Weatherwit – I Survived My Childhood Car

by Steve Sakiyama – 

I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, so it should be a simple matter to fit my beautiful granddaughter into a child’s car seat. In reality, it is near impossible to guide her flailing limbs and squirming body around and through a three-point belt system designed for fighter pilots. In engineering speak, the combination of too many degrees of freedom, too few boundary conditions, and too much chaotic motion creates an intractable problem.

Today’s child car seats are built for safety and comfort. I’m thankful for them and other life-saving technology like seatbelts, airbags and backup alarms. However, I can’t help but wonder how I survived my childhood without them, so many years ago before the discovery of fire and the wheel.

The car of my childhood was a black 1960 Chevy Impala that shared design cues with a Sherman tank. It had expansive bench seats the size of a double bed. There were no seatbelts, so we kids could wrestle, switch seats like musical chairs, and play a board game. When the car came up over a hill at highway speeds, we felt weightless, floating like astronauts exploring the deep space of the Impala. I cringe when I say this, but without seatbelts I would lay full-length across the shelf of the back window and wave at everything behind us before my mom shooed me back down.

My parents weren’t careless; it was just what everybody did back then. As a family, every Sunday during the summer, we would “go for a drive in the country.” Unfettered by cell phones, we would pass the time by gazing into the rich landscape of deep green forests, diamond-sparkled lakes and glowing white clouds. Although it was fun to be in back seat, I realized that the outdoors was a far better playground to enjoy.

Speaking of safety, modern technology helps meteorologists predict severe weather (like thunderstorms and blizzards), and issue weather warnings. This helps save lives. For example, satellites capture panoramic images of the atmosphere, providing insights into the development, strength and direction of storms. Continuous measurements of weather such as wind, pressure and temperature occur at both surface stations around the globe and at multiple levels in the atmosphere, thus providing a picture of the current and trending conditions. Huge computer programs (called Numerical Weather Prediction models) use advanced supercomputers to simulate future weather. They process massive amounts of observational data and solve complex equations of physics and chemistry. Predicting the weather is extremely challenging, but these scientific advancements provide sophisticated tools to help better inform meteorologists. It’s all amazing technology that can help save lives.

Well, what are the models forecasting for June? There is some steering toward above-normal temperatures, but for precipitation, I’m finding the view around the corner unclear.

I love June. The summer warmth, vibrant flowers bursting with colour, and long golden evenings are a security blanket for me. It’s the perfect antidote for our modern angst, where the speed and uncertainties of life leave us feeling untethered and vulnerable. So wrap yourself tightly in the wonder of a forest, or sink into the grandeur of the night sky where the winking stars tell us: “You’ve arrived. You’re safe here.”

~ Weatherwit

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