Want Some Magic? Have You Tried the Post Office?


Following up on my last two posts…

I love the magical world that J.K. Rowling created in her series of Harry Potter books.  I delighted in being with Harry as he viewed Hogwarts for the first time through his Muggle-experienced eyes, and enjoyed all the little familiar-but-with-a-difference touches that Rowling threw in, like staircases that moved and portraits where the images would change as you walked down the hallways.

So I don’t know any place where you can experience that in real life.  But it turns out that the U.S. Postal Service has just issued some magical stamps that change images!

OK, so maybe the stamps aren’t quite as magical as the Hogwarts’ paintings.  But still, stamps that change images are pretty cool too, don’t you think?  And as Arthur C. Clark famously opined, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

What stamps are these?  They are in honor of the subject of one of last week’s posts–the upcoming total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.

So when you buy this stamp, it looks like this:


That is, of course, the moon blocking the sun during an eclipse (the image is a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak of a total solar eclipse as seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006).

But if you handle the stamp, it turns into this:


That is a full moon shot also taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak.

The magical technology behind the transformation is Thermochromism, which is the ability of an object to change color due to a change in temperature.  Think mood rings or those mugs where pictures appear or disappear when you put hot or cold liquids in them.  (We had one when I was a child that showed characters from Star Trek in the transporter room who “beamed up” or disappeared when you poured in your coffee, then “beamed back” when your coffee was gone.)  This is the first-ever USPS stamp to be printed with thermochromatic inks, so that the moon picture that is printed on top of the eclipse picture appears once your hands have heated up the stamp, then disappears again once the stamp cools down.

The stamps were launched on June 20 at the University of Wyoming as part of a Summer Solstice observance.  But they should be available at your local post office for a mere $0.49 per stamp.

Personally, I think that is a lot of magic for 49 cents.

I know we are all into e-communications and such, but wouldn’t you love to send some of these to some of the people, especially kids, who you love?  Can you imagine their faces when the picture changes?  I think that is a pretty good way to celebrate the season of exuberance!

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