Tomorrow will mark the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, leading us into the first full day of summer on Thursday. The first day of summer is also known as the "longest day of the year". For us on the Northeast coast of the U.S., sunrise will be just after 5 am, and sunset will be close to 8:30 pm. That's nearly 15 1/2 hours of daylight.
For the Winter Solstice, this is all flipped.
...Because this is a perfect example of how far we've come in our understanding of the universe.
People have been observing the solstice for thousands of years. We've created monuments around the world to showcase these special days (Stonehenge, anyone?). We've spent centuries arguing about what the solstice tells us concerning our position in space. And today, the scientific explanation of the solstice seems so simple and commonplace, we barely give it a second thought.
And that is the power of science: to pursue the understanding of a phenomenon until it's figured out and explained to the rest of humanity.
Now, sadly of course, there are many people who still have no real understanding of what the solstice is about. I work with kids every day who are just wrapping their minds around this. But as far as scientific ideas go, the solstice is actually one of the ones best understood by the general public.
So tomorrow, as you enjoy your extra sunshine, just think about that for a minute. Think about how far we've come with science. Think about what we know (and take for granted knowing) now, that our great-ancestors did not. And then pause to think about what sorts of weird phenomenon science will be able to explain in the future. Just what will an everyday-person on the street have a decent understanding of in the year 3012, that would blow our minds today?
(For my writer-readers out there...consider that a prompt!)