Mad Teddy's "Giant leaps are what you take...?" page

Mad Teddy's web-pages

"Giant leaps are what you take...?"

On Friday, 2nd February 2007, there was a full moon. On that day, and also on the preceding two days, I took some photographs from my front steps.

This photo was taken on Wednesday, 31st January. I deliberately took it from a position which
makes the moon look like a plasma ball being ejected from the hydro pole, just for a chuckle.

The next evening, 1st February, it was getting dark as the moon rose a little later (as it is wont to do
from one day to the next). On this occasion, I made a point of positioning it behind the hydro pole.

This time, on 2nd February, the moon really was full - and rose into an almost completely dark sky.

That's about the best I can do with my old Sony Mavica camera! I don't have the right gear to take really impressive astronomical shots - unlike the person who took the one below, found on this Wikipedia page:

(If you'd like to see some absolutely stunning photos of the moon - many involving spectacular special effects - click here.)

This page uploaded on Thursday, 8th February 2007

UPDATE: Sunday, 18th February, 2007


- and the moon is new, so that it's pretty much invisible.

Click here to see a website which has quite a lot of information about how Chinese New Year is observed. Also, here is a page which leads to delightful pages about the significance of the twelve animal symbols in the Chinese zodiac.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 20th February, 2007

I've spent a bit of time hunting on the web for a suitable graphic to put into this page to show the current phase of the moon. I've found one that works OK on my clunky old Windows 95 / Netscape 4.01 computer. Here it is:

This is a "hot-link" to a picture which is provided on a US Navy website and updated every four hours. Generally, it's considered "bad netiquette" to include hot-links in web-pages; but I've seen this link on several sites, so I gather that it's OK to do it in this case. (I did try to send an email to check, but it "bounced" - so in the absence of any advice to the contrary, the link can stay! )

UPDATE, Friday, 13th June 2008

I'm disappointed to note that the "moon-phase" link (above) seems to have disappeared! I've had a bit of a hunt around on the web to see if it's moved to a different location, without success. (Other web-pages which include the link have the same problem as this one, of course.) Its URL - when it used to work - was .

If you know what's happened to it, and have a kind heart, I wonder if you'd mind contacting me to let me know? In the meantime, the link can still stay, in the hope that it may "pop up" again at some stage.

UPDATE, Wednesday, 9th July 2008

That US Navy page (and some other good US Navy pages also, apparently!) have disappeared, without as yet showing any signs of returning. It's a pity, because there was some really excellent material there. However, while trying to track down what's happened to them, I've run across this web-page:

- which shows the phases of the moon for each day of the current calendar month, with the option of showing similar data for other months. Simple, effective, and well worth a look.

(If I find out any more about the missing US Navy material, I'll post the results here.)

UPDATE, Sunday, 16th November 2008

Well, now - here's a treat! I happened to revisit this page just a few hours ago, and I was delighted to see that the US Navy's "moon phase" link has made a comeback - along with other pages that had disappeared previously. [No doubt you've already noticed that, and are probably wondering what all the fuss is about - unless it's disappeared again, of course (hopefully not!).]

The picture above shows the moon from a northern perspective - i.e. pretty much the way you'd see it if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live "down under", as I do, it appears the other way up. So, you have a choice: you can turn your monitor upside-down (careful!); you can stand on your head (CAREFUL!!); or you can do the sensible thing and use your imagination.

If you live in the tropics, of course, things are a bit different again; probably your best bet in that case is to visualize the picture rotated through 90 degrees - or you could look at it while lying on your side.

UPDATE: Sunday, 25th February, 2007, at about 11 p.m.

One day after first quarter, I took a few pictures of the moon using a borrowed pair of binoculars. With my camera held against the right eyepiece (and with its exposure turned down as far as it would go), and my right eye (the "good" one) looking through the left eyepiece, I managed to get a couple of reasonable shots. I then used DISPLAY to perform a gamma correction down to 25%; this is the result. Not great - but you can get some idea of how it appears from 41º south!

UPDATE: Monday, 26th February, 2007, at about 8 p.m.

When the moon is at or close to its first quarter phase, it sets at about midnight (I caught it last night shortly before it set - see above). This evening, I decided to take some photos while there was still some daylight, in order to provide less contrast between the subject (the moon) and the background (the blue sky); hopefully a better picture would result. The best shot I could get (presented at left) was with the camera's exposure turned down to minimum (-1.5EV).

UPDATE: Monday, 5th March, 2007, at about 8:30 p.m.

I had intended to take another shot of the moon when it was full (last night) or a day or two earlier - but either I was busy, or the sky was cloudy. C'est la vie... but tonight I did get some shots. Again, I used the lowest exposure, and then did a gamma correction down to 10% to obtain this picture. The moon, low on the horizon, was a delightful yellow; but after I'd darkened it to show its features as clearly as possible, it looked more like a piece of mouldy old green cheese!  

Yesterday (4th March) was the 15th day of Chinese New Year, celebrated in some parts as the Lantern Festival. (Click here to see a very attractive page devoted to one person's hobby of making Chinese lanterns - as well as other handicrafts, including origami, on other pages within the site.)

UPDATE: Thursday, 8th March, 2007, at about 7:10 a.m.

With the moon now into its "waning gibbous" phase, it's still visible as the sun comes up, and looks really good in a clear blue sky. With the camera's exposure still set to -1.5EV, I took the shot at left. Then I used DISPLAY to perform a gamma correction down to 50% (right). The moon's dark features are quite clearly visible this time. Pretty good, huh?!

Just while I think of it - in my Humpty Dumpty Book page, about halfway down, there is a graphic involving the moon which has something wrong with it. (Some people have unkindly suggested that it looks more like a banana than a moon, but that's not what I have in mind at the moment.) Can you see what the problem is...? - and what the implications are for you if you are of a "tropical temperament": should you visualize the US Navy's moon picture (above) turned 90 degrees clockwise or anticlockwise? Does the time of the lunar month - or even the time of day/night - have any bearing on this? You may find that consideration of my moon pics, above, throws some light on the subject (pardon the pun.)

Another moon-related US Navy web-page is this one. There's some quite spectacular material there. Well worth a look!

In particular, on that page you can find a very good mpeg movie of the moon's phases to download. In fact there are two such movies, a small version and a larger version. (The view is from a northern perspective, so that the terminator moves from right to left.)

Another site that provides a moon phase viewer for web pages is this one. I can't run it on my old computer (it requires a version of Flash which my old clunker can't support); but I've seen it on a more modern machine, and it's impressive. It actually allows you to choose a northern or southern perspective, which is great! There's also lots of other material there, some moon related, some not - but all definitely worth a look.

It's quite clear from these various links that the part of the moon we see from Earth doesn't change. This is due to tidal effects; the Earth's gravity has such a strong effect on the moon that, over time, it has become locked into that situation. The moon does rotate; but it takes exactly one lunar month to so. (This means, of course, that the "dark side" of the moon is not always the same side! Click here to see a graphic which makes this quite clear.)

Another web-page which explains tidal effects very well - from the more familiar perspective of the moon's effect on the Earth, rather than the other way around - is this one. (The sun's contribution also gets a mention.)

Now - on to the main subject-matter of this page...

I'm old enough to remember very well the first moon landing by Apollo 11, on 20th July 1969. I was in my first year at Matriculation College. There was a room with tiered seating known as the Demonstration ("Dem") Room; a television was set up in there, and students who had a free line were welcome to go and follow the action. There was a steady stream of people in and out of the room; I was fortunate enough to be able to see the big event and hear Neil Armstrong muff his lines ("One small step for _ man...").

- Or did he? There's some controversy about this. Read the last link given above, about two-fifths of the way down, where you'll find some discussion about the matter.

In those days, of course, there was only black-and-white (more correctly, shades-of-blue-and-grey) television; and the quality of the images coming back from the moon wasn't all that great anyway. In The Left-Handed Dictionary, by Leonard Louis Levinson (Collier Books / Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1963), among several definitions of "television" are Frank Lloyd Wright's "chewing gum for the eyes" and Bob Hope's "smog with knobs". I don't think I've ever seen smoggier chewing gum than I did on that day; but it was exciting nonetheless, and I'll never forget it.

UPDATE, Tuesday 21st July, 2009 - forty years on!

What a treat it's been over these last few days to be reminded of that wonderful time, as newspaper articles and TV programmes have brought it all back for us.

Launceston's Sunday Examiner newspaper (19th July) featured (on page 19) an article headed "New photos show Apollo leftovers". There's a NASA photograph taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was launched only last month, of the Eagle's descent module, which is still sitting peacefully in the Sea of Tranquillity all these decades on. You can see the photo by visiting this NASA web-page, or clicking here.

ABC-TV's "Catalyst" science programme last week (Thursday, 16th July 2009) ran a Moon Special. At the time of writing, this is available for download as a vodcast from the ABC's website; click here. It tells the story of how the Australian radio telescope at Parkes (which was the setting for the 2000 movie "The Dish") and the NASA Tracking Stations at Honeysuckle Creek and Tidbinbilla played a vital part in bringing that amazing TV coverage to about six hundred million viewers (about a fifth of the world's population at the time). It's well worth a look.

(Incidentally, I didn't realize until a few days ago that the story as told in "The Dish" is not quite factual in certain respects, and that Neil Armstrong's famous words were in fact relayed not through Parkes but through Honeysuckle Creek. Visit this web-page to read more on this, along with a few related interesting snippets of information.)

UPDATE, Monday 3rd September, 2012

I'd like to quietly acknowledge the passing of Neil Armstrong, who died on Saturday 25th July, just over a week ago.

The Wikipedia page about the first person to walk on the moon is well worth a read; click here. For someone who achieved a great deal in what must have been quite an exciting (even hair-raising!) life, it's clear that he was an unassuming gentleman who did not seek glory for himself, and a fine example to others who would aspire to make a real contribution to history.

- And what a contribution! How do you top that?

Of course, since that time there have been suggestions that the whole Apollo project was a hoax, and that nobody has ever performed small steps, giant leaps, or any other kind of ambulatory activity on the moon. I'll admit to having been vaguely interested in the idea at some stage, but I'm not convinced.

Here is a web-page which deals with this particular conspiracy theory, in a characteristically belligerent way.

While on the subject:

Here and there in this website, I've made reference to a book called "The Cosmic Conspiracy", by Stan Deyo. (Visit my economic globalization page to read more.)

So what can we say about "conspiracy theories?" Are they all - by their very nature - sheer nonsense? Or is there indeed a case for engaging in a modicum of paranoia?

By way of addressing this in a deliberately oblique manner, some years ago I wrote a short poem. The main issue I have is the way that many people who don't think the concept has any basis in fact adopt a smug, scornful attitude, and use the very term "conspiracy theories" as a cudgel to beat those who do. My poem is an attempt to place the matter in perspective:

We don't need conspiracy theories, to help us make sense of our life.
We don't need conspiracy theories, to explain all our trouble and strife.
Who needs machinations with great complications,
to see how they're spoiling our fun?
We don't need conspiracy theories - PLURAL! We only need one.

( - and you can interpret that any way you like ).

Who owns the moon?

When the Apollo astronauts went there, they made a point of placing an American flag. Was this by way of staking a claim?

Well, as everyone was well aware, at the time there was a phenomenon known as the "Cold War". This had existed since the end of World War 2, when Russia - the world's first communist country - effectively annexed large parts of eastern Europe, thus creating what became known as the "Iron Curtain".

As mentioned in one of my other Astronomy pages, Soviet Russia was the first country to succeed in putting up a satellite - a thing called "Sputnik" which carried a radio transmitter which went "beep-beep-beep..." and scared the living daylights out of the "western" countries.

To add insult to injury, "the Russians" later placed another Sputnik into orbit, and went on to launch the first human being (Yuri Gagarin) into space - a short, sub-orbital flight, but a true space-flight nevertheless.

Well, that was it! The "Space Race" was on. It was a matter of pride for both the US and the USSR to be first to the moon; and, as history records, and as I've already described above, the US won that particular race in 1969.

So - does that give the US any kind of ownership rights over any part of the moon?

If you've visited the Wikipedia "Space Race" page whose link appears above, you'll have read that, after the Apollo project, the US explicitly disclaimed the right to ownership of any part of the moon.

During the Apollo project itself, there was a certain religious zeal in evidence; for example:

"Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the moon, made a point of taking Holy Communion while there.

Astronaut James Irwin, who went to the moon as a member of the Apollo 15 crew in 1971, later wrote a book: "To Rule the Night" (whose title is a biblical reference to the moon), in which he described his experiences as a lunar visitor. On his return to Earth, he resigned from NASA and became a Baptist missionary.

UPDATE, Saturday 16th February, 2008

About a month ago, while visiting an old university friend "down south", I visited a Hobart bookshop and bought a book entitled "Moon Dust", by Andrew Smith (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005-6). The author caught a vision to interview the surviving moon-walkers before it was too late; after all, it's nearly 39 years since Apollo 11, and none of us is getting any younger. He was concerned that if somebody didn't do this, an important body of first-hand knowledge relating to a very important historical saga would be lost forever. More power to his elbow!

Mr. Smith's intention was to ask the astronauts about their personal experiences while on their respective moon journeys, and to see "where they're at" now. He documents Aldrin's and Irwin's experiences - mentioned briefly above - but the first moon-walker he interviewed was Edgar Mitchell, who flew in Apollo 14.

Ed Mitchell's story is most intriguing. He was profoundly affected by his experience as a deep-space astronaut; and after his return, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences to sponsor research into the nature of consciousness as it relates to cosmology and causality. To learn more, find and read Smith's book and/or visit Edgar Mitchell's own website (click on "EDM bio" within the home-page).

I'm only about two-fifths of the way through the book so far. When I've finished reading it, depending on what else I find in it, I may get inspired to add more comments here. Stay tuned...

UPDATE, Tuesday 21st July, 2009 (continued)

Over the last weeks and months, I've been working on a series of new web-pages about zero-point energy. I finally uploaded them eleven days ago; they are accessible from this menu page.

The fifth (and last, so far) item on that menu is my Science, scientific method, and ZPE: some thoughts page. Having just revisited Ed Mitchell's website (in particular, the "EDM bio" page mentioned above), in the light of the way my own thoughts have come together in recent times I now think I'm beginning to understand what he's on about!

The impression we may get is that the participants knew they were part of something very special, probably to some extent because they could clearly see humanity's home - the Earth - as a small, fragile ball against the backdrop of the vastness of the universe, and were somewhat humbled by the experience. The comparitive insignificance of a busy mankind's preoccupation with such matters as politics and economics must have been quite an eye-opener.

There's no doubt that photographs of the Earth taken from space have given considerable cause for pause to many, many people since, and may well have helped humanity toward a "greener" perspective on our little planet.

Well, let's hope so - because now, three or four decades on, it's clear that we need everybody on Earth to catch that vision, before it's too late. In case you haven't noticed, this website's main raison d'être is to help bring that about.

This photo is from a NASA web-page .

So: does that all mean that "everything in the garden's lovely", and that we can live in hope that both the Earth and the moon will have a creative and mutually beneficial future together?

I wonder.

A regular feature in the Sunday edition of Launceston's newspaper, "The Examiner", is a column by a journalist who identifies herself as "Helen on the Coast". In the Sunday Examiner of 10th December, 2006, Helen's article was entitled "Staying in tune for the moon". In the light of recent news items about a proposed future for the moon, I found it very interesting and highly relevant.

I sent an email to Helen shortly thereafter, to enquire as to whether I could perhaps obtain permission to reproduce the article in a page in my website. She owns the copyright, and has given me permission (many thanks, Helen!) - so here it is:

Staying in tune for the moon

Fly me to the moon and let me deplete its resources and muck about with its climate patterns.

We humans have made such a mess of Earth, we are now looking to escape to, and colonise, our only moon.

The Earth's powerbrokers are shouting "stop the world I want to get off" and in order to do this they are establishing a lunar station - complete with commercial opportunities.

The concept is not inside the realm of science fiction.

It is a plan for 2020 - just 13 years away.

The US - surprise me - has announced it will develop rockets and spacecraft to get people to the moon and establish a rudimentary base.

There, other countries and commercial interests - perhaps a chain of Lunar Lard outlets to give the local youngsters crater faces - could expand the outpost.

I am sure the Earth's elite will find many a nice night to enjoy a moondance.

But while they swoon, us plebs on their former planet below will continue to unravel through a series of hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and droughts.

Boy, have we made a mess of things in the 50 years since Neil Armstrong took that first big step for mankind.

We can't say we didn't see this coming.

We just chose to ignore the signs that all was not right with the world.

We falsely assumed our greed would not come home to roost for about 10 generations.

But it is all happening a bit faster than expected, isn't it?


Our new moon dwellers will be wired for sound.

Apparently there is a place near the lunar South Pole which will provide enough sunlight for power generation.

And it just happens to be near possible deposits of valuable minerals.

Here we go.

Let's take everything we can from another piece of the universe. If things go a bit haywire we can always conquer another frontier.

So many planets to rape, so little time.

So how will the new moon dwellers get to their astral home?

The US moon boffins told the press that a versatile, general-purpose land craft which can put down anywhere would be needed.

And what are the Americans going to call it?

A pickup.

They are nothing if not original.

"You can put whatever you want in the back. You can take it to wherever you want. So you can deliver cargo, crew, do it robotically, do it with humans on board," a boffin said.

I have one burning question I need answered.

If humans go a bit nutty under a full moon on Earth, just how loony will they go under a full moon ON the moon.

Scary stuff.


I just spent a few minutes doing a Google search starting with the phrase "moon exploitation". You'd be amazed how many sites that brought up. Here are just a few that I ran across (there are probably hundreds more):

This legal document details the 1979 "Moon Treaty", which seeks to set guidelines for the way nations will use the moon. The question that immediately occurred to me, as I browsed through it, was: "How is anyone ever going to enforce this?"

More legal stuff. Note that "Outer space [which includes the moon] is not subject to national appropriation".

Now cop this:

Are you still there? - or have you just shot off into orbit, while trying to get your head around that?

I think Helen and I have made our point. This is a huge can of worms, and I wonder how many ordinary people have ever even considered the issues.

May I urge you to get involved. Do your own web-searches; read widely. Think about the implications. Does it matter? If so, how does if affect you? If you don't like it, what can you do?

One more link which you may find pertinent while organizing your thoughts:

So - who do you want to own the moon?

I've only just started to think about this issue myself, and I don't have any answers. I'm not even sure that I have all the questions.

Thinking back, there was a time when I would have welcomed a return to a more vigorous interest in space - but that was in a more innocent era, when I thought that space exploration may actually lead to a future in which humanity might at last "grow up" and begin to work together in a mature fashion for the benefit of everybody.

An era, in short, in which the mighty dollar and military madness didn't reign quite as supreme as they do now. An era in which there was more to life than greed and power.

But that all seems like an age ago. Now, we appear to be heading for a future in which space is treated as just another commodity and/or another platform from which to wage war. (Visit this web-page which addresses both China's recent destruction by missile of one its own weather satellites and the hypocrisy of other nations which have criticized the action - even though they have also gleefully engaged in such activities in the past, and may do so again.)

*      *      *      *      *

While on the subject of military build-ups, war, and hypocrisy, I can't resist mentioning a couple of satirical songs by Tom Lehrer from his 1965 album "That Was The Year That Was" (and yes, before you ask, I am the proud owner of a copy of this inspired work! ).

"MLF Lullaby" is about the "Multi-Lateral Force" which was proposed in the early 1960's to act as a deterrent against nuclear war.

"Who's Next?" addresses the fact that, in the 1960's, several nations did acquire "nuclear capability".

Although written well over 40 years ago, these songs are still bang on target, in an age in which "the good guys" (to quote from "MLF Lullaby") appear to be totally unable to see the hypocrisy inherent in their own nuclear capabiltity while complaining bitterly about similar ambitions on the part of "rogue states", which (they claim ) comprise an "axis of evil".

You can click on the two links above to read the lyrics of the songs, as well as Tom's cheeky introductory remarks. While you're about it, have a look around that website and read the lyrics to many other Lehrer songs. (One of my favourites, also from "TWTYTW", is "Wernher von Braun", which is highly relevant to this page's main topic.)

UPDATE, Thursday, 1st January 2009 (Happy New Year!): Having just a couple of weeks ago figured out how to get my old computer to play YouTube videos and similar, and having just discovered videos of Tom Lehrer singing his satirical songs, I've decided to update this page accordingly! Here are some YouTube links to Tom Lehrer songs:

Wernher von Braun       MLF Lullaby       Who's Next?

There are three pages of Tom Lehrer videos there - 60 clips altogether. All of the songs from TWTYTW are featured there somewhere, along with lots of others. Get involved with them and have a good laugh (after you've finished reading this "moon" page, okay?!).

Also, click here to read an article/interview about/with Tom Lehrer in 2003, which explains why we haven't heard any new material from him for decades. It's a sad commentary on the state of the world in these troubled times.

*      *      *      *      *

Am I being unnecessarily alarmist? I don't think so.

Who can forget the proposed "Strategic Defence Initiative" (SDI, also known as "Star Wars") of the 1980's?

The idea was pooh-poohed by the scientific establishment at the time, and ultimately didn't "get up". But recently there have been rumblings about the possibility of again considering something similar (see this link.) Pardon me, but - what "better" place to operate such a system than from the moon?

Unfortunately, Tom Lehrer is right to be reticent about the place of humour in our loony world; and the scenario outlined above is certainly no laughing matter.

The moon has existed since long before we humans came on the scene. As far as I'm concerned, nobody has any right to own or control any part of it - or, for that matter, any other part of "space".

Third quarter, 12th March 2007; taken while leaning against my garage door at about 10:15 a.m.

So what do we do?

As I've mentioned, I don't know what the ordinary concerned citizen can do to keep the moon "in public hands", as it were - but I do believe that we all need to start thinking very, very seriously about it.

There are some who take the position that there should be no manned space program at all (see the last Tom Lehrer link above, for example), instead limiting our impact to the use of robotic systems like the wonderful Voyager 2 to explore the universe. I don't think I'd go quite that far; I can see a place in space for such things as medical and engineering research, using the low gravity of the moon or even the "free-fall" conditions of space itself as a laboratory - provided that the fruits of such research benefit the whole of humanity, and don't cost the ordinary citizen a fortune to access. But "Buck Rogers" stuff? No thanks!

But can we trust our leaders and power-brokers to see it that way?

If you've visited my Why is Mad Teddy mad? page, you'll have noticed that I began it with the opening words from the Pink Floyd album "Dark Side of the Moon". I'm going to end this page with the closing words from that same album, which now seem ominously prophetic:

There is no dark side of the moon, really.
As a matter of fact it's all dark...

Return to Astronomical stuff menu

  ~ 3 a.m., 14th March 2007                                                                                                     ~ 7 a.m., 17th March 2007

Click on either of these two "waning moon" pictures to see and hear Roger Waters singing "Brain
Damage/Eclipse" at the Live Earth concert in New Jersey, 7-7-2007. Have a tissue handy...
(Added Thursday, 17-11-2011)

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