Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

My niece Sarah captured this fabulous photo of a Sun Halo using her iPhone. This shot was taken in Minot, North Dakota. This is more clearly an Ice Halo than the Ice Dog I captured and showed earlier.

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14 Days With Circles - Day 6 (A Sundog aka) 22 Degree Circle)

This is a photo of a sun dog. Sun dogs are formed by ice crystals (called “diamond dust‘) that act as prisms, bending the light rays of the sun. Sun dogs may or may not be in the form of halos. This one may very well have been a 22° halo (so called because 22° is the minimum deflection of the sun’s light rays through the diamond dust), but since I never saw the entire halo I’ll never know. Update: My niece recently took a great photo of almost an entire Ice Halo.

A Word A Week Challenge – Old II

Of course one of the questions that comes to mind when the word “old” is just tossed out of the dictionary to stand or fall as the case may be “on its own” (okay with a very nice supporting cast of photos, which at this moment is not helping my narrative much so I am setting them aside) is old as compared to what. For example, a mayfly – a favorite of many a trout fisherman – has a lifespan of anywhere between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Dragonflies, a favorite photo subject of mine have quite a party if they make it until their 4th month (okay, I’m not actually sure about that). On the other side of the longevity line there are tortoises alive today who were enjoying the beginning of their second half century of life when Charles Darwin was born. Bowhead whales can live for 200+ years. It is even arguable that mitochondria and a variety of other things (there is no need to go into detail) live more or less forever, which puts even the Egyptians and Incas pretty much to shame. My father-in-law, pictured here, who is still sharp as a tack, just enjoyed his 90th birthday and you could think of him as old although I can’t say I do. At least not until I have a useful reference. Here the touchstone is his youngest great-granddaughter. So is he old enough for the Word a Week Photo Challenge? It is hard to say. It is, like so many things, happily thought-provoking if you can stand a little good-natured rambling.

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Commentary, Miscellaneous, Politics, Science
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There is a fascinating book – The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney – that make this same argument, in much more detail and cites a large body of scientific evidence to support its position.

In an open letter published yesterday, the Directors of the Department of Energy‘s top national labs put it pretty clearly. “Interrupting — or worse, halting — basic research in the physical, biological, and computational sciences would be devastating, both for science and for the many U.S. industries that rely on our national laboratory system to power their research and development efforts.” By slashing the budget Obama proposed this year for science and reasearch, “the government will achieve short-term savings in millions this year, but the resulting gaps in the innovation pipeline could cost billions of dollars and hurt the national economy for decades to come.”

HiggsThis is my tiny tribute to what may eventually become one of the biggest scientific discoveries in our lifetimes. Scientists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) today confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. I am not a particle physicist but as I understand this discovery has the possibility of opening new opportunities for research and discovery of the same order of magnitude that accompanied the discovery and understanding of the electron (i.e., the hope is that in demonstrating that the long hypothesized Higgs Field exists it may lead to discoveries in a way akin to the way that the discovery and understanding of electrons eventually led to the multiple uses we make of electromagnetic fields). I do know that the Higgs boson has been pursued by scientists for many years and in order to find it they have built larger and larger particle accelerators. The discovery of the Higgs boson particle was made at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which is a 17 mile underground ring located in France and Switzerland. It is used to accelerate protons to close to the speed of light before colliding them together to break them apart and learn about what they are made of.

I am a sucker for science - Here is NASA's eXtreme Deep Field image containing 5,500 galaxies

I am amazed by what science has brought us. I can’t get on an airplane without being thrilled that we are able to fly. Giant televisions that almost instantaneously bring events from around the world into our homes via a satellite that is in a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the earth are mind-boggling. “Telephones” with hundreds of apps that can do everything from telling me the price of gasoline at a hundred stations in a 50 mile radius, to playing my own personal radio station, to letting me shop or blog when I have a free minute, are astonishing. But for me, the most mind-blowing of all are the instruments that peer into the night sky to show us and tell us things about a universe that is unimaginably vast.
Last fall, astronomers at NASA assembled ten years of exposures (over 23 days of exposure time) taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field photo. The resulting image is called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF. The XDF is a window into the universe that is roughly 1/100th of the size of the full moon. This photo of a tiny dot of what looks to the human eye as an empty part of the night sky contains over 5,500 galaxies spanning back 13.2 billion years. What remarkable genius and dedication it has taken to bring us this knowledge.
It disturbs me greatly that while we have achieved the near miraculous through science, we now seem to be turning our back on it as we cut funding for basic research and development, we embrace views that have not withstood the test of the scientific method but instead are really nothing more than faith pretending to be science, and worst of all, we are not encouraging our young people to study science, nor are we adequately rewarding those who teach it nor, in fact, many of the scientists themselves.
I am not a scientist so I have no skin in this game, but it seems to me that we should, to borrow a metaphor, be dancing with the one who brought us and because we are not, the dance may be ending earlier and on a sourer note than many had been expecting.