Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Use today judiciously...

since it's an added freebie this leap year.  This extra leap day is typically added to the calendar every four years, making an elderly friend of mine born on this special occasion only 14 years old.  Happy birthday, TF.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An outstanding essay...

on solitude and leadership by William Deresiewicz. 

Hat tip:  GC

Monday, February 27, 2012

Morocco’s best known geologic export...

is described in this interesting article: Morocco’s Trilobite Economy.  You can find these beautifully prepared specimens at most rock, gem and mineral shows, and the image above shows one that I acquired several years ago at a geological conference.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Volcanoes and eruptions...

seen from space and organized in a photo-gallery.

The second object on the linked list - El Hierro in the Canary Islands - has surged and ebbed repeatedly since October 2011.  I'll arrive there on 30 April, in little more than eight weeks time, and I hope the show will be still be going on.

I got the fever...

(or at least developing its antibodies) after receiving a vaccination for yellow fever last Friday in preparation for upcoming international travel.  Turns out my prior Hep A immunization is good, but I also received a typhoid booster.

Feels like somebody slugged me hard in my left arm, but that's a minor price to pay for the high adventure that comes with traveling in the developing world.

Two terrific and geeky friends...

of mine have recently announced they are getting hitched.  They're wonderfully matched for each other:  She's a chemist and he's a physicist.  Like I said, geeky.   So I wish CN and EW the very, very best in marriage.  Congrats!

I am also very humbled and flattered that they asked me to officiate the wedding ceremony in late July, something I've done once before.  Happy to help, good friends.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pretend you're an astronaut...

and apply now for the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars analogue mission and food study.  This could be an interesting experience, you get get to spend four months in Hawaii and are paid $5,000 if selected.  The application window closes 29 February.

Good luck and bon appétit.

Doggie DJ...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash-covered forest...

is a 'Permian Pompeii' according to researchers.  Extraordinary preservation of a great diversity of plant fossils - an entire ecosystem of a peat-forming swamp quickly frozen in time -  makes this a stunning discovery.  Check out these images.

Upcoming planetary alignments...

promise to be cold and spellbinding.  Bundle up and head outside in the early evening to observe Jupiter, Venus and Luna in various geometries, both later this weekend and in mid-March.  A telescope isn't needed to enjoy the show, and there are several sky maps at the link to help you identify what's what.  (Here's more information.)

I'll certainly be out and gazing skyward, and hoping it's clear.

Not quite Soylent Green...

but nearly as creepy:  Test tube hamburgers to be served this year.  As yucky as the process sounds, culturing strips of meat from stem cells in laboratories, at least animals aren't being slaughtered so it's "ethical" meat.  (I sure hope the burgers taste like bacon.)

NOTE:  If you're a young person and don't get the title reference for this post, then click here.  It's a sci-fi classic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


New research on Japanese quake ominous for Pacific Northwest.  The not-so-good news:
"Detailed analyses of the way the Earth warped along the Japanese coast suggest that shaking from a Cascadia megaquake could be stronger than expected along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, researchers reported Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"The Cascadia subduction zone can be seen as a mirror image of the Tohoku area," said John Anderson, of the University of Nevada.  Anderson compiled ground-motion data from the Japan quake and overlaid it on a map of the Pacific Northwest, which has a similar fault - called a subduction zone - lying offshore.
In Japan, the biggest jolts occurred underwater. The seafloor was displaced by 150 feet or more in some places, triggering the massive tsunami. But in the Northwest, it's the land that will be rocked hardest - because the Pacific coast here lies so close to the subduction zone.
"The ground motions that we have from Tohoku may actually be an indication that there could be much stronger shaking in the coastal areas of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon," Anderson said."
Read the whole thing at the linked article.  Then get prepared.

And they're pretty, too...

Ancient Plants Resurrected from Siberian Permafrost

Monday, February 20, 2012

Crossbedded boulder-gravels...

dominate the south wall of an aggregate pit west of Spokane and north of Airway Heights, indicating transport from east to west (left to right) during Pleistocene-age outburst floods (click to enlarge):
I snapped the image early today while doing field work for a small consulting project on the mine property, the goal of which is to determine the distance that separates the seasonal high groundwater surface relative to the elevation of the pit floor.

Shape-memory alloys tested...

for use in earthquake-resistant structures.  Remember, earthquakes don't kill people, buildings do.

Life on Mars...

will resemble this: Underground oasis found below Earth's driest desert.

50 years ago today...

the first orbital flight by an American astronaut was achieved: John Glenn, First American in Orbit.  Sadly, at present, we have no capability as a nation whatsoever for human spaceflight.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Darwin Day at EWU...

will kick off with a seminar presented by Dr. Jack Sullivan (University of Idaho) on the "Divergence with gene flow in chipmunks:  An emerging paradigm in speciation" at 2 pm in SCI 137.  Then, the winners of the birthday cake competition will be announced at about 3 pm, and I'll update this post after that time with pics of the most creative cakes.

11:50 am UPDATE:  The 16 cake entries have been examined and ranked by the judges, but I won't reveal the winners until after 3 pm today.  Stay tuned.

3:50 pm UPDATE:  And the winners are...

First place goes to a cake bearing beautifully crafted trilobite fossils:
 And second place goes to these fantastic tortoises:
There were many more wonderful cakes entered this year, and by now, they're probably mostly gone as there was a good crowd milling about with hungry eyes.  Congratulations to everyone involved.

Columbia Plateau flood basalts...

linked to tear in giant subducted slab of oceanic lithosphere.

El Hierro still churning the Atlantic...

as the submarine eruption continues unabated, seen in this satellite image acquired on 10 February 2012 (click to enlarge):
More information about this image can be found at NASA's Earth Observatory, and here's a days-old video of the activity.  The summit is reportedly "now only 120 meters beneath the ocean surface - 10 meters higher than it was in mid January."

RELATED:  I'll be in the Canary archipelago in early May with Zegrahm Expeditions and, if there are no maritime restrictions, we'll anchor here and explore the plume in a Zodiac, and maybe take a sample of the floating pumice.  Big fun ahead.

California seismologist testifies...

against scientists in Italy quake manslaughter trial.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Disney finally releases...

the movie John Carter that was partly filmed in southern Utah and around Fisher Towers in 2010. Most of the story takes place on Mars, and what better place to find Mars on Earth?

RELATED:  Here are the promotional trailers with shots of recognizable stratigraphy from various locations in southern Utah and northern New Mexico.

My dining room table...

is scattered with maps and guidebooks for upcoming expeditions to far off and exotic places (click to enlarge):

I'm shipping off my passport today to obtain the required visas, and since western Africa is on the itinerary I need an inoculation for yellow fever and a butt-full of immune globulin (plus antimalarial medication).

The anticipation of, and preparation for, big adventures is always fun.  Never stop exploring!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Rosette Nebula...

seems like an appropriate astroimage to share on Valentine's Day (click to enlarge):
Image credit and copyright: Brian Davis, via APOD.

Charles Darwin...

the geologist.

And don't forget to celebrate his 203rd birthday this Friday with the EWU Department of Biology.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I am saddened to learn...

that Jewel Cave pioneer Herb Conn has died.

I met Herb and Jan (his wife) in the early 1990s when I was working at Jewel Cave National Monument doing a mineral inventory during three summer field seasons.  They even autographed a copy of their book for me that describes the early years of exploration where they mapped the first 50 miles of the now more than 150 mile-long cavern system.

Hat tip:  The Bu parents.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It's field work Friday...

again on a foggy mid-winter morning as I head out to check groundwater levels in the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer.  I need to remember to check the current snowpack reports for the Selkirk Mountains to see what to expect in the runoff (recharge) season ahead.

RELATED:  Here's the streamflow forecast map as of 1 February 2012 for the western US. Looks like the snowpack in the Spokane River basin lies between 70 - 109% of normal, depending on specific location in the watershed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stream tables can be mesmerizing...

as one watches the gradual changes of the simulated fluvial landscape.  Here are several shots taken over the course of 2.5 hours in GEOL 121 lab yesterday afternoon, starting with the initial condition (click to enlarge):
Then we slowly increased the discharge in the channel and a cutoff of the meander occurred shortly thereafter:
Then later, we lowered the level of the pool and watched rapid headward erosion and incision of the lower part of the channel system, creating slightly elevated terraces:

I've been tapped...

by Zegrahm Expeditions to co-lead two adventures during summer 2013 to coastal Alaska, the Aleutians and Kamchatka, Russia.  The latter is the most volcanically active province on Earth, and an area that I've already explored in 2010.  My good buddy MM is the expedition leader, and I can't wait to go back!

Russian scientists reach Lake Vostok...

beneath 2.4 miles (3.8 km) of Antarctic ice after two decades of drilling.  The enormous sub-glacial lake is thought to have been isolated from the Earth's atmosphere for about 20 million years, and will be carefully sampled for microbial life during the next field season.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Zombie preparedness kit...

offered at  "Be prepared or die."

And one can never have too much duct tape.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Visualization of an ancient ocean...

on Mars courtesy of the European Space Agency, using the MARSIS instrument on their Mars Express spacecraft (click to enlarge):
Here's the press release with more information.

Image credit:  ESA.

Sea floor now better rendered...

in Google Earth according to this recent announcement.  Higher resolution bathymetric surveys have now been incorporated in the image server, showing seamounts, trenches and other features in greater detail than ever before.  Take a look, look takers.

Geology seniors heading to field camp...

this coming summer must attend a planning meeting on Wednesday, 8 February, at noon in SCI 118.  Be there or be left in the dark about the most important course in your undergraduate education.

RELATED:  Here's a previous post that includes a picture of your blog writer at his field camp at the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association field station.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Indispensable Android apps...

in my geeky opinion, each with links to the Android Market.

General applications:
Astronomy specific:
Specifically for the Galaxy Nexus:
Cool physics game:
Miscellaneous utilities:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What I'm reading...

right now: The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah, in preparation for my excursion this spring with Zegrahm Expeditions.  It's an amusing first person account of life and culture in this exotic and fascinating land. I'm also a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks and I'm dipping into their edition on Morocco.

Maybe when I get there I'll look up Rick's Café Américain.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Swarm of nano quadrotors...

is impressive, and marks the first step towards Skynet:

Seriously, I can see immediate applications for search and rescue, and for surveillance.

UPDATE:  More impressive videos here, here and here.  And a linkage to Skynet.

Buckle up fellow earthlings...

Earth in for bumpy ride as solar storms hit.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Toilet texting...

on the rise, which probably explains this.

Um, just for the record, not me.

Groundhog Day...

falls on a cross-quarter date, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  (May Day and Halloween are two others.)  So regardless of what the the famous Pennsylvania rodent sees, it's still six weeks to the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Breaking news:  The buck-toothed Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow early this morning, signaling six more weeks of winter.  Big surprise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Celebrate Charlie Darwin's 203rd birthday...

by baking a cake in his honor!

The EWU Department of Biology is hosting their annual cake competition and any group or individual may participate (hint to geology students).  Deliver your creative cakes that reflect some aspect of Darwin's work to SCI 258 by 11 am on 17 February for judging, with results announced at 3 pm in SCI 243 & 247.  Then we dig in and eat 'em.

RELATED:  Your humble blog correspondent is one of the judges for the event, and he can be easily influenced.  Think chocolate.  And bacon.

UPDATE:  Here's a look back to 2009, 2010 and 2011 if you need some inspiration.

An image of Earth from space...

celebrating 100 years of volcano monitoring at Kiluea, showing a vigorous plume rising from Halemaʻumaʻu Crater (click to enlarge):
Learn more about this image, and download a high-res version, at NASA's Earth Observatory.