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Gravity Waves & Valentines

Valentine heart 120Scientists detected gravitational waves this past September, but spent the next four months checking their figures to make absolutely certain they knew what had happened and then, after giving it some thought, they chose to announce their findings this Feburary, just before Valentine’s Day. After all, these scientists are real flesh-and-blood people, not robots. They were as aware as you are that being swamped by love changes everything, affects your sense of time and space — alternately squeezing and stretching them  — as do gravity waves.

Linking gravity with Valentine’s Day gives a weight to the concept of love and meaningfulness to the notion of gravity. Gravity is powerful when objects are close to each other, but it weakens amazingly fast as the distance between them increases; in fact, it diminishes with the square of the distance and pretty soon it’s so weak as to be undetectable. Essentially, there’s nothing there. Phone calls don’t get returned, emails don’t get answered.

Scientists hoping to detect gravity waves searched for four years and got nowhere, no results. They shut down their equipment, improved it’s performance fourfold and began their search again. And they got lucky. Two intensely powerful gravitational loci circling each other closer and closer finally merged, devouring and sinking into each other in a fashion reminiscent of the poet Lucretius’s description of a man and a woman making love. The event, which happened 1.3 billion years ago sent waves across the universe which were picked up at the LIGO detector in Hannaford, Washington, and the LIGO detector in Livingston, Louisiana.

Those two points of pure gravitational energy were drawn to each other 1.3 billion years ago and the vibrations emanating from that mating have been traveling across the cosmos to us ever since, reaching us this past September, and expanding even now beyond us. It’s good to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Couple in bed 464
Shy But Happy Couple Making Gravity Waves

Our posts on earlier Valentine’s Day are accessible from the search box at the top of the page.

The Heart of the Valentine

Valentines and hearts are romantically linked. For long-ago Valentine heartcenturies the human heart was thought to be the place where emotion resided. After all, our heart will beat faster and harder when we feel a great emotions (think terror or erotic excitement) even though we may be bodily at rest. What more proof do you need that emotion dwells in the heart?

So when we send a valentine, a message declaring love, the little note often carries the image of a heart, a human heart. Well, not exactly an image, but a symbol, a red thing that stands for a heart. That design, nowadays called a  heart-shape, was around for a long time and was thought of as a leaf or a dart. It was taken over and used to represent a heart only later.

And in the photo below, there it is on the cheek of the young woman kissing the young man. Indeed, the young woman is wearing sunglasses, and the beach-like sprawl in the background suggest that this is not February 14th, that it’s not Valentine’s Day and that the heart is the sign of human affection any day of the year.Valentine's kiss

The first image we have of a man giving a woman his heart occurs in a Medieval manuscript and the heart is shaped like a pine cone, because classical authority, namely the  philosopher-doctor Galen, said it was shaped like a pine cone. Gallen was a brilliant man and his influence lasted from the 3rd century through the 16th, but he did his disections on monkeys, not humans. Furthermore, there are many shapes to pine cones, and we don’t know what Galen had in mind when he said the heart was shaped that way. But we’re getting lost in a digression here.

Let’s take a look at that Medieval depiction of a lover giving his “heart” to his beloved. The scene comes from  Li romanz de la poire — let’s call it The Romance of the Pear and please don’t  get fussy over the etymology and meaning of romanz in medieval French. Here’s the scene.
Medieval man giving his heart to his lady
You’re right, she doesn’t look happily impressed. In fact, she looks likes she’s going to swat the poor man. Yet she does have a certain passion. In fact, the story is called The Romance of the Pear because the Lady peels a pear with her teeth and shares it with her lover. There’s a certain intimacy in that. No? Well, the story was pretty hot in the 13th century.

All of this is quite far from our freezing Valentine’s Day of  2014. Today we have ice and snow from Georgia to Maine. So we’ll insert our favorite image from our previous Valentine’s Day posts.A couple of lovers in a snowstorm

As we said before on an earlier Valentine’s Day, we admire the young gentleman helping the young lady across the street in a snowstorm, and we admire the young lady who wears a short dress and those high-heel shoes in a blizzard.  If you’d like to see the posts on a couple of  earlier Valentine’s Days, just type Valentine’s Day into our little search box on the upper right, over the right-hand column.



February 14th is Valentine’s Day

Today, being the 14th of February, is secular Valentine’s Day, which is a wholly different matter from St. Valentine’s Day in the liturgical calendar. We had a nice post about both secular and liturgical Valentines last year, and it’s still in our archive for the curious or the bored and lonely. (We hope you’re not lonely today, but there’s nothing we can do about that. We’re sorry.) In any case, unless you’ve stumbled onto this site by accident you’re probably fond of books and reading, and as we’ve come across a couple of photographs of books, reading and Valentine romance we’ve posted them for you. Kiss in the library stacks

You never know what you might find when you venture deep into the stacks at Harvard’s Widener Library. Of course, not just anyone can get into that particular collection of books. But you might have luck at your local library. The lighting isn’t too bright in the narrow aisles between bookcases, so make sure you have the right book and be very sure you have the right person.Kiss reading in bed Here’s another pair of intellectuals reading in bed. He’s the kind of intellectual who gets tattooed, and she’s the kind who smokes in bed. The like to live dangerously. Or carelessly. Anyway, it’s a good bet he’s not going to finish reading that paperback of Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms. But we don’t care if they don’t care. And we’re pretty sure they don’t care.A couple of lovers in a snowstormWe can’t help it. We know we posted this same image exactly a year ago, but we like it. We admire the young gentleman helping the young lady across the street in a snowstorm, and we admire the young lady who wears a short dress and those high-heel shoes in a blizzard.

Valentine’s Day

A couple of lovers in a snowstormValentine’s Day comes in the middle of February but a few snowflakes, or even  a blizzard, never stopped lovers from finding a way to get to where they wanted to get to.  We have no idea who the anonymous couple is, though we’re sure he’s handsome and she’s beautiful, and we hope they enjoyed each other’s company and are living happily ever after.  We have no idea who took the photo. It’s been floating around the web and landed here, among other places, and we thought it appropriate for today. And you gotta love those high heels.

You’re probably aware that there are a number of saints named Valentine on a variety of lists, and you probably know that no saint, with or without the name Valentine, began the tradition of sending love notes to the beloved, or red roses, or cards printed with fanciful red hearts, or heart-shaped candies, or heart-shaped red boxes of chocolates, or even heart-shaped strawberries dipped in chocolate. We know all that. Nonetheless, we looked into Catholic Online and came across a section called Saints Fun Facts and clicked on St. Valentine. We read the fun fact that St. Valentine was a kind-hearted Roman priest who “aided young Christians being persecuted by Claudius II and was imprisoned. While in custody, he converted 46 members of a guards family to Christianity. Upon discovering this, Claudius sentenced him to death.” Frankly, we didn’t find much fun in those facts at all, especially the sentenced-to-death part.

So,  to cheer us up,  we’ve decided to post just a few more anonymous photos of lovers kissing.  And please don’t destroy our cheer by telling us the photos are staged.  Of course they’re staged, but that’s not the point. The point is to get you to leave your computer and go kiss someone you care for. Below is a photo which replaces the snow with lots of yellow flowers. Winter or summer, clearly the season doesn’t matter.Kissing amid lots of yellow flowersNow scroll down for some acrobatic kisses. First, the bicycle kiss. And don’t try this unless you’re very experienced at riding a bicycle, good at judging distance and have fine reflexes. We admire how the young man has stamped his left foot on the front wheel, halting his bike at the last moment and causing it to rotate up, just as we admire the young woman raising up on tip-toe to meet him. Kiss on bicycle And, of course, the handstand at the beach kiss. We do like the couple pictured below — the serene welcome of the young woman and the exuberant display of  affection by the young man.  Indeed, there’s an exuberance about the kiss in both these photos and that’s a delight. Frankly, we have no idea how that young man got up into his handstand position and we haven’t figured out how he’s going to get down. Kissing on beach handstand


More Notes

The World Happiness Report, released by the United Nations, ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. This year, Finland is first, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland, followed by Netherlands, Canada,New Zealand, Sweden, Australia. The United States, which has never been in the top ten, silpped down four places from last year and is now 18th. President Trump may make American Great Again, but apparently not happier.