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Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category

Space Weather Prediction Center [Beta]

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NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is pleased to debut its new website. This completely redesigned site leverages the latest web technologies to reach the broadest possible audience. As a Beta release, the site incorporates the look-and-feel of the final site with major functions and content included. It is still in development and we are adding new content and capabilities nearly every week.

The most immediately visible change is a new home page with more timely information and a more dynamic set of graphics and links. The home page is aimed at the general public rather than the experienced user.

Also, users won’t have to hunt for current conditions. A scrolling bar at the top of the home page and every other page shows the past, current and future space weather conditions using the three NOAA scales.

For experienced users and interest groups, there are direct links to pages of critical interest. These include Aviation, Electric Power, Satellite Operators, Radio Communications, Satellite Navigation, Emergency Management, etc…

Finally, we are investing substantial effort to ensure that the site is mobile-friendly. Users with portable devices will always be able to get their space weather fix.

Please, take some time and wander about. Push buttons and prod scientists with questions. It’s what they respond to. :)

Thanks, Mike

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 23, 2014 at 2:00 am

Earth Day

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I was at the first Earth Day celebration at UMass in Amherst. A few of us drove out from Boston. It was a delight, a wonder of burgeoning technology that stood little or no chance of succeeding in the land of conspicuous consumption.

That hasn’t changed a great deal.

But, what I enjoyed the most that day was a group of Palestinian musicians who played a fusion of jazz and folk melodies from their native culture. Something I still find appealing in the work of contemporary musicians like Mustafa Stefan Dill and Pray for Brain. I hope someday to see the Palestinian people regain their freedom and land.

And, yes, you notice a couple of Basque flags in the video up top. We Celts are everywhere.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

Mazda recalls vehicles because of a spider problem, again!

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In what might be the weirdest reason for a car recall, Mazda is contacting car owners because of an issue with spiders. On April 5, Autoblog reported on the latest Mazda recall. They say the issue has to due with a specific spider that is attracted to the fuel systems in the car.

The Yellow Sac spider is plaguing Mazda yet again. Just three years ago the car manufacturer was forced to recall some 52,000 of their cars for the same exact problem. The issue here though is that the problem isn’t faulty equipment, it is the wildlife.

The newest recall applies to the 2010 through 2012 models of the Mazda6 sedan. According to Mazda, the Yellow Sac spiders are somehow getting into the vent lines in the fuel systems because they are attracted to the hydrocarbons in the gas tank. The problem with the pesky spiders is that their webs are blocking the ventilation systems and causing pressure to build up in the gas tank.

The recall only applies to the Mazda6 vehicles with the 2.5 liter engines. Even more interesting, the spider problem has only been found in vehicles that came from the Flint, Mich. plant. Many speculate that the spider problem originated at that specific plant and made it’s way into the fuel systems due to mature spiders laying their eggs inside the cars.

Does this latest spider related recall mean that Mazda should redesign the fuel system of the Mazda6 altogether? That might be the only solution since other Mazda vehicles haven’t been impacted and no other auto maker is reported a fuel tank issue caused by spiders.

Maybe they should be doing something about an excess of Yellow Sac spiders in their Flint factory?

Last time my only comment was about a spring-loaded solution to the invasion.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Myths and misconceptions about the Gulf oil spill

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In the months and years following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, telling fact from fiction regarding seafood safety and ecosystem health was supremely difficult. Is Gulf seafood safe to eat or not? Are there really deformed shrimp and black lesion-covered red snapper? Will the Gulf ever be clean again?

A large part of the confusion was due to the connected, yet distinct, seafood issues surrounding the spill. Whether the seafood was safe for humans to eat was mixed with stories of the future of Gulf fisheries; harm done to wild fish was conflated with health of the seafood supply.

To clear up some of the confusion, here are seven topics of concern, some still unresolved, about the Gulf Oil Spill, brought to you by the Smithsonian Ocean Portal and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). These should help you better understand the spill’s effects on seafood and wildlife.

#1: Once oil enters the Gulf, it will stay there indefinitely.

#2: If a fish or other animal eats oil, it will remain in its body forever and get passed up the food chain.

#3: All oil is poison.

#4: The mixture of oil and dispersant is more toxic than either one alone.

#5: The oil is mutating fish, destroying their populations, and putting our country’s seafood at risk.

#6: If fisheries were going to crash, we would have seen it by now.

#7: Anything bad that happens in the Gulf can be attributed to the spill.

Quite a long article summing up everything scientifically-valid about the oil spill and results from that spill. To date. Worth reading to update what you know about the spill. I certainly found it useful.

If you’ve relied on the usual news sources, this is especially useful. Traditionally conservative scientific methods produce reliable information albeit often containing a good deal less shock and awe than ideologues of any stripe may find appealing.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Pic of the Day

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Woman carries her baby as she walks through a wheat field on her way to a polling station to cast her vote in Shabazpur Dor village
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A woman carries her baby as she walks through a wheat field on her way to a polling station to cast her vote in Shabazpur Dor village, in Amroha district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh April 17, 2014.

We forget – caught up as we are in the historic corruption of our 2-party system of bought-and-paid-for politicians – how difficult, how meaningful it is for the poorest of the poor to vote in other countries. They know corruption from the highest to lowest of elected officials. They may risk death and at the least discrimination for months – for having the courage to vote.

Still they vote. Still they fight however they may to vote and try to change the future for their children and grandchildren.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Fundamentalists’ greatest fear – species discovered where the females have penises

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Female insects with “penises” have been discovered in Brazil – the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia, scientists say.

Neotrogla females insert the erectile organs into males’ vagina-like openings…The elaborate structure, dubbed a “gynosome”, is used to suck out sperm and nutritious seminal fluids…Copulation lasts an impressive 40-70 hours, the researchers report…

“Although sex-role reversal has been identified in several different animals, Neotrogla is the only example in which the intromittent organ is also reversed,” said lead author Kazunori Yoshizawa from Hokkaido University in Japan.

The female is always on top during copulation – which lasts up to 70 hours…The gender-bending insects were found in a cave in eastern Brazil and represent four distinct species in the Neotrogla genus.

Once inside a male, the membranous part of the female gynosome inflates. It has numerous spines which anchor the two insects together.

When the researchers attempted to pull a male and female apart, the male’s abdomen was ripped from the thorax without breaking the genital coupling…

Who would have expected the AntiChrist to appear as a flying insect? :)

Written by Ed Campbell

April 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

Red Moon, Green Beam — Apache Point Observatory

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red moon, green beam
Click to enlarge

This is not a scene from a sci-fi special effects movie. The green beam of light and red lunar disk are real enough, captured in the early morning hours of April 15. Of course, the reddened lunar disk is easy to explain as the image was taken during this week’s total lunar eclipse.

Immersed in shadow, the eclipsed Moon reflects the dimmed reddened light of all the sunsets and sunrises filtering around the edges of planet Earth, seen in silhouette from a lunar perspective. But the green beam of light really is a laser. Shot from the 3.5-meter telescope at Apache Point Observatory in southern New Mexico, the beam’s path is revealed as Earth’s atmosphere scatters some of the intense laser light.

The laser’s target is the Apollo 15 retroreflector, left on the Moon by the astronauts in 1971. By determining the light travel time delay of the returning laser pulse, the experimental team from UC San Diego is able to measure the Earth-Moon distance to millimeter precision and provide a test of General Relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravity.

Image Credit & Copyright: Dan Long (Apache Point Observatory) – Courtesy: Tom Murphy (UC San Diego)

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

April 18, 2014 at 8:00 pm

ESA’s shiny new Sentinel-1A satellite returns first Earth photos

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Click to enlarge – Image of a transect across the northern section of the Antarctic Peninsula

ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite has returned its first images of Earth from space in its second week of achieving orbit. The satellite, having been launched on Apr. 3. has only recently undergone a complicated maneuver to extend its 10 meter solar wings and 12 meter radar imaging array.

There are due to be six constellations of two Sentinel satellites designed to image the Earth, in part to observe climate change as a part of the Copernicus program. The satellite is not yet positioned in its operational orbit, nor is it fully calibrated to supply true data to the mission. However, the images taken on Apr. 12 are a truly stunning example of the observational capabilities of the cutting-edge satellite…

Over the next three months, the satellite will run through its commissioning phase, during which it will achieve operational orbit and be calibrated to begin what will be the most ambitious and largest Earth observation mission ever undertaken.

Lovely work. And much more knowledge to be gained about our planet.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Wildfire enters Valparaiso, Chile

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Click to enlargeAP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

People watch as a forest fire rages towards urban areas in the city of Valparaiso, Chile.

Thanks, Mike

Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

CT scans of Ice-Age bees from the La Brea tar pits

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Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits have coughed up massive animals, from saber-toothed tigers to mammoths. But this discovery is much smaller—tiny bee pupae, still wrapped up in the leaves they use as a nest.

The samples were actually excavated all the way back in 1970. But at the time there wasn’t a way to analyze the sample without destroying them, so they were set aside. But now, the tiny pupae can be seen with a micro-CT scanner. Just take a look:


Click to enlarge

The researchers say that the cells are so well preserved that they were probably assembled in the exact place they were found—rather than moved around by time. Using the micro-CT scanner, the team was able to create a 3-D model of the pupae made of 2,172 scanned slices.

These bees are between 23,000 and 40,000 years old, according to radiocarbon dating. They are probably a species called Megiachile gentiles, a species of bee that’s actually still alive today. And, the researchers say, this bee is one of the rare species that’s probably benefitting from climate change, having expanded its range since the last ice age all across the United States.

Photomicrographic study is actually a scientific craft I apprenticed at – 57 years ago :) – working at the time in a lab that did non-ferrous metals research. Laid off when the whole research department was shutdown as the result of early days conglomerate building by capitalist boffins who only cared about this year’s P&L Statement.

Rather like Paul Ryan and his peers on Wall Street.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 2:00 am

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