Archive for May, 2012

CSU Scientists Go Around the World to Capture Transit of Venus

May 28, 2012

 News release from Columbus State University

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Partnering with NASA, researchers from Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center are traveling to Mongolia and Australia this week to get the best possible images of Venus passing between the Earth and the sun, a celestial event that won’t occur again for another 105 years.

 Space science center staff will be teaching and watching the skies at a middle school near Alice Springs in Australia, working from a tent city in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, and also stationed in Utah and at home in Columbus to photograph, video and webcast Venus as it moves across the face of the sun in an event that astronomers call a transit. The 2012 Transit of Venus will last nearly seven hours from June 5-6, providing extraordinary viewing opportunities for observers around the world, said Shawn Cruzen, executive director of the center and a Columbus State University astronomy professor.

 “For astronomy fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Cruzen said. “Unfortunately audiences in the continental United States will only be able to see a portion of the transit as the sun sets in the west. An additional limitation in viewing the sun is the danger posed to the naked eye. Special equipment and techniques are required to create a safe observing environment.”

 In an effort to make this event more accessible to the public, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center has partnered with NASA and the International Space School Education Trust to provide a multi-continent webcast of the 2012 Transit of Venus. The space science center is believed to be the only university-affiliated institution partnering with NASA to provide images from remote locations for its webcast. 

Audiences throughout the world will have an opportunity to experience the event safely via the Internet and NASA TV. Using private funds, Coca-Cola Space Science Center teams are traveling to Mongolia and to a school in the Australian outback near Alice Springs to be in optimal observation sites to acquire images and video of the entire transit. 

The team going to Australia left Sunday and are not only going to record the transit, but  will be part of an extensive outreach effort, teaching and lecturing about the transitand other related astronomy topics to hundreds of local schoolchildren. They are also scheduled to be interviewed by a national television station. 

The team going to Mongolia leaves June 2. They will spend about 18 hours in the air before arriving in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and trekking to their camp. The expedition is being led by a team that includes a former space shuttle commander and a former astronaut trainer and will also include extensive leadership training, team-building and communication exercises. 

Both teams are soliciting questions about the event from students around the world and posting answers, videos and updates on a blog at

 In addition to the teams traveling to the other side of the globe to record the transit, one team will remain in Georgia to provide local images and video of the event. A Columbus State University student, Katherine Lodder, will provide yet another set of U.S. images from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Other Columbus State University students involved in the effort will be behind the scenes working on the computers to coordinate images and the webcast. 

Experts caution that the only safe ways to view the Transit of Venus will be through a solar-filtered telescope, a rear-projection screen, welding glasses (No. 14 or above) or a live webcast such as that being staged by NASA and CSU’s center. In Georgia, on Tuesday, June 5, the transit will be viewable starting at about 6 p.m., continuing until sunset. CSU staffers stationed in Mongolia and Australia will be able to view and record the entire seven-hour event, continuing into Wednesday, June 6.

“Literally, we want geographically disparate sites so we don’t get clouded out,” Cruzen said.

They will send images back to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at 701 Front Ave. in downtown Columbus, which will be open for visitors to see pictures and videos of the transit from 5:30-11 p.m. June 5.

 Historians have traced interest in the Transit of Venus to ancient civilizations, but scientists began focusing on the planet’s movements starting in the 18th Century as a means of determining the size of the Earth’s solar system.

“Today, we know the size of the solar system,” Cruzen said. “But now, it can inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The three continental teams capturing the transit will be equipped with hydrogen alpha, calcium K-line, and solar white light filters that will allow for spectacular imaging of this event. These filters are provided by the center’s Mead Observatory, where they are used regularly to obtain images and animations of solar phenomena such as sunspots, flares, plages, faculae, prominences, and filaments. Typically, students from Columbus State study these solar phenomena to better understand the sun’s cycle of activity and its interaction with the Earth. However, during the Transit of Venus, these solar features will become, for one final period in our lives, the stunning backdrop against whichVenus’ planetary disk will cross the sun’s 865,000-mile face.

View the webcast by visiting or by linking through the NASA partners page at NASA’s Sun Earth Day website,



May 24, 2012

He does not sing my kind of  music. Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, and Harry Connick, Jr. are my kind of pop male vocalists. I know, it’s a generational thing.  However, Phillip Phillips obviously sings his kind very well.  Watching him on American Idol has helped me better understand a style that is currently popular, and I especially enjoyed his triumphant performance of “Home.”  I must admit that the fact that he is from the Albany, Georgia area caused me to want him to win. Pure state patriotism and the fact that I have relatives living in Albany definitely played a role. However, he, from all I have heard and read, is a fine young man.

Jessica Sanchez , the young lady that he won over, definitely deserved to be in the final. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, she knows how to use it, and the American Idol judges’ comments about her musical maturity being way beyond her years are right, in my view.  I also agree  that she has a great career ahead of her.  Phillip does, too.

On the 11PM news following the Idol show, WTVM had a live report from the high school football stadium in Leesburg where, according to the reporter, thousands had gathered and went nuts when Phillip won, but showed us no video of that event. Really strange.


May 21, 2012

What’s it going to  take to get the message across that obesity is a growing, costly, dangerous health problem in the U.S. and in our area?

Dr. Joseph Zanga following speech on obesity to Rotary Club of Columbus

Well, for one thing, for media to get interested.  Dr. Joseph Zanga, Chief of Pediatrics at the Columbus Regional Healthcare System, says Columbus media just don’t seem to be interested in the problem. That’s a shame because the problem has reached the crisis stage.

Obesity causes endocrine and orthopedic problems. cardiovascular risks, and psychosocial problems.  Increased healthcare costs run in the  billions of dollars. Increased illness causes lost school and work time. It creates a less energetic workforce, and a less focused workforce, and increased turnover.

Dr. Zanga, one of the leaders of Live Healthy Columbus, says  the problem is going to get a lot worse if something isn’t done because obesity is growing at a fast rate among children, including little babies.

Check out these stats.

In the Columbus area there are 90,000 children. An estimated 30,000 of them are obese or overweight.

Georgia is in the top 20 states with the highest obesity rates in the U.S.

Nearly 40% of Georgia’s children are overweight are obese. Georgia

Georgia spends $2.4 billion annually on obesity.

In the United States:

10% of children under 2 years old are overweight.

21% of children 2 – 5 years are overweight or obese.

29.8% of children 11 – 15 years are overweight or obese.

17% (12.5) million) older teens are obese.  92% of obese adolescents will be obese adults.

During the ’90s we grew from 5% to 15% of children obese.

The rate has slowed, but not stopped.

In my view, what we need is a media campaign that balances the plethora of commercials that promote unhealthy food.  For instance, how many restaurant chains offer and promote healthy food menus? I can only think of one:  Subway. As far as I know, it’s the only one that even  brings up the subject. Maybe you know of some more. If so, click on the “comment” button and let me know.

Maybe we need warning labels like we have on cigarette packs on food packaging, something like “too much sugar/salt/fat  is dangerous to your health.”

Coca-Cola = Friendship and Love

May 15, 2012

What I am holding there is a replica of an antique Coca-Cola bottle, first  produced about 1907. The curved bottle used today came along about 1917. The antique replica was given to me when Coca-Cola celebrated its 75th anniversary at the Springer Opera House.

Did you know that Coca-Cola is really about love and friendship?  You probably thought it was about other things, things like money and power.  Some people in Columbus are filthy rich because their parents and grandparents bought into Coca-Cola a long time ago, some as far back as 1919, and some Atlanta families are too because they are descendents of Columbus native Robert Woodruff, who moved to Atlanta and made Coke an international hit.

That sort of thing, though, was not what Hugh Gordon, Coke’s special projects man,  talked about when he brought the Coca-Cola 125th anniversary message to Columbus Rotarians.  Nor did he get into the Columbus connection to the Coke, things like it being concocted here by Columbus citizen – no, he wasn’t a native, being born in Rome, Georgia – Dr. Pimberton.         Mr Gordon was more concerned about  how Coke spreads love and friendship around the globe.

Marrying Coca-Cola with love and friendship has proven to be a masterful marketing campaign. It started back in the 70’s with the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony.”  The song used in a Coca-Cola TV commercial, which also contained the phrase, “It’s the real thing,” was so popular that a non-Coca-Cola version was recorded and ended up selling millions of records. Coca-Cola, according to Wikipedia, donated the royalties to UNICEF.

Now Coca-Cola has a new hopeful commercial. He showed it during his Rotary presentation. It’s called “Reasons to Believe” and maintains there are reasons to believe in a better world. You can see and hear it on YouTube. It opens with “For every tank built in the world, 131,000 stuffed dolls are made,”and goes on making a list of such comparisons, with the last one being “While one weapon is being sold in the world, there are 20,000 people sharing a Coca-Cola.”

Add to this the secret formula myth and you have an incredibly successful marketing campaign. 1.7 billion Cokes are consumed in the world every day.  Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, according to Mr. Gordon, rank one and two in the soft-drink best seller list.. And it all started right here in Columbus, GA.

I can remember when I was a kid, just about every adult in my extended family drank four Coca-Colas a day, every day.  I mixed mine up with Nehi- Orange and other soft drinks. Now, I almost never drink a carbonated beverage, and when I do drink a Coke, it is always a caffeine-free Diet Coke  Most of the time I settle for water, which is an unbeatable thirst quencher.  Coca-Cola has that covered, too, with Dasani. I drink that more than Coca-Cola, but most of the time I drink tap water. Wikipedia says Dasani is also tap water, but it goes through a filtering process, and costs a lot more than regular tap water.


May 12, 2012

Dear Port Columbus Friend,

Please forgive the typos in the dates in the previous email – the corrected message is below.

Please join us Friday, May 25 for our special Membership program, Music Worth a Thousand Men.

Friday, May 25, 2012 | 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | FREE!Abraham Lincoln once wrote a letter to George F. Root, who wrote over 30 Civil War songs, saying, “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand orators”. Robert E. Lee himself said, “I don’t think we could have an army without music.” Music, certainly, was a large part of life during the Civil War era, in the camps, at home and aboard ship. Not only was it a major source of entertainment, it was also a way to give voice to feelings that words alone often could not express. 

Join us at the National Civil War Naval Museum as we explore the theme of music aboard ship and in society at large during the Civil War. Normally, Members’ Programs such as this are open only to current Members; but as part of our Memorial Day Weekend Membership Drive, this program is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted, and staff will be on hand to discuss benefits of Membership this those interested.

6:30 pm – Music of the Day: an interactive presentation demonstrating period instruments and showcasing period photos and illustrations of musicians and song sheets.

7:30 pm – Concert of period songs performed by the Columbus Brass, the brass quartet from the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.

Keep up with the latest from Port Columbus on FacebookTwitter and our Website.

Next Upcoming Event: June 2 – Cool History: Two Navies, One Ship

Port Columbus – Stories You’ll Hear Nowhere Else.

1002 Victory Drive, Columbus GA. See map.
For more info, call 706-327-9798 or visit

Andrew, Me, and a Waco Biplane

May 8, 2012

That’s my step-grandson Andrew Champion standing with me in front of a classic Waco biplane right before we took off. The ride was a Christmas present for me and a 20th birthday present for  Andrew.  It was another example  of creative gifts provided by Ken and Katrina Champion, and my three other stepsons, Richard, Doug, and Mick.

Following pilot Bruce Dance’s instructions, I backed into the cockpit. After I finally got my long legs in, Andrew did the same thing to get his even longer legs in.

The big challenge of  the ride was Andrew and me shoehorning into the front cockpit which was quite roomy for one person, but a little  snug for two  adults. The pilot, Bruce Dance of Biplane Rides over Atlanta, who is also a flight instructor and crop duster, gave us specific instructions on how to back into the cockpit.  It wasn’t easy for an old arthritic guy like me and a young 6’4″ man like Andrew.  It was worth it, though. 

When one flies in an open cockpit biplane one really knows he is flying.  My stepson Richard, who is also a pilot, said that airline pilots fly biplanes when they want to fly for the  fun of it. 

The ride was a hoot.  We flew from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport, a general aviation facility that houses a lot of really expensive corporate jets, to  downtown Atlanta and back.  With the radial engine roaring right in front of us, and the wind blasting around us, we got super views of the downtown Atlanta area.  Bruce warned us to make sure we tightly held on to our camera straps.  “That wind will rip a camera right out of your hands,” he told us.  

Adding to the special experience was the 57th Fighter Group restaurant from where the biplanes operate.  It’s a World War II aviation themed eatery that’s a show in itself. Air Force memorabilia including pictures of WW II fighter pilots decorate it.  Even a trip to the “latrine” is entertaining.  There are sandbags along the walls of the hall leading to the restrooms.  Instead of background music being piped in, recorded speeches of Churchill and FDR were playing.  The background music in the rest of the restaurant was WW II era popular music.   There is a great view of the airport runways and the two biplanes stationed beside the restaurant, and the food is quite good.   

It was a fine family outing and I certainly recommend it for anyone  who loves  airplanes old and new.