Moomin Words of Wisdom

Tove Jansson had a real knack for filling her Moomin characters full of wonderful words of wisdom. Lessons on life and love and death, how to say no to relatives who want to stay in your house, how to feel glad to have emotions, how to embrace uncertainty and how sometimes it is ok to want to sack it all in and go live in a tree!

You can’t ever be really free if you admire somebody too much. Tales from Moominvalley

A theatre is the most important sort of house in the world, because that’s where people are shown what they could be if they wanted, and what they’d like to be if they dared to and what they really are. Moominsummer Madness

All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured. Moominland Midwinter

You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is. Comet in Moominland

Someone who eats pancakes and jam can’t be so awfully dangerous. You can talk to him. Finn Family Moomintroll

Quite, quite, she thought with a little sigh. It’s always like this in their adventures. To save and be saved. I wish somebody would write a story sometime about the people who warm up the heroes afterward. Moominland Midwinter

I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Vol. 1

It’s funny about paths and rivers, he mused. You see them go by, and suddenly you feel upset and want to be somewhere else–wherever the path or the river is going, perhaps. Comet in Moominland

Just think, never to be glad or disappointed. Never to like anyone and get cross at him and forgive him. Never to sleep or feel cold, never to make a mistake and have a stomach-ache and be cured from it, never to have a birthday party, drink beer, and have a bad conscience…How terrible. Tales from Moominvalley

There are those who stay at home and those who go away, and it has always been so. Everyone can choose for himself, but he must choose while there is still time and never change his mind. Moominvalley in November

When one’s dead, one’s dead… This squirrel will become earth all in his time. And still later on, there’ll grow new trees from him, with new squirrels skipping about in them. Do you think that’s so very sad? Moominland Midwinter

From Wonderful Moomin Words of Wisdom.

Elevenses with Moomins

Moomintroll, Moominmamma and Moominpappa are little white trolls who live in Moominvalley, with other fantastical creatures such as the Hattifatteners, Mymbles and Whompers.

Little bears are enjoying their elevenses and making new friends… They have found someone who shares their philosophy – the importance of small pleasures and a good party 🙂 Because the good in a good party is part of the Infinite Goodness!

The little white trolls who live in Moominvalley are Finnish literature characters created by the much-loved Swedish speaking Finn, writer and artist Tove Jansson in the 1940’s. After the initial success of the comic strips and books, Moomins grew into a world-wide phenomenon through puppet animations and Japanese-style cartoons. Today the Moomins adorn the wings of Finnair (The Official Airline of Moomins), the iconic mugs of Arabia and high-quality bedding of Finlayson, to name a few.

The Moomins are not only adventuring in literature, animation and merchandise or in films, music and theatre shows. In Finland, the Moomins have their own hotel rooms like the Naantali Spa Moomin Story and theme parks such as The Moomin World in Naantali. They also have their own Moomin Museum in Tampere and numerous gallery and museum exhibitions around the country every year.

Still don’t know who the Moomins are?

The Moomins are a fairytale family of Finnish “trolls” who have adventures with their friends, just like little bears 🙂

The main characters include Moomintroll, his parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, Snufkin, Little My, and the terrifying Groke.

The Moomins first appeared in a series of comic strips and novels by Finnish writer, artist, and illustrator Tove Jansson.

These stories later inspired international TV shows, films, and a staggering range of merchandise that sells well even today. A Moomin shop even opened in London’s Covent Garden in 2011.

The first printed Moomin appeared in an anti-Hitler cartoon Jansson drew for satirical Finnish magazine Garm in 1938. She signed herself off with an angry Moomin.

At that time, her Moomin was called Snork and looked thinner and creepier than the rounded, friendly Moomins we know today.

Britain’s first glimpse of Moomintroll was a shot of his bottom in the first Moomin comic strip to run in The London Evening News in 1952. The series continued until 1970.

Tove Jansson started producing Moomin novels alongside her comic strips. She wrote the first Moomin novel, Moomin and the Great Flood, at the end of the Second World War.

Although she was Finnish, The Moomins was originally written in Swedish.

Jansson and her family were among the minority of Swedish-speaking Finns living in Finland.

Moomin Valley was inspired by the area around Jansson’s family summer house in northern Finland.

The fertile greenery of Moomin Valley echoes Pellinki, the archipelago in the Gulf of Finland where Jansson spent her childhood summers.

The second book, Comet In Moominland was published in 1946. Comet in Moominland is often seen as first novel in the series as it introduces many of the main characters, like Snufkinand the Snorkmaiden, and is set in Moominvalley. Like the first book, Moomin and the Great Flood, Comet In Moominland was written during the difficult and nerve-wracking war period, and Tove’s anxiety and grief are embedded in these books. In Comet In Moominland, Moomintroll and Sniff go on this journey to find out when the comet is coming and if it’s coming to Moominvalley. There are descriptions of creatures leaving their homes. Just like in Helsinki during the war, people were leaving their homes for fear of the bombs. She captured that and put it in her books.

The adventurous Moominpappa, with his top hat and seafaring nature, was based on Jansson’s storm-chasing father.

Viktor Jansson was a sculptor who loved storms and fires. Whenever there was a fire in Helsinki, he would scoop up the children to go and watch it unfold.

The character of Toft, who appears in Moomin Valley in November, the last Moomin story, was based on Tove Jansson herself. She wrote Moominvalley in November after her mother died. It is a wise and moving book about grieving.

Jansson wrote this final, slightly melancholy Moomin book in 1970. In the book, Toft visits the Moominhouse only to find that no one is home. And no one comes home.

The Moomins became so popular that you could read Moomin studies at Swedish universities in the 1950s.

Jansson rejected an offer from Walt Disney to buy up the Moomin brand. The Moomins became a massive franchise in Tove Jansson’s lifetime. But she never left them to the mercy of the market or to someone elses’s mercy. For example, she made sure the ceramics were made in Finland where she could control them and where they would create Finnish jobs.

A theme park called Moomin World opened in Naantali, Finland in 1993.

Its attractions include the big blue Moomin House, the Hemulen’s house, Snufkin’s camp, and Moominpappa’s boat. A second Moomin World is due to open in Hanno, Japan in 2019.

But Jansson also built her own Moomin House.

Tove Jansson built this Moomin House between 1976 and 1979 with Pentti Eskola and Tuulikki Pietilä. It is housed in the Tampere Art Museum in Finland.

There has been a Moomin opera and several Moomin plays.

Jansson worked with Vivika Bandler on a series of Moomin plays in the 1950s, and in 1974 she designed the costumes for a Moomin opera written by Finnish composer Ilkka Kuusisto.

And even a Moomin cookbook. Published in 2010, it gives an introduction to Finnish forage and forest cuisine, something called “apple grog”, and even toast.

And a recipe for perfect pancakes.

500 ml milk
80 g wheat flour
20 g barley flour
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
Butter for frying.

1. Whisk the flour into the milk and add the salt. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth and allow it to rest for about half an hour before frying.
2. Heat a cast-iron frying pan, then add a knob of butter. Pour enough of the batter into the centre of the pan so that it spreads out to form a thin, lace-like layer across the pan.
3. Once the underside of the pancake has cooked, turn it over using a wooden spatula. Fry the other side of the pancake until it is a beautiful brown colour, then remove the pancake and place it on a preheated plate (covered with a lid). Continue doing this until you have used up all the batter.

Serve the pancakes with strawberry jam or whipped cream. Or both.

Jansson’s brother Lars took over the comic strip in 1961 and drew it until 1974.

His daughter Sophia has been managing them since 1993.

Tove Jansson was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966, the most distinguished prize in children’s literature and often referred to as the “Little Nobel Prize”.

Although the Moomins started life in the 1940s, they’re still going strong today. The movie Moomins on the Riviera was released in 2014.

Time to watch Moomins and the Comet Chase. Mads Mikkelsen voices Sniff and Stellan Skarsgård voices Moominpapa.


The world of the Moomins is threatened by comets and subject to terrifying winters. The Moomins, however, concentrate on good manners, good coffee and enjoying the summer. Life is really worth living if we’re just nice to each other and make really good coffee, and the pancakes are just right 🙂

The Illuminating Power of Eclipses

With the sun obscured, eclipses can be revelatory: Starting at least over 2,000 years ago, they have been fodder for significant discoveries.

A total solar eclipse showing the sun’s corona in Brazil in 1919. Credit Science & Society Picture Library, via Getty Images

Hipparchus, the Greek astronomer and mathematician who lived more than 2,000 years ago, used the solar eclipse to solve a celestial geometry problem.

He knew that at a spot in northwestern Turkey an eclipse had totally blocked the sun. But in Alexandria, about 1,000 kilometres away, only about four-fifths of the sun had been covered. From that tidbit, he calculated the distance between the Earth and moon to within roughly 20 percent of the correct figure.

Hipparchus was among the earliest scholars to take advantage of eclipses for science. In more recent centuries, scientists have used these celestial events as opportunities to study the solar system, especially the sun itself.

Usually, the sun is too bright for scientists to see anything in its immediate vicinity. Only during eclipses does its radiant halo, the corona, become visible.

In 1605, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler mused that the corona observed during an eclipse might be a consequence of an atmosphere around the moon scattering the passing sunlight. (Eventually, scientists figured out that the corona surrounded the sun, not the moon.)

Sun’s corona during total solar eclipse, 21 August 2017
National Park Service, US

The corona is the outer atmosphere of the sun. It is made of tenuous gases and is normally hiding in plain sight, overwhelmed by the bright light of the sun’s photosphere. When the moon blocks the sun’s face during a total solar eclipse, the corona is revealed as a pearly-white halo around the sun. To study the corona, scientists use special instruments called coronagraphs, which mimic eclipses by using solid disks to block the sun’s face. During a natural total eclipse, however, lower parts of the corona can be seen in a way that still cannot be completely replicated by current technology.

Eclipse observations are important for understanding why the sun’s atmosphere is 1 million degrees hotter than its surface, as well as the process by which the sun sends out a constant stream of solar material and radiation, which cause changes in the nature of space and may impact spacecraft, communications systems, and orbiting astronauts. But creates awesome auroras 🙂

NASA Image Credit: Luc Viatour

Observers also reported gigantic arcs rising out of the sun, solar prominences now known to stretch hundreds of thousands of miles into space.

The invention of the spectroscope in the mid 19th century brought new solar discoveries. A glass prism splits light into a rainbow of colours emitted by specific atoms and molecules — bar codes, in a way, that identify the elements making the light.

In 1868, a French scientist, Pierre Janssen, travelled to India to view an eclipse through a spectroscope. The sun’s prominences, he concluded, are largely made of hot hydrogen gas.

But a bright yellow line seen through the spectroscope, initially thought to be an identifier of sodium, did not match the wavelength of sodium.

That signified the discovery of helium, the universe’s second most common element. It would not be found on Earth for another 13 years.

The observatory of Norman Lockyer on the Kent Coast of England in 1890. Lockyer is one of the scientists credited with helping discover helium. Credit Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images
Left, a photograph from 1878 of the sun’s surface, left, that was taken by the French astronomer Pierre Janssen, right. Credit Left: Science & Society Picture Library, via Getty Images; right: Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector, via Getty Images

During a total solar eclipse in 1869, two American scientists, Charles Augustus Young and William Harkness, independently observed an unexpected faint green line in the corona.

Scientists hypothesized it might be the emission of a new element, which was given the name coronium. It wasn’t until the 1930s that researchers realized coronium was not a new element, but rather iron with half of the atom’s 26 electrons stripped away.

That finding hinted at ultrahot temperatures on the sun — and at a new mystery.

The lines of colour seen on a spectrometer can also be used to measure temperature. The temperature of the surface of the sun is about 5,500 degrees Celsius (5,778 K).

Yet measurements of the corona, begun during a 1932 eclipse, put the temperature there much higher — millions of degrees. Ever since, solar scientists have been puzzling over precisely how the corona gets so hot.

Eclipses have taught scientists much about how our solar system works. But the events have also brought down some firmly held ideas.

Astronomers long ago discovered that Mercury, the innermost planet, wobbled in its orbit more than Newton’s laws of motion indicated it ought to. In the 19th century, many thought there must be another little planet inside the orbit of Mercury that was pulling it around. They called it Vulcan.

Various observers reported seeing a small dot cross in front of the sun, and many were convinced. “Vulcan exists, and its existence can no longer be denied or ignored,” The New York Times reported in September 1876.

During the darkness of a total solar eclipse two years later, two astronomers — one stationed in Wyoming, the other in Colorado — separately claimed to have spotted planets within the orbit of Mercury.

But they were wrong — they probably had seen well-known stars that become visible in the darkness of the eclipse. By the end of the century, most scientists doubted Vulcan was there, and in 1915, Einstein’s theory of general relativity provided a plausible explanation for Mercury’s wobble: a distortion in space-time caused by the sun.

Einstein’s ideas set the stage for the most famous eclipse experiment of all time, in 1919, during which Sir Arthur Eddington observed the bending of starlight around the sun. The findings verified the theory’s predictions.

Solar eclipses have been used not just to deduce what is going on in the solar system but also to study Earth.

In 1695, the astronomer Edmund Halley discovered that modern calculations did not quite predict eclipses reported in ancient times. As it turned out, that is because the Earth’s spin has been slowing.

Credit Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images

Chinese historical records provided clues needed to figure out how much. In the 4th century BCE, a Chinese philosopher, Mozi, wrote that “the sun rose at night”, describing an epic battle that had occurred about 1,500 years earlier.

While paging through the text at the University of California, Los Angeles, a couple of decades ago, Kevin D. Pang, a former NASA scientist, realized this was not a poetic account of a fiery combat, but a description of a total eclipse.

The eclipse, which occurred close to sunset, indicated a passage into night, and the re-emergence of the sun was thus a sunrise at night.

The day and place of the battle were known. Computer simulations determined how much slowing of Earth’s rotation rate was needed to make the shadow of an eclipse that occurred that day pass over the battlefield.

If the Earth was spinning faster back then, the day was shorter — by 0.07 of a second.

Eclipses also provide a test of weather models. “We’re not normally in a position to turn something off and see what the response is in a nice cause-and-effect sort of way,” said Giles Harrison, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Reading in England.

When the sun disappears, temperatures drop and winds calm. Using weather station data from the 1900 eclipse that crossed North America, a meteorologist named H. H. Clayton noticed that the winds also appeared to change direction.

During a 2015 eclipse in England, Dr. Harrison and a colleague analysed weather station data and collected observations from several thousand citizen scientists. They found that the wind direction shifted 20 to 30 degrees because warm air had stopped rising from the ground.

“That largely confirms Clayton’s thinking, his ideas from over a hundred years ago,” Dr. Harrison said.

Original article in The New York Times.

Tuesday Funnies

On Monday night 🙂

Ready for the eclipse…

… cartoons!

Dave Granlund
Gary McCoy
Cagle Cartoons
Tom Toles
Washington Post
Dave Granlund
Rick McKee
Augusta Chronicle
David Fitzsimmons
Arizona Star
Dave Granlund

We live in a golden age of political cartoons…

The Solar Eclipse That Made Einstein Famous

It seems impossible, given how instantly recognizable Albert Einstein’s shock of white hair, bushy mustache and lined face remain six decades after his death, but there was a time when he was not famous. In fact, there was a time when the German-born prodigy was not a full-fledged physicist. Instead, he was patent examiner in Bern, Switzerland, who conducted scientific research in his off hours.

In 1905, when he was 26, Einstein began revolutionizing physics with his theory of special relativity, which helped redefine the relationship between space and time. One of the world’s most iconic mathematical equations — E=mc2 — grew out of special relativity.

Einstein Memorial in Washington, DC

That work secured Einstein a series of academic positions, but it didn’t make him famous. Neither did his theory of general relativity, which he published in 1915. Einstein argued that what we understand as gravity is, in fact, from the curvature of space and time — a hotly debated notion among physicists at the time.

Then came the solar eclipse of 1919 — more than six minutes of darkness along a path that stretched from South America to Africa and changed the course of Einstein’s life. Some people refer to the May 29, 1919, event “Einstein’s eclipse.”

Albert Einstein delivers a lecture to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28, 1934. (AP)

Nearly a century later, on Aug. 21, a solar eclipse will sweep across the United States in one of the most anticipated astronomical events in the country’s history. It will give scientists an opportunity to study the sun’s volatile corona, the wisps of plasma that billow and sometimes explode around the star.

In 1919, British astronomers, led by Sir Arthur Eddington, used the eclipse to prove that the light from stars was being deflected by the sun’s gravitational field at exactly the degree Einstein’s theory predicted.

Newspapers around the world celebrated the accomplishment. “Einstein Theory Triumphs,” the New York Times reported on November 10, 1919. “Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations.”

New York Times, November 10, 1919

What Einstein had done, effectively, was change the conversation about space, and how people understood and related to it. Just as importantly, the scientific breakthrough offered a reprieve from the devastation of World War I, which had claimed the lives of an estimated 17 million people.

“Europe was in mourning,” said Jimena Canales, author of The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time. “The public was thirsty for news that was not about what was going on around them.”

Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921. Afterward, he traveled the world, hobnobbing with royalty and Hollywood stars. Charlie Chaplin invited him to the premiere of his new movie, City Lights, in 1931, and reportedly said to him, “They’re cheering us both, you because nobody understands you, and me because everybody understands me.”

Einstein fled Germany in 1933 as the Nazis came to power and began ousting Jewish scientists from the country’s universities. In a speech to a packed audience at London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 3, 1933, Einstein warned of the dangers Hitler posed.

“If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom we must keep clearly before us what is at stake,” he said, “and what we owe to that freedom which our ancestors have won for us after hard struggles.”

He sailed to the United States four days later, eventually taking a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, where his fame grew. He was a pacifist and an outspoken champion of civil rights, joining the NAACP and corresponding with W.E.B. Du Bois, a co-founder of the organization.

British scientist Stephen Hawking speaks in New York in 2016 while an image of Albert Einstein looms behind him on a video screen. (EPA/JASON SZENES)

“Einstein, in that time, was becoming more than a public scientist,” Canales said. “He became oracular, and he didn’t shy away” from it. “He created this new role [now inhabited] by people like Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.”

By the time he died in 1955 at the age of 76, Einstein’s name had become a synonym for genius. And it all began in 1919, after the moon briefly blocked the sun.

Original article in The Washington Post.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
This statue of Albert Einstein demonstrates an extraordinary fact about what is in the sky. Einstein’s lifted index finger covers the amount of sky shown on the monumental wall across the room. The wall is known as The Big Picture, and it is the largest astronomical picture in the world. Almost of all its two million stars and galaxies can be seen only by telescope. It would take 1,357 Big Pictures to cover the whole sky. The Big Picture and Albert Einstein together reveal the true grandeur of the universe.
The Big Picture
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles