Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oh, This is a Very Serious Pisser

Each day, I spend 8 to 12 hours reading teh innertubz (I'm at about 9 1/2 for today), and at some point, my brain "gets full." (Remember The Far Side comic?) When that happens, I wrap it up and head home where I either read a book, play computer games, or on rare occasions, watch a movie.

Often, the trigger for that "my brain is full" feeling is an article that seriously pisses me off. Here's the one that did it today:Now if you click over to the article I have linked toward the end, you can see a much larger version; I'm just linking the thumbnail. (But please read the rant between here and there to understand why you should not take this pair of pictures alone too seriously) The angry is not coming from what you might think; the two side-by-side photos are of the same place at the same time of year (July). The left one is earlier (06), and the right one later (o7). Do you see why I don't grant a whole lot of importance to these two images by themselves? Climate change is a terribly noisy phenomenon: you should expect a great deal of year-to-year variation. This is a fundamental ploy of the deniers: to cherry-pick places and times that show changes different from what you might expect. The problem is, climate scientists do expect such contradictory changes. They just can't predict when and where they'll occur. It's that denialist ploy that I was lampooning in this post:No, what you need to do is gather lots and lots and lots of data as widely and as closely spaced as you can, and look for long term trends. Picking two close points in time, and connecting them with a red arrow (as I did with that graph- source material here) and claiming that that trend indicates we're headed into an ice age is really sort of asinine, right? What you really want to look at is that blue line. Another way of putting this is to ask yourself the question, if the two photos above were reversed- clear in 06, icy in 07, but the graph above reflected that reality, would the graph convince you the trend was up? Take a moment to visualize it (If anyone requests it, I will redo the graph to reflect a switching of the 06/07 points, but I hope most of you can just glance and see. The 07 point is the lower left end of the facetious red arrow; 06 is the next point a little higher to the left. Basically, the fall in ice coverage would be steeper from 05 to 06, and the rise 07 to 08 woud be a little shallower.)

The point is, while the differences between those two years is stark and startling, in the context of the long term trend, those images alone don't mean much.

So why, exactly, am I wasting time and virtual ink ranting about this?

Remember I just said that you need lots of data, over wide areas and with high resolution? Well, the source of the top pair of pictures, The Guardian, is basically claiming that BushCo purposely withheld data that's badly needed by climate scientists. I haven't look for the archive yet, but there are 1000 high-resolution images like the two above that have just been released by the Obama administration.
The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanise Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The photographs demonstrate starkly how global warming is changing the Arctic. More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the previous year.

Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. Ice cover for 2008 was almost as bad as for 2007, and this year levels look equally sparse.

"These are one-metre resolution images, which give you a big picture of the summertime Arctic," said Thorsten Markus of Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre. "This is the main reason why we are so thrilled about it. One-metre resolution is the dimension that's been missing."
Now, in fairness, The Guardian does not lay out sufficient evidence to convince me of the claim they leap to in their headline, "Revealed: the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide." However, they do point out that environmental agencies have been howling for years that they don't have funds and resources to aquire the data they need. I suppose, as the shrub was earnestly telling us we needed more research and more studies and more careful thought, that in his reflexive classification of any data at all, the utility of photos like the above might have escaped his attention. And given his mentality, I'm sure that the idea that data, you know, might be of any use to scientists concerned that we might be headed into one of the greatest extinction events in earth's history. So maybe there really wasn't purposeful, malicious intent.

I don't give a damn.

I want that motherfucker and his cronies up on mass murder, reckless destruction of property, dereliction of duty, and any number of other charges, and I want it yesterday... no, make that eight years ago. There would still be enough time to avert 9/11 if we had had someone with any interest in doing so in charge.

When the trial is over, fly him to Alaska, put him in a parka and a nice warm pair of snow pants. Set him on a nice little chunk of floe ice, I'm thinking roughly 50 square meters and a meter thick, shackle his feet, and cuff his hands behind his back.

And push him out to sea.

I'm going home. My brain is full.


Today's first blast from my younger days is Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Enola Gay. (Enola Gay was the name of the bomber that dropped the first militarily deployed atomic bomb, "Little Boy," on Hiroshima, Japan...)

Enola gay, you should have stayed at home yesterday
Aha words can't describe the feeling and the way you lied

These games you play, they're gonna end in more than tears someday
Aha enola gay, it shouldn't ever have to end this way

Its 8:15, and that's the time that it's always been
We got your message on the radio, conditions normal and you're coming home

Enola gay, is mother proud of little boy today
Aha this kiss you give, it's never ever gonna fade away

Enola gay, it shouldn't ever have to end this way
Aha enola gay, it shouldn't fade in our dreams away

Its 8:15, and thats the time that it's always been
We got your message on the radio, conditions normal and you're coming home

Enola gay, is mother proud of little boy today
Aha this kiss you give, its never ever gonna fade away

The next oldie I like is from the Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays." From the Wiki article:
Geldof wrote the song after reading a telex report at Georgia State University's campus radio station, WRAS, on the shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, who fired at children playing in a school playground across the street from her home in San Diego, California. She killed two adults and injured eight children and one police officer. Spencer showed no remorse for her crime, and her full explanation for her actions was "I don't like Mondays, this livens up the day."
Columbine has become iconic for schools shootings, but while it's often described as the first, it most certainly wasn't.

The above video is just a still picture; the original video I remember has embedding disabled, but can be viewed at the YT site.

And finally, another synth-pop guilty pleasure, A Flock of Seagulls, "Wishing." I never got their style choices, but I like a lot of their music; I suspect they'll show up again in this series

Don't Pass Gas

A year ago, almost to the day, I posted a piece I also called Don't Pass Gas, in which I reflected on one of my primary concerns regarding subterranean sequestration of CO2: What would happen if the reservoir was breached?
Oddly (and tragically) enough, that is a question that has been answered: on August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupted about 1.6 million tonnes (I think that spelling implies metric tons, about 2200 pounds) of carbon dioxide, killing 1700 people and thousands of livestock. A few years later, I argued with a professor over whether pollution was necessarily man-made, and used Lake Nyos as an example. (For the context of atmospheric chemistry, his definition stood) But imagine millions of tons of CO2 erupting near a city. The victims would never know what hit them.
It turns out, according to an article in The Guardian today, that Lake Nyos may have been only a slighly smelly fart compared to the full-out gas warfare threatened by another central-African Lake:
More than two million people living on the banks of Lake Kivu in central Africa are at risk of being asphyxiated by gases building up beneath its surface, scientists have warned.

It is estimated that the lake, which straddles the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, now contains 300 cubic kilometres of carbon dioxide and 60 cubic kilometres of methane that have bubbled into the Kivu from volcanic vent.
Kling has since turned his attention to Lake Kivu, which is more than 3,000 times the size of Nyos and contains more than 350 times as much gas. More worrying is the fact that the shores of Kivu are much more heavily populated. About two million people live there, including the 250,000 citizens of the city of Goma.
Since tropical lakes are always warmer at the top than at the bottom; the water in the lake will tend to stay at the same depth it's at for years to decades until some unusual event (a landslide, earthquake, or volcanic eruption, for example) causes them to overturn. Gases in lower dissolved water never have a chance to escape to the atmosphere- in fact, deep dissolved gases increase the deep water density, reinforcing the stratification.

In temperate lakes, seasonal temperature changes cause regular overturns in the water column. Water very close to freezing is a little less dense than warmer water, so as winter ice melts off, warming surface water sinks deeper into the lake carrying oxygen-rich water to depth, and forcing oxygen-depleted, CO2-rich and nutrient-rich bottom waters to move toward the surface. The same pattern in reverse occurs in the fall and early winter, as cooling surface water becomes denser and sinks. When the surface water gets close enough to freezing to start expanding (as it starts to lock into bonding patterns more like ice, forcing it to expand and become less dense), the process stops; the temperature profile of the lake will be close to freezing throughout, very close within a few few feet of the surface, and (often) frozen on top. The narrow range of temperatures also means that wind-driven circulation can have much deeper effects; density differences are very low throughout the lake. Come spring, the biannual mixing starts again.

This biannual mixing means that temperate lakes most often have a fair amount of oxygen available throughout their depth profile (which further means that methane gets oxidized, or can't even form), regularly have an opportunity to release built-up byproducts of the metabolisms of the critters at depth, and important nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus, for example), can return to upper, better-lit levels, where they can stimulate the growth at the lower levels of the food pyramid.

In contrast, tropical lakes, with their lack of vertical circulation, tend to accumulate gases and nutrients at depth. The shallower areas may be biologically rich and diverse, but shallow water over deeper areas, and the depths themselves, tend to be biologically impoverished. If there is a source of CO2 emptying into the lake, it can build up and accumulate for years. However, if some event causes a wedge of that water to move toward the surface, dissolved gasses can exsolve (just as soda pop does, especially when its warm and/or agitated), form bubbles (which lowers the density of the water), start rushing faster toward the surface, drawing more deep water behind it, which then starts forming bubbles and so on. In short, a rapid, runaway, self-reinforcing overturn of the lake can cause a catastrophic release of gases that have been accumulating for decades or longer.

I think this would be a very interesting kind of eruption to witness from a plane in an uninhabited wasteland. But the idea of it happening in the vicinity of 2 million peoples' homes is horrifying.

Doktor! My Brane Hurtz!

Getty Images — Two front row reporters listen as US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on health care during a prime-time press conference from the East Room of the White House July 22, 2009, in Washington, DC.
Swiped from TenGrain, who put his caption under the picture. I enjoy the LOLZ treatment myself.

Followup 4:45- catching up on reading... TenGrain posted another version of "humor" a few days ago; the republican version. Guess how Obama wants to run your healthcare? That's right! As a witch doctor. I left a pretty fiery comment on this one. The right never ceases to amaze me.

Do the Right Thing

I posted on a news report regarding this poll a few days ago, but I hadn't actually seen the actual Pew poll results and analysis. I have only read bits and pieces of the analysis, but some of the data sets are fascinating. Here are two:
Note that in the above table, Israel is the only country to show a decrease, and that only 1%. The error in these sorts of polls are generally in the range of 3%, so the change in that instance is probably not even significant. Whether it is or not, it's certainly not substantive.

In the table below, it would be interesting to know the particular dates at which the 2001 and 2002 data sets were collected. Pre- or Post- 9/11? Early 2002, when we still had a lot of international sympathy, or later in the year when the war drums to invade Iraq were pounder ever louder? Still, I found the trends interesting to look at.
However frustrated I may be with the progress on a variety of issues, I do need to keep reminding myself that I now live under a government in which progress (into the future, as opposed to progressing backward toward the 1890's) is at least possible. And that we are making progress on some important fronts.

"Controversy 'Dead'" on the Facts, Says CNN Exec

"Just laying out both sides of the controversy," says Lou Dobbs, regarding the the Hawaiian birth of Obama.
The CNN president said he wants to let viewers "make up their own minds."

I'm not sure how this qualifies as "journalism." The "phenomenon ... won't go away" because clowns like Dobbs keep telling viewers there this is a legitimate subject of discussion. It's not. There's nothing wrong with letting viewer make up their own minds about subjective political controversies, but CNN is giving its audience mixed messages -- reports saying the case is closed, coupled with reports saying there are lingering questions.

A responsible outlet is supposed to report the truth, not present viewers with contradictory messages, leaving them to go elsewhere to sort out reality. This has nothing to do with a "partisan point of view," and everything to do with a major news outlet repeatedly lending credence to a bizarre conspiracy theory
OK, the title quote and first sentence are paraphrases, not quotes. But the block above is a quote from Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly.

This is why I have absolutely no use for TV news. Controversy shouldn't exist simply for the sake of ratings. Yet Dobbs and CNN President Jon Klein don't appear to care about that. Dobbs is no surprise... he has never allowed "facts" or "reality" or "evidence" to inform his grinding disgust and anger that there are brown people in this country. But for the CNN president to declare "The controversy is dead. Long Live the Controversy!" strikes me as symptomatic of the insanity of the ratings game and commercial news.

So the facts are in. Obama is a native-born US citizen. But some say...

And the Beast Goes On.

Of Lagomorphs and Lynx

Very interesting article on the ecology of the snowshoe hare and the Canada Lynx at Newsweek. While these two creatures are the centerpiece of the report, the overall theme is about how by knocking out a few key environmental components, a domino effect can drastically alter the overall regional environment. Highly recommended; it was soooo refreshing to read a well done science report in the MSM.

Gates, Obama, Racial Profiling and Me

It has been interesting to follow the unfolding of this story. (This is just an interesting piece from this morning's NYT on the importance of officers having high tolerance levels; for more on the back story, Google "Henry Louis Gates arrested.") Gates has been accused of over-reacting to police officers asking for ID in his own home (though many have pointed out that the police were, in fact protecting Gates and his property by doing this), the police have been accused of over-reacting by being too hasty in arresting Gates for disorderly conduct (where would you or I draw that line?), and Obama has been accused of over-reacting without sufficient understanding of the situation. So is the whole thing really about over-reaction? Just an instance of flaring tempers that can be forgiven and forgotten?


I have pointed out before that I have no idea what it's like to be gay. Likewise, I have no idea what it's like to be a woman, an African American, Jewish, or Muslim. However, the fact that I don't understand something doesn't make it morally wrong. Rather, it should motivate me to try to understand others' situations as best I can. I can never understand the whole experience, but I can find narratives and slices of those experiences that resonate with me, help me empathize with others' lives, and raise my awareness of important questions I have never asked myself, let alone tried to answer. For example, "Why would an African American man simply assume from the outset that he was being harassed and persecuted by police officers on the basis of skin color alone?" Sometimes you find the answer before you ask yourself the question...
We stopped, and a white police officer approached. Andre got his license and motioned to me to get the registration from the glove box. When I opened it, a switch blade comb fell out. It was like the one the Fonz had on “Happy Days.” They were popular prizes at local fairs and carnivals at the time.

The officer drew his gun. I froze. Then, realizing that it was just a comb, I told him so and pushed the button to make the comb pop up. I thought it was kind of funny. I was the only one. The officer grew irritated. He commanded me to “drop the weapon” and told Andre to exit the car.

Andre insisted on knowing why we had been stopped. The officer gave a reason. It wasn’t true. Then he said something I will never forget: that if he wanted to, he could make us lie down in the middle of the road and shoot us in the back of the head and no one would say anything about it. Then he walked to his car and drove away.

He had raised the specter of executing us. He wanted to impress upon us his power and our worth, or lack thereof. We were shocked, afraid, humiliated and furious. We were the good guys — dean’s list students with academic scholarships. I was the freshman class president. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us.
This stunning op-ed piece from Charles M. Blow in today's NYT illustrates why the Gates arrest is so very, very important. This particular instance likely was a case of over-reactions all round, it will likely be forgiven (charges against Gates were dropped very soon afterwards- the next day, I think), and certainly, given our somnambulistic and amnesic news media, forgotten. But the issue is not this particular instance, it's that the sort of experience described above is one many, if not most, African Americans have shared. I'm not finding biographical details on Mr. Blow, but I think a fair guess on the date of the incident described above would be mid to late 1980's. This is the deep south: "Mr. Blow graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana," according to his profile at the NYT, and it was approximately 20 years ago. So have things gotten better?
Even so, I committed myself to breaking this cycle when I had my own kids. That became impossible the day after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. A white police officer stopped me when I was in the car with my children. He said that I was using my cellphone while driving. In fact, I had answered a call at a stoplight. When the light turned green, I put the phone away. I thought this was a case that could be debated, so I debated it. That didn’t sit well with the officer. He went back to his car to write up a ticket. When he returned, he had two tickets. The second one, he told me, was for not wearing a seat belt, that he believed I had only put it on as I was being pulled over. That was not true. My kids were flabbergasted. They knew the officer was wrong, so they began to protest. I quieted them. When the officer drove off, I had a frank talk with them.
I am presuming this is in New York, where Mr. Blow has been working for years. So it's not "just Louisiana." It's not "just a thing of the past." It's directly affecting millions of us, and indirectly all of us. If the police and justice system can't be trusted to treat African Americans impartially, they can't be trusted with anyone. Am I more likely to be harassed and persecuted because I have an unkempt beard and often resemble a street person? Probably, though so far, fingers crossed... Does that mean I understand what it's like being black? No. But it does mean I'm a little closer, that I can relate to another person's experiences, and see a little of their anguish reflected in my own life, making their own life a little more real to me.

And that's a precious gift. Thank you Mr. Blow.

Followup: Apparently, Gates agrees with me (WaPo):
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. says he is ready to move on from his arrest by a white police officer, hoping to use the encounter to improve fairness in the criminal justice system and saying "in the end, this is not about me at all."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quote o' the Day

News note: Mooselini to step down Sunday.
Making time for family or to address legal issues could have pushed Palin to resign, said Michael Josephson, a former law professor in California who regularly advises Alaska lawmakers on ethics issues

"The problem is she hasn't been as coherent or clear as I would have liked her to be," Josephson said.
And there you have it in a nutshell... she hasn't been as coherent or clear as any of us would like. And when she has been, she's freaking terrifying. (Reuters)

Pig on the Wing

Facebook has been a joyful waste of time for the last few days, but it is very seriously cutting into my reading... I currently have over 400 unread items in my international news folder. Now that is, as a rule, my biggest folder, but also as a rule, where I find the most important and interesting news items. I just started wading into it, and found this:
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation said 800 people had now died worldwide from H1N1 flu and as many as 2 billion people could eventually be infected.

According to Dr Alan Hay, director of the WHO's London-based world influenza centre, the first wave of UK infections is likely to peak within the next week or two before re-emerging in the winter.

Research published in the journal Anaesthesia suggests that when the peak comes, demand for intensive care beds could outstrip supply by 130% in some regions, while the demand for ventilators could exceed supply by 20%. Paediatric facilities are likely to become "quickly exhausted" as hospitals confront "massive excess demand..."
From The Guardian. Now this is the British situation, not the US. But if anything, we're more poorly prepared.

And just think, when I finish wading through those 400 items, I only have 18 more folders to look through.

CSC's Get Laid More Than You

Christian social conservatives- you know, those folks who who tell you that genitalia of any kind are Santa's Satan's cure for idle hands foremost temptations to damnation- sure get lucky a lot. EB Misfit has some appropriately snarky reporting on two scandals I hadn't heard of yet. The first is an evangelist convicted of taking minors across state lines... 10 counts, no less... for sex. Then there's a state senator who admits having an affair with an intern despite being married with kids, and pushing abstinence only. Now in the first case, he's been convicted, and is certainly facing some serious consequences. In the second case... meh, not so much.
Whip out the Right God, and before you know it, that nasty stink will be gone, and everything will be fresh as new!

The first also reminds me of a joke (pun warning) that is the longest pun (Pun Warning!) I've ever heard- that is, more words in the punchline have double meanings (PUN WARNING!) than any other I know of. (I'M NOT KIDDING! PUN AHEAD!)

A researcher had discovered how to keep porpoises alive forever; all he had to do was feed them seabirds. While conducting his studies, he kept the subjects in pool hidden behind a tall hedge, and accessible only through a locked gate. One day, when returning from the shore with a burlap bag full of birds on his back, he confronted an old, worn out lion laying right in front of the gate, head down on the ground, apparently asleep or dead. As he slowly approached, he noticed one eye slowly open and look at him; he halted, and the eye slowly closed. Gingerly, he walked up to the gate, leaned over the lion, and unlocked it. He slowly and carefully stepped cross the lion, and walked toward the pool.

Just then, a swat team burst out of the surrounding hedge, and arrested him.

What were the charges?

LAST WARNING! Dangerous Punnage Ahead!

Transporting gulls across a staid lion for immortal porpoises.

No, in fact, I'm not sorry for this one. I warned you as best as I could.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

People tend to think first of the momentous achievement involved with putting a living person on the moon, and forget the equally daunting task of returning that person to earth alive. 40 years ago, human beings accomplished that second task. I seem to vaguely remember being woken for the landing itself, but not being able to stay awake to watch the first step. I'm honestly not sure. But I do remember being riveted by the event, and I was much more emotionally involved with the astronauts' fate afterwards. The days it took for them to return to earth were nail-biters, and the splash-down and recovery of the crew was a much more exciting moment for me than the actual walking on the moon. Picture from NASA's Image of the Day Gallery; front page here.

Hubble Shoots Gunshot Jupiter

I don't know if my readers have caught this, but Jupiter got whacked last weekend. Hubble was retasked to capture some images of the impact site...
The checkout and calibration of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been interrupted to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing from day to day in the planet’s cloud tops.
Full story here (along with this and two other images). As is delightfully often the case, the first spotting of this feature was by an amateur astronomer, who was taking "one last picture." "Bad Astronomy" first brought this to my attention, confirmed that it was probably an impact, and had a nice followup piece yesterday, saying there's no reasonable doubt anymore. The CS Monitor had a decent (if predictable) analysis piece this morning, but when I saw the image above, I had to pass it along. Click the pic to enlargify; this was the smallest of the three sizes offered!

What an amazing piece of equipment!

Followup: I hadn't seen it yet, but yesterday's APOD was the original image of the impact scar captured by the enthusiast in Australia.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ye Olde Homestead

One of my former HS classmates has just returned from a trip to Athens, OH, where I lived for most of my grade-school years. She took a picture of the house I lived in when I was in late middle school and high school.The only thing that looks majorly changed- other than most of the trees have grown larger- is that there was an enormous and beautiful maple where the small sapling now stands, across from the sidewalk to the door. The canopy was only starting to swell to its maximum near the attic windows.

I haven't seen this house in 22 years, and it's nice to see again... Thanks, Kim!

Iconic Photos

I've had some interesting reactions to my Tuesday post on this topic. It's been heavily discussed amongst folks here at my favorite coffee shop, and I've been interrupted a number of times by people wanting to show them to someone else, and see if they recognize them.

It has been really rewarding to see people looking at and considering these. I also got a couple of written comments. EcoGeoFemme said, "Those images are all vaguely familiar to me. I wouldn't have been able to say what they were exactly, but I could probably have guessed well in a multiple choice test. So I'd say they aren't iconic to me, but not completely unfamiliar. I'm 30."

Now I'm not going about this in any systematic way- I think that would be impossible in a blogging environment- but I haven't shown these to many people in their upper 30's and older. Is age really this issue? I suspect it's a component... the availability of enormous amounts of information may dilute the ability of younger people to be exposed to these sorts of images. However compelled to speculate I may be, I'm also compelled to point out that I'm just speculating.

Jim Repka suggested two others for the list- both of which I could picture immediately, and the second of which had already come up in conversation a couple of times by the time I received his comment. Here's the first:
Lyndon Johnson was the only president to take the oath of office from a woman, Federal District Court Judge Sarah Hughes, after the assasination of JFK. He took the oath aboard Air Force One on November 22, 1963. (From Here)
This is Lyndon Johnson taking the Oath of Office in the immediate aftermath of JFK's death. This is the only time a woman has administered the oath of office- a task normally performed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The shock and sorrow in his widow's face is palpable; the nation couldn't help but share her emotions (You can get a better sense of her expression by clicking on the picture to enlarge it.) I'd be willing to bet this is the only time the oath has been administered in an airplane, as well.
This is an image of RFK immediately after he was shot on June 5, 1968
Photo taken by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times (From here)
Though I was too young to really comprehend the impact it had, somehow I recall the assassination of JFK nearly as well as that of his younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, less than five years later, as he was campaigning (and winning) during the presidential primaries. It's only as I became older that I began to fully understand the ramifications of this event, and I've never felt the same emotional impact as with the JFK shooting. But people just a little older than me still find this harrowing to recall.

And finally, one suggested by Bill, from an era in which most of my readers had at least been born:
Gulf War/Dead Iraqi Soldier, 1991, chromogenic color print, by Kenneth Jarecke. Courtesy Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images. (From Here)
We were led to believe that the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, was being conducted as humanely as possible. Trouble is, "humane" isn't possible in a shooting war. I'd argue that "Rules of War" is an oxymoron. This image showed that war was, is, and always will be, hell. No matter how smart your weapons are.

Again, your comments and suggestions are deeply desired here. Do you recognize some or all or none of these? How old are you? What photos do you consider iconic? As an aside, do you think any particular photos from 9/11 are (or even could be) considered iconic? (There are so many, how do you pick one or two?) What explanations for this cultural void space can you offer?


Two nights ago, I joined Facebook. It was a real pleasure to re-establish contact with old friends from high school, a process that continues at this moment. It has also been fun to follow the goings on of many of my friends here in Corvallis.

But it is an obsessive-making time waster, isn't it? I haven't even opened my RSS feed yet today, and I've been here since about 8:30 this morning.

My "Wall" is here, if you want to obsessively waste some time with me. I've initiated yet another tag, "Non-Interzone People" to accommodate my contacts in the world Outside The Interzone.

This Makes Me Feel Better

Not great, not ecstatic, but better. It is relieving to know that others aren't (rightfully) hatin' on and fearful of my nation. (From the NYT)
WASHINGTON — A new global survey has found a vast improvement in views of the United States since the election of President Barack Obama. But it also finds broad opposition to one of his key policies — sending more troops to Afghanistan — and confirms a drop in confidence in the United States among Israelis.

Mr. Obama, according to the survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, enjoys greater confidence among Germans than does Chancellor Angela Merkel, and among the French than President Nicolas Sarkozy. His election in itself, pollsters found, helped restore the United States’ image abroad to levels unseen since the Clinton years.
Followup: OH my! You have to read the whole piece- I had only read the first four or five paragraphs. Some of the stats are stunning. Among Britons: Confidence that Bush "would do the right thing:" 16%. Obama? 86%. And there's this:
For the first time since Pew began making the comparison, people in Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia — all predominantly Muslim nations — expressed greater confidence in the American president than in Osama bin Laden.
How does it make you feel to know we have a President that inspires more confidence than bin Laden? Like I said, relieved.

Time Warp Redux

I recently received another submission for the Time Warp! Accretionary Wedge... from Nigeria! I had no problem rolling it in, but I felt uncomfortable just sticking it in there without drawing attention to it in some way. It was of particular interest to me; I presume that, like me, most US-trained geologist don't know much about African geology beyond the EA Rift and South Africa's incredible proterozoic mineral wealth. I hadn't realized that NW Africa is the site of a suspected failed rift... but looking at the geometry of the South American-African rifting process, it seems in retrospect an obvious conjecture- even an obvious conclusion to leap to. Thanks Ikenna!

I don't know how (or even if it's possible) to link to the middle of a post, but the above entry is about the middle (Cretaceous). And actually, it would be easier just to click over and read the submission on site instead of just an excerpt in the middle of a long post.

Lets Agree to Allow People Like This to Keep Flapping Their Yaps

Let's agree that we're going to have PAYGO enforcement. That we're not going to cry 'emergency' every time we have a Katrina, every time we have a Tsunami, every time we have a need for extra spending, that we don't go call for a special appropriation that allows us to circumvent the PAYGO rules.
I'm sure she'd allow for an exception if there was a disaster in her district, but Katrina? Tsunami? Earthquake? Tornado outbreak? Not her problem.

'Pubblekins, if you're going to be like this, I can show you how to smelt enough arsenic to just kill yourselves quietly. No need to commit suicide in the public eye.

A Very Special Visitor

I generally spend a little time each morning going through my stats counter, seeing where my visitors are coming from and what they're looking for...Nah.... couldn't be....

And if it was her, I can't really imagine she enjoyed her visit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And That's the Way It Is NOW

Now that Walter has passed along, who is America's most trusted newscaster? Time Magazine ran a poll to find out. (The below is a screen capture; follow the link for the interactive, state-by-state data)
Now I'm a little puzzled... Do people understand Stewart describes himself and his show as "a comedian" and "comedy," respectively? He doesn't think of himself as a newscaster.

On the other hand, perhaps people are impressed by the fact that of all the newscasters out there in TV land, Stewart is the only one honest enough to identify himself as a clown.

POW! Take That, Triassic!

Spectacular image of The Manicouagan Reservoir (impact structure), in Quebec. 70 Km= ~42 miles, so roughly 125 miles in circumference, that would be a really fun boating and camping trip. I'd bet there's some spectacular geology to be seen as well. (click the pic for hugeness)
The lake actually surrounds the central uplift of the impact structure, which is about 70 kilometers in diameter and is composed of impact-brecciated (relativley large pieces of rock embedded in finer grained material) rock. Glaciation and other erosional processes have reduced the extent of the crater, with the original diameter estimated at about 100 kilometers.

The impact that formed Manicouagan is thought to have occurred about 212 million years ago, toward the end of the Triassic period. Some scientists believe that this impact may have been responsible for a mass extinction associated with the loss of roughly 60% of all species. It has been proposed that the impact was created by an asteroid with a diameter of about 5 kilometers.
Oddly, the reason I actually went and looked at the full-sized version of this was not for the geology- I've seen numerous pictures of this structure- but because I wanted to look at the clouds more carefully. Note that the little cotton-ball cumulus are absent wherever there is any significant water. I'm guessing the cumulus are forming from spotty summer convective updrafts. Under those conditions, the water will be cooler than the land, so the air won't rise there. In fact, that would be where the air that has ascended and cooled would descend again. As air rises and decompresses, it cools; when it cools to the dewpoint, clouds form. As the air descends again, it recompresses and warms up. Any cloud droplets in the warmer air evaporate, and the cloud disappears. Note that the contrails crossing the ring structure do continue across it- they're well above the convection cells. Airliners like to fly right near the top (or just over) of the mixing layer of our atmosphere, the troposphere, to avoid the turbulence associated with that mixing,

The geology is pretty neat too: I hadn't realized this impact had been associated with the Triassic extinction. (Don't take this to mean "This impact caused that extinction." Note the weasel words in the excerpt above: "Some scientists believe..." kind of indicating that there is not a strong concensus on the point.) I also hadn't noticed the oddly circular "horns" sticking off the ring at about the 11 o'clock position in this image. I suspect that is merely happenstance. While at a glance it looks like an adjacent impact, if it was, I think it would have been studied and widely known.

Just checked Wikipedia to see if I could find any info to support some geospecualtion regarding what I think I see, and it asserts pretty strongly that this was not the cause of the Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Regarding the regional geology, it doesn't say much, so I'll keep my speculatin' to myself.

I'd love to visit that island!

Running on Empty

Amusing little fluff piece over at the CS Monitor:
Neither side has much to brag about. Jackson Browne hasn’t had a hit since the Jurassic period, and John McCain — who would be the first to joke that he was born in the Jurassic period — is in a party that seems to be heading toward mass extinction.
It wasn't really worth the time to read, but with an intro like that, how could I not? Anyway, it was only a minute or two- less time than I'll spend posting this, so maybe it was worth it. And going back for the link, I just noticed the article's title... it was worth it.

The Hidden Costs of Health

There's a very interesting analysis in today's NYT on the reasons behind the fact that we in the US pay in excess of 50% more per capita for health care, yet deliver it to only a portion of our population (~ 85%, by my rough estimate), with serious shortfalls in actual coverage, and with poorer results overall than any other advanced country. Highly recommended.

Also, FireDogLake has an online petition pressuring Congress to stay in session until they get a health care bill. The e-mail they sent me had these frightening statisitcs:
There is a real human cost for going on vacation. Three weeks in America without health care means:
  • 143,250 people will lose their health insurance coverage
  • 53,507 people will file for bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills
  • 1,265 people will die because they lack coverage

The House is so close to passing a health reform bill - they should not go on vacation now when thousands are losing their health care or worse every day.

Those shocking (to me, at least) statistics are also part of the "hidden costs" of our current system.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gah! You're Going to Kill Us All!

Another with the "funny, sad, and true" description. The Dana Milbank analysis and commentary I posted in an update of a piece from yesterday had me primed to laugh hard at this one...
From OregonLive... there are several good ones today, but this tops them all.


Too excellent for words!
(image credit: Patricia Renick)
From Dark Roasted Blend: "In 1977 Patricia Renick mounted an extraordinary solo exhibition at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center. The exhibit comprised one exceptional sculpture crafted of fiberglass and built on the frame of a Vietnam era U.S. Army OH6A/Cayuse helicopter."

Sad But True

I don't know whether to laugh or cry...
I was hoping they would end the clip by cutting back to breaking news on Michael Jackson's death...

Iconic Photos

We live in a culture that has become very dependent on visual imagery to convey a sense of itself. Photos in particular have become a major aspect of representing our history. Sunday a week ago, I posted a photoshopped version of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot. I thought at the time that maybe I should note the original source, or link to the image, but I decided, naah, everyone will recognize the photo, and see the humor- grim humor, but still funny.

I was wrong.

Most, not all, but most, of the young people I've showed it to don't recognize it or the original. I find this a little disturbing. I can understand that K-12 texts might find some of the following photos too graphic, or that publishers might be worried about turning off certain markets, but these are the kinds of iconic photos- however disturbing they may be- that show up in compilations of the best and most important in history.

After finding these missing from the mental library from many of my young friends- and keep in mind, these are extraordinarily intellegent, well-educated adults in their early to mid 20's, not information deprived dropouts- and discussing the issue with Bill and Iris, I started looking around for some others that I felt were of particular importance.

Many didn't recognize those ones either.

The issue here is not that I have lost esteem for these folks- I haven't- it's that despite their education and powerful intelligence, somehow they have not had the opportunity to see these photos and contemplate their importance. They may be horrifying and sad, but these pictures capture part of who we are, as citizens of the country, of the world, and simply as human beings. Below are three I've been showing around.

First, the image that brought this to Iris', Bill's and my attention:
Lee Harvey Oswald, the instant he is shot point-blank by Jack Ruby in Dallas, Texas on November 24, 1963, as photographed by Robert H. Jackson.

(image source here, Wikipedia article here) This is an original, unaltered image of the photo I posted nine days ago. Oswald was never convicted of assassinating Kennedy- he was dead before the trial started. This has led to inummerable conspiracy theories, but most serious investigations have concluded that Oswald was indeed the assassin.

The next two are from Vietnam; the first, from 1968, was among those that solidified widespread public opposition to the war, as opposed to simply protests by "crazy, hippie college kids."
© 1968 Wide World Photos. Copy found at BBC News

Description from Wikipedia (main article here): Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes Viet Cong Captain Nguyen Van Lem: February 1, 1968. This Associated Press photograph, "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon," won a 1969 Pulitzer prize for its photographer Eddie Adams. Film also exists of this event, but owing to the more graphic nature of the film, the photograph is more widely known.

The second is from 1972, toward the end of the war, and brought the horror of the situation to the front page, not for the first time, but perhaps more starkly and powerfully than ever before.
Nick Ut / The Associated Press

Description from Wikipedia (main article here): Kim Phuc Phan Thi, center, running down a road near Trang Bang, Vietnam, after a napalm bomb was dropped on the village of Trang Bang by a plane of the Vietnam Air Force. The village was suspected by US Army forces of being a Viet Cong stronghold. Kim Phuc survived by tearing off her burning clothes. Kim Phuc (aged 9) running naked in the middle with her older brother, Phan Thanh Tam (12), crying out to the left. Her younger brother, Phan Thanh Phuoc (5), to the left looking back at the village and to the right are Kim Phu's small cousins Ho Van Bo, a boy, and Ho Thi Ting, a girl.

I have tried to conform to copyright restrictions as best as possible (and that may part of the reason younger people have been deprived of witnessing these icons) but if anyone has comments about how to conform more acceptably, please let me know.

I have a number of others in mind for the future, but I have two requests: First, please let me know if there are photos that you think are of particular iconic importance. These three happen to be from a ten year window, but I don't want to focus on any particular time. Furthermore there are likely iconic photos that I'm not really familiar with, but should be. I'm all about teh edumacating thing.

Second, I'm curious about my readers' thoughts on how people could go through 25 years or so without having come across pictures such as the examples above. I've outlined a couple of possible reasons (textbooks becoming tamer over the years, aggressive copyright enforcement), but I don't feel like they're sufficient. And it appears, reasonably enough if you think about it, that my friends can't really explain why they haven't seen them either.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Armed Robbery

It doesn't always work the way you expect.A 21-year-old man [was] accused of robbing and assaulting a 71-year-old man in the bathroom of the Oregon Flea Market... Yup, that's the robber in his arrest photo. Bad idea.

Non-Trivial Accomplishments

I agree with Dean's most recent post, that we need to continue to work toward manned exploration of space, but as I note in my comment there, unmanned exploration is also important.

I just came across a post on another blog pointing out that what we have done in the last forty years is non-trivial...
What the US didn't do in space since the end of Apollo:

Put a human on the surface of another planet.

What the US did do in space since the end of Apollo:

Place a variety of advanced telescopes in space

Sent fly-by missions to every planet.

Put orbiters around Earth, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Put landers in or on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Titan
....and that's less than half the list.

Followup: Commenter Chuck makes an important point in that these were not strictly US accomplishments, and I did not intend to claim them as such. As I respond to him, even Apollo 11 was not strictly a US accomplishment, but required international cooperation... and these days, I think sharing the costs, benefits, and awesomeness all round benefits everyone.

Followup 2: Ah, but I just noticed that the author of the above post was claiming them as US accomplishments. I guess someone stands corrected, but I'm not sure if it's him or me.

Central Oregon's Moonscape

...was actually one of the areas the Lunar Astronauts used as a training ground. It was known that the moon was largely basalt, and there are very few places on earth that have a larger volume of basalt and a wider variety of basaltic landforms than central Oregon.
Slide # 23,753 -- Sept. 3, 1986 -- ©Robert A. Jensen (Lava Butte, a bit south of Bend, OR on route 97. Map here.)

Ice-Age Meteorite Strike?

I have read various bits about this supposed strike (California's Channel Islands hold evidence of Clovis-age comets- a hexagonal form of diamond suggests impact about the same time the pygmy mammoth went extinct), but from what I've seen, it's not widely accepted. Do any of my geology readers (and I know there's a few of you out there) know anything more about where this the acceptance of this impact stands stands? I seem to recall a hypothesized impact in Canada's NWT, that was later tossed out, at about the same time in the past.

The reason I ask is that I saw a presentation by Chris Goldfinger at the 2002 GSA Cordillieran Section Meeting here in Corvallis, where his raw data was composed of highly detailed bathymetric maps of the Channel Island Area. He pointed out, basically in passing, that there were two unnaturally circular features on the images, and that he wondered if they might be impacts... but that it seemed unlikely to have two youthful impacts right next to each other. I told him afterwards that impact pairings and multiples were not really all that rare. A close pass to a planet can tidally disrupt an impactor (leading to two or more close by impacts in both time and space), and paired asteroids have turned out to be not uncommon.


Good On Ya!

President Barack Obama chats with Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, Monday, July 20, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. (NASA Image of the Day, click pic for bigger, or visit link for download options)

Also, The NYT front page reporting on this (actual publication date was 40 years ago tomorrow). I don't know how permanent these two links are. The first will take you to the image and the full text of the article depicted; the second is actually the image below as it's archived by the paper. If they take down the picture, I'll have to upload the GIF.

Howling Vocalizations That Pass for Dialogue

From an article in The NYT, on Obama's anticipated push this week to get health care reform really moving:
“Under the Obama plan, the vast majority of Americans will pay more to get less — it’s that simple,” Mr. Steele said in a news conference at the National Press Club here.

There is, in fact, no “Obama plan” — the president has yet to endorse any of the approaches being worked on by congressional committees. Still, Mr. Steele said, Democratic proposals would leave Americans with “fewer options and less care, and we still won’t cover all of the uninsured.”
Steele blathering, Steele making no sense at all, Steele repeating the stock 'pubblekin sound bites.
Asked whether the emerging approach, which includes a new government-run plan that would compete with private insurers, constituted socialism, Mr. Steele replied briskly: “Yes. Next question.”
Steele's partial solution?
Although Republicans have issued no single alternative health care proposal, Mr. Steele said there were several steps that could be taken short of the Democrats’ more ambitious approach.

They included posting the costs of all medical tests and procedures on the Internet; simplifying paperwork and reimbursement forms; allowing workers to take insurance plans with them when they change jobs; making it easier for people to buy insurance through professional or consumers’ groups; making it easier to purchase insurance offered in other states; protecting doctors from frivolous lawsuits; and cracking down on abuses by doctors or other health care providers.
Hand over more control to insurers, and deregulate, then allow consumers to make better choices, 'cause, you know, that's worked out so very well.

Steele an asshat.

Followup, Tues. July 21: WaPo's Dana Milbank does a much better job of discussing this than I.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I've been posting a number of Apollo-related pieces over the last few days, and knows that today is the 40th Anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon. I've been trying to think of what I could say that would be unique, that others haven't already said, and said better.

I got zilch.

So I'll probably put up a couple of posts here on the subject as the day matures, and I'll probably continue to commemorate milestones from 40 years ago as they roll by for the next few days. As I said in an earlier post, "It really was all that."

But I came across this article at BBC, and it seemed like an appropriate first salute to the occasion: a optimistic and awe-inspiring look at our plans to return. The above pair of pictures is from the bottom of the article; if you don't have time to read it, at least click over, scroll to the bottom, and read the stats on these two landers. Here's a teaser:

Apollo 'Eagle' lunar lander
Crew size: 2
Surface duration: 3 days

Altair lunar lander
Crew size: 4
Surface duration: 7-210 days

And just to make sure I don't forget, I have been planning on putting this up from the moment I started thinking about this anniversary. Click for full-sized, explicit amazement, and thank The Onion for covering this. (Today's issue is a very funny, "We sold the paper to China" edition)

Well, Shucks

That's just too cute. I have taught my cat to vocalize a little; she was, as far as I could tell, mute before she moved in. Interestingly, the mews are for affection, mostly to tell me I'm doing a good job. Food is demanded by weaving between my legs. (Via BuzzFeed)

And This Proves We Need More Abstinence Education

From The Guardian, "Teen pregnancy and disease rates rose sharply during Bush years, agency finds." Shrub and Sarah probably have some explanation for this, along the lines of "God was punishing sinners during the last eight godly years, but not during the heathen Clinton Years." Haven't read the article yet... the headline demanded immediate passing on.

I expect to be exasperated for the next few minutes.
Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin
Followup: Yup. Exasperating. Here's the bottom line summary:
In a report that will surprise few of Bush's critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of Aids cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.
This also stood out as, well, utterly horrifying to me:
In addition, about 16,000 pregnancies were reported among 10- to 14-year-old girls in 2004 and a similar number of young people in the age group reported having a sexually transmitted disease.
So we're talking about sixteen thousand pregnancies among girls in fourth to eighth grades??!!! Of course the CSC's do have a response...
It is ridiculous to say that a programme we nominally invest in has failed when it fails to overcome the most sexualised culture in world history. Education that emphasises abstinence as the best option for teens makes up a minuscule part of overall sex education in the United States," she said.

"In every other area of public policy - food, drugs, alcohol - we tell children what is the best choice. It seems very bizarre that the sex education establishment rejects the idea that we should talk to kids about what is best for them. We don't take vodka to drivers education because children will drink and drive."
No point in even trying to respond.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Funny

Well, again, I've put off compiling my Sunday Funnies. Sorry. Here's one.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Click on the Sunday Funnies label below (or right there); maybe there are some in the archive you haven't seen yet. But after that last post (I don't think I've ever started off intending to devolve into a rant, it just happens from time to time), I'm not really in the mood for funny, and I don't think my choices would be at my best.

I don't get very good wifi at home, and if I do, it's because I'm leeching off of others- which I would prefer not to do. So Ozma (teh kitteh) has never had a chance to read this blog, and I think that's best for both of us.

A Couple of Suggestions for Your Consideration

Bill Greener has an extraordinarily inane piece over at Salon, My GOP: Too old, too white to win. In it, he bemoans the fact that, demographically, the 'pubblekins are facing a disaster. He spends nearly the whole column laying out and bemoaning the demographic and racial shifts that are dooming them at the national level.

There's a couple of words for that: "Well, Duh."

That's hardly been news since the 80's- literally. These demographic shifts have been predicted since I was in my late teens. You might want to think about this as a metaphor for global warming, but I know how hard it is for you to think about two things at the same time.

I see you wrote a few lines to note, in essence, "Well, we're getting better." Problem is, most of us out here in the real world see your party becoming more Newt-like on a daily basis, and you aren't really convincing us that a witch didn't put a spell on you.

So, to the Bill Greeners of the world, here's a couple of polite suggestions.

First, watch Pat Buchanan lay out his opposition to Sotomayor. Really. Take ten minutes, watch the whole thing, and consider the philosophical basis of his argument that she's an under-qualified equal opportunity candidate. Keep in mind that Buchanan has made two high-profile (albeit unsuccessful) runs as your party's nominee for President of the United States of America.

Do you see a problem here?

No? I was afraid of that.

OK, let's try this. Take this paragraph you wrote, and discuss it with a few people of color (or even most people of western European descent, in this day and age), and see if they agree with your two concluding sentences:
Perhaps we are seeing the start of a level of sensitivity to how the Republican label is perceived among voters of Latin descent. As one observes the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the next Supreme Court Justice, it is clear Republicans on the committee are determined to be respectful, even admiring of what it means for her to be nominated. To be sure, some of the questions have been tough. Nevertheless, all seem to be aware that anything said or done that even remotely could be construed as not appreciating how important all of this is to the Hispanic community is simply unacceptable. This is certainly an improvement in what has tended to be the case in the past.
Now I don't know; as I pointed out in my first post this morning, I purposely (and purposefully) steered clear of the Sotomayor hearings. But certainly one thing that came through, in the various patches of slime I accidentally stepped in, indicated that many people were struck by the degree to which the hearings focussed on her "wise Latina" comment, personal characteristics (Fiery Latin Temperament, anyone), and impoverished upbringing (think, slums and gangs). Does this really support your contention that "...all seem to be aware that anything said or done that even remotely could be construed as not appreciating how important all of this is to the Hispanic community is simply unacceptable?"

It does?

OK, I agree. You all are hopelessly, well and truly, fucked. Until you start behaving as if everyone who doesn't look like you, think like you, worship like you, spout the same social conservative poison about how everyone else should behave as you, home-school (badly) their kids like you, support corporate criminals like you, trash the planet and the environment like you, and obstruct any meaningful progress in make others' lives better by labeling such policy as creeping islamosociocommunofuckingfascism like you, is merely meat best chewed up by your media mills and PR liars, until their bones are ground to make your bread, you're pretty unlikely to make popularity inroads and establish postive regard amongst people who aren't like you.
I don't pretend to have some solution in a bottle that will change things for Republicans.
No shit, Sherlock. There's plenty of possible remedies, and lots of people have talked about them, but they're way, way too bitter for your party to swallow right now. Mostly, they involve moving out of the mid-19th century, and making some effort towards moving at least part way into the 20th.

And it saddens me more than you can know, because I'm terribly afraid your inability to swallow your goddamn medicine is going to take down the US, and the whole fucking planet with it.

Assholes. I just removed "Polite" from its position in front "Suggestions" in the title.


Pills for Eye Candy

Just reading a kind of frustrating, sad article in WaPo and saw this animated ad- animated in the sense that it kept switching back and forth between the two images below. I hate ads...
...but I don't mind a little eye candy now and then. It is a little silly to take photos from 10 or 15 years ago and ask how such beautiful people could possibly stay looking so young, as they approach the doddering age of forty. (I once remarked to a young friend that one benefit of getting older is that it widens the window of ages at which the sex you're attracted to looks appealing.)

I also think it's just a little silly that they hired the positively ancient Babawa Wawas as their spokesperson. Why not one of the above? Why isn't Babawa taking the "'Miracle Pill' known as Resveratrol?" (glad I double-checked; I had read that as Reversatrol) Don't they work? Or just not on her? Sorry guys, you leave me a little dubious about your snake oil. And I wouldn't really enjoy looking like CZJ anyways... I'd rather drool at a distance.
(The Climate Change label is in reference to the article linked at the beginning, to which I hope to get back and comment further eventually)

Just for the Record

From Coyote Crossing (though I couldn't actually find it there), via Pharyngula.

I have actually seen this or similar pictures a number of times, but I do want to be sure my readers have seen it, too. I know, I know, it won't shut the conspiracy nuts up, but it can't hurt.

The Importance of an "a"

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." There has been fierce debate for nearly forty years now over whether Armstrong actually enunciated the word "a" in that sentence. He and NASA have insisted that he did, but the voice-activated microphone didn't pick it up. I've always been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but disappointed when I hear the historical recording at the oxymoronic nature of the statement as I hear it.

However, a recent computer analysis of the recording indicates that he actually did pronounce the "a." I guess that makes me feel better.

Any Volcanologist Will Tell You That

Almost forgot... blogger buddy Dean Wormer sent me a link to this comic a few weeks ago. I meant to post it, but almost forgot. Spare, simple, and a little obscure, but I love that closing line, and hope to use it from time to time as a completely non-sequitur way to justify a completely unjustified statement. For example, "Our overnight low is expected to be 55 degrees, and they've issued a winter storm warning." Say What? "Well, any volcanologist will tell you that under pyroclastic density current conditions, silicate particulate precipitation can create a high-risk environment."

See? Science can explain everything.

Widely Read... Not

Nick was just telling me (after I showed him this comic- which Jorge Cham followed up today) that the journal Nature had about a hundred subsidiary publications. He went and found the list, and the first one my eye fell on was "Kidney International." I immediately burst out laughing.

Now the funny is not in the science itself, it's in the title choices, and the esoteric sound of some of the topics. I'm sure these are rich, fascinating, and vastly important journals and topics to all 3 or 4 people who can make sense out of them. So I'm not disrespectin' science here, I'm just giggling behind its back.

British Dental Journal- Important, but no readers.
Evidence-Based Dentistry- Sister journal to "Faith-Based Dentistry."
History of the journal Nature- History of the History of the Journal Nature expected to debut soon.
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology- Is that a mole, a freckle, a tumor, or a birthmark?
Kidney International- Tips for urbane travel for internal organs.
Mucosal Immunology- You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but...
Obesity- "I'm fat." "Hey, me too!" "Wow, what a coincidence!" "It's a small world."
Oncogene- Not. A. Clue.
Neuropsychopharmacology- Professor's little helper.

You Can't Move in a New Direction Without Changing Direction

Back on January 19th, the day before the inauguration, I wrote,
Despite what you might infer from this blog, I expect him to be human. I expect him to make mistakes. I fully anticipate that he will seriously piss me off on multiple occasions. And I expect I will rant about those times. Unlike the right, I'm willing to admit that those I admire don't always do what I think is best, and I won't try to rationalize those times. In short, Obama is not going to be the answer to all my prayers. But he and Biden are light years beyond where we'd be with McCain and Palin.
I still vehemently believe that last sentence is true. I also believe the preceeding sentences are true as well.
Mercilessly pirated from another liberal blogger, JurassicPork, at Brilliant at Breakfast.

Cake and Frosting

No, this isn't a Cake Wrecks post, though I was impressed with today's line up of Harry Potter-themed Sunday Sweets. It is, instead, a pointer to a very interesting post in a new blog, Wry Heat, (new to me, at least) on the multiple lives of a large mine. The Copper King Mine has had, by my quick count, six "lives" or phases of active extraction, dependent on the technology and infrastructure available during each phase. The author also predicts a seventh phase, using bacteria to get at mineralization currently out of reach:
The Copper King mine will continue into the future, but what then? All mining since 1870 or any that will occur in the next few decades will have exploited only the top 1000 feet of the 7000-foot thick mineral deposit. Most of the remaining material is low-grade chalcopyrite (about 0.3% copper or less), material not economically extractable now. At that time, will the mine finally be mined out? No! New technological processes will be developed to economically extract some or much of the remaining copper.

One such process under development is the dissolution of chalcopyrite using sulfur-eating bacteria which can exist only in the environment of the sulfide mineralization. When this method is fully developed, it could allow leaching of chalcopyrite in situ (in place underground) and give the mine another life. It could also allow leaching of very low grade mine tailings left from previous mining operations.
Part of what I found interesting was the fact that two new technologies have been developed since I was an undergrad: solvent extraction (cyanide extraction for gold has been around since my day, but I was unaware that a parallel technique had been developed for copper sulfides) and high temperature pressure leaching (of which I was totally unaware). Also, non-geology people should note the ecomic basis of "ore;" I've found that most people simply think of the term as a valuable mineral, rather than something that can be extracted at a profit. The reason it's important to think of it in the latter manner is that it means, as the article so nicely illustrates, that depending on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) concentration, volume, market prices, technology, and government regulation, bodies of rock that were formally worthless can "become ore," and ore bodies can become "worthless-" or more accurately, not extractable without economic loss. So the existence of ore is as dependent on current conditions as it is on geology.

The central point of the post is that regulatory conditions can interfere with the economics of resource extraction; I agree with that central point. Though the author does not as clearly align himself with the "anti-big-gummint" stance as the first commenter seems to assume, I do suspect that he and I differ on the degree to which environmental (and other) long-term, "external," costs need to be factored in, and, yes, addressed through government regulation.

So what does the title of this post have to do with anything? When I was an undergrad, the primary economic mineral (or element) in a deposit- in the above example, copper- was typically referred to as the "cake." Since the natural processes that concentrate one metallic element will ften concentrate others to a lesser degree, other valuable substances can often be recovered from an ore deposit, as long as you're going to dig it up anyway. Those secondary materials, which often wouldn't be economically feasible to go after on their own, but can offer substantial additional profit in conjunction with the cake, we called "frosting." Another interesting theme of this piece is in the peripheral remarks on how changes in technology have at times allowed extraction of the frosting along with the cake, and at other times, not.