The kilogram is currently defined as the mass of a chunk of platinum-iridium alloy created in 1889, that is housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France. (Le Grand kilogram, or Big K, as it is affectionately known).
But what if Big K gets stolen, or damaged? And it has already (mysteriously) lost some 50 micrograms since 1889. So this state of affairs will not do for the 21st century.
This Friday in Versailles, a gathering of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is expected to vote to redefine the kilogram by its existence as a unit in the Planck constant. This new definition is very complicated to explain (see here). For it to work, the Planck constant also had to be precisely defined and fixed to 9 significant digits, with the aid of a Kibble balance.
There is finally some rain on the way for Puget Sound, after a long stretch of dry weather. The meteorologists can see the systems approaching from way out west over the Pacific Ocean.
Below are some high-speed photographs of falling water drops, from an article published in 2009 by Emmanuel Villermaux. He wanted to study how big raindrops behave, as they make their way down to the ground. Raindrops of all sizes can come out of clouds, as the tiny drops (20 µm) combine to make bigger ones. But really big drops will flatten as they fall through the air, into little pancakes, then turn into little bags, and then break up altogether. So drops that reach the ground are at most 6 mm (0.25 in) in diameter. The terminal velocity of a rain drop is about 10 m/s (20 mph).
I love this picture of an octopus, the ‘chameleon of the seafloor’. The skin of an octopus is like that of a pointillistic work of art: it has millions of chromatophores (cells with pigments). Octopuses have yellow, orange, reds, browns or even black pigments, and can camouflage itself against its background when an enemy approaches. There is a complex connection between its brain, its nervous system, and the nerve cells that control the color of its skin.
Hurricane Michael will make landfall in the Florida panhandle tomorrow. It’s going to pack a powerful punch, with winds that could exceed 100 mph. At least it is projected keep moving at a steady pace, and not sit in one place like Florence did.
This brown woodpecker is called a ‘northern flicker’ (Colaptes auratus). It spent a little time foraging for insects on my front lawn this morning. (Yes, the poor lawn is yellowed out from the three dry months of summer, but it will slowly start to green up, now that the rain is returning).
Here’s the No 10 bus stop closest to my house, that I frequently take to go to downtown.
Oaxaca (say ‘wa-HAH-ka’) is in southwestern Mexico and best known for its Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples and cultures.
Look for a Grumpy Cat helium balloon carried by the child in the bottom middle of the picture.
As it happens, helium was discovered 150 years ago to the day, on August 18, 1868, by the French astronomer, Jules Janssen, during a total solar eclipse. There is a strong case to be made that helium balloons be banned.
We have a limited helium supply in Earth’s crust; we cannot manufacture it, and we need it for superconductors and MRI scanners. So putting helium in balloons is a frivolous waste. Once helium ends up in the atmosphere, it is lost forever into space – it is too light to be contained in the atmosphere by gravity.
The popcorn movie ‘The Meg*’ is out on the circuit. Even though I have not seen it yet, it’s fun to check the movie’s trailer online, and the posters for it. The movie is a co-production with China, and features actress Li Bingbing alongside Jason Statham.
*Short for Carcharodon megalodon, a really, really big shark (60 ft/ 20m) that roamed the oceans until about 2.6 million years ago.
Here’s an article from Discover magazine, with the latest research about the Neanderthals: an extinct species of humans, that roamed around in ice-age Europe from 120,000 years, up to 35,000 years ago.
Will Homo sapiens still be around even a 1,000 years from now? Homo sapiens means ‘wise human’ .. a misnomer, it seems. Can modern-day humans should stop their wars, and stop destroying Earth?
I had not been to Mt Rainier ever since I had made Seattle my home, and so Bryan and I made a day trip out there today. We first stopped at the Sunrise Viewpoint to the northeast, and then drove around to the Paradise Viewpoint to the south. From there we hiked up the mountainside for an hour or so, to take a closer look at the mountain.
First thing on summer mornings, I open the kitchen door to let the cool morning air in.
I keep a leery eye on the squirrels that are usually out and about, or on the backyard fence. I doubt they will sneak into the house when I’m not looking .. but you never know.
I love this near-life size Tyrannosaurus Rex cut-out in the Target department store. The beast with its beady eye is used to flog Jurassic Park DVDs and toy models – as well as the opening of the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie, today.
Friday night saw almost 3 inches of rainfall in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. Still, the Cape Town City Council is said to be entertaining the possibility of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town, to further help boost the city’s low water inventory. Say what?Can that possibly work? was my first reaction.
Well, here are the numbers*. Some 200 billion tons of ice from Antarctica slide into the sea in a typical year – the equivalent of more freshwater than the world uses in a year. Some icebergs float for 5 years in the ocean, and some make it to Gough Island. Such an iceberg could be towed from there, for the roughly 2,700 km (1,700 mi) distance to Cape Town. The iceberg will be stationed off the coast (Cape Columbine on the west coast is mentioned), and could conceivably deliver 100 megaliter of water every day for a year as it melts. (About 20% of the city of Cape Town’s needs). If such a project is can be pulled off successfully, its cost is projected to be less than half the cost of desalinating an equivalent amount of seawater.
*From an article in the Sat Jun 2 issue of ‘Die Burger’ newspaper.
There was a mountain lion (cougar) attack on two mountain bikers on Saturday morning. Isaac Sederbaum (31) was injured but is OK, but his friend S.J. Brooks (32), tragically, did not survive. Brooks was an avid biker that had moved here from Boston. Before Saturday, 16 cougar attacks, one of which was fatal, had been reported in Washington state during the past century.
I walked to Trader Joe’s grocery store late afternoon, the way I do once a month. I trade dollars at Trader Joe’s (well, electronic units of it) for frozen blueberries that I put in my hot oatmeal in the morning, and for unsweetened vanilla-flavored soy milk, that also goes with it. Good stuff !
I saw this jay sitting on my garage roof this morning, so I ran upstairs and snapped the Mr Jay Bird from my bedroom window. This one is called a Stellar’s jay, named after German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller. (Blue jays are close relatives, but a different species. Their feathers are mid-blues and they have a ‘black necklace’ on their off-white throats).