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05 May 2010

The Wiggles, and video astronomy

Time for some silliness.

As of a few years ago, one of my favorite trivia questions was "Name the Australian entertainer(s) with the highest gross income."  Answer:  The Wiggles.

The Wiggles, an insidious children's band, sing cheery songs in the style of Barney, but without the excuse of being a big purple dinosaur.  Each "Wiggle" dresses in the same color, whether he's wearing pajamas or Star Trek-style fashions.  My wife and sidekick, Burrito Girl, used to debate with her fellow moms which Wiggle was the hottest.  The Wiggles were inflicted upon me when my kid was about two, and I liked them -- they didn't make me throw up as much as, say, Mr. Rogers or Max & Ruby.


I recall watching a Wiggles song and noting some strange astronomy.  After much searching, and with the help of my friend Matt who was forced to watch WAY more Wiggles than I was, we found the relevant youtube clip.  Below is today's assignment for my regular physics class:

1. Watch the youtube video above. (Don’t like it? Think it’s silly? Then be extra careful about birth control.)

(a) Based on how the “sun” moves, I know which hemisphere this action is supposed to occur within. How? Be sure to explain thoroughly.

(b) Assume this action took place on March 21. Estimate the latitude of the meadow in the video. Justify your answer thoroughly.

(The answer to part (a):  The cardboard sun appears to move across the sky from right to left.  That's what caused me trouble the first time I watched this clip with Milo all those years ago.  In Australia, in the southern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east, but at noon is to the NORTH.  Therefore, the sun appears to move right to left, unlike here where it moves left to right.)

(For part (b), the sun never gets more than about 20 degrees above the horizon, which implies that this video is taken at 70 degrees south latitude.  That seems unrealistic for Australia -- no parts of that contintent are within the antarctic circle -- so I'll chalk this up to the Wiggles' propmasters' poor astronomical precision.  Nevertheless, they got the sun to move in the correct direction, so kudos to them.)


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