241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

Read the most recent articles, or mail the editorial team to contribute.

Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Analemma Over New Jersey

What is the Analemma?
Well, it is certainly best understood over time, so, first, let's start with THE EQUATION OF TIME. A mathematical construct with a fantastically ambitious name, The Equation of Time is used to find the LOCATION of the sun in the sky on a specific day, at a specific time, at a specific location. It looks like this:

The Equation of Time is, more simply, the DIFFERENCE between the time on a sundial and the time on a clock. Of course the sundial came before the mechanical clock so one way to think of this difference is simply as the past trying to sync up with the future, or how much faster or slower tomorrow should be than today or yesterday.

Got it?
Not yet.

This discrepancy between solar time (sundial) and mean time (clock) is due to two primary factors -- ECCENTRICITY and OBLIQUITY. The earth does not orbit the sun in a precise circle, but instead in an ellipse. it travels faster at some points than others -- this is its eccentricity. The earth's axis does not run directly 90 degrees, but rather it is tilted (23 degrees) which causes the earth's rotation to be like a top -- this is its obliquity.
These two conditions result in the difference that is expressed by The Equation of Time as TWO COMPETING SINE WAVES, one with a period of one year, and one with half of that. The difference over the course of one year between SOLAR and MEAN time can be up to 30 minutes. The earth's eccentricity produces A SINE WAVE WITH A PERIOD OF ONE YEAR. Its OBLIQUITY produces ASECOND SINE WAVE, BUT WITH A PERIOD OF ONE HALF-YEAR.


The result of these two competing sine waves, with differing periods of repeat is is a recurring figure eight, which draws itself in the sky OVER THE COURSE OF ONE YEAR as the two sine waves fall into and out of phase -- This is the Analemma.

So. . .

If you take a photograph of the sun in the sky at the same time of day over the course of the year from a fixed camera, and composite the images, this is what you get:

Analemma Over New Jersey
Got it?
Sunni Williams
Sunni Williams

One aim in life yet to fulfil - while ignoring its true feasibility - is to travel through space. The thought of floating in the vacuum and being something trifling in comparison to the black endlessness, where the earth is just the size of a marble, just blows my mind. I would love to know what a front crawl would feel like. Would I be able to write my name in the air with ketchup if I'm just swift enough?

However, an interview with Suni Williams put me right back on earth. Williams is an American astronaut who served two space missions for the International Space Station for over a year. In an interview with the BBC she told how daily life in space can be made bearable. What mattered most was to keep everything as ´regular´ as possible. She brushed her hair daily just as she would do at home, not that it mattered if it really looked good. She brought memorabilia with her, such as a pluche version of her Jack Russell terrier, and marshmallow cream so she could make what has been her favourite snack since she was a child.

But she also told that from such a distance - while trying to keep a daily life in space - issues on earth became trivial. Politics became less significant, and she felt more human than American. Not the news itself but the people concerning the issues became prominent in her thinking. This change of view together with the impact of daily life made me realise what works of art can sometimes achieve. They can be dissected into daily matters - which materials are being used, what is being depicted, what size it is and all the other (physical) proporties you would like to acknowledge. And at the same time - all of a sudden - you can be surrounded by a cocoon that holds you in safe zone from which you can behold phenomena from a distance. Launched into the air, unmarred by resistance, thoughts can be given space to wander. What really does really matter to me and what is of no concern at all? Who am I on this small crumb in a time span hardly worth mentioning? Sometimes thoughts jet by like a wind tunnel, sometimes they introduce themselves neatly one after the other like a job application. And then again you are kindly put back on the soil by the ordinariness of a projector or clay that makes sure you don't drift towards endlessness. You need the earthly and daily matters to survive from a distance and to overview the earth.

Maybe it will become affordable somewhere in the near future to do space travel and, on the way to the red planet, truly see the world for what it is, with my favorite shirt functioning as a reminder of the ´ordinary´. Until then I will settle for less, with James Turrell as my co-pilot.

Original interview with the BBC