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The Distance of the Moon
May 7, 2012 4:13 PM   Subscribe

In honor of this Saturday's Supermoon, a story from Italo Calvino about a time the moon was even closer. And a short film based on the story. (Hebrew w/ English subtitles)
posted by goingonit (25 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I lived on the moon.
posted by nzero at 4:20 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moon Patrol! Masters of the moon!
posted by cortex at 4:22 PM on May 7, 2012


How banal a term super moon is. Anyone else annoyed by the use of that dumbed down term instead of perigee moon? Local TV weather men missed an opportunity to teach instead of parrot an inaccuracy.
posted by Cranberry at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's Cosmo's Moon!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAU4pf0uhoY
posted by Jesse Hughson at 4:33 PM on May 7, 2012


(Cosmo's moon)
posted by Jesse Hughson at 4:34 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


How banal a term super moon is. Anyone else annoyed by the use of that dumbed down term instead of perigee moon?

I'm actually quite fond of the term "super moon". It rolls off the tongue in a way that perigee moon does not and it has an easy to communicate and understand message attached: the moon is very big tonight, and you should go look at it.

The way I see it, people communicate using the lowest friction means possible. Super moon is one of those wonderful low-friction neologisms that conveys much with very little. It has the side effect of expanding appreciation for the natural world for people of all education levels and backgrounds.
posted by fremen at 4:38 PM on May 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Supercool.
posted by Jesse Hughson at 4:42 PM on May 7, 2012


Hercules Against the Moon Men 2: Hercules Against the Supermoon Men
posted by Wolfdog at 4:43 PM on May 7, 2012


How banal a term super moon is.

The problem with Supermoon is that, with all those powers, it's hard to write a story where it can't just fix the problem easily. This leads to a serious lack of suspense. I prefer the Harvest-Moon comics, myself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]




I love Italo Calvino's writing so much.
posted by Scientist at 4:58 PM on May 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've seen perigee moons before, so this year's event was particularly bland despite the media blitz. However, if it's one thing I actually managed to learn today, it's that the moon wobbles.

This discovery was borne out of a photographic comparison of a perigee moon with a non-perigee moon, whereupon we noticed that placement of the craters seemed off. At first we thought it was simply a matter of photographing the moon from different areas of the Earth, but when looking for confirmation we chanced upon a pretty cool fact! Cool for us, anyway.
posted by CancerMan at 5:10 PM on May 7, 2012


Perigee moon sounds too much like perineal moon which sounds like super uncomfortable.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:18 PM on May 7, 2012


That Calvino story is wonderful. I read the Complete Cosmicomics last year (the moon story is in it), and it immediately became one of my favorite books of all time. It absolutely demands re-reading.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:24 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Italo Calvino is the greatest. Once, an art of translation class had us pick a passage from a foreign language and work through how to translate it into English. I spent three days staring at the end of Il barone rampante, watching the words weave through each other, and down the page.

The Moon turned slowly around the Earth. On the suspended globe we no longer saw our familiar shore, but the passage of oceans as deep as abysses and deserts of glowing lapilli, and continents of ice, and forests writhing with reptiles, and the rocky walls of mountain chains gashed by swift rivers, and swampy cities, and stone graveyards, and empires of clay and mud. The distance spread a uniform color over everything: the alien perspectives made every image alien; herds of elephants and swarms of locusts ran over the plains, so evenly vast and dense and thickly grown that there was no difference among them.

Super wonderful.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:24 PM on May 7, 2012


Calvino is wonderful. Invisible Cities I read so many times I almost memorised it.

That moon piece reminds me of Cyberiad era Stanislaw Lem. Who is also wonderful.

What a delightful world we live in.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:40 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it the diameter that gets 17% bigger? Because that would be 45% more area.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:02 PM on May 7, 2012


My favorite story Italo Calvino wrote about the moon was The Soft Moon.

I think this story is either a prequel or a sequel to the other one. I forget what order but I believe they're partners.

Italo Calvino wrote my favorite kind of science fiction because it came from a place of love, awe, respect, and understanding, both of humans and the place we live in. Calvino was the only writer in a family full of scientists and doctors.
posted by bleep at 6:07 PM on May 7, 2012


Hey! The story has moon-milk in it!

I don't remember where or when I heard this joke, but I love it:
Jenkins the astronomer was eager to show off his new acquisition. "It's a laser reflectometer - it bounces a beam of light off the moon and measures exactly how long it takes the light to come back. Why, this device can tell is the distance to the moon to a precision of a quarter of an inch!"

"Well, professor, don't keep us hanging. How far is the moon from us RIGHT NOW?"

Jenkins turns some knobs, pulls some levers, and checks a readout:

"Twelve feet, three and three quarter inches!"
posted by moonmilk at 6:53 PM on May 7, 2012


The correct term is perigee-syzygy. Supermoon was invented by some astrologer back in the 70s.

Anyway, the hype over an event that happens every 14 months is somewhat baffling to me. Last year it was hyped. This year it was Super Hyped. Next year there will probably be a national holiday for it, which I actually wouldn't mind, except I would.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:32 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This works best if you blur your vision a little or let your eyes play over it
quickly. Find the lunar maria!

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posted by Scientist at 11:43 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some photos of the super moon from around the world.
posted by Sailormom at 3:35 AM on May 8, 2012


There's a neat little experimental art-game by Daniel Benmergui based on this story. It's called I Wish I Were The Moon.

Not to be confused with the Neko Case song I Wish I Was The Moon. Confusing.
posted by spielzebub at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2012


I don't think I have words to describe how wonderful I find The Distance of the Moon. Upon reading it, my immediate thought was "This is the type of story I want to make up for my kids." I love the plausible whimsy of a moon within our reach, and the goofy physics of being "stuck" between worlds. And at the same time, it has a pang of sorrow that I think rounds the story into something more than a silly fable.

The remainder of Cosmicomics is a lot of fun, but The Distance of the Moon is an absolute show-stopper.

I've deleted at least five sentences trying to wrap words around my love of Italo Calvino, so I'll leave it at that.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


How banal a term super moon is. Anyone else annoyed by the use of that dumbed down term instead of perigee moon?

I'm actually quite fond of the term "super moon".


My wife tried to tell me that the most recent "supermoon" was the closest that the Earth would be to the moon for something like 400-500 years.

Baloney.

That's the problem with "supermoon" -- it's a bad term because it infers something more special than it is. There are 4-6 every year, and the closest moon of the 21st century will fall on December 6, 2052 (356,421 km).

Also, the term comes from astrology. Ew:

The word supermoon didn’t come from astronomy. Instead, it came from astrology. Astrologer Richard Nolle of the website astropro.com takes credit for coining the term supermoon. In 1979, he defined it as:

…a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, moon and sun are all in a line, with moon in its nearest approach to Earth.

By this definition, according to Nolle:

There are 4-6 supermoons a year on average.

That doesn’t sound very special, does it? In fact, tonight’s full moon lines up much more closely with perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth – than Nolle’s original definition. The 2012 May full moon falls some six minutes after perigee, the moon’s closest point to Earth for this month. At perigee, the moon lies only 356,955 kilometers (221,802 miles) away. Later this month, on May 19, the moon will swing out to apogee – its farthest point for the month – at 406,448 kilometers (252,555 miles) distant. So you can see tonight’s moon really is at its closest.


hands off, everyone knows it's an American Moon

The many names of the full moons.

Love the story and looking forward to the film. Thanks!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on May 8, 2012


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