The Intersection


i-eef746e2a3359166299d47efd931422a-Sun,_Earth_size_comparison_labeled.jpgAt 2:22 pm tomorrow, I’ll have circumnavigated that spectacular star of ours exactly 28 times.

Despite the traditional hullabaloo and fanfare every twelve months, it’s easy to argue that counting orbits is rather arbitrary. Our year results from the happenstance masses of earth and the sun, the distance between them, and a few other extraterrestrial considerations in the mix. Given all entities involved came about due to a great big bang billions of years prior to my arrival, birthdays don’t seem very significant when you scale out. An individual cameo isn’t even a glimmer in the eye of cosmic time–well that is, if time exists at all.

But then again, I sure do like celebrating. And reason for cake. Besides, the journey’s been a real trip so far and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!


  1. #1 Coturnix
    May 23, 2008

    Cake! Let’s have cake! Happy birthday!

  2. #2 Cal Harth
    May 23, 2008

    Happy birthday! I’d rather blow off some fireworks than eat cake. The charm of birthdays wears off after a while. Enjoy this one if possible.

  3. #3 George
    May 23, 2008

    Happy Birthday Beautiful

  4. #4 Ced
    May 23, 2008

    Happy happy birthday to you,
    A well deserved time for you to celebrate and enjoy all you are…

  5. #5 Jon
    May 23, 2008

    You look younger than 28. Then to consider all you’ve done, 28 seems way too young to have had time.

    So okay, in the end it averages out.

    Have a happy one.

  6. #6 Artie
    May 23, 2008

    Happy, Happy, Happy
    And many more

  7. #7 jill
    May 23, 2008

    Happy Birthday!

  8. #8 jill
    May 23, 2008

    Happy Birthday!..Increasing my vocabulary every day 🙂

  9. #9 Jackie
    May 23, 2008

    Happy Birthday to my favorite scienceblogger!

  10. #10 kev
    May 23, 2008

    i like following your orbit

  11. #11 Chris C. Mooney
    May 23, 2008

    Happy birthday, coblogger.

    Jon says to Sheril: “to consider all you’ve done, 28 seems way too young to have had time.”

    To which I say: Just wait.

  12. #12 Linda
    May 23, 2008

    Happy 28th birthday to you Sheril, and many many successful ones to follow.

  13. #13 ACW
    May 23, 2008

    I like to come up with mathematical facts about a birthday-celebrater’s age. 28 is a perfect age, probably the last time you will be perfect unless you live to be 496. What’s perfect about it? Well, if you list all the integers that divide into 28 evenly (except 28 itself), you will get 1, 2, 4, 7, and 14, and when you add those up you get … 28! This doesn’t work for all numbers. When you add the divisors of 27, you get 1+3+9=13; that’s too little, so 27 is a “deficient” number. If you try it with 30, you get 1+2+3+5+6+10+15=32; that’s too much, so 30 is called an “excessive” number. Most numbers are either deficient or excessive when it comes to the sum of their divisors, but about 40 numbers are known where the sum of the divisors exactly equals the original number. These are the perfect numbers. The smallest is 6, the next is 28, and the one after that is 496.

    Enjoy your year of perfection.

  14. #14 agnostic
    May 23, 2008

    it’s easy to argue that counting orbits is rather arbitrary.

    Oh Sheril, would you prefer that we count based on more principled signals of aging? Hmmm, my hairline has receded X millimeters, my metabolism has slowed by Y, I’m this much closer to menopause, etc. At least “number of orbits completed” doesn’t point to any particular sign of disrepair.

    I wonder if there’s some tendency for baby-faced people to go into science vs. other smartie professions. You, Chris, Razib, and I all look at least 5 years younger than we really are (and other examples from personal observation). It’s not a majority, but it feels like a higher frequency than in the population at large.

    There are extensive studies on baby-faced people, showing that others perceive them as more honest, naive, trustful, etc. Not exactly the traits you want in a corporate lawyer, CEO, investment banker, etc. — you want them to be more ruthless. (Now, whether or not baby-faced people *are* this way or not, that’s at least the perception, and this is good enough to be given short shrift in those other professions.)

    Happy Birthday!

  15. #15 Ethan Siegel
    May 24, 2008

    First, Happy Birthday, Sheril.

    As an astrophysicist, I have to say that birthdays, or the celebration of orbits, are an incredibly useful measure of the passage of time. Our Earth experiences cycles in daylight, temperature, weather and climate patterns, and all the things that the cycles of all living things are dependent upon.

    And these cycles ebb and flow once per year. Every living thing on Earth is evolved to succeed in concordance with this annual cycle. So you can mark the anniversary of your birth, if you like, or count the number of orbits, but this is a grand thing, too. Your life cycles with the same period as every living thing on Earth, and perhaps once a year is a great time to mark and remember that, too.

  16. #16 coreydbarbarian
    May 24, 2008

    happy b-day sheril.

    thanks for being you. 🙂

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