The sun. Giver of life. Melter of ice creams. An all-around top-notch ball of incandescent gas. Yet behind that orb of brightness dwells a past of darkness. Of all the alleged scientific “facts”, none satisfactorily explain its motivation. Neither you nor I would choose to burn hundreds of millions of tonnes of hydrogen each second without a good reason. Why would the average star bother?
Why, in the name of Mighty Odin, does the sun shine?
To uncover the truth, we turned to the only power greater than our mighty solar benefactor: celebrities.
Hugely influential scholar, linguist, political activist, social analyst, media critic and author of over thirty books. Worshiped by numerous left-wing students.
You should ask a physicist, not me.
Thanks again, Noam. Same time next year?
Because of the laws of the universe and beyond. Please get Staya Erusa for a better explanation.
Because he asked nicely, we bought Staya Erusa, an alleged documentary co-created by, starring, and in fact largely about Uri Gellar. While it was indeed "the beginning of what might be the greatest revelation ever in the history of mankind", it brought us no closer to answering the question we actually asked. Thanks for your time, Uri.
The longest serving human actor on Sesame Street.
This is perhaps one of the more intriguing emails I have received. Not being a scientist, I really have no idea. However, one of my young grandchildren said the sun shines to make the flowers grow. I like that idea. Or perhaps it shines so we can all see the beautiful smiles on children’s faces around the world. I suspect if you ask some children, you will find the answer you are looking/hoping for. They are much more creative than old folks like me! :) Perhaps it really does shine as the song says: just to "sweep the clouds away".
Thanks, and I'll see you on SESAME STREET!
For those of us who grew up watching Sesame Street, Bob McGrath has played a far more instrumental role in our education than any so-called “scientist”, so we’re going to treat his reply with the complete, literal acceptance it deserves. Plus his reply was so darn sweet we wanted to cry.
All of Bob’s suggestions prove our initial assumption: that the sun is in some way sentient. But willing as we are to embrace the Children/Flowers Theory for all its sentimental charm, it needs some supporting evidence. Perhaps, as suggested, a child could make things clearer.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t track down any children to question before deadline. We did, however, locate the next logical choice: an employee of Aardman Animations.
Aardman animator, writer and director who played instrumental roles in creating Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. And voiced Vince [pictured] in Rex the Runt.
The sun is powered by the intensity and quantity of human smiles. The more people who smile, the more brightly the sun shines. As people get tired and go to sleep, there is less smiling - so naturally the sun goes out at nighty night-time.
Unfortunately, this power source does have certain drawbacks, to do with what is commonly known as a 'vicious circle'; during periods of bad weather people tend to smile less - this in turn causes the sun to be less bright, which in turn has the effect of even less smiling and so on and so forth, in continuum - until, that is, a good joke is told.
Alas, since the passing of Bernard Manning, it's been nothing but rain.
One possible solution to this vicious circle effect is to put giant teeth into the Grand Canyon and trick the sun into believing that the surface of the earth is smiling (as long as people living in the area don't mind investing in 'sleeping masks').
I hope that answers your question.
Who are you?
The intelligent, handsome and likely virile Mr. Box lends credence to McGrath’s Smiling Children Theory (2007). The sun shines to sweep the clouds away, make the flowers grow, and consequently, bring smiles to children’s faces. This, in turn, spreads the cheer on to any nearby adults. The resulting positive energy bounces back to the sun, fuelling the next wave of smiles. One, two, three, everybody now: awwww.
But is this the whole story? Is the self-perpetuating smile loop the sole reason for sunshine, or only the means to an end? Marvellously as the folks at Aardman might mash plasticine together, we needed the expertise from someone higher on the entertainment industry ladder: namely, an Academy Award winner. And speaking of mashing…
Won an Oscar for her performance as Hotlips in the M*A*S*H movie.
Is the answer you're looking for ‘the sun shines for me’? That seems like an interesting explanation, albeit pretty self-absorbed and incorrect, but it seems like that was the direction you might have been proverbially heading in?
So let’s get this straight: the sun, both promoting and powered by the smiles of children, runs exclusively to shine light on Sally Kellerman, star of stage and screen? Sure, why not?
As much as the subject of the sun’s affections charmingly tries to downplay this as bemused, self-depreciating speculation, we can’t see much contradictory evidence per se. If that sort of reasoning is good enough for the Intelligent Design crowd, it’s good enough for us. After all, it was an Oscar-winning performance.
Immediately before this research paper was published, Steve Box wrote back with a correction:
Just one eeny weeny little note; I noticed that you pointed out that Sally Kellerman might know better than me being an 'Oscar winner' - so I thought I would just inform you (in a totally non-egotistical way), that I too have one of those shiny little golden fellows (for writing and directing the Wallace and Gromit movie). I keep it by the bath a tell people that it's a C3P0 bubble bath.
I think it might be made of sunshine.
Sadly, this reminder arrived too late to influence our findings, but the prospect of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences covertly distributing sunlight via respected entertainment awards is intriguing to say the least. We hope this will provide guidance for any future theses.
Deadpan Australian character comedian, as seen on Hey Hey It's Saturday.
The sun shines because the world is a stage and the sun lights it up.
This is consistent with what we can now comfortably call the Kellerman-Centric Light Ray Theory. (Won’t the reluctant object of the sun’s affections be in for a surprise if she ever Googles her name?)
Prolific songwriter, musician and producer.
Why does the sun shine? In my professional opinion as a songwriter, musician, producer, and nuclear pioneer, we must first acknowledge that the SNO and Super-Kamiokande detectors have done a handy job of accounting for the neutrinos coming from the decay of boron-8 nuclei in the sun. But the flux from B-8 decays represents a mere 0.02% of the predicted flux of solar neutrinos, and one wants to study other types of nu production in order to get a better grip on nuclear physics in the sun's core. One would especially like to know more about neutrinos from Be-7, N-13 and O-15 decays (catalyzed by carbon-12), and from proton-proton reactions. (The p-p neutrinos, probably amounting to 90% of the sun's nu flux, have relatively low energies, below 0.5 MeV, whereas the nu's seen directly in terrestrial detectors typically have been in excess of 5 MeV.)
In the 1930's, nuclear pioneer Hans Bethe argued that energy produced in the nuclear reactions involving the heavier elements (the CNO cycle) were a more important energy-producing mechanism for the Sun than was the fusion of the lighter elements (the p-p cycle). Nowadays solar scientists believe the CNO reactions are predominant for stars a bit heavier than our sun but that in the sun itself the p-p cycle will be more important. A new paper by John Bahcall and Carlos Pena-Garay (Institute for Advanced Study) and Concha Gonzales-Garcia (Stony Brook) addresses this issue using recent data from solar neutrino and reactor experiments. Bahcall and his colleagues determine that the fraction of energy produced in the sun via CNO reactions is less than 7.3%. This is a tenfold improvement over the best previous estimation for the CNO contribution. TENFOLD.
We’ll take your word for it.
Ted’s band from the popular sitcom Scrubs.
The sun shines because of all the love that The Blanks get from people like you.
Not only can they deliver out-of-context TV theme tunes in perfect four-part harmony; they can also croon a delivilishly cryptic hint. The sun shines because of all the love that the [blank]s get from people like you. Presumably, the “people like you” are pasty white creative writing graduates. This is a crafty invitation to fill in the blank with wordplay.
As it happens, The Blanks is an anagram of Khan Blest. (Blessed?) I’d hardly call the title villain of Star Trek II a holy figure (however highly fans regard the film), but we must pursue every line of inquiry to the bitter end.
Acclaimed director/producer J.J. Abrams was too busy working on the new Star Trek film to reply. But Abrams is also known for a little old televised serial called Lost, and against all logic and reason, we somehow got in touch with one of its stars.
Popular actress. As seen in Lost, Girlfight, The Fast & The Furious, SWAT, Battle in Seattle and the upcoming James Cameron film Avatar.
To answer your question in my eyes according to my personal experiences, instinctive beliefs and following of occult philosophy: the sun shines like the blinking proton in a nucleus, like the battery in each of our millions of cells, equal to the universe's billions of vast solar systems existing from its life-giving light. I think it all comes down to divinity = infinity. You know the golden mean. Life mirroring itself through the consciousness of energy infinitely. In short, the sun (like Jesus in mythology or the Bible), is a manifestation of that from which all matter is derived. In science, 'the black hole'. In Buddhism, the OM. For Muslims it's Allah. For others, Brahma, Jehova, Shiva, etc. The sun is the manifestation of Energy = God
How in the name of Adam West’s Husky Voice this fits into our running theory, we couldn’t say (even if this does make an alarming amount of sense on second reading). What we can say is that this significantly furthers our secondary hypothesis: Michelle Rodriguez is great.
Other evidence includes:
A delightfully eclectic filmography mixing popular mainstream, cult sci-fi and acclaimed independent film roles.
An active interest in the video games industry.
A clothing range, Ishkadada, which promises to deliver “wearable electronics”. That’s right: science fiction pants.
Viewers of a sensitive disposition are advised that the following paragraph contains a potentially nauseating transition. Highlight at your own risk.
[ All in all, she’s the type of girl you’d want living next door. As a Neighbour, if you will. And speaking of which... ]
Dr. Karl Kennedy from Neighbours.
The sun shines because the moon can't be expected to do all the work.
In his fourteen years as Ramsay Street’s all-purpose doctor, the character of Karl Kennedy has served as a general physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, gynaecologist and even hypnotist. It’s therefore no stretch to consider him a qualified doctor of astronomy.
For Alan’s reply to make sense (and so convinced are we that it does, we will happily work backward to retroactively engineer supporting evidence) fairness needs to play part in the distribution of light. For this to work, the shifts would need to be arranged by a governing body to control interstellar laws; a space union, if you will. Not unlike - a-ha - Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets.
The pieces were falling into place with rapid momentum. It was time to pull out the big guns and ask a celebrity pet.
Actor Kyle MacLachlan’s dog. Yes. His dog.
I'm more of a sun bather than a sun studier. I say go with it.
Go with what, Mookie? The flow? And what is flowing?
Mookie’s owner, Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives star Kyle McLachlan, starred in David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Dune, which stated on no uncertain terms that “the spice must flow”. The spice in question is, of course, Melange, the mysterious and valuable commodity that extends life expectancy and expands human awareness.
In the PC game Dune 2000, you are given this information by the charismatic actor John-Rhys Davies (pictured, right, with eyebrows). The very same John Rhys-Davies falsely billed to play General Grievous in Star Wars Episode III as the result of a media hoax by this very website. Mookie, you sly piece of anthropomorphicism, you really did your research.
It’s all so clear in hindsight. We’ve been chasing the wrong space franchises.
Author of The Crooked Letter, Books of Cataclysm and four Star Wars novels.
I think the question should be: why doesn't *everything else* shine? Looked at that way, it's obvious we're living a dense funk of dull, inert matter that desperately needs to lighten up a little. Why is this so? Me, I blame the Republicans.
Sharp-witted author best known for his work in the Star Wars: X-Wing series.
I can't add anything to the scientific explanation, though it's worth noting that the word "shine" is non-technical. "Shine" carries with it a number of associated notions and sentiments. Implicitly, it presupposes a witness, something sentient or sapient to observe, experience, and interpret the radiation.
Game scenario writer and novelist. Worked on the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect and the Baldur's Gate series.
As far as I'm concerned the only reason the sun shines is so that I can get out on a golf course. (I've tried playing at night, and it just isn't the same.)
With respect to all three authors (each a superb scribe in his own right), how can we trust them to keep internal Star Wars continuity consistent if they can’t agree on the simplest scientific matters?
Let’s up the ante:
Warwick Davis ...’s Representative
Actor famous for his man dwarf roles, including Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films, and Willow
Warwick says he of course has no idea of the answer but as long as the sun shines from time to time and the world goes round, Warwick is happy leave explanations to the technical people, and is sorry he can’t give you a more interesting answer.
I bet Warwick Davis is awfully embarrassed by the unsatisfactory answer his representative provided, possibly to the point of blushing. If only we could turn the phrase “Red Dwarf” into a convenient segue. Oh well.
British comedian best known as Holly in Red Dwarf.
Of all the nutters that have ever contacted me you are the biggest.
The only knowledge I have regarding your question is where the sun doesn't shine.
Norman Lovett wisely draws attention to the need for an absence to balance out the presence: the same presence of this absence simultaneously working against the presence in its absence. We’re going to take Mookie’s advice here and just go with it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Does machines.
The sun shines due to the properties of nuclear fusion and energy radiation.
How odd. To think we’d figured Donatello to be the rational one.
Actor, voiceover artist and DJ. Voiced Launchpad McQuack from DuckTales and Darkwing Duck.
Because it is the home world to the glow worms and fireflies. They exist there by the quadrillions.
These combined ideas paint a bleak picture: the Sun as an obese single mother, financially crippled by its quadrillion-strong glowing family, and shamelessly exploited into working 12-hour shifts every day of the week.
We were much happier with the smiling children.
Mourne Kransky of The Kransky Sisters
Disturbing musical comedy trio.
Heavens! Thank you for your email. Mrs. Boyle is letting me type this on her very modern typewriter machine with the big screen and will correct my spelling mistakes with a mouse. Strange things happen. Well, regarding your question, I think the sun must shine because it's hot. Hot things are often shiny aren't they. Radiators are hot too. And there is a radiator in the sun. But strangely no electricity cord. Now, I am beginning to get as confused as you are. With this, I will ask my sisters to see what they think. And they will reply to you also.
Despite Mourne’s promise, we never heard back from Eve or Dawn Kransky. How disturbing. Did they know too much? Are we getting in over our heads? That smells like the sickly-sweet wafting of a government conspiracy.
Author of Zigzag Street.
I think the sun shines because humans don't have access to the switch.
Realising life is completely dependent on it, the power grab if we could control the sun would be unseemly to say the least, and at some point we'd probably bugger it up and turn it off in the scuffle.
Could the mysteriously vanishing musical comedy trio be traced back to an international arms race for control of sun? And if humans don’t have access to the switch, who does?
It’s time to combine the Ctrl and “I” keys and demand the truth from the Establishment. Which Establishment? Whichever one could make the time for us. And who could possibly be any less busy than the world’s smallest country?
The Principality of Sealand
The world's smallest country.
Your e-mail to us here in the Principality is acknowledged with thanks; we regret that matters such as you indicate are not within the purview of this government office.
A dead end. Luckily, we have a closer government source; a reliable figure with legitimate political influence who has helped The Rubber Chicken with many similar research projects in the past.
Mayor of Hartlepool, UK. Gained international fame by running for election as the mascot of the local football team and winning. Now in his second term, a popular human leader in his own right.
Why does the sun shine?
I wish it did! Yesterday was the 56th consecutive day on which we got rain and with the look of the clouds outside, today will be the 57th. Where is the sun? I've booked a fortnight in Bognor Regis this year because the experts keep telling us that Global warming will cause hotter summers. What a load of rubbish!
And all of this bloody rain is making my grass grow far too quickly! Within a week, my garden looks like a tropical rain forest, I'm sure I even heard the squawk of a parrot in the undergrowth. What makes it even worse is that because it doesn't stop raining, my wife can't even get out and mow the lawn!
So, in your quest to find out why the sun DOES shine, I hope you find out why it has decided to stop shining. If he is upset or just tired, let me know if there is anything I can do to cheer him up. Of course, that is assuming the sun is a "he" It could very well be a "she", which would explain why it is being very temperamental. Maybe a nice new hat will do the trick? After all, the sun must be completely sick of it's old one and the fact that it is constantly reminded of it whenever anyone sings that annoying song about it coming out to play.
Mind you, for every crap song that has been written about the sun, there have been a few good ones. It's even had a newspaper and a day of the week named after it, it wants to be more grateful.
So, come on Mr or Mrs Sun, shape up and let's see what you are made of. Get shining!
Another fine answer from the World’s Most Likeable Mayor. Might we suggest inviting Sally Kellerman to Hartlepool?
Actually, Mr. Drummond could be on to something with those song lyrics. Let’s see what other clues the world of songwriting have to offer:
I thought everyone knows that the sun arise, she come every mornin', sun arise, each and every day, sun arise, she come every mornin', sun arise, every, every every, every day. Why does she do this, though? And who's to say she is a she, anyway?
I mean, we also know that the sun has got HIS hat on, don't we? Are we really to believe that the sun is some sort of pan-gender being? What's more, are we really to believe that there exists headwear so vast that it could actually accommodate the upper circumference of the sun? I think not.
I hope this has been of some help.
Elvis from the cult North Texas comedy series Elvis & Slick Monty.
I don't know how to answer your question. If you will allow me to phone a friend and once again channel the great one, Elvis himself. It has been almost two years, but I'll do my best.
Now I don't know exactly why the sun shines. However, in times when I don't know the answer to something I seem to always turn to music. Now, 'round 1954 a good Jewish friend of mine gave me some music to sing. Mack, I believe his name was. Now this song always rang true to me, it was called 'I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine.' It went something like:
Well, I don't care if the sun don't shine.
I get my lovin' in the evening time
When I'm with my baby.
Well, it ain't no fun with the sun around.
I get going when the sun goes down
And I'm with my baby.
So to answer your question, I don't care if the sun do shine. As long as I'm getting the sweet sweet love from my baby.
So there you have it. Straight from the King's mouth, er, brain, er, spirit...
Misters Whitelaw and Presley alike offered entertaining ideas, only to respectively dismiss them as implausible and irrelevant. But where rock and roll fails, novelty-turned-folk-and-gospel singers will always deliver. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joe “The Body” Dolce:
(Take a deep breath. It’s a long’un.)
Performed the novelty 1980 hit Shaddap You Face, the most successful song in Australian history. Now a respected folk and gospel musician.
Regarding your heated question, I am reminded of what Copernicus's parents said to him growing up: "Copernicus, young man, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around you?"
Many questions about the Sun still remain unanswered, such as why its outer atmosphere has a temperature of over 1 million K while its visible surface (the photomat) has a temperature of less than 6,000 K. (Everyone knows from thermal pictures of the Sun at 6000 K, that that's still too large for an email.)
Swedenborg believed that heat did NOT originate from the sun:
" This is a general fallacy in chemistry, physics and astronomy. Light and heat are seen as physical substances streaming out from the hydrogen explosions within stars. Instead, The Word has revealed the scientific fact that the heat and light in stars or their flares, are uncreate substances, therefore not material. They originate in the spiritual sun and stream out into the external, physical world through the interior of stars. Knowing this, it is more rationally comprehensible why the speed of light is the ultimate speed possible. Light from the spiritual sun streams into the organ of our understanding by which we can see truths. Heat from the spiritual sun streams into the organ of our will by which we can love good and intend it. However, when light and heat externalise materially within natural stars, they no longer have this spiritual property."
Now, while it's true that those uncreate substances can really trip you up, especially if you snort them, the Word still doesn't explain sunburn.
One of the first people, of ethnic persuasion, to offer a scientific explanation for the Sun's heat was the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras J. Black, who reasoned that it was a giant flaming ball of metal even larger than the Peloponnesus, and NOT the Chariot of Helios. (Talk about a shit stirrer.) For teaching this heresy, he was imprisoned by the authorities and sentenced to death by having his balls removed and his eyes plucked out, his testicles then replaced in his eye sockets and his eyeballs sewn back into his ball sockets - which most likely would have greatly impeded his ability to further observe this phenomena, AND cause him great difficulty in servicing Mrs Anaxagoras J. Black. Anaxagoras was later released through the intervention of Pericles, the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of the Queen's puppet-maker, Joncleese.
Now, I'm not a physicist, Alastair, per say, although I do like making the odd screeching noise on the blackboard with my fingernail while erasing formulae, but let me take a shot at answering your question based on my many years experience in the music industry and smoking funny cigarettes (which gives me the Feeling of Relativity.)
Never forget that the Sun is a DWARF star.
Physical effects of malformed stars vary according to the specific dwarfism. Many involve release of repressed heat retention resulting from early universe relationship traumas and gas damage from abnormal bipolar alignment and colour-blindness as a result of standing too close to the Big Bang. Early degenerative solar disease, exaggerated lordosis or scoliosis, and constriction of photons by hydrogen atoms probably caused distasteful molecular odour and temperature instability. Reduced solar genital profiling thus would have encouraged excess helium growth and exaggerated pulmonary halitosis resulting in discharge of pus and an extraordinary amount of scabs and itching. Some forms of solar dwarfism have been known to be associated with disordered functions in nearby constellation groupings, such as the Big Dipper or Orion's Colander. An indication of this sucked-out effect was noted when one of the early Apollo astronauts reported, after eating his first meal on the moon: "The food was good, but the place lacked atmosphere."
I hope this helps. If not, you might take solace (boom boom) from the following song, attributed to Brian's Wiltin' and the Beach Boners, which was omitted from their seminally fluid album, 'Pest Sounds' (Stephen Hawking’s personal favourite limbo record):
Ultimately, there were too many question marks littered through the investigation for a comfortable conclusion. We had many workable theories on why and how the sun operated, but had yet to identify the elusive forces behind it all.
(The following passage benefits from some light incidental music. Take it away, Indie Rock Darlings Belle & Sebastian.)
I awoke the next morning to the warm glow of sunlight outside, the checkerboard pattern of the keyboard neatly indented into my drool-coated forehead, and found the strangest of websites on my PC screen. Be it through chance, oddly misappropriated divine intervention, or even an encouraging nod from the sun itself, the Internet had delivered.
Hang on, that sounds familiar.
Don’t feel at all obliged to watch the below excerpt from Staya Erusa. I’ll paraphrase afterwards.
The key line appears thirty-one seconds in (right after the narrator brings up the fall of Atlantis without a dollop of irony):
“Each planet in our solar system is inhabited by life.”
Uri Geller, we owe you an apology. You were trying to warn us all along.
Located at 84.4 degrees North and South Latitude are Polar Openings that lead into the hollow interior of our planet where the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel today dwell in perfect harmony, with life spans equal to those of the Methuselahs of the Bible.
These polar openings sound awfully cold. The Keepers of the Solar Switch (who else could they be?) would effectively be trapped underground. But with electronically enhanced thermal clothing - not unlike the electronically enhanced clothing to be developed by Michelle Rodriguez's Ishkadada line - anything is possible.
And with that, it all falls into place. The sun shines on many things – from the smile of a child to the golfing of author Drew Karpyshyn – in order to subtly shape a world in which Michelle Rodriguez can safely manufacture microchip-driven thermal jeans, giving our benevolent Methuselah friends the chance to leave their underground lair to enjoy, amongst other things, the Oscar-winning performance of Sally Kellerman.
Pre-Wiggles children's pop star who shaped a generation with Newspaper Mama and Mr. Clickety Cane.
It's a great mystery to me why the sun shines, but what a wonderful mystery it is.
(We had hoped to end here with What a Wonderful World, but for some reason Louis Armstrong didn’t answer our emails.)
Special thanks to Ben and Tim for their brainstorming, Andrey for his celebrity connections, and of course, all those we respect and admire who took the time to reply. Also, Uri Geller.
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