February 4, 2008

A Very Important Scientific Discovery

It will probably not go down in the annals of scientific history, but yesterday I made a very important discovery: Contrary to popular belief, the sun actually rises in the South and sets in the South. At least in Edmonton it does.

For a couple of days now, I have been drawing up plans for my garden come springtime, and in order to plant things in their proper places, I needed to know which way my garden is oriented,to determine the levels of sunlight, wind and temperature. Well, every American school child knows that the "sun rises in the East and sets in the West." So, I've been running outside at various times during the day, in the negative 30 temperatures, to determine where, in relation to my garden, the sun rises and sets. But no matter what time I went outside to check on the position of the sun, it was always very low in the sky and just behind my next-door neighbor's house.

But today it finally dawned on me. As any American college student whose had "Intro to Astronomy" can tell you, that old elementary school maxim only holds true if you are relatively close to the Equator. Once you get into the Northern latitudes, the tilt of the Earth changes that equation. When you are sitting above the fifty-third parallel, as Edmonton does, you are very far from the Equator, indeed. (For instance, Arkansas, where I grew up, sits on the thirty-fourth parallel.)

So now I know what every freshman college student knows about latitude and the Earth's tilt. I also now know that my garden faces East. However, because the sun rises and sets in the South, and my next-door neighbor's house is shorter than mine, it gets pretty good sunlight all day long. And even I know that that's a very good recipe for a garden.

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