Fundamentals of Fungi: Sēnes of the Meža!

Our own RQ loves us enough to take pictures of mushrooms (sēnes) in a forest (meža). This is the extent of Latvian I can write courtesy of Google Translate, and I have no idea if it’s anywhere near correct, and I still am not sure how to say “fungi” or “wood mushroom” properly. Perhaps RQ can tell us while lovers of identifying pretty fungi figure out what these are.

Image shows a downed log, covered with moss, with a ruin of some sort and a forest beyond. The log has two wood mushrooms visible: one is brick red, the other is larger and black with a touch of red on the underside.

Mystery Fungi I

She can also tell you more about the ruins, if she likes, should you be curious. I’m not sure what that big foundation thingy is. I’m more interested in the lovely fungi growing on the log.

Image shows a black wood mushroom with a red and orange rim.

Mystery Fungi II

How beautiful is that? Dark as the night, with a flare of sunset. Nature is one of the original artists. If I had a horse, I’d make it shoes like this and we’d go dancing.

We have a bonus mystery – I can’t tell if this is more fungi, or lichen.

Image shows some gray bits that might be fungi... or may be lichen.

Mystery…???

Definitely enlarge that and have a gander at the textures.

And, should you want a squee, go look at what I found when I was googling sēnes. ZOMG SO CUTE!!! You guys have no idea how much I want a kitten in a knitted mushroom costume right now. Just… not under the circumstances that kitty had to wear its little costume. Don’t translate the text unless you want your squee to go sad. Here, go read why kitties like mushrooms, instead.

Ima go cuddle my ancient kitty now. Well, attempt to cuddle. You know how she is. Enjoy your shrooms, my darlings!

Cryptopod: Wanna-be-a-Zebra

There are many patterns in nature that repeat. There’s probably a reason for them, but being more into geology, I’m not sure what many of them are. Take this little cryptopod sent in by RowanVT: I think part of it wants to be a zebra.

Silly wasp or bee or whatever you are. You’re not a zebra. Even if you do have zebra stripes on your rear.

Image shows a wasp or bee going in to a hole in the dirt. It's got yellow legs and a zebra-striped butt.

Cryptopod I

You live in a hole in the ground. Zebras don’t live in the ground.

Side view showing a large green eye and hairy shoulders.

Cryptopod II

You have antennae. Zebra don’t have antennae!

Cryptopod III

Cryptopod III

You have yellow legs. Zebras don’t have yellow legs! Also, you have six of them. Zebras have only four (sometimes less, if a lion’s bitten one off).

Cryptopod IV

Cryptopod IV

Now your stripes look yellow! Zebra stripes don’t look yellow. Not unless a lion’s peed on them or something.

Cryptopod V

Cryptopod V

You have thin, clear wings. Zebras don’t have wings of any sort.

Cryptopod VI

Cryptopod VI

You have eyes as big as your head. Zebras don’t have eyes that big. I don’t think you’re a zebra at all, little wasp-bee-thingy.

New at Rosetta Stones: Mount Baker At Last! Plus, a Genuine Watercolor

I’ve got the preliminary findings from our maiden voyage to Mount Baker up at Rosetta Stones for ye. You’re gonna love it.

You may also love this photograph of Mount Shuksan:

Image shows what looks like a watercolor image of Mount Shuksan.

Mount Shuksan reflected in a lovely tarn.

Looks sorta like a watercolor, doesn’t it just? It sorta is: this is Mount Shuksan as reflected in a lovely little tarn on Mount Baker Highway.

It’s the real thing – I’ve just played a bit with the brightness and such. Here’s the untouched version:

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn.

Mount Shuksan as reflected in the tarn, without the fiddling around.

Okay, and I flipped it right-side up, too. See it in its non-reflected glory at Rosetta Stones, and find out why it’s really actually green.

Danger Zone! The New Madrid Seismic Zone

(A reprise from Rosetta Stones, especially for Robert B., as this answers part of the question posed: “But what’s up with South Carolina and the Mississippi/Ohio River confluence?”)

 

Malachite asked an excellent question I’m actually well-placed to address without further research. Yay!

New curiosity: what the heck is that danger zone where Missouri meets Tennessee?

Heh. Pretty startling, innit?

Image shows a map of the US with hazard zones picked out in yellow and red. There's a bullseye just right of Texas. It hits corners of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

That great big target painted on Middle America, my friends, is the New Madrid Seismic Zone. In 1811, it broke in a big way, so big it caused the Mississippi River to run backwards for a bit. Lots of interesting things happened that weren’t quite so interesting to the people who lived through it. More terrifying. And since then, people have watched that fault with a wary stare. It still kicks from time to time, letting us know the earth isn’t as stable as we’d like. But some studies suggest that those may just be aftershocks, long after the main event, and nothing much to worry about. I wrote that up here, a long time ago when I was a young, fresh science blogger.

The thing about New Madrid is this: it was so dramatic, so unexpected, that we’ve approached it with an overabundance of caution ever since. And until further studies confirm it’s no longer a threat, I personally think we’d be wise to continue to treat it as a potential, even if not probable, problem. And this is an excellent place to study intercontinental earthquakes, which are odd and intriguing, so let the science continue!

Here are some additional links should you wish to investigate further.

Nature: Seth Stein: The quake killer.

Nature: Long aftershock sequences within continents and implications for earthquake hazard assessment (pdf).

Highly Allochthonous: Earthquakes within plates: we don’t know when, and we may not know where.

+/- Science:  An Abbreviated Numerical History of the Great New Madrid Earthquakes.

Geologic diagram of the Reelfoot Rift. Image courtesy USGS.

Geologic diagram of the Reelfoot Rift. Image courtesy USGS.

 

On The Necessity of Geology

There is an urgent need for talking and teaching geology.

Many people don’t know it. They think geology is rocks, but if they’re not rock aficionados, it’s nothing to do with them. So our K-12 schools inadequately teach the earth sciences (pdf). People don’t learn about geology, and they grow up to move to hazardous areas without being aware of the risks. They grow into politicians who feel it’s smart to sneer at volcano monitoring. They become people who don’t understand what geologists can and cannot do, and imprison scientists who couldn’t predict the unpredictable.

L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. A goverment's office disrupted by the 2009 earthquake. Image and caption courtesy The Wiz83 via Wikimedia Commons.

L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. A goverment’s office disrupted by the 2009 earthquake. Image and caption courtesy The Wiz83 via Wikimedia Commons.

So we need to talk geology, anywhere and everywhere we can.

A while ago at work, we got on the subject of earthquakes. I don’t remember how it happened, but suddenly, I was surrounded by a gaggle of people whilst I pulled up a diagram of the local subduction zone and delivered a mini-lecture on how it works.

You’d think such pontification would drive people away. It didn’t. They were riveted.

Cascadia Seismogenic Zone. Image courtesy R.D. Hyndman, Geological Survey of Canada.

Cascadia Seismogenic Zone. When it finally comes undone, the Pacific Northwest will experience catastrophe on a scale that will make Mount St. Helens look like a sneeze. Image courtesy R.D. Hyndman, Geological Survey of Canada.

Granted, it’s a fascinating subject. But there’s a huge amount of misinformation floating about in the aether. I had to do some gentle correction – and a bit of putting the fear of Cascadia into folks. It reminded me how critical it is to be aware of what’s going to hapen here – and how few people realize it.

One of my coworkers had vaguely heard that there was a dangerous fault that could lead to a big earthquake near Oregon. He didn’t realize Washington was also at risk – and we’re not ready for something so huge. Everyone I was speaking to looked extremely surprised when I told them we will get hit with a subduction zone earthquake on the order of the Tōhoku Earthquake that devastated Japan in March 2011 – and that we are far more vulnerable than Japan was, because we haven’t done what they have to prepare.

A close-up view of the ripped and twisted metal on a Japanese dock that washed ashore at Agate Beach, OR. The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami ripped this 47 ton concrete and metal structure from its moorings and sent it to sea. It floated across the Pacific to land in Oregon over a year later. Author's photo.

A close-up view of the ripped and twisted metal on a Japanese dock that washed ashore at Agate Beach, OR. The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami ripped this 47 ton concrete and metal structure from its moorings and sent it to sea. It floated across the Pacific to land in Oregon over a year later. Author’s photo.

That’s when the fear started. It’s a healthy fear, a realistic one I wish more citizens shared. We don’t need paralyzing fear, but the galvanizing kind, the kind that forces us to get informed and do what it takes to prepare for the inevitable.

We discussed some of the risk we’d face here in our particular corner of the Seattle area. We’re far enough inland and high enough in elevation that we won’t have to worry about being washed away by a tsunami. But some folks were under the impression we’d be safe from earthquake damage here. That’s not true. We won’t suffer the worst of it, unlike the coast, but a look at the shake map shows we’re going to get a shaking strong enough to cause damage; we’ll experience several minutes of severe shaking, and those earthquake waves have a terrible potential to get trapped and amplified by the basin we’re in, making that shaking worse. We are going to get hit: that’s a certainty (pdf). It could be today, tomorrow, months or years, but the Cascadia subduction zone will eventually slip catastrophically. And many of the residents don’t even know it’s there. Most of our emergency services aren’t prepared for an event of that magnitude (pdf). They don’t realize that “The Big One” isn’t going to be a single event, but a series of severe shocks that could go on for years after the 9.0. Ignorance of geology will lead to a greater catastrophe, because we didn’t know enough to prepare our cities against seismic threats.

Looking toward shore on Agate Beach, it becomes obvious we haven't prepared for the 9. Note the shiny new hotel nestled right in the low point of the tsunami hazard zone. This is why we need to talk geology: so that people don't risk their lives and fortunes by building in the path of inevitable destruction. Author photo.

Looking toward shore on Agate Beach, it becomes obvious we haven’t prepared for the 9. Note the shiny new hotel nestled right in the low point of the tsunami hazard zone. This is why we need to talk geology: so that people don’t risk their lives and fortunes by building in the path of inevitable destruction. Author photo.

Ordinary people who are not rock-obsessed have a need for geology. It’s a necessity, not a luxury. Here’s what a basic knowledge of geology can do for a person:

Those of us who know geology need to talk about it, write about it, wax lyrical over it and fight for it. And for those of us who’ve given it short shrift in the past, it’s time to reassess our relationship to the rocks beneath our feet. It’s never been more important than now.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

USGS National Seismogenic Hazard Map. Image courtesy USGS.

 

Previously published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

New at Rosetta Stones: Moar Illinois Geology!

Clearing the backlog of reader-submitted awesomeness continues apace with some lovely shots of Jackson Falls, taken by our own Heliconia, who would’ve also gotten us images of Garden of the Gods if her camera battery hadn’t given her a fine fuck-you just then. Camera batteries are assholes that way. And you can never find the size you need when you’re traveling. Or, if you do, you end up paying a fortune – just ask Cujo about that sometime, if you want to hear a St. Bernard howl. Still. Despite setbacks, Heliconia didn’t forget us, and got us some lovely images of what the Pounds Standstone gets up to when it isn’t forming ginormous shrooms. Do go enjoy!

I’ll probably be in later today with more things, unless cleaning and organizing the house into a proper workspace becomes a time-swallowing uber-Thing, in which case, you may not hear anything substantial from me again until at least Thursday. Good thing there’s a maclargehuge backlog of reader submissions including many intriguing cryptopods, some bonza fungi, botany from around the world, and beautiful mystery flora to keep us all occupied, then, eh?

Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson

The trouble with trees (and every other living thing) is that some of them have had to evolve defenses. Some of them are obvious about it, practically shrieking, “I’ll cut/puncture/poison/stickify you! STAY AWAY FROM MEEEE!!!!” Some are subtle and devious jerks, drawing you in by seeming all tame and pretty, then giving you a stealthy stab.

Such is this beauty, which attacked our own RowanVT, and whom she has dubbed Bitey McBiterson, which is the best name for a bush ever:

Image shows a verdant green bush with yellow flowers. It's very fluffy.

Bitey McBiterson I

You’ll have to ask RowanVT where this was. All I know is that it was June, and she was camping…. somewhere. Somewhere that had many interesting and beautiful things, which she sent to us, and one evil bushy tree, which was actually quite pretty.

Bitey McBiterson II

Bitey McBiterson II

Oh, dear, a philosophical mood has suddenly struck… but this is always how I’ve found evil to be most interesting. A lot of our stories and entertainment make evil ugly. Hairy, lumpy, slavering monsters; a devil with cloven hooves and misshapen features; wicked witches with warts. And yet, evil is often at its most compelling and most disturbing when it’s beautiful.

Another image of a flower, this one showing a red-orange streak to some of the petals.

Bitey McBiterson III

One of the most important lessons I ever learned was that evil doesn’t always come in bad packaging. It’s still hard sometimes to think of anything attractive – whether that’s a person, plant, or other entity – as being bad or dangerous. And that’s as true for non-physical qualities as it is for physical beauty.

Image shows the leaves, which are thick, green, and look somewhat like oak.

Bitey McBiterson IV

But I’m learning, as time goes on, to look at the total package, rather than just the dazzling bits. And I’ve learnt that there’s a lot more to beauty than the wrapper.

I’ve also learnt that plants trying to defend themselves aren’t, in fact, evil – although they sometimes seem so to those of us who are nursing wounds from things like Bitey.

Image shows the fruit, which is a little yellow lump all covered in tawny fuzz. It looks perfectly harmless.

Bitey McBiterson V

Not that it isn’t fun to jokingly attribute human qualities, such as a capacity for deception, to said plants.

Here endeth the philosophy. Here is RowanVT’s description of her encounter, and an invitation to identify this nippy little tree:

The tree with the yellow flowers, which I’m sure is non-native, bit the hell out of me when I gently touched its fruit. Those hairs are barbed and come off reeeeeal easy. >_< It is not a nice tree/bush/thing. Hopefully someday I’ll figure out what Bitey McBiterson is.

Hopefully, someday is today.

Sea Stack Pining for the Sea

One of the first roadside zomg-look-at-the-scenery pullouts at the northern end of Cape Disappointment State Park happens to overlook a wonderful example of what happens when sediment fills in the sea round a sea stack. Can you spot it?

Image is looking out to sea. In the foreground are trees, some snags, and a knob of rock. Beyond it is a flat area covered with vegetation and a strip of sandy beach beyond.

Lonely Sea Stack is Lonely

This is the result when a nice, hard stack of basalt (in this case the Eocene Crescent Formation basalt) ends up in a sea of sediment instead of a sea of saltwater. Poor thing is now stuck inland. The only time it’ll be a stack again is either during a tsunami or if sea level rises.

Image shows a closer view of the top of the former sea stack, which has grown a mantle of moss, grass, and possibly a tree.

Let’s Call it Broody.

There’s probably some technical term for these things. I thought it was “knocker,” but that seems to only refer to knobs of rock within a melange. And my brief attempt to wrestle an answer out of Google was non-successful. Who here knows what they’re technically called?

If there is no technical term, I call dibs on calling them “broodies,” just in case that catches on.

Hovergull

A bizarre sight greeted our eyes at Seal Rock State Recreation Site: a nearly-motionless seagull. You scoff, I know, and say it’s not unusual for birds to hang about doing not much of anything, and that is true. However: it’s somewhat rare for them to hang about doing not much of anything in mid-air. This one looked a bit like someone had glued a seagull in a flight pose to a clear stick and was holding it up.

This little bugger went nowhere fast. It hovered happily while other seagulls (including the fledgeling mentioned, but not visible, in the video) zipped and zoomed all round it. There’s probably some explanation for its behavior that’s not limited to “Because, that’s why.” Any seabird specialists in the house?

Image shows one smaller seagull hovering while a larger one flies past

Hovergull