Monday, January 30, 2012

Is it ethical...

to terraform Mars?   Here's an interesting and thoughtful consideration: Does Mars Have Rights?

It's an excellent question, and I think the linked article comes to the correct conclusion.

RELATED:  Here's a terrific treatment of this topic in the Environmental Law Reporter (.pdf file).

Tripping the light fantastic...

using a fast and cheap optical version of Wi-Fi.

The 6.3 M Peruvian quake...

that occurred today barely registers on the seismometer at EWU, seen near the center of this image (click to enlarge):

I post this only because our instrument has been down for repairs the last few months, and this is the first event of any significance since it went on-line last week.  The two blips at the very bottom of the screen are the doors opening in the lobby of the building as the day gets underway at the university. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Volcanoes seen from space...

in an image gallery summarizing recent global activity.

Meanwhile, El Hierro in the Canary Islands maintains a low level of sub-sea activity. Cool.  I'll be there in about three months time as I've just confirmed my itinerary to west Africa!

Absolutely riveting...

and a webcam too: The Pitch Drop Experiment.

Yeah, it's a lot like watching grass grow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Google upgrades Earth...

with significantly better rendering, doing away with the patchwork quilt resulting from imagery from different sources.  More here: Google Releases Pretty Earth.

Underwater caves in the Bahamas...

could give clues to life beyond Earth.

You don't have to convince me that caves are special places, and that they provide unique niches for life, both here on Earth and potentially on other worlds.

What if a cruise ship...

wrecked in Alaska?  Although I take the point of the linked article, the example used is not strictly appropriate in a number of ways.  But moreover, this caught my attention because I worked aboard the Clipper Adventurer in 2009 in the Arctic Ocean as the geologist lecturer/guide for Zegrahm Expeditions.

Here's the Adventurer at anchor at Poolepynten on Prins Karls Forland on Svalbard while we went ashore to observe walrus.  I had a nice moment with these two (click to enlarge):
NOTE:  The Adventurer was placed back in service in 2011 and is presently exploring the Antarctic Peninsula as I type this post.

RELATED:  Here's the blog post I wrote this day in 2009.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A guest lecturer in geology...

will be on campus at EWU this coming Monday, 30 January, at noon in SCI 118.  Dr. Scott Burns (Portland State University) will discuss the geohazards related to activity along the Cascadia subduction zone, including ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides and tsunamis in a presentation entitled "Engineering Geology Challenges Along the Cascadia Margin."  Geology majors - beginning and advanced - should plan to attend this highly relevant lecture.

RELATED:  Later in the evening Dr. Burns will present "Cataclysms on the Columbia" at Spokane Community College Lair Auditorium at 7 pm.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Highest resolution image...

of Earth ever compiled, using the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP - has just been released:
You can access other resolutions of this fantastic image at this link for free download.  The original 8,000 x 8,000 pixel image is stunning to say the least, but it is an enormous file.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sand grains of frozen hydrocarbons...

form enormous dune fields on Titan.  And here's a previous related post about the most Earth-like body in the solar system.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A profound moment in history...

for all of humanity: What Apollo 11 Astronauts Did Right Before Neil Armstrong Set Foot on the Moon.

I remember watching this historic moment at the age of 12, and I credit it as one of the reasons that I pursued science in my education and career.  Sadly, nothing quite this motivational involving human exploration of the unknown exists these days.  Yeah, robot geologists crawling around on Mars is pretty cool, but it isn't the same as a rock-hammer-wielding astronaut/geologist being there.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Volcano observatories...

around the world.  Interesting, but not an exhaustive list.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rethinking the "Out of Africa"...

model for the origin of modern humans.  I'd never heard of Denisovans until I read this article.

RELATED: Into the Mind of a Neanderthal.

The snow is adding up slowly...

on the back deck over the last day and a half:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Geological treasures rediscovered...

in an old wooden cabinet in a "gloomy corner" of the British Geological Survey: U.K. scientists find 'lost' Darwin fossils.  And here's the understatement of the day from the executive director: 
"It really makes one wonder what else might be hiding in our collections."

A truly atomic-scale 'bit'...

has been created by researchers at IBM, reaching the smallest physical limit for a memory element: Magnetic Memory Miniaturized to Just 12 Atoms.  For comparison, present technology uses about one million atoms to achieve the same memory state.  Amazing.

I guess this effectively defines the upper limit of Moore's Law, at least insofar as conventional integrated circuit technology goes.

RELATED:  So maybe this is the future at the subatomic scale - so-called quantum computing - by controlling the spin of electrons: Ten-Second Dance of Electrons Is Step Toward Exotic New Computers. Like I said before, amazing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally, here comes winter...

Here's the link to the NOAA/NWS forecast.  Some significant accumulation of snow is predicted in the week ahead.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Know your forest biomass...

distribution by studying this new map showing the concentration of carbon in trees in the U.S.  (Click on the image to download the ~ 4 MB JPG hi-res version).

Can't see the forest for the trees?  Now you can.

Geothermal project gaining steam...

(pardon the pun) at Newberry volcano: Oregon Volcano Holds Energy Hopes.

UPDATE:  Here are the related technical documents.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Break out the hard hats...

again because here comes another out-of-control chunk o' space junk.  This time it's a failed Russian spacecraft originally intended to travel to Mars, tumbling in from low Earth orbit: Phobos-Grunt Expected To Return To Earth This Weekend.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I shot some eagles...

today with my long lens, and here's the bounty for the efforts.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did while visiting Beauty Bay this late morning (click images to enlarge):
Two of more than thirty I spied today:
A juvenile in flight:
And an adult:
Artsy view of a perch:
And a tricked-out cell tower:
Image details: Canon EOS 30D with 400 mm EF lens on monopod.

It's field work Friday...

again, the first of the year.  After completing my monthly rounds measuring groundwater levels in the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer, I'll head over to Wolf Lodge Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene to see if the bald eagles are still hanging out.

I also note that it's Friday the 13th, so I'll be extra careful during my field activities today.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Recently discovered itsy-bitsy...

teensy-weensy frog in Papua New Guinea is world's smallest known vertebrate.  Two of them can sit side-by-side on a dime.  Here's a pic.

UPDATE: Angler Fish Challenges Frog's 'Smallest' Title.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today's Google doodle...

celebrates Nicolas Steno's 374th birthday, depicting rock strata with embedded fossils.  Here's a screen grab in case you miss it today (click to enlarge):
Learn more about Steno's Laws of Stratigraphy, useful principles applied in relative dating when the absolute age of strata are not known.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Electrons flowing across the Interweb...

and to my computer have assembled themselves into an e-mail bearing terrific news this afternoon.  My research proposal for using ground penetrating radar to explore for caves has been fully funded for field study this summer.  Oh, the joy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Opportunity rover settles in for winter...

on the edge of Endeavour Crater: 'Greeley Haven' Is Winter Workplace for Mars Rover.  While it will continue to make science observations at its parked position during the next several months, let's hope this amazing robot geologist survives the frigid conditions and continues its explorations the following Martian spring.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bye-bye BlackBerry...

and hello Samsung's Galaxy Nexus running the new Android 4.0 OS code-named Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).   Here's a comprehensive review of the leading edge smartphone.

I've ditched my BlackBerry Storm2 during my two-year upgrade cycle with Verizon and acquired this new device at a nicely discounted price.  I've been using it for three weeks and absolutely love the vibrant display, and battery life is good for a 4G phone.  I eagerly await the ICS upgrade on my Galaxy Tab 10.1 that is presently running Android 3.2 (Honeycomb).

In sum, it's awesomely awesome technology.  Highly recommended.  I'll post more later about what I personally regard are indispensable Android apps.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

La Niña a bust...

in the Pacific Northwest: Snow May Be a No-Show. Dang.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year...

Image credit: