In advance of the big solar eclipse on August 21, author and journalist David Baron talks about his new book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World.
In advance of the big solar eclipse on August 21, author and journalist David Baron talks about his new book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World.
Steve Mirsky: Welcome to Scientific American Science Talk, posted on August 8, 2017. I'm Steve Mirsky. On this episode –
David Baron: There was this small group of American scientists who were determined to show that we could take on Europe. The eclipse of 1878 was exactly what they needed. It was a high-profile event that the whole American public could get involved with that really excited the American public about science.
Mirsky: That's David Baron. He's a science journalist, author, and broadcaster who has spent his 30-year career largely in public radio. He's a three-time winner of the annual Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and he's the author of the new book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World. You probably know that on August 21st, the U.S. will have a total solar eclipse that will be visible in a narrow band all the way from Oregon to South Carolina.
Well, back in 1878, parts of the country also had a total solar eclipse. These rare events made it possible back then to do some science that simply could not be done at any other time. That's what the book's about. David Baron is based in Boulder, Colorado. I spoke to him about the book as well as about solar eclipses, in general, by phone.
Very deep in your book. In fact, after your book, in the acknowledgements, you talk about saying to your agent almost 20 years ago that you want to write about eclipses, solar eclipses but you don't want to do it for almost two decades. Now that's a very strange thing to say to an agent about a book, but he was receptive. Now how did that whole thing come about?
Baron: Well, so that's an interesting place to start. Yeah, so I saw my first total solar eclipse in 1998 in Aruba. It was truly a life-changing experience. It was just mind-boggling beautiful and awe-inspiring. I decided at that moment, as a science writer, that I wanted to write a book about eclipses. But as soon as I started looking into what eclipses were coming down the line, it became quite clear that the time to come out with my book would be the summer of 2017, 19 years later, because, obviously, this was the eclipse that Americans would care about. So, I told my agent I wanted to write the book, but we'd have to wait two decades.
Mirsky: He went for it?
Baron: Well, luckily, I had another book idea that I picked up on in the meantime. I went back to working in radio which is what I've done most of my adult life. But it was about six years ago as the eclipse of 2017 was starting to loom on the horizon that I got back in touch with my agent and said, "Okay, if we're serious about that book, I better figure out what it's going to be about."
Mirsky: Exactly. How did you figure out what it was, in fact, going to be about specifically?
Baron: Well, so I knew from the start that I wanted to write – I wanted to tell a story. I like to tell stories. I didn't want to just write a compendium of eclipse facts or a how-to book on how to view an eclipse, which is a fine book, but not what I wanted to write. I wanted to find a really good story worthy of a book. It didn't take me long to discover that the best eclipse stories are not from today, but from the 19th century, because the mid to late 19th century was a time when total eclipses were not just fascinating natural spectacles but they were really important to science.
That was a time when whenever there was a total eclipse accessible pretty much anywhere on the planet, scientists would put out expeditions, head out to the path of the total eclipse, set up their equipment, and conduct studies to see if they could figure out some secrets, solve some of the mysteries of the sun in particular. Since these eclipses were so difficult to reach and so much was at stake, these expeditions were really interesting. So, I looked into, for instance, the 1868 eclipse that crossed India and Siam and the 1870 eclipse that crossed the Mediterranean. Then when I came to the 1878 eclipse that crossed America's Wild West, that really grabbed me. I thought, "There's a book here."
Mirsky: Talk about just some of the difficulties. Because now, if you want to see an eclipse, you hop on a plane or on a cruise ship and you go to where the eclipse is. If you're lucky, you get clear skies and you have this incredible show. I went to a total solar eclipse in the Sea of Cortez in 1991 where we had 6 minutes and 59 seconds of totality.
Baron: Wow, lucky you.
Mirsky: It's pushing the theoretical limit for totality based on the relative sizes of the sun and the moon and their respective orbits. You're right; it's life-changing. It's mind-boggling. We'll talk about that a little more. But back then, I mean getting – even getting to an eclipse within the United States for American astronomers was no easy feat.
Baron: Absolutely. 1878, it was the Wild West. Much of the region was still being settled. There was active conflict between the settlers and Native Americans. But, by 1878, the Transcontinental Railroad had been put in. So, in fact, one of the prime areas for astronomers to go to was at the intersection of the transcontinental railroad and the path of totality, which was in Wyoming. There were three separate spots there, right along the railroad tracks where astronomers set up their equipment. But still, it meant many days of travel, difficult conditions, and taking often more than a ton of scientific equipment to set up in the path.
Mirsky: The fact that the new Transcontinental Railroad tracks crossed the path of the eclipse makes it pretty much a no-brainer where a lot of people are going to try to go.
Baron: Right. So, Wyoming was a key area, but then so was Colorado, which was south of the Transcontinental Railroad but there were railroads that could bring people very easily into Denver. Texas was also in the path of totality. I don't write that much about what was going on in Texas, but there were a number of places where people could fairly easily in that day reach the path. But certainly, it was a lot harder than it is today without air travel.
Mirsky: When you're reaching the path, it's not just you and your camera and your camera doesn't fit in your pocket. You're schlepping thousands of pounds of equipment.
Baron: Exactly right. So, again, it was – in 1878, it was somewhat easier than in other cases where, again, in 1870 in the Mediterranean, there were Americans who went over there and even the European who had to go from London or Paris down to the Mediterranean. There was one group of scientists who actually were shipwrecked on the way to Sicily for that eclipse. So, 1878, by modern standards, that was difficult to reach. But part of what made the 1878 eclipse so appealing was that it, actually by the standards of the day, was fairly reasonably accessible and it was an area, the Western United States, that was known to have pretty clear skies.
Mirsky: Although the weather as is always true for eclipses, on the day of you're not exactly sure what you're going to get.
Baron: Exactly. In fact, even though the Rocky Mountain West is known to be fairly dry, that year it seemed just about every day leading up to eclipse day in the mid-afternoon, right at the time when totality was going to happen, thunderstorms came in and there was a lot of concern that on eclipse day people would not get a view of it.
Mirsky: In the book, you talk about the three big scientific issues that research done during the very brief period of a total solar eclipse could help you figure out.
Baron: Yeah. So, there were a number of different things that scientists were trying to accomplish. One of the most important, probably one of the two most important was trying to figure out what the sun is made of and what the corona, which today we know is the sun's outer atmosphere, what it was made of. Because that's really what made total eclipses most important in that era was the advent of spectroscopes, which enabled scientists to actually look at the light coming off of heavenly bodies and look for fingerprints, look for what particular colors of the spectrum showed up and in a spectroscope, that would tell you what chemical elements were up there.
So, using spectroscopes, scientists were trying to determine the chemical elements in the sun and in the solar corona. But also, very important was using the eclipse to look at what's right around the sun in the inner solar system. There was good reason to believe that mercury was not the closest planet to the sun. Mercury did not behave quite the way it should based on Newtonian mechanics. So, astronomers assumed that there was another planet, maybe several planets closer to the sun than Mercury, which were tugging on that planet and causing its orbit to be perturbed.
No one had ever – I should say the planet or planets, but the planet, generally, was referred to as Vulcan for the Roman god of fire because it was so close to the sun. It must have been a very hot place. Now no one had ever reliably seen Vulcan, but given its proximity to the sun, that made sense. It would never be in the sky at night and you couldn't see it in the daytime because it would be lost in the sun's glare. But a total eclipse when the moon blocks the bright surface of the sun, enabled scientists to look right around the sun to see if perhaps Vulcan or several Vulcans existed. So, that was the second really important thing.
Thirdly, any time you had a total eclipse, it was a chance to update your equations of the moon's motion. So, astronomers back then were actually very good at precisely identifying where in the skies various celestial objects were and then would use math, would make calculations forecasting where those celestial objects would be in the future. That included charts of where the moon could be found on any given night years in advance. But inevitably after some time, the moon would not quite match up with the orbit and they'd have to – with the calculated orbit.
So, astronomers would have to reset where they had the moon in the sky in terms of the calculations. A total eclipse gives you an opportunity with great precision to know exactly where the moon is to the second. So, by comparing the projected path of the moon's shadow with the actual path of the moon's shadow enabled them to update their equations of the moon's motion.
Mirsky: If you're on a ship at sea in the middle of the night in 1878, this is important information.
Baron: Absolutely right. Because astronomy was incredibly important for navigation at sea. So, in fact, the folks who were – some of the people who were really interested in the eclipse worked for the Nautical Almanac Office of the U.S. Navy, which published this yearly almanac that just contained tables and tables and tables saying where you would find the moon and various planets at certain times of the night on every day of the year. Those were used for navigation. So, the folks from the Nautical Almanac Office were particularly interested in being able to update their equations of the moon's motion.
Mirsky: The way you tell the story of the eclipse watching and study for this 1878 eclipse, there's a whole cast of fascinating characters. We can't get into all of them, but who did you find really interesting and what were they doing for the eclipse and why were they out there?
Baron: Right. So, getting back to how this all came about, when I started looking around for a really good eclipse story to tell and I came upon the 1878 eclipse, the first person who just sold me on this story was Thomas Edison. In 1878, Thomas Edison, 31 years old, who had just become a global celebrity because of his invention of the phonograph, he took a working vacation that summer and came out to Wyoming to observe the total eclipse. So, when I learned that and started looking into what he was up to, I was just fascinated. Because it's a period of Edison's life and an episode that has not received much attention in Edison biographies and for good reason, because 1878, that was the year he had just come out with the phonograph.
As soon as he came back from Wyoming, he started work on a new invention and that was the incandescent lamp. So, wedged between his two most famous inventions, he has this several weeks when he goes out to the Wild West to see a total eclipse. During that period, he was – first of all, he had invented a device for the eclipse called the tasimeter, which was an incredibly sensitive heat detector, essentially an infrared detector that he was going to use to study the solar corona, to see if that mysterious aura around the eclipsed sun gave off heat as well as light. It was a time when Edison actually wanted to respect from academic scientists.
Again, this is very different from the Edison you usually will read about be Edison in later life was quite disdainful of academic scientists. He thought that they were just up in their ivory towers and really didn't know how the world worked. But he in his laboratory, getting his hands dirty, he knew how the world worked. He was adamant that he was not a scientist, he was an inventor. But he was not disdainful of scientists looking for basic information about how the world worked. Indeed, earlier in life, he respected that and wanted to do that himself.
Really, what caused the great rift between him and the scientific community was what happened shortly after the eclipse when he came out with his light bulb. These very scientists who had befriended him and he was with out west, they didn't believe him when he said he had come up with a successful light bulb. They were badmouthing him in the press. Of course, in the end, he proved himself right. But it caused a split that never really healed. But getting back to Edison when he went to Wyoming, he clearly was an inventor but he also wanted to make some important discoveries in the world of science. So, it's – again, Edison from the very start struck me as clearly one of the scientists I would be focusing on in my narrative.
Mirsky: This tasimeter that he creates is – it really doesn't work very well at all. It does register something but it doesn't give you any kind of detailed information. But, in a way, he does anticipate infrared telescopes.
Baron: That's correct. In essence, what he had developed was an infrared telescope. That is when he attached his tasimeter to a telescope. It was a clunky device. I mean at the time, there was one newspaper report that said that his tasimeter was going to be bigger than the phonograph. Obviously, that never happened.
It was able to detect heat, but it really wasn't able to measure heat in any reproduceable way, which made it not that useful. But it's interesting that right after the eclipse, Edison was talking to the press about how he wanted to use his tasimeter for astronomy generally and that was to attach it to a large telescope and to look for objects in the heavens that you couldn't see with visible light but you could detect their heat. In essence, that was the idea for infrared astronomy. The tasimeter, as far as I know, never was used that way, but clearly, Edison was ahead of his time.
Mirsky: So, he's out there and a whole bunch of other people are out there. We have to talk about Mariah Mitchell, because she's such a fascinating case.
Baron: Yeah. I just absolutely adore Mariah Mitchell. So, after I identified Edison as clearly one of the scientists I would be writing about, I literally made a list of over 70 scientists, all of them interesting people, who were in the West for the eclipse of 1878 to see whose stories really seemed worth of delving into in great detail. After I identified Edison, the second person I identified was Mariah Mitchell. Mariah Mitchell, back in the 19th century was, by far, the most famous female scientist in America.
She had discovered a comet back in the 1840s. For that, she received a gold medal from the King of Denmark. By the 1870s, she was teaching astronomy at Vassar College which was a relatively newly founded university, of course, for women.
In 1878, at a time when there were all of these men who were assembling eclipse expeditions out to the West and receiving government support, government subsidies and she was excluded, Mariah Mitchell decided to take it upon herself to put together an all-female expedition to Denver, both as a scientific endeavor but also as kind of a bit of political theater to prove to an American public, a skeptical public, that women could be scientists.
Mirsky: The two biggest things that maybe come out of the eclipse are Mariah Mitchell's exhibition really to the public about what women can do in science and the overall boosting. There's almost like a sputnik effect you write about, how American science really started to rise up and match European science.
Baron: The era is just so interesting because I mean this is – it's the gilded age in America, a time when America was getting rich. In fact, America's reputation was that all we cared about was getting rich. We were industrializing. We were challenging Europe in terms of our economic might. But from an intellectual standpoint, America didn't get much respect. Europe was the clear center of Western culture. That's where most of the respectable literature and art and music came from.
Europe was the clear center of science in the world. But there was this small group of American scientists who were determined to show that we could take on Europe. The eclipse of 1878 was exactly what they needed. It was a high-profile event that the whole American public could get involved with that really excited the American public about science. I was just fascinated as I learned about the eclipse and read the newspaper articles from the times and people's personal letters, at the extent to which the eclipse of 1878 kind of infused science with a kind of patriotism.
You had just general Americans who suddenly were cheering on their home team of American scientists and wanting this young country to show the world what we could do in science. It was an important stepping stone in leading America toward what it really would become in a few decades, which was the world's leader in science. So, in that way, the eclipse of 1878, it's important goes beyond the science itself and more into its effect on American culture and American politics.
Mirsky: Now let's talk about Vulcan a little bit because there were some pretty wild, as it turns out, claims that there was at least one more planet, maybe two, maybe three, maybe four within the orbit of Mercury based on people's views of the region around the sun during the eclipse.
Baron: So, as I said, this search for Vulcan was one of the high-profile things to be done during the eclipse of 1878. If anyone was in a position to find Vulcan, it was a man named James Craig Watson. Watson was the professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan. He, in fact, was known in that era as a planet hunter because he was particularly good at finding asteroids, which back then were considered planets. They were considered minor planets but they got names just like the major planets and finding them was a very big deal.
James Craig Watson had a knack for looking at the sky and being able to identify among a sea of stars a planet that was floating by. So, James Craig Watson who was a great believer in the existence of Vulcan made it clear before he went to Wyoming in 1878 that his goal was to find Vulcan during the eclipse. The remarkable thing is he found it. [Laughs] In fact, he found it and he found something else that then he determined was a planet, too.
There was another fellow named Louis Swift who was quite well-known as a – generally, for finding comets. He also found two planets between Mercury and the sun. At first, it looked like his findings corroborated those of Watson's, but then when people started looking into it in greater detail, it turned out their planets didn't line up. So, for a while, it looked like maybe there were four planets between Mercury and the sun before everything started to fall apart.
It won't surprise anyone that, of course, we know in hindsight that there is no Vulcan and they didn't find anything. But that wasn't clear at the time. It took quite a while to sort out exactly what was seen during the eclipse of 1878 and what could be believed.
Mirsky: The fact that there were unusual motions associated with the orbit of Mercury, ironically, it's another eclipse that winds up confirming what's really going on there.
Baron: That's right. That was in 1919. So, I mean the whole story – it's a fascinating long tale of Vulcan's birth and death. But as I said, the reason scientists believed Vulcan had to exist was because Mercury's orbit didn't make sense based on Newtonian mechanics. In the end, it turned out the problem was with Newtonian mechanics, that Newton wasn't quite right. That Mercury, because it's so close to this really massive object, the sun, you have to take into account what we now know are relativistic effects.
It took Einstein and his general theory of relatively to explain why Mercury's orbit – why Mercury behaves the way it does. So, Einstein solved the problem of – that there didn't need to be a Vulcan for Mercury to behave the way it does. It was at an eclipse in 1919 that Einstein's general theory of relativity was proven to be correct. That was when, during this total eclipse off the coast of Africa and in the north of Brazil, British scientists were able to study the bending of starlight around the eclipsed sun and the bending matched what Einstein said it should based on general relativity.
That is generally considered to be the experiment that showed Einstein was right. In essence, that's what killed off Vulcan and said not only isn't there a planet between Mercury and the sun but there really can't be because Mercury's orbit behaves exactly the way it should based on what Einstein said.
Mirsky: That pretty much made Einstein a worldwide household name.
Mirsky: The first couple of paragraphs of the preface of the book I thought were really nice. I was wondering if you could read those for us.
Baron: "To be human, it seems, is to seek purpose in our transient lives. Many people find meaning in the eyes of their children or in the words of scripture. But I discovered it on a beach outside a Hyatt Regency in Aruba. I had journeyed south that winter of 1998 to escape the snows of Boston and, more notably, to take in nature's grandest spectacle, a total solar eclipse, which would cross the Caribbean on a Thursday afternoon in late February.
"As a science journalist, I thought I knew what to expect. For 174 seconds, the blue sky would blacken, stars would appear, and the sun would manifest its ethereal outer atmosphere, the solar corona. What I had not anticipated was my own intense reaction to the display. For three glorious minutes, I felt transported to another planet, indeed to a higher plane of reality as my consciousness departed the earth and I gaped at an alien sky. Above me, in the dim vault of the heavens, shown an incomprehensible object. It looked like an enormous wreath woven from silvery thread and it hung suspended in the immensity of space shimmering.
"As I stood transfixed by this vision, I felt something I had never experienced before; a visceral connection to the universe and I became an umbraphile, an eclipse chaser, one who has since obsessively stalked the moon's shadow across Europe, Asia, Australia for yet a few more fleeting moments of lunar nirvana."
Mirsky: Yeah, it really is an amazing thing. Even though now, today, I mean we don't think the world's ending anymore. We don't think that it's a portent of some kind of supernatural intervention anymore, but somewhere – I have to think somewhere in our lizard brain – I know my experience was, intellectually I knew exactly what was happening. Emotionally, it was almost frightening. The sensation of the shadow of the moon, because it really kind of rushes at you at the last few seconds and engulfs you, it's completely otherworldly. There's nothing else like that.
Baron: I agree completely. I expected to have this interesting intellectual experience and, instead, it was just completely visceral. It just tapped into something very, very deep in my brain. I mean I really think even though I knew what was going on, as exactly what you said, the gut reaction was one of absolute horror and, at the same time, awe that it just sort of put my whole existence into a whole new perspective of appreciating just how powerless and puny I am. But at the same time, just how marvelous and spectacular the universe is.
So, it's both incredibly humbling and also incredibly empowering. I mean it's this great paradox. That's, I think, what makes it so addictive and why I chase eclipses and why there are other people who are eclipse junkies and why I think, frankly, after August 21st of this year there will be thousands more people who will find themselves chasing eclipses all over the world. It's just an experience unlike anything else that you just want to have again.
Mirsky: For this one, tens of millions of people are going to find themselves in the path of totality without having to leave their homes.
Baron: Oh, yeah. When you look at the number of people who are within a reasonable day's drive of the path of totality, you're basically talking about half of the nation. I don't know how many people will make that drive, but everyone I talk to I am encouraging to make that drive. It's a Monday. People have work. Some people have school.
It should be a holiday. Frankly, we should just all take the day off and just spend it in wonder, absolute wonder at the universe we're in and this tiny piece of stone that's orbiting the sun. Because during a total eclipse, you really come to appreciate just how tenuous our existence is.
Mirsky: Two things I remember from my solar eclipse. First is no photograph – and there are some excellent ones – but no photograph I have ever seen really capture the delicate nature of the corona.
Baron: I absolutely agree. Yeah, the corona was such a surprise to me. It just – it's different every time. Having seen five total eclipses, part of it – part of the excitement is you don't know exactly what the corona's going to look like. But it's – pictures make it look like a simple halo or ring around the sun. It is just not that at all.
It looks like it's made out of kind of strands of silk. It's got this fine texture to it. The shape, as I say, is different every time. It's shaped by the magnetic field of the sun. So, the shape can look sort of like the shapes you get from iron shavings shaped by a bar magnet. It's just – it's dazzling. The way it shimmers out there in space, you just can't capture with a photograph.
Also, there's just the whole sense of depth that you get from seeing it with your own eyeballs. I mean I compare it to the difference between looking at a photograph of the Grand Canyon and standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It's a fundamentally different experience when you can just – when you sense all that space in front of you. That's also what I experienced during a total eclipse. It really is like looking out 93 million miles away and understanding that the sun is an object and it's right over there and I have a sense of the 93 million miles between me and it. You just can't get that with a photograph.
Mirsky: Cameras, as great as they are, are facing an almost impossible task. The cameras just can't deal with it. But your eyes, as far as they go, do a much better job of giving you the detail. It's just unbelievable. Every eclipse corona photograph is overexposed in the corona. But your eyes can get much, much more. For that, you've got to see it in person.
Baron: Well, right. Although I would say that – as you say, the dynamic range of the corona is enormous. So, it's quite bright in the inside and quite dim toward the outside and your eye can pick up on that whereas, you say, photographs don't. There are some now, some digital imaging techniques that are helping to create images that are closer to what the eye sees, but it's still – it kind of flattens it because in order to show it in a photograph, you've got to take this high-dynamic range and flatten it out, whereas what you're seeing with your eye, you're seeing the real thing where it goes from very bright to very dim.
Mirsky: Right. The disc of the moon is the blackest thing you've ever seen. It doesn't look like it's there. It just looks like there's a hole in the sky.
Baron: Yeah, absolutely. That's part of what's so frightening. It does look like a hole in the sky.
Mirsky: The other amazing thing, which I knew it was going to happen but when you really see it, it's mind-blowing, is the visible planets just come out and line up on both sides of the sun. They line up there for you to look at. "There's Mercury. There's Venus. There's Mars. There's Jupiter. There's Saturn." Almost a straight line across the ecliptic.
Baron: Yes, exactly. In fact, that was one of the most mind-blowing things I experienced at my first total eclipse was I just had this sensation that I had left the solar system, that was I standing on some alien world looking back at the solar system because I could see it all. I could see the sun flanked by planets. This is exactly, of course, what you see in your high school science text, the sun in the middle and the planets around it. But you can't normally see it with your own eyes. It just was marvelous and perplexing. Yeah, it really felt like I was not on earth anymore.
Mirsky: So, you've seen five now. Is that right?
Baron: Correct, yeah.
Mirsky: Are you planning to see this one?
Baron: Oh, absolutely. I've been planning to see this one, of course, since my first Aruba. I made my hotel reservations for this one three years ago.
Mirsky: You're very wise.
Baron: I live in Colorado so the easy thing for me to do was to go north to Wyoming to get into the path of totality. So, I'm going to be up in Jackson outside the Tetons, which is, of course, a particularly pretty spot. I've convinced a dozen family members to join me there. Our plan is to be up on top of one of the Tetons looking west toward Idaho as the moon's shadow rushes in. So, I want to see the shadow as it comes in and then look up to see the corona from up there. If the skies are clear, it should just be spectacular.
Mirsky: Well, I wish you clear skies and thanks for the book. I thought it was fascinating and delightful and it really gives you an idea about what the country and science was like back then. Is it – am I reading too much into it, but I got the sense that at times in your writing, you were subtly pointing out how similar things are in certain ways to what they were like then?
Baron: Well, you know, I do think there are a lot of similarities and I do think the eclipse this year could have a similar effect to the one it had in 1878. But of course, when I was writing the book, I had no idea how the presidential election would turn out of what would be happening in this country in terms of people's concern that maybe an anti-science sentiment is on the rise. But I have to say the parallels are quite striking.
In fact, in 1878, we had a newly elected Republican president who was elected by the electoral vote but lost the popular vote. The Democrats were furious. Many considered President Rutherford B. Hayes to be an illegitimate president. There were congressional hearings in the summer of 1878 into voter fraud to see, if in fact, the election had been tampered with.
In that summer, the moon's shadow descended over the country and, at least for a little while, we started talking about what we had in common as opposed to what divided us. I actually think we could see that same effect this year. I'm not saying that the total eclipse on August 21st is suddenly going to solve our political differences. Certainly, not at all. But I think it will remind us of the things we have in common and I certainly hope it will remind us of the importance of understanding the natural world and, as a country, getting behind scientific research.
Mirsky: That's it for this episode. Get your science news at our website, www.ScientificAmerican.com, where you can also check out all of our extensive eclipse coverage, continuing through the event on August 21st including articles on how best to safely enjoy it. Follow us on Twitter where you'll get a tweet whenever a new item hits the website. Our Twitter name is @sciam. For Scientific American Science Talk, I'm Steve Mirsky. Thanks for clicking on us.