Here is the full transcript of author David Baron’s TED Talk: You Owe it to Yourself to Experience a Total Solar Eclipse.
David Baron – Author
Before I get to bulk of what I have to say, I feel compelled just to mention a couple of things about myself. I am not some mystical, spiritual sort of person. I’m a science writer. I studied physics in college. I used to be a science correspondent for NPR.
OK, that said: in the course of working on a story for NPR, I got some advice from an astronomer that challenged my outlook, and frankly, changed my life. You see, the story was about an eclipse, a partial solar eclipse that was set to cross the country in May of 1994.
And the astronomer — I interviewed him, and he explained what was going to happen and how to view it, but he emphasized that, as interesting as a partial solar eclipse is, a much rarer total solar eclipse is completely different. In a total eclipse, for all of two or three minutes, the moon completely blocks the face of the sun, creating what he described as the most awe-inspiring spectacle in all of nature.
And so the advice he gave me was this: “Before you die,” he said, “you owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse.” Well honestly, I felt a little uncomfortable hearing that from someone I didn’t know very well; it felt sort of intimate. But it got my attention, and so I did some research.
Now the thing about total eclipses is, if you wait for one to come to you, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Any given point on earth experiences a total eclipse about once every 400 years. But if you’re willing to travel, you don’t have to wait that long. And so I learned that a few years later, in 1998, a total eclipse was going to cross the Caribbean.
Now, a total eclipse is visible only along a narrow path, about a hundred miles wide, and that’s where the moon’s shadow falls. It’s called the “path of totality”. And in February 1998, the path of totality was going to cross Aruba. So I talked to my husband, and we thought: February? Aruba? Sounded like a good idea anyway.