September 22 – Falling All Over The Place

Today’s factismal: Today is the first day of Fall, the twenty-second day of fall, and the fifty-third day of fall.

Well, Summer is over at last. Then again, according to some folks Summer has been done for quite some time. How can that be? It all has to do with people and our need to categorize things. The problem is that different groups of people can look at the same thing and break it apart in different ways. For example, today marks the first day of Fall for the astronomers. (Unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, it is the first day of Spring.) For a meteorologist, today is the twenty-second day of Fall. And for folks who studied the classics, it is the middle of Fall!

It all started back in the days of the early Roman kings (about 2,700 years ago) when the calendar ran from late spring to early winter and then went silent for a couple of months. The Romans held various fertility and harvest festivals to celebrate the seasons, but the actual date when those were held slipped around a bit thanks to those missing two months. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar fixed the calendar that we started seeing folks who could say with any authority (a legion of armed men is authority, right?) that Summer was officially over and Fall had begun.

Visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival (My camera)

We no longer use the blooming of trees to determine the seasons – or do we? (My camera)

The interesting thing is that, while the various Roman provinces didn’t like the Romans very much (after all, what had Rome done for them other than the aqueducts, sanitation, roads, education, and the wine?), they loved the calendar because it made it easier for them to observe their religious rites and mark their seasons. And one of the most influential (at least in Europe) set of seasons was the one that modern pagans call “the Wheel of the Year”, which divided the year into four seasons (Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall) and arranged them so that the middle of each season happened on an astronomically significant date. The middle of Winter would show up on December 20 (the Winter Solstice), the middle of Spring would occur on March 20 (the Vernal Equinox), the middle of Summer would be on June 20 (the Summer Solstice), and the middle of Fall would roll in on September 21 (the Autumnal Equinox). This method of timing the seasons lasted for more than 1,900 years; you can see its influence in things such as Shakespeare’s “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” which takes place on the Summer solstice. And while the dates have slipped a bit due to the Earth’s wobble in its orbit, the basic idea remains and is celebrated in many countries.

But as we moved into the 20th century, we decided that those dates didn’t work well for us (mainly because there is nothing special to mark February first as the start of Spring). So we came up with a new system. Actually, we came up with two new systems. Around 1950, the meteorologists decided that the seasons would start on the first day of a specific month, so that each season was roughly the same length of time. Spring ran March, April, and May, Summer took up June, July, and August, Fall was September, October, and November, and Winter was December, January, and February. (These seasons are generally referred to as “meteorological spring” etc.)

M42 (Orion Nebula) Over Virginia (My camera)

The stars don’t set our calendar either – or do they? (My camera)

At about the same time, the astronomers decided that they weren’t going to let no stinking pagans decide when the seasons started based on obsolete astrological superstitions; instead, they’d start the seasons based on the stars. So the astronomers decreed that Spring would begin on the Vernal Equinox, Summer would come in on the Summer Solstice, Fall would commence on the Autumnal Equinox, and Winter would hold sway beginning on the Winter Solstice. That this effectively shifted the seasons by half a wavelength was irrelevant; it just made more sense to the astronomers.(These seasons are generally referred to as “astronomical spring” etc.)

The three seasonal calendars in use today

The three seasonal calendars in use today

So, as a result, we now have three different dates to start each season. Of course, Mama Nature is famous for not reading calendars (as anyone who has been caught in a May snowstorm can attest); she starts her seasons when she wants and marks it by changes in the plants and animals. And it turns out that there are a lot of scientists who are more interested in reading her calendar than man’s. If you would like to help them do so by recording when the leaves change color or the butterflies leave or the buds blossom in your area, then why not write a few pages in Nature’s Notebook?
https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook

September 15 – My Beautiful Balloon

Today’s factismal: The world’s first weather balloon was launched 112 years ago today.

Meteorologists in St. Louis, Missouri, have something to celebrate today. More than a century ago, they launched the very first weather balloon intended for use in weather reporting. Though scientists had been launching balloons with scientific instruments since 1896, this was the first balloon intended to be used specifically for predicting the weather. The balloon carried a recording thermometer and a pressure gauge in a small package that was recovered after the balloon burst in the stratosphere. Today, the National Weather Service launches balloons from 92 sites in the USA; they are just part of the more than 900 sites that launch twice a day (morning and evening) to get information.

Launching a weather balloon during World War II (Image courtesy NOAA)

Launching a weather balloon during World War II
(Image courtesy NOAA)

So why would they bother? Simply because we knew then as we know now that it isn’t enough to measure the temperature and pressure and other weather factors in just one place; if you want an accurate prediction of what is going to happen next, you need lots of data that goes up through the atmosphere as well as across the globe. And balloons do that! They can rise as far as 20 miles before they pop, and they will fly up to 125 miles away. Each year, some 75,000 instrument packages are sent up in weather balloons. And thanks to WiFi, we are getting more data than ever from them.

A modern weather balloon launch (Image courtesy NOAA)

A modern weather balloon launch
(Image courtesy NOAA)

But that’s still not enough to make the meteorologists happy. (That’s a meteorologist for you – always raining on our parade!) They want more data – and that’s where you come in! They have set up a group to record temperature, pressure, and (most importantly) precipitation. Known as CoCoRAHS, these folks feed valuable information to the meteorologists who use it to make better weather predictions. To learn more, float on over to:
http://www.cocorahs.org/

 

June 17 – In A Fog

Today’s Factismal: Fog is not considered to be precipitation by meteorologists.

If you’ve taken a fifth grade science course, then you’ve probably learned about the water cycle (or, if it was in a fancy school district, the hydrologic cycle). In this cycle, water evaporates from ocean, rivers, and lakes, goes high into the air to form clouds, and comes back down as rain and snow. It is a beautiful, simple model. And like most such things, it is too simple and not nearly beautiful enough.

When you ask a meteorologist about the hydrologic cycle, then you’ll get the full, juicy story. Water doesn’t just evaporate from lakes, rivers, and oceans; oh, no! It also comes out of plants that have sucked water up from the ground (sometimes from several hundred feet underground), used it during photosynthesis and then sweat it out as part of their temperature regulation in a process known as transpiration. Over the course of a year, a single large oak tree can “sweat” out enough water to fill two swimming pools! Transpiration from plants and evaporation from the soil itself may account for as much as 67% of all precipitation.

This fog is not precipitation (My camera)

This fog is not precipitation
(My camera)

OK, you say; so the water sources are a bit more varied than we thought. But at least we know what precipitation is. However, this turns out to be another of those places where non-scientists and scientists use terms differently. To a meteorologist, it is only precipitation if the air becomes so saturated in water vapor that the water comes out and condenses around a small particle (that’s the “precipitate” part) and then (here’s the tricky part) falls under gravity. If the water drops are too small to fall, as they are in mists and fogs, then it technically isn’t precipitation even if it is on the ground (e.g., dew). But if it falls and evaporates on the way down, it is precipitation even though it stays in the air; meteorologists call this type of precipitation “virga”.

Virga falling from a cloud in Florida (My camera)

Virga falling from a cloud in Florida
(My camera)

And the hydrologic cycle gets more interesting still once we consider all of the types of precipitation that we can get. There’s virga and rain and hail and snow and sleet and graupel and drizzle, to name but the seven best known. And here’s the truly interesting part: meteorologists still have to rely on people on the ground to help them discover what kind of precipitation is falling where. Though some progress has been made in using radar to discriminate between the various types of precipitation, radars don’t see very well near the ground (all those pesky buildings get int he way). So they need observers to tell them what is falling where, be it thundersnow or nonaqueous rain.

The drizzle on Uluru is a form of precipitation (My camera)

The drizzle on Uluru is a form of precipitation
(My camera)

If you’d like to help, then why not download the National Severe Storms Laboratory’s free mPING (Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground) app? It is available on both Android and Apple devices. All you have to do is use the app to send a report whenever you see precipitation; the app will even help you decide what type of precipitation it is. To find out more, go to the National Severe Storms Laboratory mPING webpage:
http://mping.nssl.noaa.gov/

April 22 – Weathering The Climate

Today’s factismal: A 90 day weather forecast is useless but a 90 year climate forecast is useful.

If you’ve paid any attention to the fuss over climate change, then you know that one of the common arguments made by non-scientists is that long-term climate forecasts shouldn’t be trusted because we can’t get good weather forecasts more than ten days long. And the non-scientists are right on the last part; any group that claims to be able to forecast the weather more than ten days in advance is simply fooling themselves. But they are wrong on the first part; climate forecasts that extend for a century or more are probably fairly reliable. But why the difference?

An example of weather data that is being collected to help us understand climate (Image courtesy NOAA)

An example of weather data that is being collected to help us understand climate
(Image courtesy NOAA)

The reason that meteorologists can’t predict long-term weather but climatologists can predict long-term climate is because the climatologists cheat. They use a trick that is common in science. It is used in geophysics to help locate oil and gas. It is used in economics to compare GDPs. And it is used in biology to help sequence DNA. The trick is this: by looking at a lot of examples instead of just one, random variations that we call noise average out and the signal is left behind.

A simple example of this is traffic. If I asked you to predict how long it would take you to drive to the grocery store ten miles from your house today, you could probably give me a good estimate. You know what the weather is like and what the traffic is like and if your car needs gas. But if I asked you to predict how long it would take you to drive to the same grocery store two weeks from now, you would probably give me a bad estimate because you wouldn’t know any of the things you need to know to make the prediction. But if I asked you to tell me how long it would take you to drive from California to Maine, you could give me a fairly good estimate no matter when I wanted you to start. That’s because all of those variables average out over the much longer distance so that you can see the underlying pattern.

The daily high and low temperatures at Will Rodgers International Airport

The daily high and low temperatures at Will Rodgers International Airport

Let’s see how that works in practice. We’ll start with the daily maximum and minimum temperatures recorded at one spot. Since I live in Oklahoma City, I’ll use the Will Rodgers International Airport and I’ll pull the data from the National Climatic Data Center (free to the public!). When we plot that data up, we get the chart above. Can you see a pattern? Probably not, because of all of the various things that affect a temperature reading, from cloudiness to el Nino to wind speed.

Converting to monthly averages gets rid of some of the noise

Converting to monthly averages gets rid of some of the noise

So let’s see what happens when we take some of that variation out by looking at the monthly average high and low temperatures. A lot of the daily noise is removed but it is still pretty hard to see if there’s a pattern there or not.

A clear pattern has begun to show up bit there are still some strong local effects

A clear pattern has begun to show up bit there are still some strong local effects

So let’s move the the annual average of the maximum and minimum temperatures. The averaging removes even more of the short-term effects so that a clear long-term pattern is visible. The temperatures, both high and low, tended to be lower in the 1950s than they are now. But what can we do to make things even more obvious?

The global average shows the same trend but much less influence from local factors

The global average shows the same trend but much less influence from local factors

Climatologists use two tricks. First, instead of relying on one spot on the globe, they average values taken from all over. That removes local influences; as a result, the variations are much smaller. That’s why the Will Rodgers curve in the plot above swings from 58°F to 64°F but the global curve only shifts from 56°F to 59°F. (That’s also why a change of just 3.5°F worries so many climatologists; it means much larger changes in many cities.) The second trick is actually the first one – instead of looking at annual averages, they prefer five-year averages.

Spencer's annotated climate chart showing exactly the same results as NASA (Image courtesy Roy Spencer)

Spencer’s annotated climate chart showing exactly the same results as NASA
(Image courtesy Roy Spencer)

And when the data is looked at using those two simple tricks, it becomes clear that the globe is warming thanks to the amount of CO2 that has been added to the atmosphere by man. (Even skeptics like Spencer and Watts agree with this; they just disagree on what happens next.) Our contribution is 100 times greater than that of volcanoes and fifty times greater than that of wildfires; as for the oceans, they absorb ten times more CO2 than they emit, making them net sinks. To put it as simply as possible, teh world is getting warmer and it is our doing.

A comparison of the CO2 emissions from various sources.

A comparison of the CO2 emissions from various sources.

So this Earth Day, why not do something about it? Check the pressure in your tires. If we all drove on properly inflated tires, we’d save 1,250,000,000 gallons of gasoline each year! That means we’d have $2,500,000,000 more to spend on things other than gasoline (like food). Check the insulation in your attic. By doubling the amount of insulation, you could save $112 per year! And check your light bulbs. By switching just one 40 watt bulb to an LED, you could save $4 per year!

You may have noticed the common theme there – doing things to reduce our CO2 emissions is the same as doing things to save us money. For once we can save our planet and make money doing it. So what are you waiting for? Go celebrate Earth Day by saving money!

 

March 20 – Spring Forward

Today’s factismal: Today is the first day of Spring, the twentieth day of Spring, and the forty-ninth day of Spring.

Right now, you are probably scratching your head, wondering if I’ve lost my mind. How can one season start three different times? The answer lies, as it so often does, in the ineluctable propensity of mankind to name things. Back in the days of the early Roman kings (about 2,700 years ago), the calendar ran from late spring to early winter and then went silent for a couple of months. The Romans held various fertility and harvest festivals to celebrate the seasons, but the actual date when those were held slipped around a bit thanks to those missing two months. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar fixed the calendar that we started seeing folks who could say with any authority (a legion of armed men is authority, right?) that Spring was officially over and Summer had begun.

Visitors to the National Cherry Blossom Festival (My camera)

We no longer use the blooming of trees to determine the seasons – or do we? (My camera)

The interesting thing is that, while the various Roman provinces didn’t like the Romans very much (after all, what had Rome done for them other than the aqueducts, sanitation, roads, education, and the wine?), they loved the calendar because it made it easier for them to observe their religious rites and mark their seasons. And one of the most influential (at least in Europe) set of seasons was the one that modern pagans call “the Wheel of the Year”, which divided the year into four seasons (Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall) and arranged them so that the middle of each season happened on an astronomically significant date. The middle of Winter would show up on December 21 (the Winter Solstice), the middle of Spring would occur on March 20 (the Vernal Equinox), the middle of Summer would be on June 21 (the Summer Solstice), and the middle of Fall would roll in on September 21 (the Autumnal Equinox). This method of timing the seasons lasted for more than 1,900 years; you can see its influence in things such as Shakespeare’s “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” which takes place on the Summer solstice.

But as we moved into the 20th century, we decided that those dates didn’t work well for us (mainly because there is nothing special to mark February first as the start of Spring). So we came up with a new system. Actually, we came up with two new systems. Around 1950, the meteorologists decided that the seasons would start on the first day of a specific month, so that each season was roughly the same length of time. Spring ran March, April, and May, Summer took up June, July, and August, Fall was September, October, and November, and Winter was December, January, and February. (These seasons are generally referred to as “meteorological spring” etc.)

M42 (Orion Nebula) Over Virginia (My camera)

The stars don’t set our calendar either – or do they?  (My camera)

At about the same time, the astronomers decided that they weren’t going to let no stinking pagans decide when the seasons started based on obsolete astrological superstitions; instead, they’d start the seasons based on the stars. So the astronomers decreed that Spring would begin on the Vernal Equinox, Summer would come in on the Summer Solstice, Fall would commence on the Autumnal Equinox, and Winter would hold sway beginning on the Winter Solstice. That this effectively shifted the seasons by half a wavelength was irrelevant; it just made more sense to the astronomers.(These seasons are generally referred to as “astronomical spring” etc.)

The three seasonal calendars in use today

The three seasonal calendars in use today

So, as a result, we now have three different dates to start each season. Of course, Mama Nature is famous for not reading calendars (as anyone who has been caught in a May snowstorm can attest); she starts her seasons when she wants and marks it by changes in the plants and animals. And it turns out that there are a lot of scientists who are more interested in reading her calendar than man’s. If you would like to help them do so by recording when the leaves change color or the butterflies leave or the buds blossom in your area, then why not write a few pages in Nature’s Notebook?
https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook

August 25 – Storm of The Century

Today’s factismal: Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

There’s no doubt about it; 2005 was a record year for hurricanes. In the Pacific basin, there were 39 named storms, 20 hurricanes, 5 five major hurricanes. (Yes, they call them “typhoons”, but they are the same phenomenon.) In the Atlantic basin, there were 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes. And one of those seven major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin was Katrina. Katrina would be the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, with a price tag of $108 billion and a death toll of 1,245. Though most of that damage centered on New Orleans, Katrina’s trail of devastation stretched from the Bahamas to Ohio. But New Orleans was the worst casualty. Plagued by run-down infrastructure and stripped of the delta by decades of channel dredging, the city was wrecked after the storm.

A building collapsed by Katrina (My camera)

A building collapsed by Katrina
(My camera)

At that, New Orleans got lucky with Katrina. Had the storm remained a 5, instead of dropping in intensity as it reached land, then the wind and debris damage would have been much worse. Had Katrina approached on the east side of new orleans, instead of the west, then the levees would have failed earlier and more conclusively. And had Katrina come on New Orleans during a Spring tide (an unusually high tide) instead of during low tide, even the French Quarter would have been inundated. But lucky or not, Katrina did more damage in less time than any other storm in US history.

The marks on this building show that it was searched and no bodies were found (My camera)

The marks on this building show that it was searched and no bodies were found
(My camera)

Much of the damage was inevitable. But much of it could have been avoided with better forecasts. What the meteorologists needed was more observations in order to give better predictions. What they needed was people like the members of the Citizen Weather Observer Program who send in reports about severe weather (and the other kind, too) that is then used to make better predictions. If you think that you’ve got what it takes to be a CWOP member, head over to:
http://wxqa.com/

June 27 – Silver Lining

Scientists do their best work when faced with contradictory results. If you always get just one result, then what you are investigating isn’t very interesting. But if sometimes you see one thing and sometimes you see another, then that’s Nature’s way of telling you that you are on the verge of learning something truly neat. And that’s what happens to Mary, Peter, and Daniel today as they look for the silver lining.

The atmosphere in Peter’s living room was just perfect for the Secret Science Society’s annual “Mad Science Movie Marathon”. While Mary, Peter, and Daniel indulged in huge bowls of popcorn, plates of caramel apples, and glasses of swamp juice (lemon soda with food coloring and raisins), classic monster movies from the 1950s ran on the DVD player and a fierce storm raged outside. They had laughed at The Mummy’s bad hieroglyphics, howled along with The Wolfman, and shivered as Frankenstein brought his creation to life with the lightning on the screen being echoed by real thunder from the storm outside. Naturally, just as the villagers gathered up their pitchforks to explain the homeowner association rules to poor, mad Victor, a bright flash of light and an ear-shattering crack told of a near-miss and the television and lights and all other power went off in the house.

“Don’t worry,” Peter said. “I know where the emergency flashlights are.”

“Rats!” said Daniel. “It was just getting good!”

“I wonder how long it will take to get the power back,” Mary mused. “And what will we do while we wait?”

“I’ve got a better question,” Daniel said. “Why is it dark?”

“Huh?” said Peter as he came back into the room with three flashlights.

“Think about it,” Daniel said. “When you look at a cloud on a sunny day, the cloud is white. Sometimes it even seems brighter than the sky around it. So why is it dark under a rain cloud? Aren’t they all the same thing?”

“I hadn’t thought about it,” Mary replied. “But you are right. Rain clouds are dark but regular clouds aren’t. I wonder why?”

“Well, it is too wet outside to go ask Mr. Medes,” Peter said. “Do you think my mom might know?”

“Might know what?” Peter’s mother asked as she came into the room with more flashlights. “I thought you might need these but I see you’ve got things well in hand!”

“Daniel asked something that we don’t know the answer to,” Mary said. “Why is it dark when it rains if clouds are white?”

“Well, there’s no shame in not knowing something. The only shame is if you don’t try to find out what the answer is,” Peter’s mother replied. “And it turns out that the answer to your question happens to apply to my work. So, yes, I know the answer.”

“What is it?” Daniel asked.

“Well, would you rather I told you or would you prefer to do an experiment?”

“Experiment! Experiment!” the three young scientists chorused.

“OK. Peter, go get that bag of marbles from your room,” his mother directed. “And I’ll go get some clear plastic bags from the kitchen. We’ve already got flashlights, so we’re all set.”

Peter quickly went to his bedroom and grabbed the bag of marbles. As he came back into the den, his mother returned with four plastic bags. Taking the marbles from Peter, she filled each bag with marbles before sealing it and handing it to one of the scientists.

“OK,” she said as she filled her bag with marbles. “This would work better if the marbles were clear instead of having that swirl of color in the middle, but it is close enough for our purposes. What I want you to do is shine your flashlight through the bag of marbles cross-wise so that the light goes through the ‘thin way’. What happens?’

“I can see the light but it is a bit fuzzy,” said Daniel.

“And the edge of some of the marbles gets bright,” added Mary.

“Good,” said Peter’s mother. “Now, what I want you to do is shine the light through the bag of marbles the long way. But, before you do, tell me – what will you see?”

“Probably the same thing we just saw,” said Peter. “The light will be fuzzy and there will be some bright edges.”

“I don’t know,” said Daniel. “Maybe having more marbles means that the light won’t make it through somehow.”

“Or maybe we’ll just see bright edges,” added Mary.

“Well, there’s only one way to find out!” Peter’s mother said.

What do you think will happen? Try the experiment yourself!

The three turned their baggies longwise and looked at the flashlight shining through. But instead of a bright light, they only saw a dull, fuzzy beam. The marbles had dimmed the flashlight beam just as clouds dulled sunbeams.

“Wow!” exclaimed Peter. “The light got a lot darker.”

“And most of the bright edges are gone!” said Mary.

“But why?” asked Daniel.

“The reason for this is the same reason that the bottom of the ocean is dark and that radio waves don’t travel very far in a nebula,” Peter’s mother said. “It is a type of physics known as optics. When the light from the sun or from a flashlight beam hits an object, three things happen: reflection, refraction, and absorption.”

“Reflection like a mirror?” Mary asked.

“Exactly! You may have noticed that you can see your face in a very still pond; that’s because some of the light that hit the top of the water was reflected back at you,” Peter’s mother explained. “The same thing happens with our marbles and with the raindrops that make up a cloud. Some of the light gets reflected back off of every raindrop. As you get deeper into the cloud or the cloud gets thicker, less and less light makes it through.”

“Oh, so that’s why rainclouds clouds are dark! They are thicker than other clouds!” Peter said.

“No, that’s only part of the explanation,” his mother replied. “There’s also refraction; that’s what happens when the light gets bent by the raindrop. Instead of traveling through and continuing in a straight line like a toothpick in an olive, the raindrop makes the path of the light shift a little so it looks more like a broken toothpick in an olive. And because the angle of the break is different for each color of light, when the angle is just right, you can get -”

“A rainbow!” Daniel said. “Is the bent light what made the edges of the marbles seem bright?”

“That’s exactly right,” Peter’s mother said. “Taken together, we sometimes refer to reflection and refraction as scattering. But reflection and refraction are only part of the reason that rain clouds are dark. The third reason is – ”

“Absorption!” Mary said. “Is that like when a sponge absorbs water?”

“Not quite,” Peter’s mother said. “With a sponge, you can always get the water back out by squeezing it. But when light gets absorbed by a raindrop, it gets changed into heat. That added energy might make the raindrop warm up a very little bit or it might be re-radiated as infrared light. And since we can’t see in infrared, that makes it dark in the center of a rain cloud and under one, too.”

“But what does that have to do with the ocean bottom?” Peter asked.

“You can think of the ocean as a whole bunch of raindrops jammed together,” his mother replied. “As the light goes through the ocean, some of it gets absorbed. Interestingly, the depth that the light makes it down to depends on the wavelength of the light. Colors like red have very long wavelengths and make it deeper into the ocean than colors like blue. In addition, water like to scatter the shorter wavelength colors like blue; that’s why the ocean looks blue – more of that color gets reflected to your eyes. Taken all together, the amount of light that you can see in the ocean drops by 90% for every 75 meters. So if the ocean was as deep as a skyscraper is high, the bottom floor would get only 10% as much light as the top one would.”

“Cool!” Daniel said. “But what does that have to do with your work?”

“I’m a planetologist,” she replied. “That means that sometimes I look at planets before they are born, when they are just big clouds of gas and dust called nebulae. The gas and dust in a nebula will scatter and absorb light just like the water in the ocean or the raindrops in a cloud. And by measuring how the light from stars behind the nebula is scattered and absorbed, we can estimate the thickness of the cloud and even learn what it is made of. We’ve found water, ammonia, formaldehyde, and even amino acids in nebulae across the galaxy. There are even some scientists who think that life on Earth started thanks to those amino acids.”

“Neat!”

Just then, the power came back on.

“Well, it looks as if your creation has come back to life,” Peter’s mother said. “So I’ll just leave you three to your movies.”

“Thanks mom!” Peter said, his fingers already on the remote, ready to start the movie again as the three sat back down absorbed once more in the morality tale on the silver screen.