Saturday, July 30, 2011

Earthquakes don't kill people...

but buildings do: Natural disasters: The politics of earthquakes.

"Too many countries are playing Russian roulette when it comes to seismic risk."


Friday, July 29, 2011

Sounds unlucky to me...

Second fire reported at Lucky Friday Mine

It's field work Friday...

as I slip in under the wire to make groundwater level measurements on the Rathdrum Prairie during the month of July due to my recently relentless travel schedule.

Life on ice...

Pursuing Immortality, He Followed a Frozen Path. Here's an interesting obituary.

RELATED: Heaven for Atheists.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Archaeopteryx Knocked From Roost as Original Bird

A fascinating and unprecedented view...

of a space shuttle de-orbiting, as seen from the International Space Station (click image for more information):

The new addiction...

People deprived of the Internet feel 'upset and lonely' and find going offline as hard as quitting smoking or drinking.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Here are just a few highlights...

from last week's field trip to Glacier National Park with 17 motivated students, seen here at camp the first night at Apgar campground at Lake MacDonald on the west side of the park (click images to enlarge):
Without wasting any time the next day, we headed up to Logan Pass and hiked the Hidden Lake Trail (covered by record snowpack) in order to examine glacial landforms on the continental divide:
While we perched at a viewpoint a mountain goat ambled by, going about its business:
After returning to the parking lot I managed to capture a herd of bighorn sheep relaxing on a steep scree slope:
At lower elevation we discussed various topics in botany, with wildflowers struggling with a late bloom due to the long, hard winter.  Here's Indian Paintbrush, one of my favorites:
Stromatolites in the Helena Formation were examined along Going-to-the-Sun Road (just below the first tunnel on the west side), and here's an outcrop of laterally-linked hemispheroids:
The Trail of Cedars offered the group an opportunity to explore an old growth grove, and here's one of the larger cedars towering overhead:
We drove over Marias Pass as we shifted camp to the east side, examining the Lewis Overthrust at the summit, where Precambrian-age Belt rocks are thrust over Cretaceous shales:
It was pretty stormy in camp that night, but it yielded a spectacular sky on fire at sunset:
A long, long hike on Gunsight Pass trail the following day took us to close-in views of the remaining bits of the Jackson Glacier and its neoglacial moraines:
Alpine glaciation is responsible for sculpting some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth, and they are vividly on display above St. Mary Lake:
The last morning of our excursion was spent at Sun River Canyon (west of Augusta, Montana) in order to examine the multiple thrust sheets in the "disturbed belt" of the northern Rockies.  Here are two (of seven exposed in the canyon) late-Paleozoic carbonate units shingled on top of one another:
Though I don't have any photographs to illustrate the event, the most exciting experience of the entire trip was watching an enormous blonde grizzly bear charging two mountain goats.  We watched the drama unfold at a safe distance through binoculars, taking place on a high slope above Many Glacier, as the bear slowly stalked and maneuvered downwind of its prey, then charging fast, but was ultimately left unrewarded for its efforts.  Spectacular.

Grade distributions in my courses...

strongly contradict this finding of a recent study:
"A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades."  

Read more:   Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940–2009.

You can call me pastor...

now that I have become an ordained minister!  Seriously.  Here's the official certificate:
Back story:  Two very good friends, RO and TG, have asked that I preside at their wedding ceremony in southern Oregon in early September. I'm deeply flattered they asked, and I'm ready to step up to the wonderful task of uniting them in marriage.

RELATED: Computer to Marry Texas Couple.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Destination Mars...

NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land on the red planet in August 2012. I was partial to Eberswalde Crater as a potential landing site, but Gale possesses abundant clays and presents the possibility for finding organics.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A week-long exploration...

of Glacier National Park begins today with an early departure from campus.  The field class will examine Precambrian metasedimentary rocks that are spectacularly exposed in the park, and study the effect of more recent glacial processes on the changing landscape. This course will also provide an opportunity to observe and compare mid-elevation to alpine plant and animal communities on both sides of the continental divide.  I'll provide a re-cap, with pictures, on our return.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The world wide web...

of submarine fiber optic cables is impressive (click image for link to web site with detailed map.)  I'd like to know more about the challenges of laying cable across deep ocean trenches and mid-ocean ridges.

Watch the world's largest shark tank...

via a live streaming webcam until 7 August.  Play it in full screen mode and sit back and enjoy.  Mesmerizing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Caveman home decorating...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is the higher ed bubble...

getting ready to burst?  Debt fears drive US youth away from college.

The annual tuition at EWU has escalated by 14%, 14%, 11% and 11% during the last two, and next two years, respectively.  Clearly this is not a sustainable trajectory, and the clients are beginning to catch on.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft...

is about to enter orbit around Vesta, the second largest but brightest object in the asteroid belt, at 10 pm PDT tomorrow evening.  Here's the mission's web page.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I have been invited...

to make a presentation at the EWU Teaching with Technology Boot Camp on 26 July about my blogging experience during the last two and a half years.  I've agreed to participate, and this will provide a good opportunity for me to reflect and focus my thoughts related to this activity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This astronomical anniversary...

was a long time coming: Neptune has arrived at the same location in space where it was discovered nearly 165 years ago.

What goes around, comes around.  Eventually.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The pre-trip meeting...

for next week's field class to Glacier National Park occurs this evening, when my co-instructors and I meet with 19 students enrolled in the course.  We will likely have to significantly alter our field itinerary from what was originally planned due to the heavy snowpack in the park this year, and Going-to-the-Sun Road isn't even open for the season yet.  I also anticipate that many of the high altitude trails we had planned to hike will still be closed due to snow hazards at the time of our excursion.

Here's the status of the plowing, and a bunch of images provided by the Park Service.

UPDATE:  Going-to-the-Sun Road opened today, 13 July.

Everything's a "last"...

for Atlantis and the space shuttle program:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lowry Pueblo...

in the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado was the goal of an early morning walkabout, and the ruins are approximately 1,000 years old (click images to enlarge):
The Great Kiva, at 47 ft in diameter it ranks as one of the largest in the region, has been  reconstructed sans wooden roof:
The geometric theme of Puebloan stonework has always seemed artful to me:
I had been visiting good friends in Dolores, Colorado, and Geogal recommended this short detour on my return to Castle Valley, and I'm glad she did.

Here's more information if you wish to visit this rich archeological region.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mel and me...

on Independence Day, 2011 (click images to enlarge):
That's Mount Mellenthin, 2nd highest peak in the La Sal Mountains, topping out at 12,645 ft.  I soloed a broad traverse today, starting at Geyser Pass (alas, no geothermal features, just named after a rancher dude Al Geyser) and ascended the northwest ridge, over the top, and descended the northeast ridge.  Fantastic.

This was the view from the summit, to the north:
And to the south, toward Mount Peale (highest in the range):
And here's a splash of color amid the scree provided by Polemonium viscosum (Sky Pilot):
I'm wishing you all a similarly joyful holiday.