Stormin' Bob Swanson

Blogging Bob

It’s all greek to me

sirius in stellarium

Fun fact #1 — Phoenicians sailed across the seas and taught the Greeks their ABCs

Fun fact #2 — I often refer to fun fact #1 (that the Greek alphabet is derived from the Phoenician civilization) when explaining what inspires me to write songs about science. When I was in 8th grade (nearly 40 years ago — yes, friends, I’m older than I look), I took a World History class with Mrs. McNeillie. What I remember most from the class was that, at the end of each chapter, there was a cartoon with a rhyming couplet that summarized the main theme being studied. Don’t believe me? I know that bronze is an alloy because, “Man put tin into a hopper, then made bronze by adding copper.” I think I realized early on that making something rhyme often makes it easier to remember.

Fun fact #3 — Bright stars often have multiple names. For example, Sirius (“The Dog Star”), is also known as Alpha Canis Majoris (abbreviated α CMa) as it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, The Big Dog. The name is a combination of the Greek letter followed by the possessive form of the Latinized constellation name. For any given constellation, the brightest star is the alpha star, second brightest is the beta star, and so on . . .

sirius in stellarium
Sirius goes by its common name as well as a bunch of different catalog designations. Image created using Stellarium (

Fun fact #4 — Have you noticed how the Greek alphabet has been getting a workout in naming variants of the COVID-19 virus? At time of writing, the Delta variant (I had a case of it back in August) appears to have passed its peak, but the Omicron variant has the world’s attention. The Greek alphabet has been utilized in the past in naming hurricanes as well — most recently, 9 Greek letters were used in naming storms in the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. However, citing confusion among the public, the World Meteorological Organization has decided to end the practice of shifting to Greek letters after running through the prescribed list of names.

Final fact — Speaking of letters, once my fall semester wraps, I’ll be sending out inquiry letters to a lot of libraries across the state in the hopes of booking shows for the 2022 Summer Tour. This week, I added a day of performances at Milam Elementary in Tupelo, MS, plus booked a show in Eupora, MS for June. Keep an eye on my performances list to see if I’ll be coming to your town this summer. Even better, have your teacher or librarian reach out to me to book a show!

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