Saturday, January 9, 2010


David Bowie, Putting Out Fire With Gasoline:

Depeche Mode, People Are People:

The Pretenders, Brass in Pocket:

This will be the first time I've posted Saturd80's clips without having listened to them. Iris' birthday party is underway, and I can't hear anything, even with earphones. But I missed this feature last week, and didn't want to do so twice in a row. I do know these are all songs I'm very fond of, but at the moment, I can't vouch that these are versions I like.

EQ in CA

There has been a major (6.5) magnitude earthquake, about 30 miles offshore of Eureka, California, according to OregonLive:
The quake was felt as far south as Capitola in central California, and as far north as Roseburg in central Oregon, USGS geophysicist Richard Buckmaster said.
FRESNO, Calif -- A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern California Saturday afternoon, shaking buildings south of the Oregon border and knocking out power in several coastal communities.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at about 4:27 p.m. about 27 miles from Eureka, a city of about 26,000.

The state's warning center hasn't received any reports of injuries or major damage, California Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lori Newquist said.
Chris Rowan just posted these images of the area in his blog, Highly Allochthonous, a few days ago. The first shows the overall tectonic setting of western North America:The spot off of northwestern California where the San Andreas Fault, the Mendocino transform, and the Cascadia "Trench" (Physically, there is no "trench;" it has been filled in with sediment. But there is most certainly a subduction zone) meet is referred to as a triple junction.

The second shows a number of places where the direction of streams has been changed by tectonic deformation, leaving behind "wind gaps," places where stream-carved valleys cut through a hill or ridge, but where there is no longer a stream present. I include this primarily to illustrate where Eureka is: it sits beside Humboldt Bay.
I don't feel like explaining exactly how these diagrams work just at this moment (bad geology pun alert), but this indicates a strike-slip movement in the quake; as such, it is unlikely to cause a tsunami. This is from the NCSS Moment Tensor Solution page in the USGS science-technical report on this quake. The more general USGS report is here; also on the latter page, you can report your experience if you live in the region and believe you felt the quake. This kind of web-enabled reporting can be very helpful to scientists trying to understand seismicity in earthquake-prone areas.

Actually, it turns out Chris had posted on these weird "beach ball solutions" for earthquakes just three days before the maps above. (Weird looking if you've never had structural geology, at least)

This is a beautiful area; I have visited maybe a half dozen times. Much of its beauty is due to repeated earthquakes just like this one.

Followup, a few minutes later: Andrew Alden at About Geology and Gary Hayes at Geotripper are on this too.

Teabagger Terrorists

I haven't seen much of Fiore's work lately; his animations can be funny, but not consistently enough for me to go looking for them. This one is kind of not bad.

But he's getting death threats over it. Teabaggers, a sincere question: How is this different from the Islamic extremists you claim you oppose? It's wrong for them to levy death threats, or carry them out, in the name of their religion, but OK for you?

I just wish people would think a little before opening their yaps, or putting fingertips to keyboard.

Friday, January 8, 2010

What A Deal!

Via Pharyngula, and for sale at ebay
The photo is of a Cretaceous dinosaur track stepping on a human track. A Cat Scan and other methods have proven they are not carvings, but genuine fossil tracks. See the article. Our Interactive Internet magazine researches subjects like: Are dinosaurs alive today? Did an asteroid or comet trigger the Genesis Flood? Cracking the Satanic Code of 666, 276, and 23. How did dinosaurs become extinct? Was there an advanced civilization in ancient times destroyed by a worldwide cataclysm? What are UFOs, why are they here? Were there giants? Does the Da Vinci Code reveal the linage of the Antichrist from Gilgemesh? Is there evidence that dinosaurs became extinct 5 thousand years ago in a worldwide cataclysm triggered by an asteroid? Do you have any questions, or would like some specific research? Our team of 133 members will help.

Biblical Science News is an Interactive Internet Magazine that answers these questions from the Bible and Science. Well known paleontologist Jeremy Auldaney is the Editor. Professor Auldaney has published 9 technical papers on research. Five of them as Senior Paleontologist for the Creation Research Society's project on human tracks found with the tracks of dinosaurs near Tuba City, Arizona. One on the Asphalt Seeps at Rancho La Brea proving it was not a trap site, and that identical and similar sites are found worldwide during the Post-Flood Period. And another on Asteroids as a Trigger to the Flood of Noah. He has discovered and visited and studied almost every fossil site in California, archaeological sites, and fossil/meteorite sites in several other states. He has excavated dinosaurs with Dr. Carl Baugh in Texas, and Joe Taylor in Wyoming.

Subscribe to the Interactive International Internet magazine: Biblical Science News. Money returned if not satisfied.
At first I thought they were selling the rock itself (or a cast) for $5.00, but I think they're selling photos. There are more than ten left, but they're only going to be available until January 15th. So act now!

It looks so realistic! I love the square edges between the walls and bottom of the print, and the way there's a pressure ridge pushed up by the middle toe into the "human" print, but not by either of the outer toes. I wonder if that CAT scan (Co-Axial Tomography is an acronym or intialism; all the letters should be caps, or none of them. In this case "Cat" is not a proper name) told them what species of dinosaur it was.

Looks like granite to me. Putzes.

Helmcken Falls

Last Saturday, I posted this picture of a waterfall:
...with a request for an identification. Earlier today, Silver Fox had the presence of mind to go back to the source blog, TYWKIWDBI, and found that a commenter had identified it as Helmcken Falls, north of Kamloops, British Columbia. More pictures here, Wiki here.

The reasons I was so curious are that this very much looks like my home ground in terms of rocks, landscape and trees, and I know my home ground, particularly Oregon, well. Second, this is clearly a big waterfall; I would have guessed several hundred feet minimum. It turns out to be 463 feet. And third, while similar to a number of other falls I've seen, in detail, it didn't quite match any of them. I've been to Kamloops twice, but not to the falls; in fact, I'd never heard of them.

Others that I considered or were suggested included South Falls at Silver Creek Falls State Park, Tumalo Falls near Bend, Salt Creek Falls, and Snoqualmie Falls in Washington.

Thanks to Silver, Minnesotastan for bringing this to my attention, and everyone who left comments or sent emails. Though I've not seen it in person, this may be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North America.

The Apocalypse Will Be Greeted With Candy And Flowers

Krista Huot: "Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse" 2009, via Phantasmaphile. This is one of quite a few paintings in a show that will open at Gallery 1988 in San Francisco tomorrow (January 9), and be on display until January 30. Unlike about half the others, this one hasn't been bought yet. Out of my price range, but I like the simplicity and humor of this. Ms. Huot's website is here; I haven't looked through it thoroughly yet, but there are lots of paintings there.

Space Food

I love those cans...
There's a fun and interesting article in Der Speigel on a German Chef who has been involved in creating new menu items for astronauts on the International Space Station. The above is from a short photo gallery accompanying the article. Though the article is not long, and doesn't go into a lot of detail, there were a couple of points that were new to me: space food needs to be low in salt, because salt accelerates bone loss. Also, (and I'd love to see an explanation for this) the sense of taste is dulled during space travel, so space food must be heavily seasoned. I doubt "Thanksgiving dinner" is served in the way it's illustrated, and honestly, I think I'd be thankful not to have to look at it.

But mostly, I just gotta love cans labeled "Space Food."

Aliens Planned Woolworths' Locations

Matt Parker, a mathematician writing a guest piece for the Times Online (UK), responds to a bit of archeological "analysis":
I was inspired by articles in the national press on the 5 January 2010 about Mr Tom Brooks’ analysis of 1500 prehistoric sites in the UK that revealed some amazing geometric patterns.
While Tom Brooks looked at prehistoric ruins, Parker applies a similar technique to ancient... Woolworths stores.
Using the locations of the 800 ancient Woolworths stores as my data, I found that they also followed precise geometrical patterns with the same level of accuracy.

For example, three Woolworths sites around Birmingham form an exact equilateral triangle (Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Birmingham stores) and if the base of the triangle is extended, it forms a 173.8 mile line linking the Conway and Luton stores. Despite the 173.8 mile distance involved, the Conway Woolworths store is only 40 feet off the exact line and the Luton site is within 30 feet. All four stores align with an accuracy of 0.05 per cent.

So did aliens help our ancestors plan the locations of these stores with such uncanny accuracy? Maybe. Or maybe not.

No one does dry, snarky humor with such gut-busting effectiveness as the British. Hat tip to Al Frank, who sent me an e-mail with this link.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two Great Pictures From Space

One looking up... (Click to astronomify; most of those little starry dots are actually galaxies. Info and other sizes here.)
...and one looking down.
(Info here, and again, click the pic for full resolution, 3400X4400 pixels) A lot of people (space and geology bloggers especially) have been posting the second picture today; it really is beautiful. Well, from space, anyways. But from the perspective of someone who lives on that landmass, maybe not so much. I'll forward you to Julia, The Ethical Paleontologist. Spoiler: weather that's mild to one person can be a complete fubar to someone who lives in a different climate. And there is concern that this weather may be a portent of Great Britain's future climate.

Sea Lion Migration

For a month or more, I've been seeing stories about San Francisco Bay's missing sea lions. Then back around Christmas, I saw a very short blip saying they had apparently turned up in Oregon. I thought it was interesting, but there was very little supporting information. Specifically, I wanted to know where they were turning up; Oregon's coast is several hundred miles long, and is very diverse in its physical and biological aspects.

I had my suspicions, though...... and they have turned out to be accurate. According to KGW (a Portland TV station),
Officials with Sea Lion Caves, a private preserve near Florence, Ore., say huge pods of the animals — now numbering about 2,000 — began showing up in October, about the same time they started leaving Pier 39.

Kim Suryan, a biologist with the Marine Mammal Institute in Newport, Ore., says the numbers are much higher than usual.
The photo above is one I took a bit before Christmas a year ago, and first posted here, where I also discuss a little of the geology of this magnificent cave.

Followup: While I was putting this post together, OregonLive posted the story too, with another photo and a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article that is much more thorough, and has a few more pictures.

This Is So Awesome At So Many Levels!

Rocks and Structures! Star Wars! Optical Illusions! Humor! Smartness!
If there were pizza, puppies or kitties in this picture, I'd be dead now. Via Epic Win.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pocahontas on Pandora

A couple of days ago, I saw this at BuzzFeed. I found it amusing, but nothing that I didn't already know, more or less...
Then a few minutes ago, I found the trailer at EpicPonyz... James Cameron's "Pocahontas!"

I haven't seen either one. But it sort of looks as if I see either, I will have seen both. Also too, will someone put together clips of Avatar, with the soundtrack dubbed from Pocahontas?

OK, This Made Me Laugh

For reasons I have explained before, I generally find FailBlog more exasperating than entertaining. Take a funny photo (without attribution), slap your watermark on it, then print "FAIL" on it. The photo is funnier without a caption. But this is, well, pretty funny.


There are a couple of articles on an exciting new fossil footprint find, one at BBC, and another from AP. The photo above is from the BBC article, where there is also a video clip of some of the collected specimens. According to BBC,
Perhaps the most notable fossil in this story is an organism called Tikaalik rosea, an animal that had features intermediate between fish and tetrapods.

But Tiktaalik lived about 375 million years ago; and although there are slightly older transition fossils, the Zachelmie Quarry tetrapods break the neat and simple timeline.

"The discovery of undoubted trackways from the earliest period of the Eifelian - that is 379 million years ago - pushes back the divergence between fishes and the four-legged vertebrates by about 18 million years, if not probably more," commented Dr Philippe Janvier from the National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France.

"I suspect that now we can push the divergence back to the Emsian stage, maybe 400 million years ago. That's surprising, but this is what the fossil evidence tells us," the independent researcher told BBC News.

For all the great comics regarding the transition from an aquatic life to (at least partially) terrestrial life- the Far Side panel of a pair of fish, one with a bat over his shoulder, looking at a baseball up on the beach comes to mind- this event is a profound one. I haven't thought much about it recently, but it's an environment I enjoy exploring in my imagination. I'm glad to have more information from the world of science to help flesh it out.

Followup: Here's the abstract of the paper from Nature. Via The Lancet, where the author, Martin Brazeau, says he'll post a detailed update soon.

Followup 2: The Guardian chimes in, with much the same info, but adding a nearly 10-minute long video that really helps clarify the details and importance of this find. Maybe a bit too docudramatic, but I enjoyed it. Field trip!

Followup 3: Nat Geo chimes in.

Yeah, It's Rainy

But I've had my windows open a few inches since Monday evening. The fresh air at night has been delightful. At 6:30 this morning, the temperature was 54. I'll take that.

They're forecasting freezing rain tomorrow night and Friday, but this balmy interlude has been much appreciated.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Barack Has a New Family Member

Right here in Corvallis!
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have a new nephew. He is Austin, son of the first lady's older brother, Craig Robinson, and his wife, Kelly.
Craig Robinson is the head coach of the Oregon State men's basketball team, the Beavers.

Annoying Disease

Dan Pirarro at Bizarro blog posted a link to this earlier. I agree: this is pretty funny.Superandom (home here)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bad Reporter! NO! Bad!

Why is it that people who know nothing about a subject are the ones who report it? Seriously. You could save money hiring middle schoolers. The spelling and grammar might suffer a little (as evidenced by my hometown paper, which I think has gone that route), but the subject material couldn't suffer any more than is the case now.

Case 1: New York Times, shame. This ought to be a fascinating bit of news, but I honestly don't trust any of it.
The new discoveries don't quite fit into any definition of known astronomical objects, and so far don't have a classification of their own. Details about the mystery objects were presented Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington.

For now, NASA researcher Jason Rowe, who found the objects, said he calls them ''hot companions.''

How hot? Try 26,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough to melt lead or iron.
OK, I know most journalists have never heard of Wikipedia, and it definitely doesn't count as good fact checking, but let's take a stab, hmm? Without checking, my recollection is that lead melts at about 400 F, and iron in the low to mid thousands of degrees. Let's say 1250-1500 F. Now we go to Wikipedia... Lead: 327.46 °C, 621.43 °F; Iron: 1538 °C, 2800 °F. OK, I was probably recalling Celsius values, but given that, I still wasn't too far off. Let's look at boiling points. Lead: 3180 °F; Iron 5182 °F. So we're talking about a planet whose surface is hot enough to vaporize iron. Either that, or a reporter who misplaced a decimal point to make 26,000 out of 2600. The article does point out that these "hot companions" are hotter than the stars they orbit so either is possible... which is almost worse than nothing. At least I'm left trusting nothing. The highest boiling point for an element is 5660 C (10,220 F), for Tungsten. (The surface- the photosphere- of the sun has a temperature of 5510 C.)

Then a few paragraphs later we have this:
The primary focus of the Kepler telescope's three-year mission is to find out how common other planets -- especially Earth-like planets -- are in the universe. To do that, it is scanning a small chunk of the sky, about one four-hundredth of the night sky with more than 150,000 stars to look for planets.
Which part of the sky is "the night sky?" I presume it's roughly half, with the other half being day sky, and some small fraction being twilight sky. So are we looking at an eight-hundredth of the whole sky? Or did the reporter actually mean one four-hundredth of the sky?

Again, the issue is we don't know and can't know because this is just such an ignorant mistake that we can't trust anything in the article.

Followup, 01/05/10: My suspicion is apparently correct. The reporter moved the decimal, and didn't realize that 26,000 F was awfully hot. Nat Geo reports,
Dubbed Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b, and 8b, the five new planets range in temperature from 2,000 to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,090 to 1,650 degrees Celsius), William Borucki, Kepler's principal investigator, said today during a press briefing at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Case 2: The Guardian, shame.
One in six Britons with high blood-sugar levels faces a greater danger of developing cancer, according to new research.
Any time you hear or read a comparative claim, you should ask "compared to what." Not out loud necessarily, but it should occur to you to wonder. Unless you're a reporter, in which case you just sort of randomly trot out numbers that look as if they say something, but don't.
Scientists at Umea University in Sweden, funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), examined blood sugar levels in 274,126 men and 275,818 women from Norway, Austria and Sweden with an average age of 44.8, then followed them up a decade later to see how many had developed or died from cancer.
So we're not talking about Britain after all; we're talking about Scandanavia. Fair enough. The real issue here, though, is the distinction between "significance" and "effect size." With a sample of 500,000 subjects, any difference at all is likely to be "significant." That is, statistically, one is likely to conclude that there is a difference between high and low blood sugar patients if there is any difference at all. But in the context of statistics, 'significance" tells you nothing about how big or important the difference is. In the context of this article, neither does the reporter.
They write: "Significant increases in risk among men were found for incident and fatal cancer of the liver, gallbladder, and respiratory tract, for incident thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma, and for fatal rectal cancer. In women, significant associations were found for incident and fatal cancer of the pancreas, for incident urinary bladder cancer, and for fatal cancer of the uterine corpus, cervix uteri and stomach."
The study is significant because it found that the increased likelihood of cancer occurred regardless of the participants' body mass index levels. It does not prove that blood glucose of itself leads to cancer, but it suggests that it might promote tumour growth by acting as a source of fuel for tumour cells, especially fast-growing, highly proliferative cells.
And of course, after saying explicitly that "It does not prove that blood glucose of itself leads to cancer..." we're off on a rosy little tangent about how to avoid cancer by being healthy and active and not getting high blood sugar or diabetes. As if those are nothing to be worried about. So in sum, this article says "high blood sugar may (or may not) raise your risk of cancer from some value by anywhere from zero to 100 percent. Is significant." Hey, I have an article idea: "Being alive tied to risk of death." And here's another: "Not having cancer increases risk of eventually developing diabetes."

Case 3: And finally, there's this:
Is Racism Gone for Good?

It has been nearly a year since the first African American took the highest office in the land as President of the United States. With President Obama and the first (black) family in the White House, does that mean there is no more racism in this great country of ours?
I have to say, I more or less agree with the good Reverend's points. But the only people who I've seen seriously claiming that racism has ended are the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world. I'm willing to bet the person who hung Obama in effigy thinks racism is over too. If Rev. Chappell is honestly hearing people say "Racism has been eliminated and the proof is the election of the first black President," he needs to find new people to hang around with. Seriously. If he's speaking hyperbolically, then he's convincing no one. The people who need to hear what he's saying aren't listening, and the people who agree with him don't need to hear him. And I don't doubt that there are plenty of people, like me, who are simply irritated by trite hyperbole.

Journalism isn't dying. It's committing suicide by auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Burj Dubai

The Eiffel Tower, completed 1889, was the first man-made structure to exceed 1000 feet; its height is 1063 feet.Taipei 101 has, until today, held the record as the tallest inhabited building in the world, at 1667 feet. It was completed in 2003, and was the first building to surpass the half-kilometer mark. (Burj Dubai actually passed its height in July of 2007)
Burj Dubai, which opens today, tops out at 2717 feet. Which is just shorter than what you'd get if you stacked the Eiffel Tower on top of Taipei 101.
(Charles Crowell/Bloomberg)

There's an old joke... two drunks are pissing off a bridge, and one looks over at the other and says "Water's cold tonight." The second looks back at at him and says, "Mmmhmm. Deep, too."

This building strikes me as having something in common with that joke, but I have to admit, I'm impressed. You couldn't pay me enough to go up on the observation deck (I got woozy from the video posted from the crow's nest a while back), but I'm impressed. Here's a few links for more info: NYT (highlight: video of the fireworks celebrating the opening), a gallery of photos of the construction from BBC, and another gallery of photos of the finished product from Der Spiegel, along with a story containing a sort of mind blowing quote from the engineering firm that designed it: "I would think we could easily do a one kilometer building."

Wholly Wow.

Trivia fun: The Great Pyramid of Giza was about 480 feet tall when completed; its current hight is about 455 feet. It is believed to have been completed about 2551 BC, and was the tallest man-made object in the world for over 3800 years. It was exceeded by Lincoln Cathedral in England in 1311 AD.

Isaac Newton's Birthday

Today's Google Doodle:Also, if you click "I'm Feeling Lucky" without entering any search terms, you can still catch the New Year's fireworks display.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Next Thing You Know, They'll Be Burning Flags

To show how patriotic they are. Effigy of Obama found hanged in Georgia (BBC):
TV footage showed the doll hanging by a noose in front of a red, white and blue sign that reads "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President".
This country is clearly nuts.

The Ideal Way to Top Off a Wintertime Geology Field Trip

Snow plough and gritter finally end drawn-out New Year party after cross country club gets cut off in cold snap.

England's longest New Year party finally ended this morning when a snow plough and gritter reached Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the country, where 30 students and teachers had been cut off for two days.

Supplies of draught beer were down to Black Sheep's Riggwelter as the group from Leeds University cross country club consoled themselves amid 7ft drifts.
The Guardian Actually, as the excerpt notes, this was a cross country club, not a geology club. Had it been a geology club, there wouldn't have been any beer left, period.

Me Vs. Velociraptor

How long could you survive chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor?

Created by Oatmeal

I think this has been around for a while. If I recall, I took this quiz before I had a blog, so I didn't have anyplace to post the results. Now I do.

Sunday Funnies

My first funnies roundup of the new year!
I'll never get a tattoo, but if I was to do so, that's the one. Ugliest Tattoos
Criggo... keep this in mind for your next presentation.
Jason is sad. epic4chan
Then there was that episode where Q spiked the drinking water with ecstasy... "Star Trek Rave," from Epicponyz.
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
Epic Win
This will baffle potential underpants bombers. Oddly Specific
Big Fat Whale
epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails... Actually, that's very memorable, and is more of a win, as far as I'm concerned.
Tree Lobsters
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Noise to Signal
...which won't pay for the tow, but may offset it. Oddly Specific
epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails
engrish funny dollar hoof
see more Engrish... I know what I'm getting. You ready?
Epic Win
The Daily What (Explanation at the link, article here)
funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs
paris hilton
see more Lol Celebs
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
The Saturday Bulletin
Oddly Specific
GO... AWAY! Epicponyz
"Ahhh, Houston? You have a problem." epic4chan
Fail Training
see more deMotivational Posters
Mona Leia, via The Daily What
Equiscopophobia: the irrational fear that somewhere, somehow, a horse is watching you. Picture is Unrelated
Medium Large
Oh, Noes!!!
see more deMotivational Posters
Misery Loves Sherman
Via Professor Chaos
see more deMotivational Posters
Mac is 26 now, and as a grad student, resides in a warren of obsolete computer equipment. Blackadder.
At least the books won't catch fire. Probably Bad News
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Criggo; How do they KNOW they're dead?
Lesson still not learned
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Via Francesco Explains It All
...and now they do. Criggo
The Daily What
Very Funny Fanboys
see more Friends of Irony
Quick Everyone! Look Away!
see more Friends of Irony
Big Brother Is Watching You
see more Friends of Irony
see more Friends of Irony
That's what I always look for on dates. Skull Swap
There is no weather. Probably Bad News. Also, did you see the Ninja parade?
I didn't either. TYWKIWDBI
I think I've posted this one before, but I came across it again at I Hate My Parents, and decided it could use a caption.
GPS: the early days, from Blackadder
Mock, Paper, Scissors
There I Fixed It
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr