Monday, February 28, 2011

Downside to the cloud...

Google Gmail Messages Go Missing.

Fortunately my account was unaffected. However, I intend to do this when I have time this weekend: Make a Local Backup Of Your Gmail Account.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Serendipitous view...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

An evening of culture was shared...

with friend and colleague JT at the Spokane Symphony this evening where we enjoyed a combination plate of Ravel, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Sibelius.  Fabulous.

UPDATE:  Here's the review of the performance.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two planets...

found sharing one orbit.  Now that's truly fascinating.

Weekend DIY project...

How to Make a Laser From a Gin and Tonic

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mid-winter blizzard closes EWU...

for the day.  Indeed, about 12 inches of snow has fallen since noon yesterday and my anemometer is indicating wind speeds of 12 mph gusting to 18.

Guess I'll settle in and catch up on grading, maybe go x-country skiing if the wind diminishes, and watch the launch of the space shuttle.

7 AM UPDATE:  Just in from shoveling the deck and slopping the hogs, er, feeding the birds.  Quite blustery out.  It's 11 °F but windchill takes it much lower.

AFTERNOON UPDATE:  The clearing after the winter storm:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bioturbation caught on video...

Secrets of Swimming in Sand Revealed.

If you're a serious student of sedimentology, be sure to watch the excellent video at the link.

Give your thumbs a break...

at least once every 48 hours: Chinese Online Gamer Dies After Three-Day Session.  Apparently this isn't the first time this has happened.

Hat tip: the Bu bro.

"Photography Crystallized"...

is the title of an upcoming lecture presented by Jeffrey Scovil on Monday, 28 February, at 7 pm at Spokane Community College's Lair Auditorium. The speaker is an internationally known mineral photographer and he will present a spectacular visual slide show on wonders of the mineral kingdom. This vivid and close up presentation will examine unique and beautiful crystal specimens from all over the world. This event is free and open to the public.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kudos to Josh the geek...

at the Best Buy in Spokane.  This past weekend I rebooted my home tower PC and, gulp, no video output whatsoever.  After some quick troubleshooting I knew I either had a weird registry issue, a bad graphics card, or a fried motherboard.  So late this afternoon I detached the myriad of cables and hauled the box to Spokane.

The so-called Geek Squad service at Best Buy is pretty terrific.  They'll do a quick diagnosis while you wait at no charge.  Josh confirmed my problem, so I bought a new Radeon card and installed it on the spot.  Another boot-up had the monitor immediately snapping to life.  Problem solved.  Oh, the joy.

Highly recommended.

Codename Q2S...

EWU Considers Switch to Semester System.

Yes, at a time when the Washington State budget is busted, and EWU has to cut $22.6 million dollars the next biennium, President Arevalo unilaterally decides that transitioning from quarters to semesters (Q2S) is the best course for the university during these very trying times.  Here's his recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

I personally believe that a semester system is pedagogically superior for teaching science curricula, but I also believe it is reckless to make this transition and spend millions of dollars in planning during such financially insecure times.  To put it more basically:  one doesn't indulge in remodeling the bathroom when there's a gaping hole in the ceiling above the kitchen and you don't even have the money to repair the roof.

New Zealand shaken...

by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake centered near Christchurch.  The tremor caused the Tasman Glacier to calve large blocks of ice into the terminal lake.  Here's the technical info for the tremor from the USGS.

A fellow graduate student buddy of mine hails from Christchurch, and I wish him and his family well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's the neon...

The world’s oldest water?

NASA clears Shuttle Discovery...

for 24 February launch.

The Bu bro and I are contemplating a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in mid-April to witness the final launch of Endeavour on the STS-134 mission.  Stay tuned.

10 stunning science visualizations...

in a gallery at  It's an interesting mix of images, renderings and videos, and the HIV virus is as creepy looking as it is lethal.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fast flight...

It's field work Friday...

yet again, checking on groundwater levels in monitoring wells in the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tough old dude...

Anthem man, 84, talks about being stranded in desert for 5 days.

And resourceful, too.  Glad he's well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First images of comet Tempel 1...

taken yesterday by the Stardust-NExT spacecraft showing the object's nucleus have been received, and more images can be viewed here as they are downloaded.

UPDATE:  Here's a nice closeup.

UPDATED UPDATE:  Here's an image gallery from the NASA/JPL news conference this afternoon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mount St. Helens rumbles again...

4.3 quake hits near Mt. St. Helens.

Here's the technical info from the USGS.  It doesn't appear to be magmatic.

Related previous post.

My first sabbatical leave...

from EWU in 1992 was spent in northern Pakistan, lecturing in hydrogeology and groundwater modeling at the National Center of Excellence in Geology at the University of Peshawar during spring term.  Here are two students standing at the entryway (click to enlarge):
The fellow on the right, MZ, had earned his master's degree in geology/geochemistry at EWU the year before, and NA (on the left) was to be a future graduate student of mine.

Perhaps the most adventurous of numerous excursions from campus was westward, through the historic Jamrud Gate, toward Afghanistan:
Following the winding mountain road in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, we pause occasionally to take in the scene:
At the summit of the Khyber Pass one could gaze into war-torn Afghanistan and examine a wonderful relief map showing the strategic importance of this route:
Although my visit was after the Soviet withdrawal, it coincided with the fall of the Najibullah government, and I was witness to countless refugees moving through the pass, as well as gun and drug smuggling.  I have no doubt the border guards suspected I was affiliated with a certain covert American institution in support of the mujahideen. It was quite the adventure!

Are you in love...

with your stuff?  Something to think seriously about on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Progress can be measured...

by this growing column of Kodak slide carousels, as I continue to scan/digitize my enormous slide collection.  The towering stack shown in the image above (click to enlarge) has been completed, and I've made it a priority to scan the slides used in my teaching first.

This has been a surprisingly joyful (although tedious) process, as each slide set takes me back in time to a variety of field trips, travels, and adventures that had faded in my memory.  I can already see that this will turn out to be an invaluable, and quickly accessible, digital photo-journal when all is done.  It's certainly been well worth the investment in time and I should have embarked on this project much sooner.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Modern living...

Why You Should Always Encrypt Your Smartphone.

Always a good idea in order to protect your privacy, even if you don't run afoul of the law.

So close yet so far...

Winter Halts Drilling Into 14-Million-Year-Old Lake

Send me to the Moon...

to explore, map and study these potential lava tubes imaged by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in the Marius Hills and Mare Tranquillitatis.

Really.  I'll go.

Bustin' balls in the name of science...

Scientists Smash Giant Granite Balls Together to Simulate Asteroid Collisions

Friday, February 11, 2011

My personal favorite...

in the cake bake-off to celebrate Charles Darwin's birthday is this chocolate iguana. Although it wasn't the winner overall, it stood out among more than 50 entries because it is a.) chocolate and b.) reptilian. Congratulations to all who entered the contest for demonstrating their creativity in this annual event.

Wise words...

Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.

-- H. G. Wells

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bold prediction...

Icelandic Volcano 'Set To Erupt'.

I guess we'll see.

Second rendezvous with comet Tempel 1...

will occur on Monday, 14 February, about 5.5 years after the first encounter, in an effort to study how the Sun erodes such bodies.
"For the first time, we'll see the same comet before and after its closest approach to the sun," explains Joe Veverka, principal investigator for NASA's Stardust-NExT mission.
Read more about the Stardust-NExT mission.

Pics from the past...

taken during an ascent of the classic West Ridge of Forbidden Peak in the North Cascades in the early 1990s with terrific climbing partners CC and JD.  I'm standing at the rocky summit where the exposure is significant, plunging about 4,300 feet behind me down to Moraine Lake, with Eldorado Peak looming in the distance (click to enlarge):
Here's a snap of Johannesburg Mountain across the valley to the south, with its imposing Northeast Face and hanging glaciers, which rises about 5,000 feet in only 0.9 miles.  Awesome rock:
Wildfires elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest modified the atmospherics and created spectacular sunsets:
And we had a couple of curious natives follow our progress upward:
My climbing partners will tell you that I frequently comment that "life begins above tree line."  Perhaps you can see why I hold that philosophy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In celebration of Charles Darwin's...

202nd birthday (but who’s counting), the biology faculty at EWU are pleased to host noted lecturer, textbook author and evolutionary biologist, Scott Freeman, from the University of Washington. Dr. Freeman will present the Darwin Day seminar,“Why Natural Selection is so Hard”, at 2 pm on Friday February 11, 2011 in JFK Library Auditorium on the Cheney campus. Following the seminar, we will have a reception to award the winners of our Darwin Day cake competition and, more importantly, eat cake!

Perhaps the most interesting argument...

in favor of legalizing marijuana in Washington state:
Legalization will take the “cool” factor out of marijuana, Goodman insisted: “If grandma’s using it for cancer (treatment) it’s not cool anymore.”

More than 100...

potentially hazardous asteroids have been added to the catalog during the last year, bring the total number to 1,197 (at the time of this post). The known list numbered 1,017 in early 2009, and 1,093 in 2010. reports today that:
"Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 CA7 is flying past Earth today only 63,000 miles away, or 1/4th the distance to the Moon. At closest approach around 1700 UT on Feb. 9th, the VW-Bug-sized space rock will zip through the constellation Orion glowing like a 17th magnitude star." 

And remember this close shave, just days ago.

It's becoming a shooting gallery out there.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An artifact from NASA...

has finally landed at EWU, a low-temperature reusable surface insulation (LRSI) tile from the soon-to-retire Space Shuttle program (click to enlarge). This is one of several thousand tiles that NASA is donating to schools and universities from the replacement inventory that is no longer needed, and I put in a request for one for EWU in early December.  I'm working on having it displayed (per NASA requirement) in the Engineering Building.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mission to Europa...

has been given priority status by NASA and the European Space Agency.  The proposed Europa Jupiter System Mission will launch no sooner than 2020, and it unfortunately does not include a lander.  Despite the mission's name, Io's dynamic sulfur-spewing volcanoes will also be investigated by the orbiters.

Tiny water flea...

has more genes than you do.  So what, at least we could outrun a Neanderthal.  So there.

And Elvis will return too...

Magnetic Polar Shifts Causing Massive Global Superstorms

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Electronic paper realized...

in the form of the NoteSlate.  I hope this is a real product, and if I were a student, I'd jump on it.  This device would seem to be better than typing notes on a laptop in class during lecture, especially in geology (or other science, math and technical fields), where there are a lot of equations, complex diagrams and labeled sketches.

UPDATE:  But is it real?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wired magazine calls this gadget "wish-ware."

A very close shave...

occurred yesterday between asteroid 2011 CQ1 and Earth. Although the rocky object was just over 1 meter in diameter it grazed by the mid-Pacific within 5,500 kilometers, making it "the closest non-impacting object in our asteroid catalog to date."

"Death by GPS" is of growing concern...

as more people blindly follow their navigational gadgets into remote areas.  More here.  Pull quote:
"People are so reliant on their GPS that they fail to look out the windshield and make wise decisions based on what they're seeing."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Slip slidin' home...

in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho has been abandoned and is of concern to down-slope residents.  Here's an oblique view in Google Earth of the physical setting of the subject property (click to enlarge;  red X on subject home):

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The next bubble?

Universities On The Brink

Wise words...

Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.

-- Arthur C. Clarke

A wealth of worlds...

Kepler Spacecraft Finds 6 New Exoplanets and Hints at 1,200 More.

And here's an interview with the principal investigator. Scorecard so far:
  • 155,000 stars studied
  • 1,235 candidate planets
  • 293 are Neptune-size
  • 288 are super-Earth-size (>2X)
  • 165 candidates are the size of Jupiter
  • 68 are Earth-size
  • 54 of the Earth-size planets are within the habitable zone
  • 170 multiple planetary candidate systems 
Lastly, here's a good summary video.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    An act related to designating...

    the state rock of Washington is being considered in the state legislature.  Here's the bill.

    Hey, I've got nothing against the Tenino Sandstone (it is, after all, a sedimentary rock), but shouldn't this be vigorously debated?  I think a powerful argument could be made for the Columbia River Basalt Group.

    RELATED: List of U.S. state minerals, rocks, stones and gemstones.

    An aerial tour of the Moab area...

    was made with JC and former student DC in 2005.  We start with a look at the sandstone "Fins" on the east flank of the Salt Valley anticline in Arches National Park, north of the Devils Garden campground (click images to enlarge):
    Flying south, here's a unique perspective of the iconic Delicate Arch standing in a wind-sculpted basin in the Entrada Sandstone:
    The collapsed Salt Valley anticline in the center of Arches National Park contains the younger and bright green beds of the Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation near the trailhead to Delicate Arch:
    The steeply dipping strata in the Cache Valley graben provide a dramatic backdrop above the Sorrel River Ranch on the Colorado River:
    We turn southwestward and zoom past Castleton Tower with Castle Valley and the Porcupine Rim in the background:
    The flight line across downtown Moab provides a view northwest along the axis of the Spanish Valley anticline:
    Saline brines from deep solution mining in the Paradox Formation are evaporated in large ponds at Potash:
    Further south, Monument Basin, Junction Butte and Grand View Point mark the southern edge of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, and those are the laccolithic Henry Mountains looming in the distance:
    The early morning flight resulted in long shadows at the confluence between the Green and Colorado Rivers:
    "The Grabens" in the Needles District are a result of the fracturing and sliding of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone above the Paradox Formation, as the Colorado River erodes Cataract Canyon:
    "The Loop" meander bend in the Colorado River upstream of the confluence shows curvilinear fractures that parallel the sinuous channel, suggesting lateral unloading during down-cutting:
    The prominent White Rim Sandstone is exposed by an incised meander on the Green River at Turk's Head, the small but prominent butte inside the loop:
    And here's a different perspective of Upheaval Dome with the Green River in the background:
    Finally, we cross the Moab Fault where it is exposed in Bartlett Wash, juxtaposing the Entrada Sandstone (Jurassic; right) against darker Cretaceous-age units (left), with the La Sal Mountains in the distant haze.