August 24, 79 C.E.: Vesuvius spoke, with thunder

August 24, 2015

Much as the GOP Caucus and other climate-change deniers, Roman officials in Pompeii and Herculaneum refused to be alarmed at the ground shaking, and obvious eruptions from Mount Vesuvius, on August 24, 79 C.E.

In the past week we have earthquakes in California, Nepal, British Columbia, and other places. The old Earth keeps rumbling.

Oddly, we now pay more attention to earthquakes than to other things that can cause greater, rolling disasters.

Santayana’s Ghost wonders if we ever learn from history.

Vesuvius, asleep for now. National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

Vesuvius, asleep for now (2013). National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Fly your flag August 21, for Hawaii Statehood in 1959

August 21, 2015

It’s been 56 years since the youngest state entered the union — the longest stretch in which the U.S. has not added another state.

"On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood." Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

June’s plebiscite smoothed the path for statehood, declared two months later.

A newsboy happily hawks the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood, August 21, 1959. Star-Bulletin photo

13-year-old paperboy Chester Kahapea happily hawks a commemorative edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the law authorizing Hawaii as a state. Star-Bulletin photo by Murray Befeler.

Hawaii’s official statehood day is August 21, commemorating the day in 1959 when Hawaii was recognized as a member of the union of the United States of America.  Hawaiians should fly their flags to day in honor of the date (you may, too).

Hawaii formally celebrates the day on the third Friday in August, this year coincidentally on the 21st.  I hope you joined in the festivities (it’s a holiday in Hawaii) — but under the U.S. Flag Code, you may certainly fly your flags on August 21, regardless which day of the week that is.

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

After the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 (in action separate from the Spanish-American War) attempts at getting Hawaii admitted as a state got rolling.  After World War II, with the strategic importance of the islands firmly implanted in Americans’ minds, the project picked up some steam.  Still, it was 14 years after the end of the war that agreements were worked out between the people of Hawaii, the Hawaiian royal family, Congress and the executive branch.  The deal passed into law had to be ratified by a plebiscite among Hawaiian citizens.  The proposition won approval with 94% of votes in favor.

Some native Hawaiian opposition to statehood arose later, and deference to those complaints has muted statehood celebrations in the 21st century.

Other than the tiny handful of loudmouth birthers, most Americans today are happy to have Hawaii as a state, the fifth richest in the U.S. by personal income.  The nation has a lot of good and great beaches, but the idea of catching sun and surf in Hawaii on vacation might be considered an idealized part of the American dream.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

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From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's admission to the union.

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission to the union.

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood C55 26432. Wikipedia image

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood stamp. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


Annals of global warming: Time to change maps of Arctic ice

August 11, 2015

National Geographic Society reminded us they’ve had to change maps of the arctic.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

President Barack Obama noted the change in his announcement of U.S. actions to fight climate change. National Geo added details beyond what the president said.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop: Thin ice is less reflective than thick ice, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean, which in turn weakens the ice and warms the ocean even more, NASA says.

Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, reducing the reflectiveness of the ice and absorbing more heat. (See pictures of our melting world in National Geographic magazine.)

“You hear reports all the time in the media about this,” Valdés said. “Until you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn’t really hit home.”

(More at National Geo’s site.)

At the last edition of the National Geographic Atlas, a video described why and how changes were made.

We used to think the old Earth was so massive, little could humans do to change it. While it’s probably still true the rock will survive after humans are extinct, we now know we can foul our nest enough to make it uncomfortable, or impossible for our species to stay here.

Global warming is changing the planet. Maps must be changed to show the new face.

Have we acted soon enough, and hard enough to save space for humans to live?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Tackett on Twitter.


Milky Way over New Zealand

August 3, 2015

Screen capture of one frame of Mark Gee's short film, "After Dark."

Screen capture of one frame of Mark Gee’s short film, “After Dark.”

Great little .gif, of the night sky in New Zealand.

From a Tweet by BBC Earth.  It’s taken from a slightly longer film put together by Mark Gee.

1440 individual photographs captured over 13 hours cut together into one incredible time-lapse video.

Photographer and videographer Mark Gee shot this breath-taking footage of the southern skies around his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. The stunning one-minute clip is a collection of Mark’s most memorable night sky moments over the past year.

The majority of the video was shot on Wellington’s South Coast (watch out for air traffic) while the campfire and the camping scenes were filmed in Cape Palliser and the Tararua Ranges.

From Gee’s Youtube site, the longer film (1 minute!):


Signs of life: Eagles on Highway

July 30, 2015

One of our local pharmacists travels on vacations, and takes photos.  Pharmacies being what they are, people wait in line with nothing to do but count ticks on the clock.  No one takes a book to the pharmacy to wait.

But the guy, Mark de Zeeuw, has a good sense of customer service.  He got one of those photo frames that had a video display to show photos.  Over time, it morphed to an extra computer screen, and probably an old computer (don’t know for sure).

At the Tom Thumb supermarket in Duncanville, Texas, customers get to see photos of the pharmacist’s travels.  A lover of travel and photography, and a too-frequent customer at the pharmacy, I think I may have seen every photo on that harddrive.  Many of them are very good. He travels to Alaska and across the American west, and he’s got at least one telephoto that works well on wildlife — this I know from watching the photos.  I’ve never discussed it with the guy (who is always busy working on prescriptions, or fighting with insurance companies over the phone; Tom Thumb’s being a large company, there may be other pharmacists on duty at the time).

Okay, I’m shy.  I’ve wanted to ask him for copies of several of the photos to share, one in particular.  It’s a nice shot of the yellow warning/information signs you see at the side of a highway.  With a bright blue sky in back, and obviously a lot of unpopulated territory, it says “Eagles On Highway.”  I broke the shyness enough to learn it was a photo from eastern Utah.

Surely someone else noticed the sign?

Yep! Wonders of Google, Bing and flickr:  Here’s a shot I found at Wanderlust Cafe:

“Eagles on Hwy.” Sign on eastbound Interstate 70, near the Moab turnoff in Utah. Photo by Lou Ann Granger, via Wanderlust Cafe

Out on Interstate 70, the rabbits and occasional ground squirrel, lizard or coyote fall victim to speeding cars in the night.  In the daylight, carrion eaters — including eagles — clean up the road.  Alas, eagles have not been bred to recognize those vehicles, tiny in the distance, rush at them at 70 miles per hour. Worse, it’s a violation of federal law and regulations to kill the eagles (few are ever cited for accidents).

Local authorities put up signs warning drivers of this odd hazard: “Eagles on Highway.” Drivers are supposed to slow down, be wary, and avoid hitting the eagles.

Others grew curious about the signs, too. The Deseret News in Salt Lake City explained back in 1990 that six of the signs were put up, in hopes of reducing kills of immature golden eagles.

They have to rank as the most unusual highway signs anywhere in the state. But preliminary indications are the six “Eagles on Highway” warning signs in central Utah are doing the job.

Not a single golden eagle was struck by a car during the 1989-90 winter season.In the two years previous, 30 golden eagles were killed and another 11 crippled by automobiles on a stretch of I-70 between the Colorado border and the San Rafael Swell.

“We don’t know whether it’s because the mild winter has spread the birds around more or whether it’s because the prairie dog population is down and the birds have moved elsewhere, or what,” said Miles Moretti, regional supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

“What we do know is we’ve received a lot of comments from people seeing signs and watching the birds and being aware of the problem. From a public awareness standpoint the program is a success.”

I wonder if we can track down someone in authority with numbers to show the signs are working after 25 years.  And maybe I can get a copy of pharmacist de Zeeuw’s photo here — his is better, I think.

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Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames’ brilliant, before-its-time film

May 23, 2015

Images from

Images from “Powers of Ten,” 1977 edition. From IconEye

AMNH’s “The Known Universe” is a cool film. Putting up that last post on the film, I looked back and noted that when I had previously written about the brilliant predecessor films from Charles and Ray Eames, “Powers of Ten,” the Eames films were not freely available on line.

That’s been fixed.

I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.

Of course, that means wer are just small parts.

The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.

There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.

How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)

Film information:

Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at http://www.eamesoffice.com)

At the Eames Office Youtube site, you may find the film in with Mandarin Chinese, German, and Japanese translations (no Spanish?).  If you’re unfamiliar with the work of this couple — you would recognize much of the stuff they designed, I’m sure — check out a short film on an exhibit on Ray Eames (which has concluded, sadly):

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The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair and Ottoman, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching “Powers of Ten.” Herman Miller image.


New Appalachian Wildlife Refuge protects very rare species: Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge

May 15, 2015

A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:

New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States.  North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region.  “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”

The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”

Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.

“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.

While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.

The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.

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