Thursday, December 31, 2009
As NewScientist observes, less than 10% of the world is more than two days away from a major city using ground-based travel. That stat only jumps to 20% when scaled to the Amazon, where river and expanding road networks have made even jungle terrain semi-assessable.
Also, nobody messes with the cold climates.
On one hand, the map is a testament to human advancement and expansion. On the other, well, there are a buncha roads in what was once pristine jungle.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I found this on Daily Galaxy some time ago and filched it. They get excellent illustrations. I heartily recommend their site. I have it on my desktop and it never ceases to entertain me despite its commercial aspect. Most of the ads are American and have little relevance to my life.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The first question is “Can our consciousness affect our awareness of time?”, which is a tautological yes – of course our ability to be aware of things affects our awareness of things. The fantastically named Professor Eagleman is going further: he wants to find out if time really does slow down for subjects, no matter how many people he has to strap into experimental hardware and hurl off buildings.
The hardware is a “perceptual chronometer”, an LED screen whose patter flickers slightly too fast to make out – it hops between patterns like “3” and “E” but looks like “8” to anyone operating at regular human speed. The “hurling off buildings” bit is SCAD, Suspended Air Catch Device, an activity which berates bungee jumping as wimpy because the latter allows people to slow down. In SCAD jumps you fall off a shaky ledge thirty meters up and fall full speed into a net.
Unfortunately the results are against creating the Flash anytime soon: while test subjects did recall the fall taking longer than it actually did, none could perceive the changing pattern on the watch. This would indicate that the effect is an artifact of memory – the brain writing more data more powerfully than normal, so the recollection seems to last longer than non-traumatic events. The problem is that this temporal effect is the ultimate in subjective data – literally so, as the brain often thinks it's the last thing it'll experience. So when you remember things happening in slow motion, it's the remembering that provided that – not the original event.
Of course there are a thousand and one other factors which could influence this experiment – maybe the brain can deal with data faster, but the frame-rate from the eye doesn't increase. Perhaps the subjects were simply too scared. Or it could be that SCAD just isn't the right way to trigger the temporal boost (in which case God help Eagleman's next victims). There have been cases of people perceiving time differently under cranial magnetic stimulation, or the effect of tumors, but so far they've all resulted in slowing down or simply breaking previously observed effects – it seems that overclocking ourselves isn't an option yet.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology lab has created the perfect Boomer-bike: A motorized rear wheel. Called the Copenhagen Wheel, it has a small motor in its hub, will fit into any existing bike frame, giving riders extra horsepower for hills and longer distances. The two-year project, unveiled today during the COP-15 climate talks here, is designed to make biking more pleasant in cities everywhere -- and fittingly for the venue, it's emissions-free. The Wheel's battery pack is recharged by pedal power and braking.
The prototype is white with a large red hub at the centre of the back wheel. I think I buy it when it comes out.
Global warming is our current focus, but from 1810 to 1819, people worried because the planet was far colder than usual, with the planet cooling almost a full degree Fahrenheit. 1816 according to climate historians was known as "the year without a summer."
The chill of 1816 has long been blamed on an Indonesian volcano called Tambora, which erupted the year before. But why the years before Tambora's eruption were also colder than usual was a mystery.
Newly uncovered evidence in the ice of Antarctica and Greenland suggests that another volcanic eruption may have contributed to the worldwide dip in temperatures.
Jihong Cole-Dai, a chemistry professor at South Dakota State University, led the expeditions to Antarctica and Greenland, told NPR's Guy Raz in an interview that volcanoes dump large quantities of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which acts "like a giant window shade, reflecting sunlight and lowering temperatures on the ground for years afterward."
But Cole-Dai empasizes that one eruption isn't enough to freeze an entire decade. He knew something else had to have been going on which turned out to be layers of sulfur buried in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica that showed another volcano had erupted some time in 1809, triggering a mini ice age.
Cole-Dai said his research team isn't sure exactly where the mystery volcano is, but they suspect that it was somewhere near the equator and that it had to be large enough to blanket the planet in ash.
from Daily Galaxy here
Sunday, December 6, 2009
My little nephew used to call him the Prince of whales
The function of whale song, even the better-studied song of the humpback whale, has long baffled marine scientists. Songs of the blue whale, the planets largest living creature, can be divided into at least 10 types worldwide, each type retaining the same units and similar phrasing over decades, unlike humpback whale song which changes substantially from year to year. That is until recently with a worldwide occurrence of a nearly linear downward shift in the tonal frequencies of blue whale song.
“We don’t have the answer. We just have a lot of recordings,” Whale Acoustics President Mark McDonald explained to Wired. The company specializes in analyzing the cetaceans with sonic monitoring networks and ships. Their recordings are grist for experts hoping to unravel this mystery. “It’s a fascinating finding. It’s even more remarkable, given that the songs themselves differ in different oceans. There seem to be these distinct populations, yet they’re all showing this common shift,” Cascadia Research Collective blue-whale expert John Calombokidis adds.
Historical acoustic recordings dating back as faras the 1960s were examined, measuring the tonal frequencies of 1000s of blue whale songs. Within a given year, individuals match the song frequency (related to ‘pitch’ in musical nomenclature) to within less than 3%.
The best documented song type, that observed offshore of California, USA, now is sung at a frequency 31% lower than it was in the 1960s. Data available for 7 of the world’s 10 known song types show they are all shifting downward in frequency, though at different rates.
From the ever excellent The Daily Galaxy
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Here's a nice bridge photograph I found a few days ago. Click on it to enlarge. How much has photography changed in my lifetime. One son's first camera is a Canon SLR digital and now he tells me he is thinking of buying an emulsion camera so that he can learn more and develop and print his own pictures. I find that the mouse has mainly replaced buttons and focus rings.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
"The Unquiet Grave" contains two great observations:
"Better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self."
"No one can make us hate ourselves like an admirer."
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I was sixteen, or fifteen. I had learned three chords on the guitar and I had just managed to make the right sort of noise out of a trumpet. I had just learned "Freight Train" and listened, but really listened to Mozart for the first time. I was reading Neville Shute and F Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps also Ian Flemming. I had been in love, but it had never been reciprocated. I was a goofy, spotty, wavy haired misfit longing to grow up.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The Battle of Passchendaele, otherwise known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was one of the major battles of World War I, fought by British, ANZAC and Canadian soldiers against the German army near Ypres (Ieper in Flemish) in West Flanders, northwestern Belgium over the control of the village of Passchendaele. As the village is now known as Passendale, the term Passchendaele alone is now used to refer to this battle. The label "Passchendaele" should properly apply only to the battle's later actions in October–November 1917, but has come to be applied also to the entire campaign from July 31. After three months of fierce fighting, the Canadian Corps took Passchendaele on November 6, 1917, ending the battle. Passendale today forms part of the community of Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Photo credit: Imperial War Museum
And on and on until Friday so many, so many years ago. The very word, with its awkward spelling and all, means suffering to Canadians. Now I see a small village obliterated by cordite. In my mind, the earth is drenched in blood.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
In the middle of the night, Halloween morning, what a time to die....In fact, I knew I would not, as the pain was not strong, although it went on for about half an hour. I look forward to a peaceful, possibly enlightening death, but what if I am in distracting pain? What if I am in pain for a long time and welcome death as a relief? Or, in my culture, what if I am so inured from pain with drugs that I can no longer concentrate on the devotions that I have been so careful to learn? Or what if, like my mother, I have severe dementia and don't even know where and when I am?
All good November, (Scorpio), thoughts, as they rake up the lovely damp, red, brown and yellow leaves to make a pumpkin patch at the end of our very private street. To life, to life, Lochaim!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Every week day evening, when I get home, this bloke is on the TV and whatever family I have there is glued to the set. I like watching him too, although I always miss the beginning of his show.I noticed last night that his right ear is more pointed than his left and for some time I have remarked that he looks like Hugh Hefner's son. Every time that I make this brilliant observation, my wife and family are too absorbed in his demonstrations to show me any response. I think I am a little jealous of Dr Oz. I like him, but my family like him even more and ignore me when I get home. Only when his show is over, do they turn to me and say, "Welcome home, did you have a good day?"
It is unseasonably warm. I have been looking at my blog of one year ago and, at that time, there was an annoying Indian summer like, I said, a lover who did not know that it was time to leave, or something like that. I also found that I had filled in a one word response meme almost exactly the same as the one below. Most of my answers were the same too.
I have chosen to audition for a community theatre production of Hay Fever. I'm really not sure that I want to perform and work, as I will get even less sleep, but I determined that I would be sorry if I did not at least read for it. I know nothing about the director, although, in the distant past, I was in about eleven productions at that theatre. The auditions are in one week. I have also submitted something I wrote for an evening of experimental theatre. If I knew that it would be accepted, I would not also do the play, but the review committee won't let me know until November.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
CONDUCTOR: CLAUDIO ABBADO
ORCHESTRA: BERLIN PHILHARMONIC
PRODUCER: JOHN FRASER
CLARINET: SABINE MEYER
With a reconstructed basset clarinet, wonderful low notes and a brighter delivery than usual. Third movement possibly faster, less of a slushy eliding of the notes than usual.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Octahedral Gold crystals attached together, specimen from California
I've just bookmarked the site where I found this photo. Wouldn't it be nice to have some jewelry made out of this as it is? With its crystalline shapes it reminds me that it come from the earth like granite, salt or crystals. I also found a photo of a slab of gold more than a foot long found in Australia. Get it? Au stralia!
The one on the left ain't so bad either.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
At 9:03 pm on Friday night September 25, 2009 seven all-sky cameras of Western's Southern Ontario Meteor Network (SOMN) recorded a brilliant fireball in the evening sky over the west end of Lake Ontario.
The fireball was first detected by Western's camera systems at an altitude of 100km over Guelph moving southeastwards at 20.8 km/s. The object was seen widely by observers throughout southern Ontario and adjacent areas.At its brightest, the fireball was approximately 100 times as bright as the full moon.
Monday, October 5, 2009
(1) I heard about this place on the radio so I'm not sure of the spelling. It sounded like Riefert Garden in Metis sur Mer in the Gaspe. I've checked it on Google Earth and there is a spit of land with a lighthouse on the end, which would indeed have views due East and due West.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
In my continuing diatribe about photography, about how some pictures are merely shots of what is already beautiful, like my picture of the |Mona Lisa, which, as a photograph, is not at all artistic, since the art is already there. In this picture I get a feeling of loneliness and very exact solitude, but the building's architects probably were not after any such effect. It is the photographer that has seen something in his or her view finder and recorded it. It is, for me, art.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Scientists previously understood that animals’ lifespans are somewhat scaled to the species’ body size, with elephants living much longer than mice. Plant biologists have predicted a similar connection in plants, but a full study had never been conducted until recently.
Researchers Núria Marbà, Carlos Duarte and Susana Agustí at the Mediterranan Institute for Advanced Studies—a joint institute between the CSIC (Spanish Council for Scientific Research) and the University of the Balearic Islands in Esporles, Spain examined more than 1,000 reports of plant birth and mortality rates across a wide spectrum of species, discovering that the connection holds with extreme precision.
The researchers found that both population mortality rates and population birth rates of all plant species scale as the –1/4 power of plant mass. In other words, the smaller a plant, the higher its mortality and birth rates, meaning the shorter its lifespan. Hence, plant lifespan scales as almost exactly the 1/4 power of plant mass.
“The functioning of biological systems depends to a large extent on their metabolism, i.e., on how they process energy and materials, such as light, water, and nutrients,” Marbà explained to PhysOrg.com. “Small plants require fewer resources per unit of time than large ones, and, therefore, they are able to turn over the individuals of their populations faster than large plants. As plant size increases, more resources and time are needed to produce a fully grown individual, and thus their lifespan increases, resulting in small plants having shorter life spans than larger ones.”
One very interesting aspect of these relationships is that mortality and birth rates is nearly identical within a species, keeping the population stable. Nature has clever reasons for this perfect cycle, which include stabilizing carbon cycling, optimizing plant life histories, and stabilizing the ecosystems the plants inhabit. The scientists suggest that, to achieve this balance, plant mortality rates have evolved to match the birth rates.
Although they have found the delicate balance between mortality and birth rates, the actual mechanisms governing plant life and death are still unknown. Controls probably include an assortment of metabolic processes interacting at all levels, from molecular on up, which would include respiration, reproduction, cellular damage, and structural imbalances. Plants retain their reproductive capacity throughout their lives, unlike animals. Therefore, evolution might put greater selective pressure on plants’ lifespans. Similar studies are bring planned to continue the effort to unlock the many mysteries of the green kingdom.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
Since our solar system is inside this arc, the band appears to encircle the Earth. The bright spot just below the band is the planet Jupiter. In the foreground lies the moonlit caldera of the volcano Haleakala, located on the island of Maui in Hawaii, USA. A close look near the horizon will reveal light clouds and the dark but enormous Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Recent work at Cardiff University suggests that our solar system's orbit through the Milky Way encounters regular speedbumps - and by "speedbumps" we mean "potentially extinction-causing asteroids".
Professor William Napier and Dr Janaki Wickramasinghe have completed computer simulations of the motion of the Sun in our outer spiral-arm location in the Milky Way (image left of spiral arms).
These models reveal a regular oscillation through the central galactic plane, where the surrounding dust clouds are the densest. The solar system is a non-trivial object, so its gravitational effects set off a far-reaching planetoid-pinball machine which often ends with comets hurled into the intruding system.
The sun is about 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is about 80,000 to 120,000 light-years across (and less than 7,000 light-years thick). We are located on on one of its spiral arms, out towards the edge.
Many of the ricocheted rocks collide with planets on their way through our system, including Earth. Impact craters recorded worldwide show correlations with the ~37 million year-cycle of these journeys through the galactic plane - including the vast impact craters thought to have put an end to the dinosaurs two cycles ago.
Almost exactly two cycles ago, in fact. The figures show that we're very close to another danger zone, when the odds of asteroid impact on Earth go up by a factor of ten. Ten times a tiny chance might not seem like much, but when "Risk of Extinction" is on the table that single order of magnitude can look much more imposing. Worse, Bruce Willis will only be available to save us for another fifty years at most. But you have to remember that ten times a very small number is still a very small number - and Earth has been struck by thousands of asteroids without any exciting extinction events. A rock doesn't just have to hit us, it has to be large enough to survive the truly fearsome forces that cause most to burn up on re-entry.
Professors Medvedev and Melott of the University of Kansas have a different theory based on the same regular motion. As the Sun ventures out "above" the galactic plane, it becomes increasingly exposed to the cosmic ray generating shock front that the Milky Way creates as it ploughs through space. As we get closer to this point of maximum exposure, leaving the shielding of the thick galactic disk behind, the Kansas researchers hold that the increasing radiation destroys many higher species, forcing another evolutionary epoch. This theory also matches in time with the dinosaur extinction - and it's nice to see theories for that from Kansas not based on "an angry bearded man in the sky did it".
Either way, don't go letting your VISA bill run up just yet. "Very close" in astronomical terms is very, very different to "close" in shaved-monkey time.
Posted by Luke McKinney and Casey Kazan. Image Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (TWAN)
These two posts are from The Daily Galaxy. I get ten news feeds a day. Look them up on Google, if you find this sort of article intriguing.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Towards the end of our holiday in England, I proposed that my only siblings, my two brothers and I, go off on a day trip together and do something we had never done before, so that we would remember it for a long time. I remembered a time about thirty years ago when we found ourselves skiing together, just the three of us, and my younger brother had remarked how rarely we do things just in each other's company.
First we set out for Kipling's house on the edge of The Weald. There were wonderful gardens and plenty of reminders of the stories that were read to us when we were children.
TEACH BOYS TO WHISTLE
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I passed by here as a young man when I was hitch hiking to Spain. I've seen the most wonderful castle, I told my mother. Oh that was made on steel girders in the nineteenth century, she told me. But, since it looks wonderful, isn't it? Since then I've come to admire nineteenth century buildings probably more than the medieval ones they were so successfully imitating. The Victorians were brilliant engineers with exciting new materials and the wealth to create extraordinary lay structures. Apparently it was the conical roofs on the turrets, so beloved by later Disneylands, which offended the purists.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
One grass-blade's curve, or the throat of one bird
That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
One color, one glintingflash, of the splendor of things.
Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,
The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings."
--This wild swan of a world is no hunter's game.
Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast
Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.
Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?
At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
Hear the music, the thunder of the wings.
Love the wild swan.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Well, we had a lovely party, much improved at the last moment, by learning that, in all probability,my mother would become a great grandmother within her life time and that my dear older brother would be a grand papa. I haven't seen him crying since he was a teenager. So here is wikipedia's picture of the day. It rather reminds me of us all eating beef fillet in a tent in the garden. Someone was letting off fireworks within earshot, but out of sight. The night was so clear that, for the second time this year, I could see the milky way. Twice my meagre presents for Kim produced, not in themselves, but in the resulting conversations, big laughs. Gina and Mike and their lovely four year old were there. Several times Gina made slightly acerbic and very funny comments. I sat at the end of the table and chatted quietly with Carol beside me and Cathy across a quite narrow table. My mother sat at the head of the other end surrounded by my nephew and his generation. She seemed fairly oblivious, but not unhappy. She had eaten corn on the cob, one of her favourites, and spent the rest of the meal trying to dislodge the strings from between her teeth with table knives and various dental pieces of equipment. Nice Steve tried to discourage her from putting quite a sharp knife to her teeth, but I said, "No, just let her get on with it". Perhaps I shocked him. A lot of the time she reminds me of Woody Allen in Sleeper when he is in a wheel chair and comatose for some reason I forget.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I've been reading about these men, but, in any case I really like this period of portraiture as it is quite close to photography. We were in Parham recently and I saw a portrait that was evidently painted so that someone could visualise a future bride. The person I was with said, "But then other people got powerful and, or famous, and that was the reason they were painted". I mumbled something about fashionable portrait painters and we sauntered on. I have been there several times. If you find yourself in Sussex, I urge you to go. A family bought it in the twenties and were rich enough for a while to restore it very well. The descendants of those buyers still live there. In the East I would recommend Leeds and here, Parham.