Happy Crepusculus!

Today is the special day that I celebrate each year. At my latitude (42 degrees North), the earliest sunset of the year is December 9th. At my exact location, that sunset time is 4:12:06 PM, Eastern Standard Time. More or less. And behold, my Sunset Clock is showing all the sunsets for the next two weeks occurring later than today! This is the sort of thing that makes me happy.


If you are puzzled about the earliest sunset happening a few weeks before the shortest day, I agree with you that it is a little puzzling. My best effort explaining can be found here: The Earliest Sunset.

Now onto the important part: names. A special day deserves a special name. As a late riser, today has more significance than the solstice itself. When the sun rises is a matter of extreme indifference to me.

Last year I proposed to calling the day Seculus, following a recommendation that I came across on the web. But that idea didn’t gain much ground. So let’s try another one: Crepusculus, after the Latin for twilight. So? Will it sell? What do you think? What name would you prefer? These things matter. Hallmark will pay you big bucks if you can cook up another cardable day.

Old MacDonald had a ‘bot

When the robots come, how will they come? Here’s one answer: the robot sheepdog. Researchers in Australia have built a robot that does an admirable job herding cattle, as you can see in the video below.

The researchers cite some advantages that robots have over people and animals. They don’t get tired and they don’t mind long hours or night shifts, so long as they get to charge up every now and again. They can gather data continuously, monitoring the health of individual animals or recording when intruders appear.

In watching the video, I was reminded of something I read in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan spends much of the book profiling the Virginia farmer Joel Salatin. One of Salatin’s innovative farming techniques is to use movable electrified fences to create small pastures that can be moved to a different location every day. These “walking pastures” allow Salatin to slowly cycle the cows around, preventing overgrazing and distributing the manure around the property. A second fenced area moves chickens around in the wake ot the cows, But the mobile fence operation is labor intensive. A robot dog would give a farmer the dynamic and programmable ability to move a virtual fence around at will. Even more effectilvely than Salatin’s electric fence, a robo-dog-fence could calmly guide cows to wherever their mouths and manure are needed.

Will robot-tipping be a fraternity sport in the future?