of drum since then. Maybe it’s not too late! These didn’t come with any sticks or mallets, so I popped into our neighborhood drum store. The owner, having worked with the schools, knew all about these drums. He said they were good ones (if in need of some repair to the base of one), and he made a call to confirm for me that they had indeed been put out for anyone to take. He was sold out of mallets, unfortunately, but the local guitar store had some that would do for now.

And so, for the Fourth of July, I called upon our guests to hum the melody of the theme to 2001, while I expertly (?) played the prominent timpani part: Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Maybe a new career for me?

Next challenge: See if we can fit them through the door into the basement!

Larry Predicts a Red Nova in 2022

I was just reading in Astronomy Magazine that astronomers have predicted that a binary pair of stars will merge into one in 2022, and set off an explosion called a red nova, similar to this image of V838 Monocerotis, from the Hubble space telescope. It’ll be as bright as the North Star, and last for up to six months. That’s a pretty striking prediction, and not the sort of prediction astronomers usually make. (More here.) But here’s the thing…

I was most of the way through the article when I went, Wait—who? I scrolled back up to read again, who’s being quoted here. I wasn’t seeing things—it’s Lawrence Molnar of Calvin College in Michigan. Way to go, Larry! Larry Molnar and his wife Cindy are friends from way back, having lived right above us for several years right after Allysen and I got married. We went to the same church; we exchanged babysitting. He was my first consultant on the question of how one could theoretically set off a supernova (From a Changeling Star), and he introduced me to other consultants at Center for Astrophysics at Harvard. We also made a snow dog together (modeled on Sam, our first border collie mix), back in the 1980s.

Larry, Snow-Sam, Jeff

This is cool. I’m going to be watching, Larry, to see if it happens on time.

Curly and Moe were not mentioned as participants in the study.*

*Sorry. That’s the only part of this post that’s an April Fools joke. The rest is real.