Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The importance of the Hubble telescope

When put into service in 1990, the Hubble space telescope was supposed to last about 15 years. Thanks to servicing via spacewalks, it is still going pretty well. Unfortuantely, one of the cameras onboard has stopped working. The ACS (advanced camera for surveys) can detect light from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared end of the spectrum and has been invaluable for astronomers since it was installed in 2002.

"Technically speaking, it is more risk. Is it worth taking that risk? I would say yes. If I were the administrator, I would go save Hubble. I can't even begin to tell you all the technological advances Hubble has given us. More importantly, think what we can gain in its future," retired shuttle Cmdr. Jim Wetherbee says.
The images and information that the Hubble telescope has provided has led to significant progress in understanding our universe...they likely would not have happened by this point without it. It seems every couple of years, the telescope faces challenges, whether it be breaking down or the threat of losing funding. Let's hope NASA keeps servicing Hubble until the next generation space telescope is put into place.

Image above from Hubble Heritage.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Woman (with iPod) in the Landscape

My very first post on this blog was about the famous "face on Mars" image. Here's an image from Earth that resembles the profile view of a woman. The shading under the chin and on neck is fantastic.

Put these coordinates into GoogleEarth (or GoogleMaps w/ satellite turned on):
50° 0'38.20"N 110° 6'48.32"W

This is in eastern Alberta, Canada.
Pretty cool, eh?

No, I don't look at GoogleEarth all the time...I found this here while browsing for science news.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Where on (Google)Earth #3

Okay...I might be giving this away...but, a recent post on this blog is in some way related to this location. Good luck.

Go here to find out about 'Where on (Google)Earth?'

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Field Foto #9: Igneous intrusion cutting across folded strata

This week...another photo from Chile.

Here we got a good ol' geologic puzzle...the kind you'd learn in an intro class. Here we can use the intuitive law of cross-cutting relationships to determine the relative timing of events. First the sediments were deposited, then the lithified sediments (rocks) were uplifted and folded, then an igneous intrusion cuts across the fold. Finally, erosion reveals it all for us to see.

To see all the Friday Field Fotos, go here.
To see more photos of Patagonia, go here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

NHL All-Star Game

I didn't watch the game...all-star games or pro bowls are kind of useless in a way. But, I'm pretty psyched that my team, the Buffalo Sabres (where I grew up), was well represented. Daniel Briere had 1 goal and 4 assists and was named MVP.

The Sabres have never won the Cup. They made it in '99 only to be defeated by the Dallas Stars in game 6. Before that, they haven't been in the finals since the early '70s. This could be the year...they are second in the league, first in the eastern conference (standings). Typically there's a couple teams that kick ass in the regular season and then s#@t the bed in the first round of the playoffs. That would suck.

Southbound Sand

I love sediment (I even like how it settles at the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee). I figured the least I can do on this blog is comment on sediment in the news.

A few days ago the BBC published this article on their website about the shifting sands of the Sahara. The sand dunes are slowly, but surely, advancing their way south and pushing communities in Nigeria out of their way.

"What we do is that when the sand moves and buries our homes and farms and even our wells, we simply keep retreating southwards"

One of the issues, is that the villagers are continuously cutting down trees for firewood, which is opening a clear path for the sand to migrate through.

What to do about it? Well, there's not too much, especially for remote communities struggling to get by as it is. In other areas engineers have tried sand fences with limited success. Check out this article that discusses the mechanics of dune migration in a little more detail.

Photograph from

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Where on (Google)Earth #2

Alright...let's try another one.

If you want to play...go here to find out what I'm talking about.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"National Park Service under orders to suspend its belief in geology"

UPDATE (1/28/2007):

Apparently, the watchdog group called PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Research) that originally put out the press release I linked to in the original post (see below) was either not being totally honest or there is some miscommunication somewhere.

Skeptic magazine reported on this story but when they started looking into it further, they figured out they were "duped" by PEER. Read statement from Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, here.

A reader of Skeptic who contacted PEER had this to say:
"When I challenged that PEER guy to show me some evidence and provided him evidence to the contrary, he didn’t have much. I would say PEER did more than jump the gun. I’d say they are spreading misinformation."

It is really unfortunate that PEER had to do this. From their website it appears they do some important, relevant, and honest activism. Unfortunately, this kind of tom-foolery really takes a bite out of their credibility as a "watch dog".

ORIGINAL POST (1/21/2007):
Please read this regarding the unsettling happenings within the National Park Service (NPS) and how to inform park-goers how old and by what processes the Grand Canyon formed.

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated Public Employees for Environmental Research (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

The presence of the book for sale in the visitor center bookstore that lays out (presumably) how Noah's flood was responsible for both the deposition of the ancient sediments exposed in the canyon AND the carving of the canyon is bad enough.
What's funny is how this administration made a big deal last year about the 'American Competitiveness Initiative' to help increase the quality of science and technology-related education. This is how they do it?! How does promoting this absolute fantasy enable Americans to be more competitive?

“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added,

Here's the letter from the park employees to the NPS director expressing their distaste for this non-scientific malarkey.

Thanks for the link, KS

Photograph above taken by me in summer of 2006.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Field Foto #8: Cretaceous shoreline deposits

I've missed the last few Fridays...

The Book Cliffs are in central Utah and western Colorado and are famous for their spectacular outcrops of Cretaceous shoreline deposits. The seaway, which once stretched across the whole of North America from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, left a fantastic record of relative sea level changes in these sedimentary rocks. The landward or basinward movement of the shoreline can be mapped along the Book Cliffs by identifying the various sedimentary environments (coastal plain, beach, shoreface, shelf, etc.) in the record.

The map above illustrates this paleogeography nicely. Note how much of Colorado is part of this seaway at this time. Eventually, the rivers and shorelines (as recorded by the stratigraphy) march across Colorado too. This image taken from a fantastic website by geologist Ron Blakey at the University of Northern Arizona. Check it out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where on (Google)Earth #1?'s an idea. Every once in a while I'm going to grab an image of somewhere on this planet using GoogleEarth. It's up to the readers to determine or guess where it is. It will usually, although maybe not always, be a natural feature of the Earth that is highlighted. Sometimes I might be zoomed in, other times it'll be a wide shot. Sometimes it might have something to do with an area or phenomenon discussed in the news...sometimes not.

If you can't tell me exactly where it is...then tell me something about the natural feature that is shown.

If you get it right....well, that's it, you get it right....i'm not gonna give you a prize or anything. Who do you think I am?

Check out this blog for a similar GoogleEarth type of thing in quiz form.

The first image might be easy for some....

Click on image to see larger version

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Evangelicals and Scientists

I simply don't have the time at the moment to comment thoughtfully and thoroughly about this article. Nonetheless, it deserves some attention for all those worried about the state of science in the face of the rise of the Age of Unreason.

"God will judge us for destroying the Creation. Therefore, we as evangelicals have a responsibility to be even more vigilant than others," Cizik told a news conference.

"Science can be an ally in helping us understand what faith is telling us," he said. "We will not allow the Creation to be degraded, destroyed by human folly."

There is a growing trend of so-called 'Green Evangelicals' who believe they need to be responsible stewards of the Earth. All-in-all...this is good. My hope is that in this process scientists can demonstrate that being good stewards of the Earth also makes sense from a scientific point of view.

(thanks for the link, BK)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Awesome jazz and groove podcast

For those podcast subscribers out there, I found a great monthly music show that highlights groovy jazz
(including all the sub-sub-sub-genres of acid jazz, afro-beat, bop, cool jazz, cosmic jazz, dub, downtempo, electro-jazz, fusion, future jazz, groove jazz, jazzatronic, jazz dance, jazz-funk, jazz-rock, kozmigroov, modal, phusion, progressive, modern, nu-jazz, soul-jazz, spiritual, and world).

It's called BendingCorners and is nice because the creators are DJs who spin sets that are about an hour or a little more of continuous music (i.e., one, long audio file)...typically within a 'theme' for that month. You can either subscribe to the podcast or just download the files directly. Although they only come once a month, if you like it, you can download from the archive. If you get really into it (I wish I had the time), they have the playlists for each set and you can explore the original stuff.

If jazz and groove is not your thing, you should at the very least download the tribute to James Brown (the Dec 2006 set called 'Mr. Dynamite').

Monday, January 15, 2007

Expanding Spheres

The least from my limited expanding today. Fellow bloggers of mostly geo-related topics are linking to each other. Check out the list on the sidebar called 'Earth Science Blogs' from time to time...I will be adding more and more.

Special thanks to Highly Allochthonous for getting this going...check it out.

Image at right here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


In an effort to not do any work, but still sit at a computer pretending i'm working...i've spent time updating and modifying this blog with a new look and more links at the side.

A fellow geo-geek from Stanford (now a post-doc at Syracuse) has a nice blog called Apparent Dip ... check it out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The myth of the "opposing view"

"Condoms don't belong in school and neither does Al Gore."

I can't resist commenting on this article...even if no one reads it...and even though I should be working right now. Below are excerpts from the report (click on link above to see original) and then my snide remarks in this font.

After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.
At least this reporter lays it out from the start the kind of person we are dealing with. I have to give them some credit for that.

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Please re-read the last sentence again. That's right..."An Inconvenient Truth" does not sufficiently cover the details of the end times, which apparently gets even warmer. Hmmm....14,000 years old, what happened to 6,500 or whatever?

Hardison's e-mail to the School Board prompted board member David Larson to propose the moratorium Tuesday night.
"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," said Larson, a lawyer. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate."

What an absolute coward. What kind of school board member is swayed by someone who says that not including the details of the 'end times' in a documentary about climate change is cockeyed?

School Board members adopted a three-point policy that says teachers who want to show the movie must ensure that a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented," that they must get the OK of the principal and the superintendent, and that any teachers who have shown the film must now present an "opposing view."

Okay, here's where we start to get to the good stuff. Again...props to the reporter for putting "opposing view" in quotes. This is where the general public, or at the very least school board members, need to stop and think for a moment. I would like to know the details of the credible and legitimate opposing view. What exactly are they opposing? The fact that the climate is changing or that Al Gore made a movie. What am I missing here.

The requirement to represent another side follows district policy to represent both sides of a controversial issue, board President Ed Barney said.
"What is purported in this movie is, 'This is what is happening. Period. That is fact,' " Barney said.

Okay, I's a controversial issue. What exactly is under controversy? In fact there is no controversy regarding the science. Yes, of course, there are numerous ongoing debates about the intricacies and workings of the climate system...but that would not change the foundation of this movie. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt...perhaps they are not saying that climate change itself is under question, but rather that human civilization is causing it.

Students should hear the perspective of global-warming skeptics and then make up their minds, he said. After they do, "if they think driving around in cars is going to kill us all, that's fine, that's their choice."

Again...what exactly is a 'global warming skeptic'? What are they skeptical about!?!? Why should students hear the opposing view? Should they start bringing in people that think the Earth is flat, or that the Earth is the center of the solar system, or that gravity does not exist? Oh wait...I think there's some opposing views about who killed JFK or who masterminded 9/11 circulating too...I wonder if this school board president would allow that. That last sentence is ridiculous...this is a school board president?

While the question of climate change has provoked intense argument in political circles in recent years, among scientists its basic tenets have become the subject of an increasingly stronger consensus.

Thank you (polite applause)

"In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," states a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises policymakers. "Furthermore, it is very likely that the 20th-century warming has contributed significantly to the observed sea level rise, through thermal expansion of seawater and widespread loss of land ice."
The basics of that position are backed by the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences.

Last I knew, there were a few cockeyed scientists in those organizations (nearly 50,000 in AMS and AGU alone).

The incident started when Hardison (the end times guy from above) learned that his daughter would see the movie in class. He objected. Hardison and his wife, Gayla, said they would prefer that the movie not be shown at all in schools.
"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all," Gayle Hardison said. "If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown."

Bad America...sit America,, drop it....America!!
There we have it! It's not about science or policymaking at all with the parents that are the source of the complaint! It's about doing your patriotic duty and denying that America can do no wrong. So, I guess showing a movie with the opposing view would be.....Rocky IV!

The policy, titled "Controversial Issues, Teaching of," says in part, "It is the teacher's responsibility to present controversial issues that are free from prejudice and encourage students to form, hold and express their own opinions without personal prejudice or discrimination."
"The principal reason for that is to make sure that the public schools are not used for indoctrination," Larson said.

This is how they do it. The illusion of and TV talk show pundits spouting unfounded nonsense do not constitute a scientific debate. This is the myth of the opposing view. Otherwise, they would not be able to do this. It's the same with 'intelligent design' ... a subject for another time ... the proponents launched a massive campaign about opening children's minds to other viewpoints and "teaching the controversy". If you create a controversy, then you can teach it....perhaps they should have a class where they teach about teaching controversy and controversial that is.

Bottom line, Mr. Hardison -- this is a public school. Home-school your kids if you don't like it. You can teach them all the ridiculous things you like about the age of the Earth, the end times, etc.

The last comment below, however, offers some hope.

"I think that a movie like that is a really great way to open people's eyes up about what you can do and what you are doing to the planet and how that's going to affect the human race," said Kenna Patrick, a senior at Jefferson High School.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Monday, January 08, 2007

Desktop Earth

If you like satellite pictures of the Earth and the time of can get them both with this cool little desktop program. It's called Desktop Earth (get it here) and shows a satellite mosaic map of the world with the current time of day and time of year (updates every 5-10 min). If it's the middle of the night where you live (what time zone your computer is set for) then it shows that part of the planet in the dark and with nightime lights...and vice-versa. It also has a setting for cloud cover. Althought the clouds are not real-time snapshots, they are only delayed by a few hours and, at a large scale, pretty accurate.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Drumming and piano by a guy who plays neither

This guy spliced together audio and video of himself at a drumset and piano to create a music piece...and a pretty cool video. It starts out a little slow...give it a chance. Click on photo above to go to the video at YouTube (thnx for link BK).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Imagining the 10th dimension

A good buddy found this explains how the universe can have more dimensions than the four we are familiar with. It's a little mind-bending but pretty cool.

Happy new year!