Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, October 15, 2016

MVNews this week:  Page A:10



Mountain Views-News Saturday, October 15, 2016 


In August, astronomers announced that the nearest 
star, Proxima Centauri, hosts an Earth-sized planet 
(called Proxima b) in its habitable zone. At first glance, 
Proxima Centauri seems nothing like our Sun. It’s 
a small, cool, red dwarf star that’s only one-tenth as 
massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. 
However, new research shows that it is Sun-like in one 
surprising way: It has a regular cycle of starspots.

 Starspots (like sunspots) are dark blotches on a star’s 
surface where the temperature is a little cooler than 
the surrounding area. They are driven by magnetic 
fields. A star is made of ionized gases called plasma. 
Magnetic fields can restrict the plasma’s flow and 
create spots. Changes to a star’s magnetic field can 
affect the number and distribution of starspots.

 Our Sun experiences an 11-year sunspot activity 
cycle. At the solar minimum, the Sun is nearly spot-
free. At solar maximum, typically more than 100 
sunspots cover less than one percent of the Sun’s 

 The new study finds that Proxima Centauri 
undergoes a similar cycle lasting seven years from 
peak to peak. However, its cycle is much more 
dramatic. At least a full one-fifth of the star’s surface is 
covered in spots at once. Also, some of those spots are 
much bigger relative to the star’s size than the spots on 
our Sun.

 “If intelligent aliens were living on Proxima b, they 
would have a very dramatic view,” says lead author 
Brad Wargelin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center 
for Astrophysics (CfA).

 Astronomers were surprised to detect a stellar 
activity cycle in Proxima Centauri because its interior 
is expected to be very different from the Sun’s. The 
outer third of the Sun experiences a roiling motion 
called convection, similar to water boiling in a pot, 
while the Sun’s interior remains relatively still. There is 
a difference in the speed of rotation between these two 
regions. Many astronomers think the shear arising 
from this difference is responsible for generating the 
Sun’s magnetic activity cycle.

 In contrast, the interior of a small red dwarf like 
Proxima Centauri should be convective all the way 
into the star’s core. As a result, it shouldn’t experience 
a regular cycle of activity.

 “The existence of a cycle in Proxima Centauri 
shows that we don’t understand how stars’ magnetic 
fields are generated as well as we thought we did,” says 
Smithsonian co-author Jeremy Drake.

 The study does not address whether Proxima 
Centauri’s activity cycle would affect the potential 
habitability of the planet Proxima b. Theory suggests 
that flares or a stellar wind, both of which are driven 
by magnetic fields, could scour the planet and strip 
away any atmosphere. In that case, Proxima b might 
be like Earth’s Moon—located in the habitable zone, 
but not at all friendly to life.

 “Direct observations of Proxima b won’t happen for 
a long time. Until then, our best bet is to study the star 
and then plug that information into theories about 
star-planet interactions,” says co-author Steve Saar.

 The team detected the activity cycle using ground-
based observations from the All Sky Automated Survey 
combined with space-based X-ray measurements 
by several missions, including Swift, Chandra, and 

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder





The Gracious Mistress of the 
Parsonage and I were getting 
ourselves situated in the 
living room with some after supper coffee while 
watching the little bit of TV. These days, a little bit 
of TV is about all a person can handle.

 Nothing quite measures up to a nice hot cup of 
coffee after a scrumptious supper and if anybody 
can scrumpturize a supper, it is the Gracious 
Mistress of the Parsonage. Every once in a while 
she will point out the fact that I am not as skinny as 
I once was. My response to her is simply this, “It’s 
your fault for being such a wonderful cook.”

 That stops the conversation; she smiles, sits back 
and thinks about what I just said. I sit back and 
smile thinking that I have gotten out of another bit 
of a pickle.

 It is very hard to keep up with the news today 
because we have such technology that whatever 
happens anywhere in the universe we have an 
immediate story about it.

 I do not know about anybody else, but I am just a 
little bit tired of the news these days. My wife and I 
were shocked this week to see a news report about, 
of all things, clowns. These clowns, so the reporter 
went on, were scaring people and committing 
crimes like robbery.


 Then they had some footage of somebody 
dressed up as a clown, frightening people and 
threatening to do bodily harm. Now, some places 
are forbidding clowns to show up. Even during 
the Halloween season, some stores are not selling 
clown costumes.

 How far have we gone in our culture when 
clowns are a threat to our culture?

 It was not always that way. In high school, for 
example, I was often referred to as the class clown. 
That was a title of deep reverence and pride. To 
be the class clown meant you were doing things 
that made other people laugh. You were joking 
and clowning around and creating a great deal of 
merriment. With the tension many of our high 
school teachers created in class, the class clown had 
an important job of bringing down the tension.

 If there were awards for being the class clown, 
I certainly would have gotten one in high school. 
They only have awards for scholarship and 
athletics. I say nothing is more important in a class 
than the class clown. There should be some kind of 
recognition in this area.

 Then when I was growing up, my mother kept 
telling me to, “Stop clowning around!”

 At the time, I really did not understand what she 
was trying to say. In high school, it was a measure 
of acceptance, but in the home, it was something 

 Although I do respect my mother, I have yet to 
“stop clowning around.”

 Now, I have my wife telling me to, “Stop 
clowning around.” I have often wondered if this is 
not some kind of gene passed on to every woman.

There was not just one news story about these 
fallacious clowns doing all sorts of criminal 
activity, but it seemed to be as if a trend was 

 I have a friend of mine who is a professional 
clown and does all kinds of work with children’s 
and charity activities. You would not find a nicer 
person in all the world than my good clown 
friend. I have not talked to him about this new 
development in clownville, but I am sure he has a 
good take on it.

 The purpose of the clown is to make people 
laugh. That’s all.

 Now even a certain fast food chain has given 
their clown a vacation until some of this nonsense 
passes over. I think this is stupid.

 I believe that if somebody is misusing the clown 
motif for “naughty activities,” the people who are 
affected the most should justly punish him. And 
by that, I mean children and people who still are 
acting like children.

 If any of these people dressed in a clown 
outfit should be caught doing something that 
is unclownish there should be some very dire 
circumstances administered in an appropriate 
way. Like a pie in the face.

 At one time, no circus was complete without 
a whole bunch a clowns keeping the merriment 
going strong. All of these false clowns should be 
gathered together and dealt with rather brutishly. 
After all, if you are going to defame such a sacred 
character in the American culture, you need to be 
dealt with very severely. How dare somebody do 
this sort of thing to an iconic figure of American 

 Why is it we have some people who will take 
something that is very precious to certain people, 
turn it around and make it a very negative and 
nasty thing? There should be a law against that sort 
of thing. Where is the politician that is going to put 
his or her foot down against this kind of travesty in 
our society?

 Is nothing sacred anymore in our country? I 
think the apostle Paul had something like this in 
mind when he wrote, “Unto the pure all things 
are pure: but unto them that are defiled and 
unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind 
and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15).

 Why will some people take something that 
other people get pleasure from and turn it into 
something negative? Only a corrupt mind would 
do this.

 Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family 
of God Fellowship, Ocala, FL 34483, where he 
lives with his wife. Call him at 1-866-552-2543 or 
e-mail His web site is www.

[Nyerges is the 
author of “Extreme 
Simplicity:Homesteading in 
the City,” “How to Survive 
Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild 
Foods,” and other books. He 
can be reached at]

 Are you like me – a lazy gardener? I’m not really 
lazy-lazy – it’s just that there are so many things in life 
that require our attention. Still, I marvel at my friends 
who seem to have all day to create beautiful gardens 
with beautiful rows with wind chimes and special 
bricks lining the paths and vegetables that should 
be on the cover of some magazine. I admire such 
gardens, but I do not spend the time that it takes to 
create such showplace gardens, where you can invite 
friends and community to regale in your productivity. 

 Nevertheless, I seem to be the type of person who 
cannot live without a garden. A garden of some sort, 
even if all the vegetables are in pots and tubs in a tiny 
back yard. I insist on all organic, and I love variety. 
And wherever possible, I like to grow those plants 
that require the least amount of work for the return.

Years ago, when I taught an “Integral Gardening” 
class at a local junior college, students constantly 
wanted to know why certain plants did not grow 
well in their yard. They asked about roses, petunias, 
lettuce, corn, broccoli, and on and on. In general, 
when they wanted to know why a particular plant 
did not grow well, I directed them to the Sunset 
Gardening book where they could analyze their 
plant. Or I directed them to the Rodale book 
which shows pictures of which bugs are eating your 
plants, and which leaf discolorations indicate which 
mineral deficiencies, or other problem.

 However, I always tried to impress upon the 
student two basic principles of my lazy man’s guide 
to gardening.

 One, wherever you live, look at your yard. Each 
plot of soil is unique because of the slope of the 
land, the way the sun and wind affect that land, the 
type of soil, and the types of trees already growing 
there, such as eucalyptus, for example. Observe 
what already grows well in your yard. Then, as 
you begin to plant various herbs and vegetables, 
you will observe that some do well, and some do 
not do well. Focus on those which do well. Those 
that consistently do not grow well in your yard are 
perhaps not suited for your area. 

 Second, rather than focus on the specific needs 
of individual plants, focus always on improving the 
soil. Quality soil is the basis of good agriculture. Add 
compost, add earthworms, use mulch, whatever it takes.


 Over the years, I have encouraged those garden 
plants that take care of themselves. That means they 
are hardy, insect-repellant, and mostly perennials. 

 For those of you who are non-gardeners, an 
annual plant means you plant it in the spring and 
it is dead by fall. A perennial means you plant it 
once and it is like the Eveready bunny-- it just keeps 
going and going, year after year. I love perennials, 
especially if it is a plant that I enjoy eating.

 When I first began gardening at my parents’ home 
many years ago, I grew Jerusalem artichokes. These 
are sunflowers which are native to eastern North 
America. They produce volumes of underground 
tubers, which are good raw, or cooked like potatoes. 
Unless you have lots of gophers, most anyone can 
grow Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes.

 Potatoes are easy to grow. I usually take potatoes 
from the store which have sprouted, and then plant 
them in a big mulch pile. They grow and grow, and 
when they die back,you dig into the pile and harvest 
the big potatoes. You keep the little ones in the 
ground and so the potato patch continues to grow, 
year after year.

 Onions are another easy crop which is easy to 
grow, and they are perennial if you only pinch off 
the greens and leave the roots for multiplication. In 
fact, when left in the ground, onion bulb multiply 
every season, and you can separate them to increase 
the size of your onion patch. You can eat some of the 
bulbs when you do this division. A benefit of onions 
is that they tend to be highly insect-resistant for the 
garden. Any members of this family can be grown 
likewise: onions, chives, leeks, etc.

 Swiss chard was one of the first plants I used 
to grow in my garden. Though not technically a 
perennial, the plant will readily produce seed and 
reseed itself if you leave a few plants growing each 
season. Though the subsequent seasons will produce 
smaller leaves, you can still create an endless source 
of the chard leaves.

 One of my favorite experiments in gardening was 
with New Zealand spinach. I originally dug up a 
small plant on the fringe of a beach near Malibu, and 
planted it in the hillside garden. This is a constantly 
sprawling perennial plant, and over the course of 
several years, it covered at least a thousand square 
feet in a succulent, edible groundcover. Unlike 
regular garden spinach (which is an annual), New 
Zealand spinach leaves can be harvested year-
round, a little here, a little there. It is even tastier 
than regular spinach, and can be added to salads, 
soups, sandwiches, stews.

 My aunt and uncle in Ohio introduced me to the 
asparagus plant, which is a beautiful ferny plant 
most of the year, producing little red (not-edible) 
fruits in the fall. In the spring, the rootstock of the 
asparagus produces the young shoots, which you 
cut and eat. And guess what? Once you have a good 
productive rootstock of asparagus, it will produce 
shoots for about 50 years! That’s a great lazy-man’s 
garden plant.

 This just scratches the surface of the plants to 
grow in a perennial garden. If you have questions, 
please write to me c/o this paper.

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