Check out this amazing picture of hair ice. It was posted on the local TV station’s web site, and is from the Olympic forest nearby Seattle.
Hair ice forms on moist, rotting wood from broadleaf trees when temperatures are slightly under 0 °C (32 °F) and the air is humid. Swiss and German researchers found that the fungus ‘Exidiopsis effusa’ in the wood, as key to the formation of hair ice.
We checked in on the San Diego Zoo today. We tried to get there before the warmest part of the day (82°F, 27°C), when the animals hide away in the shadows and under rocks. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of the day.
Stingrays are a group of rays, which are cartilaginous fish, related to sharks. There are eight families in total, but let’s keep it simple: sting rays are the small ones, bat rays are larger and then the manta rays are the really big ones.
There are sting rays and bat rays here in the California waters. My brother knows where to go look for them (in the San Elijo lagoon, using paddle boards) .. and indeed, we sighted some, scurrying on the sand below.
Die Klima-Tüftler (‘The Climate Tinkerers’), says this page from the kids’ section in the German newspaper Die Zeit. It discusses the feasibility of some ideas for reducing the rate of global warming. No mention of clean-energy generation or electric cars, though.
Here are the four ideas:
Artificial Clouds Question: Could artificial clouds be used to block/ reduce the sun’s radiation reaching Earth (and warming it)? Answer: Researchers are sceptical – and the results are unpredictable. These gigantic clouds could drift far away, and result in droughts where rain is needed most (reduce the evaporation of water there).
Radiation Reflectors Question: Could sunlight be reflected back with giant mirrors, or many small ones, or even say, by painting rooftops of all buildings white? Answer: Impractical. Installation of many billions of mirrors would be needed, and it seems impossible to get most people in the world to paint their roofs white!
Air Purification Question: Could CO2 be sucked out of the atmosphere, and its carbon stored underground? Answer: The equipment is very expensive; the filters would have to be changed frequently, and if landfill areas to store the carbon are not chosen carefully, the solid waste from the air would contaminate groundwater.
‘Wolverine’ Algae Question: Could we cultivate voracious algae that would absorb CO2? Answer: The algae in the water would have to be replenished frequently and as it dies, it would drift to the bottom of the lake or sea, and start to rot, which would take oxygen out of the water and air again.
Check out this mama lynx and her seven kittens that visited Tim Newton’s porch in Alaska. (They picked the right porch! He is a photographer). These are called Canada lynxes. Its cousin from the lynx genus, further south in North America, is the bobcat. Other species of medium-sized wild cats are the Eurasian lynx and the Iberian lynx, the Indian jungle cat, and Africa’s caracal, which we have in South Africa as well.
(These pictures are from Wednesday). We made a stop at Lake Lenore on Wednesday. Lake Lenore is a long, narrow lake (8 mi long, 15ft deep) formed by the Missoula Floods in the lower Coulee just north of the town of Soap Lake. There is a trail that leads up to caves in the basalt rock.
Driving further up north on Highway 17 brings one to Dry Falls, named for the massive waterfalls that existed there during the Pleistocene Epoch, when ice sheets and glaciers covered huge parts of Earth’s surface. This area was at the southern end of the Cordilleran ice sheet, and the melting of the glaciers carved out the coulees in the basalt rock that we see today.
The September equinox* arrived today at 20:02 UTC (1.02 pm here in my outpost on the globe), ushering in autumn. So for a moment, night and day are each 12 hours long**, sunrises are due east and sunsets are due west, for all creatures on the globe. The sun’s position crosses the celestial equator (an imaginary equator above the real one on Earth’s surface), and this happens no matter where one is on Earth.
*Equinox from Latin equi (equal) and nox (night).
**Precisely speaking, there is more daylight than nighttime on the day of the equinox, an additional 8 or so minutes of daylight, at mid-temperate latitudes.
This New York Times article points out that creatures of the deep sea use light much as animals on land use sound — to lure, intimidate, stun, mislead and find mates. I love the pictures of the creatures.
It’s 12 noon on Monday here in the Pacific Northwest, and the solar eclipse has just ended. It started at the Oregon coast, and the moon shadow traveled at about 1,400 mph across the continent. Here is a collage of (mostly) my own pictures of what we saw and experienced here in Seattle (92% of the sun obscured). We had blue skies; eclipse watchers in South Carolina had cloud cover, though. My takeaway: the sun is a mighty, mighty source of heat and light, radiating a lot of light even at 92% obscured. The ambient temperature did feel as if it went down by 5 to 10 degrees due to the obscured sun, though.
Update Tue 8/22: I added a few more interesting pictures that I found on line!
Of the things that came to my attention on Monday – for real, on TV and on-line – I was thrilled most by the webcast of the SpaceX launch. The mission is dubbed Commercial Resupply Services mission number 12 (CRS-12), and the launch went without a hitch.
Reportedly, there are 30 small cups of real ice-cream for the ISS astronauts* in the 6,400 pound payload of cargo, that also has live mice and science experiments. The first stage booster rocket made a perfect landing back to the launch pad, a nice bonus.
We are all ready for cool weather, and a little rain, to take away the heat and the haze here in the Puget Sound. And yes! – there is rain in the forecast for Saturday night! (The expected 56 days of dry weather by Saturday will be a new record on the books).
Seattle-Tacoma airport has a state-of-the-art AWPAG* rain gauge (a far cry from the graduated cone we once had in our backyard when I was young!). The gauge is surrounded by two shields to improve readings under windy conditions, and will melt snow so that it can measure the liquid equivalent accumulation. Fancy.
‘Here is the news Coming to you every hour on the hour Here is the news The weather’s fine but there may be a meteor shower’
Songwriter: Jeff Lynne
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra, Album: Time (1981)
One of the downsides of living in the city is that the night sky is not dark enough to see faint stars and meteors. Saturday and Sunday nights were good ones for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower, and one viewer here sent in a nice ‘shooting star’ video clip to the local TV news station. The Perseids are starting to appear as well, and should peak August 11, 12 and 13. These are known as the best summer meteor shower, with 50 or more meteors per hour.
Bryan and went out to Hansville on the Kitsap Peninsula on Wednesday (to our friend Paul). Instead of taking the ferry, we drove around the Sound. The time is about the same as with taking the ferry provided there is no rush-hour traffic to deal with.
Out in Hansville, I picked up an osprey* feather. I found a handy feather atlas online that says it is a wing feather.
*Two side notes on the osprey:
1. Ospreys are sometimes called sea hawks but that is not really its correct name. 2. The Seattle Seahawks’ “Seahawk” is not actually a sea hawk. The 10-year-old bird that the football team’s name is lent from, is an augur hawk. Let’s just say then, that ‘Seahawk’ is short for Seattle hawk!
There were reports on Sunday night that Seattleites may see the Northern Lights*, and indeed, it was visible from here. (For the record: I did make an effort to get a clear look at the northern skies look at around 11, but did not see anything!).
*The Northern Lights (‘aurora borealis’) are generated during geomagnetic storms in Earth’s atmosphere. During solar flares, clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms are expelled through the corona of the sun into space. When these clouds of particles reach Earth a day or two later, they interact with gas molecules in the atmosphere, resulting in the greenish color displays.
Check out my elements collection, mostly metals. The little cylinder of pure Tungsten (W), and the mini-ingot of Zinc (Zn) are new additions. I’m trying not to buy everything all at once from the wonderful website for Metallium Inc. based in Watertown, Massachusetts!
Admittedly, my collection has a long way to go. I don’t even have pieces of iron or chrome in there, for example. The hunt for those is on!
Check out these illustrations from the New York Times, of the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor, underway in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance in Provence, France. It is a structure that will be some 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall, with the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, and an electro-magnet so strong that it could lift an aircraft carrier.
This is the stuff that science fiction is made of. The first major operating goal for the plasma chamber is to contain pure hydrogen that will not undergo fusion, ‘first plasma’ (target: 8 years from now). Then the goal is to establish a so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, which can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes, but will release large amounts of energy (in the form of heat). This goal will not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ said Leonardo da Vinci once, a quote that appears on Toronto-based metal top maker ForeverSpin’s web site.
Tops are among the world’s oldest toys, and it really is fascinating to watch a spinning top, no? (But yes, we live in the real world, and so due to the hard reality of friction, the top does not really spin forever, of course).
It’s just so hard to choose which one of the 17 tops (ForeverSpin does a fine job of marketing, romanticizing the metals): titanium (the ‘strongest one’), 24kt gold mirror (the ‘luxurious one’), stainless steel (the ‘original one’), copper (the ‘classic one’), aluminum (the ‘playful one’), Damascus steel (the ‘unique one’), rose-plated gold (the ‘romantic one’), 24kt gold plated (the ‘stylish one’), magnesium (the ‘lightest one’), cast iron (the ‘medieval one’), zirconium (the ‘exotic one’), brass (the ‘mature one’), stainless steel mirror (the ‘shiny original’ one), bronze (the ‘ancient one’), nickel (the ‘fine one’), tungsten (the ‘heavy one’) or black zirconium (the ‘elegant one’).