Every Fall the terminator line, that line that separates day from night, the one that can be seen moving across the face of the Earth from outer space, ushers in the changing of the season from Summer to Fall. The terminator line is usually thought of as being connected to the day/night cycle but our observers at the Observatory here at The Institute have determined that it is also connected to the changing of the seasons. Just as everyday the terminator races across the earth bringing night to some, and on the other side of the line, day to others, the terminator line also separates Summer from Fall.
As most people are busy watching football, playing video games, or doing inside stuff, they don’t notice this phenomenon. But the animals do. Take this mother Grizzly and her cubs for instance. They are right smack dab on the terminator line as it rushes toward them. You can see the difference between Fall and Summer in the meadow they’re in. On the top side of the line the grass has already turned golden on its way to being brown for the winter. On the lower side of line you can still see the grass is green and chewable. Mother is keeping the family on the summer side of the line as long as she can because they need to eat right up to the point where they enter the den.
The cubs always playful and boisterous are now quiet and still, hiding their heads in the grass, just below and to the left of Mom. We can’t hear the sound of the advancing terminator, but the bears can and it is terrifying to the young ones. We set up microphones that are able to pick up the UV layers of sound that are out of our hearing range and it was totally freaking scary. Two of our technicians fainted and had to be dragged back to the research vehicle where the Heimlicher procedure was performed along with liberal use of the company defibrillator.
Apparently the sound is similar to that of running along beneath the underbelly of a 747 as it reaches takeoff velocity. There is also a crackling sound as the Fall side of the terminator incinerates the foliage and causes all the grass to wilt and die screaming and all the colors rush out to the extremities of the trees and bushes. Where they then leap off on the leaves and catapult themselves into oblivion just to get away from the noise. That’s enough to scare any bear cub. Mother is used to it after being through it many times but nothing reassures the cubs like living through it once. It won’t be long and the terminator will pass over them at nearly warp speed leaving the little family dazed and confused, wondering if they had been snake bit or struck by lightning, as they wander dizzily around the meadow. But that soon passes.
It is rare to catch an animal family actually working the terminator line, but we did and that’s why *The Institute has the reputation for the unusual, strange, and freaky that we do. Some have wondered if we’re not the Supermarket tabloid of the science world. Although we appreciate the compliment we are simply The Institute, the worlds best Institute for science and other cool stuff there is.
If any of you out there can hear above 80,000 kHz then there is a good chance you might be able to hear the terminator coming. If so and you haven’t heard it before, try and maintain your composure so you don’t start a panic. Also stay way back from any bear family you might encounter. Mother grizzly may have been through this before but she is still a grizzly and a single mom. No matter how many times she’s been through it, it still makes her itchy and she is likely to snap at you if you get too close. This is a dicey time to have any sort of interaction with her. Just stay back. Let’s just be glad this terminator business only happens a few times a year.
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