Thursday, May 26, 2011

The end-of-year geo-bbq...

will be held Thursday, 2 June, from 4 to 8 pm, at my scabland cottage southwest of the EWU campus.  We will also acknowledge the retirement of Professor Ernest Gilmour after a 44-year-long career as the paleontologist in the program.

Faculty, staff, students and friends are all welcome at the potluck event.  Be sure to stop by the main office (SCI 130) to sign up and indicate what you will bring, and pick up a map to the venue.  Hope to see you there!

Water, water, every where,...

nor any drop to drink: Scientists Detect Earth-Equivalent Amount of Water Within the Moon.

Pics from the past...

showing the evolution of the Eastern Washington University campus through time, with images retrieved from archives in Spokane while I was doing research there last week (click to enlarge):

And here's a more contemporary view, from Google Earth, showing 2009 imagery of the campus for comparison:

Spirit rover RIP...

NASA Concludes Attempts to Contact Mars Rover Spirit.

Elsewhere on Mars, Curiosity is still chugging along on its 2,554th Martian day, heading toward Endeavour crater, having driven more than 18 miles (29 km).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Uh oh...

Half-term hell on the way for holiday-makers as ash cloud due to cover the whole of the UK by FRIDAY. I fly into Edinburgh on Monday, the 6th. Hope this doesn't become a big problem.

UPDATE:  "We expect it to behave and slowly decline." Good.

Geology was his destiny...

as this photograph of Professor Ernest Gilmour in his early years clearly shows.  Please consider attending a reception this afternoon from 3-5 pm in PUB 206 to celebrate his long career in the EWU Department of Geology.  Refreshments will be served and everyone is invited to attend.

RELATED:   Here's a more contemporary image of Professor Gilmour to compare with his childhood photo shown above.

UPDATE:  The morning started with Ernie sharing tea with buddy and erstwhile professor WP, finding that their usual table in the Pence Union Building was reserved for the special day (click to enlarge):
Later in the afternoon at the reception, dozens and dozens of family, faculty, staff, administrators and students dropped in to wish Ernie well by signing a large poster:
That's Ernie's daughter on the left, and EWU President Arevalo on the right, and a group of geology students in the background hovering around the food:
And here's Ernie with his wife, Venera:
In sum, it was a very, very nice occasion for everyone.  We'll certainly miss your contributions and commitment to the success of the geology program, Ernie.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Black hole jets...

captured in stunning detail. Really, the high-res image of Centaurus A is spectacular, a combination of visible, microwave and x-ray wavelengths.  More technical information about the imaging of the supermassive black hole is here.

What I'm reading...

right now: The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth's Antiquity by Jack Repcheck.  What would you be reading if you were a geologist and heading for Edinburgh?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another Iceland volcano acting up...

Brace yourselves: Iceland's volcanic ash could reach Scotland in 48 HOURS and rest of UK by Thursday if eruption continues.  Quite a few dramatic images at the linked article.

Hmm. I have to fly to Europe in exactly two weeks.  Specifically, Edinburgh, Scotland.

UPDATE:  Cool video of Grímsvötn erupting can be found here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

49 million-year-old face...

of a spider found frozen in amber.  The detail revealed by the CT scan is extraordinary, and be sure to watch the video at the linked article.

Note that the specimen is contained in Baltic amber, a region that is known for its amber resource, and that I'll be exploring in several weeks with Zegrahm Expeditions.  Amber is often found in beach gravels along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, and I'll be sure to watch for specimens during my travels.

Drawn to Doomsday?

Why People Look Forward to the End. It's because of the parties, no?

RELATED: 'Rapture Parties' Planned to Celebrate Doomsday Saturday May 21.

22 May UPDATE:  Still here. Still breathing.  I guess Judgement Day was a dud.

Friday, May 20, 2011

32,400 cubic feet per second...

of spring runoff is pouring over Spokane Falls this afternoon (click to enlarge):
It's impossible to cross on the foot bridges without catching some spray, and on this nice afternoon there were quite a few people enjoying the experience:
For comparison, the average flow on this date based on 120 years of record is 18,200 cfs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spokane River rises to flood stage...

as snowmelt and spring runoff continues.  Here's the real-time gaging information for USGS 12422500 SPOKANE RIVER AT SPOKANE, WA.

RELATED:  The  early May snowpack in the basin is between 130 to more than 180 percent of normal this year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The CDC provides guidance...

for the next public health crisis: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.  Really.  No joke.

UPDATE:  There's even a book for kids now: That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale.

Where were you...

when Mount Saint Helens blew, 31 years ago on this date?  I was working on my Ph.D. at Colorado State University, and found the thinnest film of ash on my windshield days later.

My soon-to-be colleagues in eastern Washington had to contend with a more significant fallout of ash, and here's a shot of EWU geology professor Eugene Kiver's back deck the day after the eruption (click to enlarge):
Image courtesy Eugene Kiver, taken 19 May 1980 south of Spokane, Washington.

RELATED: When volcanoes erupt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest lecture in geology...

this coming Monday, 23 May, at noon in SCI 118.  Dr. Art Bookstrom (USGS, Spokane) will speak about economic geology and the Idaho cobalt belt.  All are welcome to attend the lecture.

Professor Ernest Gilmour is retiring...

after a distinguished 44-year-long career in the Department of Geology at EWU. He may be best known professionally for his contributions to the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, particularly in the Bryozoa.

A reception will be held next Tuesday, 24 May, from 3-5 pm in PUB 206.  Refreshments will be served and everyone is invited to attend. Contact the departmental secretary at 509/359-2286 if you have any questions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Endeavour successfully lifts off...

on its final mission early this morning.  More here.

Meanwhile, components for the next mission to Mars were delivered to Kennedy Space Center late last week for a late 2011 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover.

UPDATE and BUMPED:  This article contains one very serendipitous and cool image: Student Balloon Photographs Shuttle Endeavour's Launch Into Orbit.  And here's another fantastic shot of the launch taken by a passenger on a commercial flight.  Hat tip: the Bu bro.

So would you study for final exams...

or not?  This guy certainly wouldn't: New York Man Spends Life Savings Ahead of May 21 Doomsday.

RELATED: Tick tock goes the doomsday clock.

New vertebrate paleontology course...

will be offered this coming fall term:  GEOL 496/BIOL 496 - Vertebrate Life Through Time, instructed by Dr. Judd Case (4 cr).  The course will meet in lecture on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:15 pm, with lab on Monday afternoon from 2-5 pm.

How long are your telomeres?

The £400 test that tells you how long you'll live. But do you really want to know?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Botany Washington"...

is an annual event organized by the Washington Native Plant Society, and this year it convenes this weekend in eastern Washington.  I'm heading out shortly to meet a group led by EWU botanist RO'Q at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, in the middle of the Cheney-Palouse Scabland Tract.  I'll speak about the catastrophic Pleistocene flood origin of the gravelly soils, and crawl around the ponderosa pine forest with the group for a while to see what's in bloom.

UPDATE:  Some of the showier plants included western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)(click to enlarge):
Common camas (Camassia quamash):
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata):
And while the biologists crawled around on their hands and knees, keying out various mini-floras, one of the native fauna caught my attention:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Man-made deluge commences...

in the Atchafalaya River basin as the Morganza Floodway is activated for the first time in 38 years:  Mississippi River Floodgate Opens, Inundating Cajun Country in Louisiana.

Here's the forecast map issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that indicates the timing of flooding downstream from the spillway.  Sadly, family members of a good friend and colleague reside in the affected area.

RELATED: How It Works: The Spillways Trying to Control the Rising Mississippi

What I'm reading...

right now:  Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford.

5,000 megapixel image...

of the night sky, stitched together from 37,440 exposures that is both zoomable and interactive, can be found at the Photopic Sky Survey.  To say that it is "large in size and scope" is an understatement.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It comes as no surprise...

that Zegrahm Expeditions is canceling its North African voyages this year and next given the likelihood of continuing political unrest in the region.  Although I was on board as the geologist lecturer/guide I'm not terribly disappointed, as a substitute excursion is now offered, a circumnavigation of Sicily and the Adriatic region.  Cool.

The calendar in the right-hand sidebar has been updated to reflect the new expedition.  Can't wait.

Images of Earth from space...

showing spring flooding in the U.S. Midwest and Canada, organized and indexed at the NASA Earth Observatory.  Follow the link to access continuously updated satellite imagery related to this slow motion catastrophe.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shuttle Endeavour repaired...

and ready for May 16 launch.  Alas, I won't be there to see it on this attempt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wise words...

One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver...that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame the lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it 'Go here' or 'Go there,' and make it obey; cannot save a shore that it has sentenced.

-- Mark Twain

Heartbreaking inundation...

captured in a photo-essay:  The Big Picture: Mississippi River Flooding.

RELATED:  Here's an excellent historical and semi-technical summary of efforts to control the nation's largest river system:  Evolution of the Levee System Along the Lower Mississippi River (~9 MB .pdf file).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On this date 99 years ago...

Mount Pelée popped its top in the Caribbean in a vigorous eruption, with pyroclastic flows overrunning the town of St. Pierre, killing 30,000 people within moments.

For Mother's Day...


Tri-gate transistors are your future...

This is but a mere stepping stone to duotronics, but it indicates that a real, functional tricorder is getting closer.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fungus strikes but doesn't kill...

European bats.

Remember:  bats need friends.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Near historic flooding at the confluence...

of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, shown in satellite images comparing normal versus present-day conditions, can be seen at NASA's Earth Observatory web site.  Be sure to read the excellent description accompanying the images.

It's field work Friday...

yet again and I expect to measure still higher groundwater levels in the Rathdrum Prairie in northern Idaho as compared to last month.  The Spokane River is swollen with spring runoff, and its losing relationship with the underlying aquifer is the primary source of recharge to the regional groundwater system.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wise words...

I have a map of the U.S. Scale 1:1. I spent all last summer folding it.

-- Stephen Wright

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peace River redux...

We had such an enjoyable and successful fossil hunting excursion yesterday that we decided to try our luck again by returning to the same reach of the Peace River. My niece is seen here standing amid piles of sieved and discarded gravel between previously dug holes by other fossil seekers (click to enlarge):
Among the more interesting specimens found today are, from left to right, an alligator tooth, two juvenile megalodon teeth, a skate's pavement teeth, and a horse tooth:
While this activity didn't quite substitute for the excitement of watching a shuttle launch, we all agreed that it was still big fun, and equally educational.  And the quality time spent with my brother and his kids was, well, priceless.


Just announced by NASA:
"DELAY. NASA officials confirm that launch of space shuttle Endeavour will not happen tomorrow because additional time needed to correct the electrical troubles. A new launch date has not been established yet."
Oh well, at least we tried.  Gotta get busy and see if we can change our flights home.

UPDATE:  Here's the full story about the cause of the scrub and delay.