Rocks, Caves, and Collisions

Today we went to the rock of Cashel. The name is somewhat misleading, as it’s not actually a rock. Well, it’s made of rock. “Rock of Cashel” refers to an entire complex of ancient buildings, some dating back to the 12th century. Once it was the seat of power for the king of Munster, but in 1101 he saw that he might lose control of it and donated it to the church. After that, it was an abbey until it was abandoned in the 18th century. Luckily, by the end of the 19th century it was in the care of the state and remains so to this day.

Students with photo ID only pay €3 for entry and a guided tour, so in addition to the historic interest, it’s pretty cheap.

And you can get some good photos.

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The first and last photos are of the view from the abbey; the second and third are either side of the cathedral. In the third, you can also see the round tower, which is the oldest structure in the whole complex. I’m really glad my brother got a phone upgrade and I could borrow his old one. A photography class would really help my composition, I think. Photography is cool because it’s available for everyone… digital photography is as cheap as buying a device and supplying electricity. Not that everyone can afford a camera or even a phone, but I think most people in the states nowadays have smartphones, and everyone who does can benefit from some photographic training. Maybe I’ll take a photography class in college, on a lark.

Before our time in Cashel, Ciara and I visited the Mitchelstown caves. I have no photos of the caves because I have not the skill to take photos in low light. However, the rock formations are fantastic. No matter how many caves I visit, I am always surprised by the age of the rock formations. Even the smallest stalactite is thousands of years old. With that in mind, the giant formations I see become even more awe-inspiring.

Caves frighten me as much as they fascinate me. I’m not claustrophobic, but I am afraid of the dark, and I’m never far from wanting to turn and run in a cave. Then again, the science of caves is unique. Biologically, the cave ecosystem is pretty isolated and specific, leading to interesting adaptations. In Mitchelstown cave, there are 40 species of insect, and that’s basically it. All of the insects are white and blind. As Ciara pointed out, you know that energy is at a premium when it’s too much trouble for an animal to make pigment. Really, though, I’m not positive what those creatures survive on. There’s no real plant life in the cave due to the lack of sunlight, so it’s not as if the insects can eat plants. According to our tour guide, they eat whatever biological material is available. One of the caverns in the cave houses a small lake, which has been isolated for hundreds of thousands of years, certainly long enough for interesting bacteria to evolve. Disappointingly, there were no unique species of bacteria found in the lake.

Yesterday I was fascinated by the physics of golf. I’m sort of shallow in that I will briefly be obsessed with something and then abandon it entirely once I’ve fulfilled my curiosity, but I still don’t fully understand the mechanics of golf, so I still have interest. Shaun was kind enough to take us down to the driving range and set us up with some of his clubs to hit some balls. I quickly tired of trying to improve myself, but I really enjoyed asking Shaun about the theory behind all of it. AP Physics may not have been my favorite class, but it did equip me with enough understanding of physics that my worldview has shifted to include analysis of the motion around me. The moment of impact between club and ball should provide the vast majority of the information required to model the entire trajectory of the ball. That and the air resistance, I suppose. The best part of learning science is its ability to change the way you see the world and deepen your understanding of the everyday. Golf would have been totally boring to me if I could not think about the physics, but with a method of understanding it, it was thoroughly fascinating.

My goal in life is to be able to understand everything around me. It’s not attainable, but the worthiness of impossible goals has always been a belief of mine. Adults always seemed to give up trying just because what they were trying for wasn’t possible. They acted as if something not being possible was an excuse not to try. Maybe it’s just childish, but I hope I never think that way.


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