Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mars Global Surveyor...R.I.P. (1996-2006)

© 2006 by Malin Space Science Systems, Inc.

NASA lost contact with the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) nearly a month ago. It appears it is now lost. MGS had a good run...orbiting the red planet taking high-res photos of the surface. It contributed to the success of the Rover mission by helping find landing spots.

The above photo shows flat-lying sedimentary rocks eroding into an oval-shaped hill that has linear sand dunes around it.

Check out the online database of MGS images.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The view from Berkeley

I snapped these on Thanksgiving evening. They are taken from the Berkeley hills looking west across the bay toward San Francisco. In the picture above San Francisco is a little right of center...you can bareley see the silhouettes of the buildings. The Golden Gate bridge is against the far right of the photo. Note crescent moon.
The picture below is zoomed in on the Golden Gate bridge. Alcatraz is in the foreground and you can see the Farallon Islands way in the background.
Click on images to see a high-res version.

Yes, it's expensive to live here...but, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


RealClimate is a blog-style website put together by several scientists who are actively study the Earth's climate system. If you're already a science geek then you can keep up with the latest misleading or just plain wrong information spewed out by editorialists. These guys are good at untangling the sometimes confusing or seemingly contradictory information that is given to the general public. Because it is a blog, there is a chance to reply to the topic and get a discussion going. A lot of the people that participate in this are also climate scientists...so you get a chance to "listen" in on the discussions they are having.

If you are new to the types of data thrown around and how the climate system works, in general, then check out the index page first. There's a lot of good info in there.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday Field Foto #4: Patterns in the beach

A day late ...
Here's a photo I took this October while walking on a beach up near Eureka, CA. These little erosional rills formed in this one area of the beach. You can see how the sand was re-sedimented into some neat patterns just a few feet downhill (towards the top). The width of the frame is about 3 or 4 feet across.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Giant storm on Saturn


This hurricane-like storm is 5,000 miles across (about 2/3 the size of Earth) with estimated winds of 350 mph. Click here to read more about it. Also note in the blue and red images above...all those spots are smaller storms within the big one!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Those Founding Fathers ... dang, they were smart

Alright, the elections are over. The Democrats will have control over Congress. Will everything now be all peachy and wonderful? Of course not. There is still a lot of important things to take care of.

What is important is that now unchecked power will be checked. Checks and balances. Whether it be Republicans or Democrats...neither should control all branches of government for any lengthy period of time. Corruption will always result. This is the system our founding fathers envisioned. This is why we have mid-term elections in the first place.

The Republicans are gonna call the Dems "obstructionist" ... damn straight. If there is failed policy and plans to make more, then it should be obstructed. Hopefully both sides will practice what they are preaching this week and work together.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I agree with conservatives (at least this one)

This editorial from the magazine The American Conservative, called "The GOP Must Go", is one of the more succinct arguments against keeping one-party rule in the 109th Congress and how this election tomorrow really is a referendum on the executive branch.

Prominent conservative thinkers (with an emphasis on thinking ... not the Limbaugh, O'Reilly morons screaming nonsense to the masses) have important and relevatn things to say. This article is an example of that.

"On Nov. 7, the world will be watching as we go to the polls, seeking to ascertain whether the American people have the wisdom to try to correct a disastrous course. Posterity will note too if their collective decision is one that captured the attention of historians—that of a people voting, again and again, to endorse a leader taking a country in a catastrophic direction. The choice is in our hands."

Conservative, liberal, progressive, independent ... y'all should read it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tsunami in ancient Lake Tahoe

This recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle discusses some geologic research that indicates there was a massive underwater landslide in the ancestral Lake Tahoe sometime between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago. This slide, possibly triggered by an earthquake, created a tsunami that, if it happened today, would flood the low-lying populated areas.

Keep this in mind if you're planning a ski vacation to Tahoe!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Field Foto #3: Big Sur coring cruise

This week I had an opportunity to go out on a research cruise with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to do some deep-sea exploration of submarine canyons offshore of the Big Sur coast south of Monterey.

This is different field work than I'm used to. I've mostly been studying ancient deep-sea sediments (now exposed in mountains) whereas this trip was looking at modern deep-sea sediments.

They drop an ROV attached to a cable from a ship. This ROV can fly around just above the sea floor, has a robotic arm to grab stuff, and a bunch of cameras for observation. The analogy one of the guys on the boat made was -- imagine exploring the Grand Canyon by dropping a video camera in a Volkswagen beetle from a helicopter on a cable over a kilometer in length, during a moonless foggy night.

The image above was our view of the Big Sur coastline (you can even see Highway 1 if you look hard enough) while we were sampling one of the submarine canyons below.

The image below is an image of the sea-floor topography showing the canyons and channels cutting through the continental margin. The shelf edge is to the right in the orange color and the darker blue colors are getting to deeper depths (image courtesey of MBARI).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rubber band in super slow-motion

Some physicists studying elasticity filmed rubber bands at super high speed capturing the process of "dynamic buckling instability".

Check out the article and the links to the movies here.