Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturd80's: 80's Plus 30 Edition

In middle school, I was mostly a top 40 type. High school, I listened to whatever anyone else played, but didn't pay much attention. During the Cleveland years, I started paying attention to a wider variety of genres- blues, bluegrass, what's now called "classic" rock, Zappa, who's certainly deserving of a genre of his own, and others. Then during my undergrad years, I really started listening to a wide variety... though I purposely tend to emphasize new wave and electrowave- so much of that era of music seems to be forgotten. But even though I call this feature "Saturd80's," I certainly didn't stop listening to new music. Here's some more recent groups and songs I really like.

Tegan and Sara, Speak Slow:

The Shins, Phantom Limb:

Shiny Toy Guns, Rainy Monday:

I have to say, I can hear resonances of the 80's in all three of those. Maybe that's part of why I like them... (sarcasm) or maybe those musicians share my exceptional musical taste (/sarcasm).

Followup: I was just talking to a couple of my young friends, and was reminded of this one as well: Metric, Empty:

Marble Cake Is Made With Rock Flour

Three sweet advertisements for the Nissan Xterra, found via Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza? and posted with the comment, "geology cake! looks so goooood! someone make for me nao!!" Now I'm not a fan of advertising, but if those are in fact real cakes- and I have my doubts- I heartily approve. And despite the punny title, that "layer-cake geology" (yes, that is how geo-types refer to the kind of flat-laying strata seen above) wouldn't be a very good model for the kinds of places one would find marble. From ReBecca's shared items, this is fer sure a real cake, and despite being labeled a "Zebra Cake," would be a much better model for a marble cake. Though the recipe still doesn't call for rock flour.

Amusing But Incorrect

(Blackadder) According to Wikipedia,
In 1820 Phillip King visited the area and could not confirm Cook’s record; some then suggested that Cook and Banks had erred. This is apparently the basis for the long-standing myth that Cook is supposed to have asked a native “What is that?” to which the reply “kangaroo”, supposedly meaning “I don’t know”, was given. Though amusing, this is not the case. John Haviland studied Guugu Yimidhirr extensively in 1972, confirming gangurru and concluding King had been told minha.
And according to Online Etymology Dictionary,
1770, used by Capt. Cook and botanist Joseph Banks, supposedly an aborigine word from northeast Queensland, Australia, usually said to be unknown now in any native language. However, according to Australian linguist R.M.W. Dixon ("The Languages of Australia," Cambridge, 1980), the word probably is from Guugu Yimidhirr (Endeavour River-area Aborigine language) /gaNurru/ "large black kangaroo."
Finally, The Word Detective agrees, and points out that this myth didn't originate with Ripley's Believe It or Not, but it was that syndication that made it part of the broader public "knowledge."
The kernel of truth underlying the story is that Captain James Cook, the first European explorer to reach Australia in 1770, did indeed bring back news of a creature the Australian native peoples called a "kangooroo" or "ganguru." Unfortunately, linguists cataloging the various Aboriginal languages many years later were unable to find anything like "kangaroo" in any existing native tongue. But the logical presumption is that the dialect Cook heard had simply become extinct over the intervening years. There is no evidence that "kangaroo" ever meant "I don't know," "What are you talking about," or any of the other responses supposedly given to his query.
Still, it's an amusing and potentially believable story. It's fun to think that there might be any number of critters whose common names are based on natives glancing worriedly at each other and saying, in essence, "WTF?" I'm thinking opossum, platypus, capybara, and others, but I'm not going to look those up.

Titanically Bad Science Reporting

A couple of days ago, I read this NASA press release:

One key finding comes from a paper online now in the journal Icarus that shows hydrogen molecules flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Another paper online now in the Journal of Geophysical Research maps hydrocarbons on the Titan surface and finds a lack of acetylene.

This lack of acetylene is important because that chemical would likely be the best energy source for a methane-based life on Titan, said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., who proposed a set of conditions necessary for this kind of methane-based life on Titan in 2005. One interpretation of the acetylene data is that the hydrocarbon is being consumed as food. But McKay said the flow of hydrogen is even more critical because all of their proposed mechanisms involved the consumption of hydrogen.

"We suggested hydrogen consumption because it's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said. "If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth."

To date, methane-based life forms are only hypothetical. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, though there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product. On Titan, where temperatures are around 90 Kelvin (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), a methane-based organism would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes, but not water itself. Water is frozen solid on Titan's surface and much too cold to support life as we know it.

Now the above isn't good, but it's not horrible. For example, the fact that "there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane,"is simply irrelevant here. The proposed "food" for the hypothetical Titanian bugs is acetylene. But I simply assume at this point that when a press release comes out from a major source like NASA that it will very shortly be badly misreported and misrepresented by the media. The Telegraph (UK) is often the culprit... they swing, they hit... FOUL!
Data from Nasa's Cassini probe has analysed the complex chemistry on the surface of Titan, which experts say is the only moon around the planet to have a dense atmosphere.

They have discovered that life forms have been breathing in the planet’s atmosphere and also feeding on its surface’s fuel.

Astronomers claim the moon is generally too cold to support even liquid water on its surface.
I would love to see data analyze complex chemistry. "Experts say," is my candidate for a phrase that should be exterminated from the English language. But the gem is the middle sentence. That's it, game over, life forms are breathing. "Generally too cold to support even liquid water?" "Generally?" "Support?" "Even?" I'm not finding a record high temperature for Titan's surface, but the average is -180 C, or -290 F, though, tee-hee, that same site lists "-90 K" as the Kelvin equivalent.

So let's review: scientist(s) publish research. Scientifically illiterate PR hack interviews them, doesn't even glance at journal article, plays up sensationalism, plays down uncertainties, 'cause you know, if you can't draw in Homer Simpson, Beavis, and Butthead, no one will read it. Then, an utterly illiterate reporter, who may or may not discover Google and Wikipedia before the end of his career, processes the news one step further and makes it all sensationalism with no uncertainty: "life forms have been breathing in the planet’s atmosphere and also feeding on its surface’s fuel."
We are living in the future
I'll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We're all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines.
Perception is reality, but reality should at least influence perception. I wish reporters understood that.

I Am Sitting in a Room, Different From The One You Are in Now

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but, more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.
This performance piece, by Alvin Lucier, was regularly played on KBVR, Oregon State's student radio station, when I was an undergraduate. The text above was read, then replayed and recorded, then that recording replayed and recorded, and so on, over and over, ultimately becoming a series of squeals and hoots. You can hear an mp3 of the original recording here, though I don't think that was the one I was accustomed to. Here's a YouTube clip that sounds more like the version I recall, but I do remember the original as being something like 15-20 minutes; this one is 8:21.

It's odd, and you may not want to sit through the whole thing. It's not intended to be aesthetically pleasing, but I did, and do, find it fascinating and thought-provoking.

So what? If an admittedly unpleasing demonstration of resonant frequencies isn't your cup of tea, so what? Well, as with so many things in this age of lightning-speed data, there's a remake...

That's the original.
I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice as well as the image of myself, and I am going to upload it to YouTube, rip it from YouTube, and upload it again and again, until the original characteristics of both my voice and my image are destroyed. What you will see and hear, then, are the artifacts inherent in the video codec of both YouTube and the mp4 format I convert it to on my computer. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a digital fact, but more as a way to eliminate all human qualities my speech and image might have.
Here's number 56:

Number 168:

Turn down the sound... number 1000 is really ugly.

As I said, this isn't intended to be "pretty," but it is fascinating to me. If you're curious, it looks as if all 1000 iterations have been posted.

Friday, June 4, 2010


"It cannot be bargained with. It cannot be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear." See it at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

He Didn't Get All Esplodey!

Proof that people don't explode when exposed to a vacuum. That seems to be one of the hardest to kill myths of space exploration. Though anyone who's seen 2001 knows it's a myth... Sci Fi movies have notoriously bad science, but Clarke and Kubric tried very hard to get it right.

On a serious note, that had to be a scary experience, and he's lucky he didn't sustain more serious injuries. That could have led to burst eardrums, and boiling could cause damage to delicate tissue, like eyes.


If these photos don't make you sick to your stomach, I don't want to know you. This is part of the inevitable consequences of our addiction to oil... we can regulate, we can take safety measures, we can punish the negligent, but spills will happen. I can see how we got here, I can see how hard it will be to get away from it, but I'm heartbroken with where we are.

That first one, I couldn't even tell it was a bird.

We Don't Need No... Oh, Yes, You Do!

The Guardian has posted a list of science blogs it likes, and has issued a request for others. Guess which discipline is, as best I can tell, completely unrepresented? So herewith, I will compile a list of some of my favorite geoblogs, notably missing in The Guardian's list, in preparation for dumping them into the comments:

Allgeo feed:

4.5 Billion Years of Wonder:

Accidental Remediation:

Active Margin:

Adventures in the World of Geology:

Ancient Shore:


Clastic Detritus

Cryology and Company

Dave's Landslide Blog

DinoChick Blogs


Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD)


Geologic Frothings

Geology Happens

Geology Rocks


Good Schist

Highly Allochthonous

Hindered Settling


In Terra Veritas

Looking For Detatchment

Lounge of the Lab Lemming

Magma Cum Laude

NASA Earth Observatory

The Failed Rift

Mountain Beltway

Oakland Geology


Pathological Geomorphology

Rapid Uplift

Riparian Rap

Ron Schott's Geology Home Companion

Ron Schott's Shared Items


Strange Maps

The Accretionary Wedge

The Ethical Paleontologist

The Happy Scientist

The Lost Geologist

The Musings of a Life-Long Scholar

The Volcanism Blog

Watershed Hydrogeology

Wooster Geologists

Yeehow Central

The answer to your question is yes, I do read pretty much everything that gets posted in that list, pretty much every day. That constitutes maybe 15-20% of the number of items I skim over each day, but most items I just glance at the headline, and maybe the first couple of sentences. The blogs above I generally read carefully. Of course, they're dealing with a topic that's important and interesting to me; your mileage may vary.


LockwoodDeWitt LockwoodDeWitt

4 Jun 2010, 12:05AM

I see someone else pointed out Eruptions; the other great volcano blog is Vulcanism Blog. It strikes me that geology is badly unrepresented in most of the selections and suggestions, though, so I put together a list of the Geoblogs and Feeds I follow on a daily basis... it's a long list, but there are a great number of dedicated geobloggers.

Backyard Blitz

Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke Blog hits the perfect note on a pet peeve of mine...
I hate leaf blowers. I think I might hate them even more than Hummers. At least Hummers don't shriek with the wail of a thousand banshees. It always strikes me as deeply oxymoronic that people are fastidious about making their lawns look perfect, yet they give not one damn about the noise pollution that turns neighborhoods into deafening hells on earth.
See the blog post here, and the other three-quarters of the comic here. As she points out in the post, the title is prompted by this Golden Moldy, Ballroom Blitz. I have never seen this clip before, but I commented a week or two ago on someone's Faceboook post that this album, Desolation Boulevard, by Sweet, was the first record I bought with my own money. Fond memories.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Debris Flows

I mentioned yesterday that I was pleased to see a NOAA/NWS weather alert stress the danger of debris flows associated with heavy rains in and near steep landscapes. I often find myself enjoying OregonLive's weather reports; they're good, accurate, and talented summaries, with the added benefit of frequently being written with a sense of dry humor. The latter is ever so appropriate for our frequently moist environment. That humor is in evidence in today's report- the current weather set-up is more that of deep winter than late spring or early summer, so yesterday and today they're referring to this week's precipitation as our "Juneuary Storm."

Still, what got my attention was that a sizable portion of the article was a description of what debris flows are, how they work, and how they can be triggered in the conditions we're currently having. Then, to cap it off, they have a sidebar of debris flow warning signs:

Warning signs of debris flows
Stay alert. Listen to the radio, TV, or a weather radio for flood watches, which include the potential for debris flows and if told to evacuate, do so immediately.

Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle of falling mud or debris may precede larger landslides.

If you think there is danger of a landslide, leave immediately.

If water in a river or stream suddenly turns muddy or the amount of water flowing suddenly decreases or increases, this is a warning that the flow has been affected upstream. You should immediately leave the area because a debris flow may soon be coming downstream.

Assume highways are not safe. Be alert when driving, especially at night. Don't overdrive your headlights. Embankments along roadsides may fail, sending rock and debris onto the road.

Landowners and road managers should check road drainage systems and conduct needed maintenance in case the predicted heavy precipitation does occur.

Cleaning up after landslides can also be hazardous. "When it's this wet outside, people need to be careful when they're cleaning up the mess. A small mudslide can actually be part of a larger landslide," explains Roddey. "Cleanup should not be done until after the storm."
Well done! I would add that valley floors are a bad place to be in heavy rain events, and western Oregonians seem to have a predilection for building houses at the top of alluvial fans where canyons emerge from mountains. This is precisely the spot most likely to be impacted by a debris flow. The alluvial fans are built up from previous events, and are evidence that they have happened and will happen again. Picking a building site to one side or the other, away from the mouth of the canyon, will decrease the risk of property damage, injury or loss of life in the event.

Some other factors that can increase risk of mass movement (defined as driven primarily by gravity, as opposed to erosion, which is defined as transport in a medium such as water, wind or ice):
  • steep slope
  • deep soil profile
  • sedimentary layering or jointing (in any kind of rock) in a direction similar to the surface profile
  • undercutting of a slope, either naturally (e.g. stream or wave erosion), or artificially (e.g. construction work)
  • removal of timber and other vegetative cover by logging or fire- this leads to increased risk for as much as a decade or more
  • high levels of soil moisture
  • flow of ground water laterally to the surface, particularly in saturated conditions.
There are probably additional factors that should be added to this list that I'm not recalling right now... if you can think of others, leave them in the comments.


How many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight?

Created by Oatmeal

Okay, I kinda cheated at this... I didn't watch any of the video in the first question. But keep in mind, I was there when Donny Osmond was a big deal, and I'm still a little traumatized by that experience. I have no intention of ever intentionally watching Justin Beiber video clips.

Wednesday Wednesday

wednesday addams Pictures, Images and Photos
From Photobucket

Thoughts on Blogging

I did it myyyyyyy way!

Geology: An Illustrated Glossary

The new accretionary wedge is up over at Highly Allochthonous, and, oh my goodness! It's a great one! Many, many particpants, and glorious photos and images. Many of these I've seen as submissions came in over the last few weeks, but quite a few are new to me. If you like nice pictures of our planet, this is a don't miss edition.

(Cross-posted at The Accretionary Wedge)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No, It's Not Too Soon

Sober in a Nightclub
Plaque at a New Orleans Aquarium, via TYWKIWDBI
The Far Left Side
Mock, Paper, Scissors
If we're being accused of being criminals, we want to be tried by a jury of our peers- wealthy execs who don't give a damn.
@BPGlobalPr is still at it, and worth checking on a daily basis... here's another from yesterday:
Best part of the BP Memorial Day Picnic? The custom made oily dunk tank! So far we've dunked 4 ducks, a dolphin, 2 otters and @bpTerry!
And apparently BP did ask Twitter to terminate that account. I'm pleased to say that Twitter gracefully declined.Via BuzzFeed
Joy of Tech
Non Sequitur... as I noted this morning, today is the official beginning of hurricane season; there have been some interesting bits on the potential interaction between oil, water and wind. I'll try to put together something a little more serious and substantive some other time.

Tuesday Tits

"The Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmicus, wingspan 17cm) is neither bearded nor a tit – it is a Moustachioed Reedling, but that title is hardly likely to catch on." Photo by Jeremy Early, at Nature Conservation Imaging.

Happy Feet!

How does a mathematician cope with constipation? He gets a pencil and paper and works it out.

How does a blogger deal with that sense of being backed up, bloated, and completely unable to discharge an appropriate load of bile on Tony effing Hayward and his wayward little oil corp? Happy puppy feet! (Via Balloon Juice)

Weather Alert

This from NOAA/NWS:


We had our spring back in January and February, so I guess we're getting our winter now. I for one enjoy vigorous weather- I'd rather have it put on a show than simply drizzle on me for days. 1-1.5 inches with gusts 25-35 counts as a show, but not enough of one to be scary, though enough to potentially cause power outages. Which are a damned nuisance. I also found it interesting that the weather service is pointing out the danger of debris flows. I heartily approve. In hilly SE Ohio, where I grew up, rural folks were very much aware of the dangers of flash floods. My sense, though, is that most Oregonians are blissfully unaware of the dangers of debris flows, despite the fact that several people are killed by them most years.

In other weather news, today marks the official beginning of hurricane season. Here's hoping they get the damned well shut down before a tropical storm forces workers to evacuate.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Assumed This Was Shopped

I saw this earlier this afternoon at The Daily What; my first assumption was that it was photoshopped. Despite assurances it came from the Guatemalan Government, I held off posting it until I saw it picked up in a more trustworthy place.Well, the NYT has picked it up, and I more or less trust them. "This astonishingly unnerving photograph was posted today on the feed of the Guatemalan goverment and shows a seemingly bottomless sinkhole that opened up on Sunday in Guatemala City as a swath of Central America was drenched by tropical storm Agatha." Yow! Below is a street-level view:
The full-size aerial view is hosted at Flickr (~1 MB). Also, for you Star Wars fans, "This is no cave!" (I'm pretty sure that one is photoshopped.)

Followup June 1: More photos and description at National Geographic.

Causing Morale Problems

DADT: never, ever. Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gulf Spill: The Final Solution

BP has determined that if we just ignore it for 7 years, the reservoir will likely empty out, at which point the leak will stop. "It will take 7 years for the oil deposit below the Deepwater Horizon well to empty if left alone."

The "Top Kill" effort has officially failed. Progress on the relief wells continues, but the expected date for those to be in place is described in numerous articles as August, with some saying "at least" August. There is apparently one more strategy in line to be tried, though I haven't seen a nice catchy name for it yet. It involves cutting the bent and broken riser off of the top of the blowout preventer, then capping the open end. This is by no means an assured path to success, and over the short term, is actually likely to make things worse to much worse.

The riser is bent and kinked directly above the BOP, and the constrictions in the pipe caused by these twists is most likely restricting the flow. Cutting the riser off of the BOP will remove the restriction, allowing the flow to erupt at full force. Obama and BP are describing this as "open-heart surgery."

I just wish I was more confident this operation was being carried out by surgeons with at least a middle-school education, and with more than pointed sticks and knapped stone tools. I'm not.

Followup: Pharyngula has an excellent suggestion on how to hit BP, its executives, and every other driller in the Gulf where it'll hurt them most... if they haven't been behaving.

Sunday Funnies

For your digital edification, it's this week's edition of the Sunday Funnies...
Bits and Pieces
Skull Swap
Misery Loves Sherman
Hacked IRL "Oh, Yeah. Didn't think of that."
Bits and Pieces
Savage Chickens
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Friends of Irony, posted with the title "Rolling so far back, it wrapped back around."
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine

A very funny Ewok impression, via Great White Snark.funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs
This Modern World
The Daily What
One way to protect your hearing. Bits and Pieces
Engrish Funny
Chinese National Day parade
see more Political Pictures
Iranian protesters
see more Political Pictures
Fake Science
The High Definite
red-ruffed lemur Totally Looks Like Avatar
see more Celeb Look-A-Likes>
Skull Swap
Ben Trovato at The Wulfshead
demotivational posters
see more Demotivators
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine
Cyanide and Happiness
Sober in a Nightclub
Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam
see more Lol Celebs
The Baby Powder Prank, from Bits and Pieces.
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Yesterday was "Crime Spree Day" at Criggo
Hacked IRL
Leonard Nimoy says: “The makeup folks put ears on my son Adam to surprise me. A precious moment while shooting the original series.” The Daily What
funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs
Hacked IRL
I should repost this one at the end of every edition of the funnies. FuckYeahAlbuquerque