Of the earth & sky

Telly review

When I was young, I was told that if the sun shines during rain, it meant that frogs were getting married. In some countries, it was believed that sunshine during rain meant that the devil was beating his wife.

Alot of cultures believed that thunder and lightning were punishment from the gods who were displeased with something that man did. Along with these, many more superstitions abound about different weather phenomenon.

The same is also true about the Earth. When it moves beneath our feet during an earthquake, it is because Atlas, who carries the earth on his shoulders, shrugged. Some islanders believe that one day, the navel of the sea would suck all water and spit it all back in the form of waves, that would kill many people — a superstition about tsunamis. Ancient Hawaiians believe that the goddess of fire, wind, lightning and volcanoes, Pele, can be appeased by offering flowers, food and gin. In the Philippines, animals are thrown into volcanoes to prevent them from exploding.

Earth and sky — these were all that early man knew. He wanted, even needed to understand their different behaviours, so he invented myths, legends and superstitions that supposedly explained them. Today’s man is no different in wanting to understand natural phenomena, but he employs scientific observations and calculations. And he watches the Discovery Channel to learn more about them.

Yes, Discovery Channel has come up with two new shows, How the Earth Works and Strangest Weather on Earth. Both these shows help us better understand our earth and sky, without resorting to silly superstitions or old wives’ tales.

The show, How the Earth Works, is an interesting one. It talks about the formation, the life and death of volcanoes, and the impact they can have on earth as a whole. The range of impact that a volcano could have on its immediate vicinity as well as on the other side of the globe is shown with the use of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia as a model.

The show, Strangest Weather on Earth, features enigmatic mysteries such as the roving rocks in Death Valley California, rains of frogs and fish, rare ice circles, red storm, double sunsets, ball lightning, and waterfalls, which flow liquid gold.

Big rocks move as if guided by an invisible hand on the Racetrack Play, a dry lake bed in Death Valley, California. Earlier, alien hands were suspected, but now people are beginning to understand that it is probably the work of mud and wind. Rare ice circles that are perfectly circular and keep rotating on the water appear in winter when the conditions are just right.

A red sandstorm occurs in Sydney, Australia, caused by weather in the outback, a year ago. Horsetail Waterfall in Yosemite National Park in California reflects the glorious colour of the setting sun in February that changes its colour to pure molten gold. The phenomenon behind the ‘Brocken Spectre’ or the ghostly image that mountaineers sometimes see while climbing mountains is also explained.

This show piques our curiosity and makes us take notice of what is going on around us, helping us understand our planet better. And it actually helped me understand what I had seen once. One day at sunset, the sky had bands of pink that seemed to converge at the east and the west. Apparently, this is the phenomenon of a Double Sunset.

Life can be frightening, when you think of the bizarre behaviour of the earth and the skies. But when these behaviours are explained, understanding replaces fear, and brings with it curiosity and acceptance.

Be sure to catch both these programmes and enjoy! How The Earth Works airs at 10 pm on Discovery Science, and Strangest Weather on Earth airs at 6.30 pm on Discovery Science.

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