Why is our lodging always 600 feet above the train station! It shouldn't bother us, we're stronger cyclists since we landed in Italy. We wanted to pick up the tour from Milan, but of course, pouring rain again forced us onto the train. Even the short 8 kilometers up the hill made us soggy and tired.
We've stayed now for three nights in Como, and I want you to tell you about our little holiday. Since the moon is late in the waning crescent phase, it doesn't come out at night. Jupiter and Saturn are still a bit too late in the evening for weeknights, so the Moon Men entered a bit of hibernation, and enjoyed some long, pleasant bike rides around the lake. From above, Lake Como looks like a fractal (most things in nature do), and you can definitely feel it from the ground with the winding roads and turns. Some of the most beautiful riding I've made in my whole life. I want to return and circumnavigate the whole lake! In a day of riding, we didn't even come close.
Como names itself Citta` di Alessandro Volta. Volta wasn't an astronomer but his contributions to science are worth a visit. Volta - the unit of the Volt! In his time, scientists had achieved a very basic understanding of electricity. In the middle of the 18th Century, Leyden jars came on the scene. These glass jars store electric charge the same way you do if you rub your socks on a carpet. You would spin the jar around and around against brushes, and this builds up static electricity on the jar. Fun fact - all of the static electricity is stored on the surface of the jar, not inside. But the empty space inside these jars gives you the impression that scientists really thought the jars contained some sort of invisible energy inside.
The problem with storing electricity this way is the same problem with rubbing your feet on the carpet: it's a shock! All the electric charge inside the Leyden jar is released as soon as you touch it or complete a circuit. That's the importance of Volta's chemical batteries, and that's why we visited his burial site.
Volta's temple is a mini-pantheon, with a large-domed interior. Inside are the glass vials where he created the first Zinc acid batteries are kept. If you connect a wire to one of these zinc stacks, you get, instead of a shock, a slow, steady current. Volta even presented his invention to Napoleon!
On our last night to ourselves, we observed Jupiter, making more observations of its moons. Did you know that when you look at something low in the sky, you're looking at it through 10 times more air than if it was directly overhead?