Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I'm reading...

right now:  The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks at New Skete.  Why, you ask?

Rachel adopted this Australian Cattle Dog mix - a Red Heeler - just a week ago, now only nine weeks old, and now named Helen (in homage to Rachel's aunt):

Magnificent panorama...

of the Milky Way by Stéphane Guisard. Spectacular comes to mind.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grizzly versus bison...

in Yellowstone National Park:  The Rest of the Story.

Hat tip:  RT.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stunning view of the Sun...

through a hydrogen-alpha filter: The Making of a Mind-Blowing DIY Sun Photo (click to enlarge).

Image credit:  Alan Friedman.

It's field work Friday once again...

and I hope equipment problems don't interfere with my groundwater level measurements in monitoring wells in the Rathdrum Prairie, Idaho.

UPDATE:  It was not to be.  More equipment issues.  Doh.

Spirit keeps on giving...

Sleeping Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Liquid Water

Monday, October 25, 2010

If you're curious about "Curiosity"...

and the progress being made in assembling the next generation Mars rover, then click into a live web cam to see what the bunny-suited technicians are up to at the moment:  Watch NASA's Next Mars Rover Being Built Via Live 'Curiosity Cam'.

Though the Mars Science Laboratory project is interesting, this is about as much fun as watching grass grow.  Or paint dry.

Yes, absolutely...

Was Moore's Law Inevitable?

RELATED (and humorous):   So Amazing, But Nobody is Happy.

GPS fail...

Credit: the WSJ.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What I'm reading...

right now: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. My preliminary conclusion is that, as a good friend's father points out, "in life it's better to be lucky than smart."

Happy Birthday Earth...

Oct. 22, 4004 B.C.: Universe Usshered In.

That's right, according to Archbishop James Ussher, Creation occurred at nightfall on this day, 6,014 years ago (apparently there was no year 0).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet the critters hanging around...

my place on this pleasant mid-autumn afternoon. First, here's Jerry, one of the two male llamas my neighbors have recently acquired. I will enjoy their company and it will be interesting to observe their behavior without having to actually engage in the chores necessary to keep them.
And here's a great horned owl, watching me take the image of Jerry.

Slash burning at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge...

this afternoon is responsible for enormous clouds of ash and smoke rising into the atmosphere, partially obscuring the Sun, as seen from my cottage in the forest southwest of Cheney, Washington.  This doesn't seem to be a very environmentally responsible practice these days, especially if you have a respiratory problem, but it does make for a good photograph.  Let's hope they keep it under control.

Dire situation for the nation's bat population...

Racing to Save Bats From Catastrophic Extinction, Biologists Turn to New Tools

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

But it's not available on the Kindle...

New Handbook Helps Newly Undead Zombies Adjust.

If you find your skin decomposing and suddenly have a craving for brains, here's the link for the book at my favorite on-line bookseller.

Plus a previous related zombie post.

RELATED: When Will the Great Zombie Bubble Burst?

The field trip to Upriver Dam...

on the Spokane River this afternoon provided the ENVS 100 class an opportunity to examine where several modern wells pump large volumes of groundwater from the Spokane aquifer.  It's at this location that the aquifer was first discovered in the early 1900s, and here's a look inside the original dug well.

Today, the Well Electric station operates near the discovery site, and here's a shot showing an older centrifugal pump (left) and two modern turbine pumps (right), capable of pumping millions of gallons of water per day:
At the bottom of each of the turbine shafts is a rapidly spinning impeller, used to force the water up the shaft and into the water supply system:
All of the City of Spokane's water system is controlled from this station, including the operation of its seven wells and numerous storage reservoirs and major valves:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Access to caves being restricted...

by government agencies: Bat Disease Threatens to Close America’s Caves.

Unfortunately the article does little to indicate if it has been proven that contaminated clothing is a significant vector in the spread of the bat-killing fungus. While conservation and protection of bats is important, where's the science in support of this policy?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

360-degree view from the summit...

of Mount Saint Helens.  Very nicely done, and very cool.

Um, never mind...

Doubt Cast on Existence of Potentially Habitable Planet Gliese 581g

Here's my earlier related post on this recently discovered (?) but yet unconfirmed exoplanet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Milepost ahead...

on the search for exoplanets: 500th Alien Planet Could Be Discovered This Month.  The count stands at 494 extrasolar planets as of today.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wise words...

New ideas pass through three periods: It can't be done. It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing. I knew it was a good idea all along!

-- Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, October 10, 2010


is a wonderfully simple and binary shorthand for today, the 10th of October, 2010. Enjoy using it while you can.

Personally, I can hardly wait until 11/11/11. But 12/12/12 still seems a long way off.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Time lapse tour de force...

Timelapse Montage from Mike Flores.  Stunning astrophotography, best viewed fullscreen with the sound turned up.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where in the solar system...

are the many and various spacecraft that have been hurled from Earth?  The Planetary Society provides a convenient summary:  What's Up in the Solar System in October 2010.

Be prepared for the living dead...

with this shopping list:  Zombie Apocalypse Survival Supplies.

Amazing caves around the world...

pictured in a photogallery.

RELATED:  The 7 Longest Caves in the World.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Describing dirt with sed/strat students...

during a terrific autumn afternoon at the Key Rock aggregate pit just a short distance down the road from the EWU campus (click to enlarge).  We're actually examining unconsolidated sands and gravels of Pleistocene age, deposited by the glacial outburst floods that periodically swept eastern Washington, creating the Channeled Scablands.

Ice Age Floods Institute lecture...

this coming Monday, 11 October 2010, at 7 pm in the Lair Auditorium, Spokane Community College:

"Some Springs and Fossil Discoveries
in Washington Territory"

Charles T. Luttrell
Washington State Parks Archaeologist

During the late 1870s, numerous fossils were recovered from natural springs located within the northern Palouse Hills--an area mostly bypassed by the many Glacial Lake Missoula outburst floods. Columbia mammoths are the best known specimens, but other species include bison, antelope, and deer. Some spring locales also contained prehistoric artifacts. The Palouse Hills sub-region is a unique environment whose potential to contain extinct fauna and other discoveries is largely unrealized.

Mr. Luttrell has over 20 years of experience with the archaeology, history, and historic preservation of the Pacific Northwest. Formerly a contract archaeologist associated with Archaeologist & Historical Services, Eastern Washington University, Mr. Luttrell presently assists the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission with cultural resources in the state parks.

Science geeks get no respect...

Sunday Night Innovation: Why Scientists Should Be the Real Role Models

Monday, October 4, 2010

Operator error, not GPS failure...

Don't Look Down: White Van and Driver Airlifted to Safety After Satnav Error Sends Him to Top of Mountain

Reminds me of this story.

UPDATE and BUMPED:  GPS Directs Driver to Death in Spain's Largest Reservoir.  Yikes.  It's like the machines are out to get us.

Final external fuel tank...

for Space Shuttle Endeavour, the last shuttle ever to fly, has been delivered to Cape Kennedy (click to enlarge).   The last shuttle mission (STS-134) is scheduled to launch in February 2011 and will carry spare parts to the International Space Station (ISS).  Thereafter, US astronauts will have to hitch a lift to the ISS from the Russian Space Agency.

Here's a photogallery that documents this depressing event, the beginning of the end of US manned spaceflight for the foreseeable future.

Stereo viewing made easy...

using lunar photographs as examples: Look Ma! No Glasses!

What I'm reading...

right now:  On Food and Cooking - the Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.

This encyclopedic work on culinary science isn't really meant to be read, chapter by chapter, but explored by "dipping" into various sections depending on your curiosity at the moment.  If you enjoy food  - the joyous intermingling of water, protein, fat and carbs - and are a serious science geek, then you'll definitely appreciate this tome.

Hat tip:  RT.  Thanks for the gift!

An image of Earth...

from space showing the southwestern US (click to enlarge).  The Grand Canyon and Lake Mead are seen in the lower left, with the Mojave Desert, Basin and Range and Sierra Nevada Mountains also featured prominently.  Here's more information about this image.

Image credit:   Astronaut photograph ISS024-E-14071 taken 9 September 2010;  NASA, Johnson Space Center.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Extremophiles, world's weirdest life...

in an image gallery.  Tough little buggers.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

They say a lot of things...

Winter Could be a Whopper, Forecasters Say

I guess we'll see.  Snowfall statistics for the Inland Northwest during La Niña conditions can be found here.

A close encounter with Comet 103P/Hartley 2...

will occur later this month when the glowing object passes within 11.2 million miles of Earth on 20 October 2010.  It's already visible in small telescopes and binoculars, and it should become a naked eye object if observed from a rural location.  More information about its rapid approach can be found here and here.

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is already beaming back images of this target object, and should pass within about 600 miles of Hartley 2 in early November.  Stay tuned for more images!

UPDATE:  Here's an excellent finder chart and, for astro geeks, ephemeris data.