That’s a cresset. A concave metal frame lined, in this case, with screening, fixed atop a pole, filled with combustible material, and set alight. It is not difficult to imagine that a precursor apparatus was first developed not long after Prometheus and that the underlying motivation remained largely unchanged up to at least Colonial Williamsburg from whence came the model for what you see above. It’s not ‘green’, but fun and was employed with great success to gain the attention of trick or treaters a few steps more than the usual remove from our front door.
Thoughts of that flickering came to mind for some reason when reading about the findings recently released from NASA’s Kepler project – the search for earth like planets beyond our solar system. Many questions are left to be answered, but, long story short, there could be a lot of ‘em out there. Billions. Programs like Science Friday on NPR had researchers arguing and foaming at the mouth by turns. This here observer is left with the thought that it will likely be a long time till we will know if Goldilocks could really be out there.
Unless, that is, the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) transmitting/listening devices that have been reoriented as a result of Kepler yield something interesting. One researcher said that the amount of space scanned up till now, relative to what’s out there, is analogous to the draft of a single cup from the rest our planet’s waters and that the effort will be greatly refined based upon Kepler findings. So, assuming that ET’s not already been here and left bemused, perhaps the redirected signals will be perceived by some entity able to detect them and respond more quickly than the multi light year distance would have us think possible.
Hope they’re friendly. Hope they help us all with our wood chopping and water carrying obligations, as opposed to, say, annihilating us. Steven Hawking and others point to the fate of native peoples subsequent to contact with cultures more advanced. Not pretty. But what, me worry? Na. Just as I turned to see birds dart about against wispy cirrus bathed in the soft pink light of dusk, a Pandora DJ spun a string rendition of the Beatles’ Blackbird*. It’s Friday and I’ll soon be home with wife and little black princess Nellie. Who knows how things really work? The only people I trust say that they don’t. Louis Kahn said that a great question is far more important than attempts to answer. Yep.
*You should listen to it. On Three Fervent Travelers by Time for Three.