Okay, it's been 55 hours and counting...the quote of the day, from my Dad:

"Fox News is the only unbiased news out there right now."

I've thought alot today about the news we gravitate towards...and bias. My parents are good people. They do nice deeds and take care of their piece of the planet - they are compassionate and responsible. But what I've noticed is that since they've retired, their world has just gotten smaller and smaller - and I can't help but think that their more narrow view of the world is limiting their attitudes. The world is BIG, I mean REALLY BIG, which then got me to thinking about how we know just how big it is (I think I learned this somewhere along the way, but have obviously forgotten it). So I found this site where a geophysicist from the University of Hawaii, Barry Lienert, provides the following explanation (in case you wanna do the calculation for yourself):

"We start by determining the mass of the Earth. Issac Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation tells us that the force of attraction between two objects is proportional the product of their masses divided by the square of the distance between their centers of mass. To obtain a reasonable approximation, we assume their geographical centers are their centers of mass.

Because we know the radius of the Earth, we can use the Law of Universal Gravitation to calculate the mass of the Earth in terms of the gravitational force on an object (its weight) at the Earth's surface, using the radius of the Earth as the distance. We also need the Constant of Proportionality in the Law of Universal Gravitation,

G. This value was experimentally determined by Henry Cavendish in the 18th century to be the extemely small force of 6.67 x 10^{-11}Newtons between two objects weighing one kilogram each and separated by one meter. Cavendish determined this constant by accurately measuring the horizontal force between metal spheres in an experiment sometimes referred to as "weighing the earth."Knowing the mass and radius of the Earth and the distance of the Earth from the sun, we can calculate the mass of the sun (

right), again by using the law of universal gravitation. The gravitational attraction between the Earth and the sun isGtimes the sun's mass times the Earth's mass, divided by the distance between the Earth and the sun squared. This attraction must be equal to the centripetal force needed to keep the earth in its (almost circular) orbit around the sun. The centripetal force is the Earth's mass times the square of its speed divided by its distance from the sun. By astronomically determining the distance to the sun, we can calculate the earth's speed around the sun and hence the sun's mass.Once we have the sun's mass, we can similarly determine the mass of any planet by astronomically determining the planet's orbital radius and period, calculating the required centripetal force and equating this force to the force predicted by the law of universal gravitation using the sun's mass."

In other words, the Earth's mass is 5.976 x 10*24 kg (that's 24 zero's). (Now, how did that number compare with your own calculation?)

Now all I can say here is that the guys who were figuring out how to do this were just too busy to be watching Fox News (wait...is this for real?), or CNN, or obsessively checking The Huffington Post. They were too busy trying to figure out what the hell the Constant of Proportionality in the Law of Universal Gravitation, *G*, was. That sounds arrogant, but I don't mean it that way. They were too busy because their worlds were BIG - they were pondering big questions and big planets and big forces - and my guess is that if they did watch the news, they watched it with a BIG view. I think when my Dad watches Fox News it is with a small world view - and he, and alot of us, would benefit from trying to calculate how just big a place this planet really is.

This morning, while pondering what to do with my parents, I was on the Mepkin Abbey website, and came across this quote from "To Redefine a People":

"As American citizens, let us find the inner resources to rebuild our society on truth. It may cost us everything as a nation, but the price is not too high."

The planet's a BIG place, there's gotta be some truth out there somewhere.

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