Are You Smarter Than a Harvard Grad?

by Oliver L.

Today is a pretty important day. July 4th. Day of Aphelion. Today, the Earth has reached the furthest point in its orbit around our sun. Today, our planet receives the least amount of energy from the sun in its annual celestial dance. Today, it was 96 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Unbeknownst to the alumni of America’s oldest private institution, seasons are not, in fact, a result of the Earth’s linear distance from the sun. If that were the case, today would be the coldest day of the year. If Australia were real, it would experience the same seasons as us. According to our best theorists though, seasons on the hypothetical continent actually occur opposite to our own.

Christmas in the summer? How could anyone ever believe in such a place?

In either case, the real cause of seasons is the Earth’s obliquity, or the tilt of our rotation with respect to our orbital path. When we tilt towards the Sun, we call it summer. When we tilt away, that’s winter. Congratulations. You are now smarter than a Harvard grad.

In honor of such an important holiday, we had our first off-campus field trip. After a hard day of cosmology and data reduction, 36 kids piled into a minibus heading for downtown Durham to watch the Durham Bulls. With food too.

I’ve never been a huge baseball fan, especially after the whole “cheating fiasco.” I’ve still been to my share of ball games though, and my favorite parts are definitely the intermissions between innings. Lucky for me, I was invited today to participate in a relay race along with fellow SSP participant Josiah Hickman. We rolled up to the start line with confidence, ready to take home the bag, until we saw our competitor, a North Carolina track star with a 21.2 200 meter PR. 

Current objective: Survive.

Right off the bat, my opponent’s acceleration left me in the dust. Trailing as best I could, I knew I would never catch up to him with my own speed. Instead, I made use of the inside lane, cutting corners that would make Pythagoras proud. Maybe not the most honorable move, but at least I saved myself from abject embarrassment.

Josiah, on the other hand, took the baton and flew. He ended up crushing his opponent with ease, and a little bit of BM, copping us both some exclusive Bulls merch.

After the game ended, we started for a gorgeous fireworks display. I guess the city of Durham must’ve been really excited for Aphelion Day, though I can’t blame them. The burning sulfur and beautiful pyrotechnics strangely reminded me of my age. I turn 18 this year, joining the ranks of self-sufficient adults. SSP has given me a taste of autonomy and adult life. So far, it’s been a combination of exciting and scary to make choices entirely on my own and have time entirely to myself. I don’t feel ready to face adulthood yet, which is why I’m super grateful for this opportunity to test the waters.

Overall, it’s nice to have a day to relax in the midst of all the deadlines. Orbit Determination is fun, but also super stressful. It was refreshing to take a day off to recharge. To symbolize my commitment to relaxation, I have sworn myself away from the computer lab tonight, breaking my 22 day streak. I’m actually writing this blog from my phone, which has debatable effects on net stress. I think I might go to sleep early too. As in now. Good night!

About Me:

Hi, my name is Oliver! I’m from Houston, Texas and I love Physics and Math. When I’m not satisfying my curiosities, you can find me outside running or making origami.