Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

What a wonderful challenge idea Cee.

Here is my story of water – from droplet to ocean and back again. I hope you enjoy the rather lengthy journey.

The first stop is two drops of water that are held by bits of moss.

Raindrops on moss

Raindrops on moss

While much of this water will sink back into the earth to replenish aquifers or run off to do duty elsewhere, some will evaporate. Evaporated these two water drops band together with millions of billions of others to form clouds that can be jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Rural Railroad Crossing - July 19, 2013 - 73

However, those same water drops can become nightmarishly dangerous if you are driving on a rural highway in the blinding rain.

Traveling America - Downpour on Highway 2-2

Of course these water drop can also fall in the form of snow …

In the Cascades - April 17, 2013 - 43

or may become ice and form gigantic glaciers or the most delicate of structures.


The gathering of water is among the most common sights on earth given that more than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water.

Water readily forms puddles …

Circlepalooza - April 19, 2013

and ponds.

Spring at Army Ammunition Plant - May 05, 2014 - 068

Left to its own devices  it will gather into cleansing wetlands.

Cherokee Marsh in the Fog - September 26, 2013 - 53

Water is the great way station and play station for a myriad of wildlife from Canadian Geese

Goose Prepares for Flight - October 02, 2013 - 68-E

to bald eagles (here an immature bald eagle)

Immature Bald Eagle - January 10, 2014 - 15

to Sandhill cranes.

Sandhill Cranes1

When the drops of water do not sink into the ground, they gather together first into streams …

Columbia River Gorge  - April 21, 2013 - 0038

that lead to great lakes like Lake Michigan

Sunset on Lake Michigan

and mighty rivers like the Columbia River

Columbia River Gorge  - April 21, 2013 - 0416

… all inexorably making their way to the oceans.

Here we see two surfers in the Pacific near Cannon  Beach in Oregon,

Surfers near Cannon Beach. OR

while the view of the Pacific in Monterey is much more peaceful.

There is a House Back There

It is in the oceans that the water, heated by the sun, drives the climate. Eventually that water freshened by evaporation raises itself again and ultimately gathers itself into the weather systems we watch for and when the rain falls we see in it our own renewal.



I happened to be listening to a fascinating book that among other things has a discussion on how algorithms combined with powerful high-speed computing have affected our world. The consequences of unleashing powerful algorithms to make real world decisions affecting millions of people without any human intervention (because of the speed at which the decisions based on the algorithm take place) should give every thoughtful person pause. That is not, however, the reason for this post.

David Cope, a computer scientist, composer and otherwise very smart guy worked to create a computer program (actually several) that is more or less able to produce “new” and brilliant works in the style of long dead composers. He has created a storm of controversy with his works (no surprise there). I just listened to one of his “Vivaldi” works and truth be told, it is quite lovely. Judge it yourself at:

Let There Be Light - December 01, 2013

The Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is Let There Be Light! The challenge is to have a photo that shows a light source. In considering this challenge is what is a light source. I thought about Ben’s Hanoi lamp shop photo with its spectacular splashes of color. Beautiful. I looked at the photos of others with beautiful sunsets or brightly lit structures. Many so wonderful. However a great deal of the light that we see our world is reflected light and that is the source I focus on here. Reflected light is what you might call it a 2nd generation source. Here the sun shines on the grasses. Many of its colors are absorbed but green and yellow and a bit of other colors in the sunlight are at least partially reflected. If no light was reflected, there would be an absence of color – an impenetrable blackness.

This is pretty cool. A retired engineer, George Loegering, out hunting in North Dakota spotted this Ice Disk in the Sheyenne River.


This week’s Ese’s Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge – Open, brought to mind how people’s minds (sorry) are becoming more closed as opposed to more open. Here is a quote from Carl Sagan  about having an open mind.

At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes–an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.– Carl Sagan

I hope you enjoy the photo and how it fits with Sagan’s quote as well as with “open” in some other ways. I talk more about the Sagan quote below.

Daydreaming of Home - Truth and Dreans

Sagan is speaking about the importance of an open mind and at its essence he is describing the scientific method. It is a tool that uses openness to new ideas (hypotheses) to find things out about the world. It also uses skepticism about discoveries when they are claimed (an example is the requirement for verification or repeatability of discoveries). What Sagan is talking about is basically the process of investigating the world that has created/made/discovered a great deal of what it takes to allow you to read and view this post via the Internet on your computer at this very moment. The big thing science probably didn’t bring us is, of course, you, and I for one appreciate your visit!

Truck on the Highway

This was a tough shot to get although it certainly doesn’t look very hard since most of it is blurry and out of focus. Here is the story followed by a wonky discussion that strays off into the uses of “blur” and ends with a two nice photos, one of which is both in focus and excitingly blurry (the wonky stuff is really wonky so I understand if you skip it but at least check out the photos below).

Coming home from our recent trip to North Dakota, I was able to experiment with motion and focus but in an unusual way — I wanted to get a photo that captured the truck’s motion while both I (in a car my wife was driving – thanks Sweetie) and the truck were moving down the highway towards each other. This is as close as I was able to get to what I was “shooting” for – a truck that was at least partially in focus, but also seemed in motion relative to both itself and to me.

Wonky Discussion

I got to thinking about posting my experiment because of this week’s weekly photo challenge, which is about “focus.” Focus was of course one of the primary problems facing me in getting any shot like this. I took this particular shot along a divided highway with a Sigma telephoto lens set at a 210mm focal length. The truck was about 150 feet away. Because I wanted as much depth of field as humanly possible while not freezing the truck’s motion, I had been experimenting with a wide range of aperture and shutter speed settings to find out what would work. The details of this shot: 1/30th sec.; f/18; ISO 400; aperture priority. This gave me a depth of field (or “DOF“) of 121 ft. (beginning at 111 ft. and ending at 232 ft.)  You might wonder about going to f/11. The problem is that it almost halves the DOF (to 70 ft.) while moving the shutter speed to somewhere between 1/60th and 125th of a second. All things being equal, an aperture of f/16 (DOF of 104 ft.) would have been a better choice, but water under the bridge (or perhaps over the highway). Given the relative closing speed between our two vehicles (I am assuming 120 miles per hour), the truck moved through the Circle of Confusion (the space that defines the depth of field) in 5/8th of a second. Since I couldn’t mount a tripod where I was sitting in the car, I had to hand hold the camera. While the Sigma lens has good to very good optical stabilization, my hands are not very steady and that plus the car’s movement introduced more complexity into getting this photo in focus and without unintentional blur.


The other thing I wanted to see as the truck moved into and out of the Circle of Confusion was some blurring representing its motion. Blur is a relative of focus (e.g., when something is intentionally or unintentionally out of focus because an object is outside of the lens’ Circle of Confusion). Blur is often introduced into a photo by camera motion, which typically occurs when a photographer uses a shutter speed that is too slow for the photographer to hold the camera steadily. When blur is intentionally introduced into a photo, the most common reason is to impart a sense of motion to an object in a photo.

When using blur to indicate motion, the photographer is usually in a more or less fixed position and follows the speedy object (from a marathon runner to a Formula One race car intending to either freeze or nearly freeze the runner or car or whatever against a background that blurs. Getting the object in focus while the background is visibly blurred is the key to imparting motion/action to the object. As an example of where you don’t see that background and thus don’t appreciate the motion of an object in a photo, take a photo of a passenger jet in flight. You know that the plane is traveling very rapidly since it is flying, but if the photo of it is against a blue undifferentiated sky (no clouds), for all you really know, the plane could be parked up in the sky motionless. See another example of what I mean here:

Minot Air Show - 1122 - July 04, 2012 (Blue) - 00045

One way to get around this is to show the plane(es) with contrails or artificial smoke, something that is often done at an airshow as shown in the photo below (both photos are of the Canadian Snowbirds, the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic flight performance team).

Minot Air Show - 839 - July 04, 2012-Edit

Finally, blur can be added artificially (here via Filter Forge) to what is otherwise an in focus photograph as shown in the two photos below.

Dad Bibow's Garden - July 24, 2013 - 09-Edit-Edit - Depth of Field - 2  Dad Bibow's Garden - July 24, 2013 - 09-Edit-Edit(Filtr Forge) - Depth of Field - 2

A Word A Week Challenge: Worker

On a recent trip we had some bad weather at one of our stops that required our plane to be de-iced. It was very late at night and the snow was falling as the guy working the de-icing equipment carefully sprayed down our plane. I was really grateful he was out on such a cold, snowy night working to help us on out way home. De-icing a plane is critical because the build-up of ice on the plane’s surface can add a huge amount of weight to the plane in addition to affecting the plane’s handling. De-icing is usually done by spraying aircraft with a de-icing fluid based on propylene glycol, which is non-toxic.