FtB Con Is Coming! What Do You Want From Me?

Hey, check this out – there’s a new FtBCon happening August 22-24. Now, in the past, I haven’t managed to swing it, but I asked my new boss if I could have the time to participate, and she said,

Image shows a closeup of Misha sleeping curled up on a pillow. Beside her, a colum of zzzz

Asleep on the Job

So I’m assuming that means I have her permission, and I’m a gonna go for it. I’m giving a talk! On what? Well, I figured we’d talk about stuff. And things. Like, maybe, a little presentation on Christianist Earth Science textbooks? Or I can do a talk on some of the magnificent geology we’ve got here in the Pacific Northwest, complete with lovely photos and a theme of “See – you can still have a sense of wonder as an atheist!” Maybe you’ve got a different idea for the kind of talk you’d like me to talk, and I may say, “Hey – that’s totally something I can talk about!”

Tell me what you’d like by, oh, say, this Sunday (July 20th). Then I’ll figure out what I’m capable of delivering, and whip it up for ye.

And if the boss doesn’t like it, well, she shoulda woken up long enough to say something.

I’m Back – With a Challenge!

I’ve returned safely home with enough neat new photos of the Oregon and Washington coasts, plus manylots of waterfalls, to keep us busy for ages. And summer field season ain’t even over!

Here’s an image from the final day of the trip, when we scooped up Lockwood and went geotripping along the coast around Newport and Waldport. I’m doing the Vanna thing at the contact between some seriously massive basalt and the Yaquina Formation sedimentary rocks at Seal Rock State Recreation Site.

Image shows me standing under a lip of massive basalt, in front of streaky sandstone rocks that the basalt overlies.

Moi showing off the lovely contact.

What I’ve learnt on this trip is that I’m going to have to invest lotsa time and effort into catching up with the current professional literature. I can’t really speak intelligently or intelligibly about the geology right at this spot – the field guides are ages out of date, and the geologic map I’ve found is also quite old. If any of you know geologists whose study area includes this bit of the coast, and they love to talk people’s ears off about their work, well, send ‘em my way!

Right, here’s another image, and this one has a challenge within it. It’s from Yaquina Head, and it has got a seal. Can you see it?

Image shows a tight cluster of basalt sea stacks. The ones in the background are tall and covered with birds. The ones in the foreground are nearly at water level. A gray seal is lounging on one set of them.

Thar’s a seal in them thar rocks…

Now, I know you’ll be tempted to identify all the twelve trillion birds on the rocks, but I’ll be posting much better photos of those soon, so hold yer horses! You’ve already got severe enough eyestrain from finding that seal!

As a special bonus, here is a totes adorbs photo of B watching a seal. It’s pretending to studiously ignore him in this image, but it had actually been scoping him out for a bit, following him along the shore.

Image shows B looking out into the near-shore waves, where a seal head is visible.

B with Seal

I’m of to die of the heat and take a long-ass nap. I’ll be back with much more geotrippy goodness a bit later!

A Glimpse

Oh, my darlings, I will have so much scenic goodness for you. So so much. And restaurant recommendations. And adorable fuzzy animals. And hawt hawt geology.

But we’ve got one day more, then I have a coma day set aside to recover. So I’ll just tease you a bit.

The lighthouse at Cape Disappointment:

Image shows a green-capped basalt headland with a lighthouse upon it.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Twas overcast, but it was pleasant, and the scenery was certainly not a disappointment. Then we got to see our Suzanne! And little Token, who cannot ever get enough tummy rubs and has a doggy grin for anyone who’ll keep giving ‘em.

Day Two plans went gang aft agley because of Rainier Days, which had filled every hotel within a billion miles of St. Helens, and a storm that Weather.Com apparently could not see coming. So we improvised, and went to Silver Falls State Park instead. People, it utterly did not suck, and you will be amazed.

Image shows moi standing beside a very lovely waterfall which is plunging over a lip of Columbia River Basalt.

Lower South Falls

And then tomorrow, it’s off to the coast with Lockwood. Excellence awaits. I’ll be back in Seattle shortly, and shall show you All the Things.

New at Rosetta Stones: What’s the Big Bang Got to Do with Super Bowl Rings and Geology?

Glad you asked! (If you didn’t ask, just read the title out loud. Hey, thanks for asking!) I’ve got the first part of the answer for you over at Rosetta Stones. This has turned into a mini-series. Also, I had way too much fun making images of the ring with the Seahawks app.

Image shows my fingers holding a piece of citrine against a blue sky. The Seahawks ring is pasted atop it.

The Seahawks Super Bowl ring and a beautiful piece of citrine.

I even made the cat participate:

Image shows Misha lying in bed next to the Seahawks ring.

Misha and the Seahawks ring.

Look, it’s shiny and I can’t help myself.

Alas, I had no place to put this amazing picture of the Moon when it was just a ring around the Earth.

Image shows a molten Earth surrounded by a hot rocky debris ring.

Our Moon before it was even a moon. Image courtesy the American Museum of Natural History.

You can watch a video of it here. And Seed Magazine had a neato article. This space stuff is neat – especially as it relates to geology!

Which Should I Use?

I’ve got an explosive post coming up on Rosetta Stones for ye on Thursday. But I’ll need your help with it, my darlings. I’ve spent all night playing with photo editing programs to create a single illustration. I ended up creating two, and now I can’t decide which is better.

Reader’s choice time!

Is it to be Diagram #1:

Groovy stellar nucleosynthesis diagram wot I made #1

Groovy stellar nucleosynthesis diagram wot I made #1

Or Diagram #2:

Diagram wot I made etc. #2

Diagram wot I made etc. #2

Of course click to embiggen. Then cast your vote!

Image shows three kittens wearing clothes with ballots in paw, lined up to drop them in a ballot box.

Why Fireworks Depend on Geology

America is about to blow up a bunch of stuff for its 238th birthday. I love it! Who doesn’t love fireworks? Well, aside from my childhood dog, who invariably hid under the bed in cowering terror. And people who have had enough of explosions to last them a lifetime. People who don’t like loud bangs. People who are phobic about fire. All right, so there’s a long list of people and other animals and possibly plants who don’t like fireworks. But hopefully most of this audience does, and even if you can’t stand ‘em, perhaps you like geology, chemistry, physics, and pretty colors. Fireworks have got them all.

Fantastic fireworks display, courtesy of Bayasaa on Flickr.

Fantastic fireworks display, courtesy of Bayasaa on Flickr.

Oh, yeah, definitely geology. There’d be no fireworks without geology. Geologist High Maintenance Mom provides a great overview of the science of fireworks, explaining in kid-friendly ways how physics, chemistry and geology combine to create pyrotechnic magic. She’s a great resource to start with if you want to make your trip to see the fireworks show a fun teachable moment for your kids.

    A very gorgeous burst of fireworks by Nigel Howe on Flickr.

A very gorgeous burst of fireworks by Nigel Howe on Flickr.

For a more adult-oriented overview, see this excellent article on Geology.com. Lots of diagrams and nifty information, including this section regarding how geology fits in. Those beautiful colors wouldn’t be there if geologists weren’t finding the minerals that create them:

What Causes the Colors?

Chemistry holds the secrets to the color of a fireworks burst. The colors that you see in the sky are determined by metal salts that are deliberately added in very small amounts to the stars when they are manufactured.

As the stars burn the metal atoms absorb energy, become excited and emit a specific color of light. Some of the metals that produce the colors of fireworks are tabulated here.

Image is a table of colors caused by different metals. Red: strontium, lithium. Orange: calcium. Yellow: sodium. White: magnesium, aluminum. Green: barium. Blue: copper. Purple: a blend of strontium and copper. Silver: titanium, magnesium, aluminum.Go memorize that article so that you can pull a complete geek on your friends. While other people are screaming “Oooo! Ahhhh! Wow!” you can shout, “Titanium! Copper! Strontium!”

Ooo, I know this one! Image courtesy Nigel Howe on Flickr.

Ooo, I know this one! Image courtesy Nigel Howe on Flickr.

Strontium plus copper! Copper! Maybe some sodium!

Speaking of sodium, did you know you can do an awesome flame test using stuff you can pick up at the grocery store? Check out llinois State Museum Geology Online’s “A Burst of Light (pdf)” lesson – this is something you can, with proper precautions, do safely at home or in the classroom. And there’s more information on the minerals and colors in fireworks at this pdf from the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

So take a geology field trip if you’re in the States today and go see a fireworks display. Raise a beer to the geologists whose ability to unearth (ha) minerals made the whole thing possible. And drink a toast to the chemists and physicists and pyromaniacs who also helped.

A golden grand finale. Image courtesy Karen Blaha on Flickr.

A golden grand finale. Image courtesy Karen Blaha on Flickr.

Science: making awesome things awesomer since humans invented it.


Originally published at Scientific American.

New at Rosetta Stones: A Pretty Hawt Post

I’ve resurrected a fun old post from ancient days, and given it a sexy new video. All you fans of volcanic activity, especially the night stuff, should drop by and ogle.

And here’s a little something extra for ye: an amazing classic image of Mont Peleé in eruption by Angelo Heilprin, who was a braver human than I’ll ever manage.

Image shows several people watching a pyroclastic flow.

Image of Mont Pelee in eruption in 1902 by Angelo Heilprin, a geologist whose passion for knowledge told fear to fuck itself. Image courtesy Volcano World.

You should check out that Volcano World article. But only after you get intimate with mine!

Ah, Nature. So Lovely and Gentle: Dinnertime Edition

(Not to reveal the turn before it’s time, but if you’ve got any phobias regarding things with more than six legs and eyes, don’t go below the fold.)

Ah, late spring in the Pacific Northwest! So green and lovely. One thing nice about working in the burbs is that the sidewalks are lined with Nootka roses. You don’t even have to stop to smell ‘em – the heady scent fills the still evening air and swirls around in the eddies caused by your brisk stroll. And yes, you’re strolling briskly rather than ambling, because you’ve only got a fifteen minute break and you want to have a quick visit with the creek before you’re due back.

All right, have I set the scene? Now, imagine you’re bopping along, and you’ve had your look at the creek, and you even have a few minutes left to stop and smell a rose. Only there’s a bee dangling from one.

Image shows a crumpled Nootka rose with a bee dangling by one leg from it.

The bee on the rose.

Now, normally, these little buggers are buzzing around like – well, you know there’s a reason why “busy as a bee” is a cliché. So this is a prime opportunity, and so you unlimber the camera in the soft twilight. And you get to work documenting some bee anatomy.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Bee on rose, extreme close-up.

Poor little sod. You can tell it was busy collecting pollen not long before – see it on the legs, and wings? But you’ve seen those bits of a bee before. It’s harder to get their belly. Heh heh, bee bellies. Let’s see if we can see it.

Image shows my fingers grasping the rose petals, trying to turn the bee a bit.

Trying to turn the bee.

And you’re rather intent on turning your bee without jarring it, so you don’t notice at first exactly why the bee is dangling from the rose in the first place. If only you’d had the advantage of a cropped image and hindsight…

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

Crop of the previous image. Note the tell-tale strands clutching that pathetic little leg, and the busy white body at top.

And just as you’re about to get your best shot ever of a bee-belly, along comes the spider that caught it to see what you’re up to with its dinner.

Image shows a wee white spider with an orange streak on its body coming down from the top of the rose to see what's up with the bee.

Along came the spider…

People talk a lot about being more in tune with nature, being more natural, emulating nature, that sorta thing. And for a long time now, I’ve been thinking, but we’re already all that. I mean, seriously. If someone was rummaging around in your pantry, molesting your dinner, you’d come down to see what was going on, right?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn't it precious?

Crop of the previous image, so you can see that magnificent little thing up close. Isn’t it precious?

And you’d check on the food, yeah?

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

The spider gives its bee a close inspection.

And then, having ascertained that all is well, you’d wander back upstairs to continue whetting your appetite, amirite?

So. Lovely. That’s nature, then, critters paralyzing critters and saving them for later munching, beauty turned to sinister (from the bee’s perspective) purpose. And that’s us. We do this, too, you know: prey on other critters, use beautiful things to help satisfy our more pragmatic needs. The unnatural thing about us, I think, is that we don’t realize we’re emulating nature all the time, whether we’re doing beautiful, gentle things or really gross and brutal things.

So I swear to you, the next time someone tells me I should take a cue from the natural world or emulate nature or some such fluffy nonsense, Ima ask them if that includes eating something several times my own size. Raw.

I’m not very nice sometimes.

As for the bee belly, don’t worry. We got it.

Image shows the bee on its back on the rose.  It's not as exciting as you might expect...

A little bee belleh for my loyal readers. Kinda looks like it’s about to recite Shakespeare, dunnit?


Cryptopod: Wee Green Wriggly

There’s a mostly-empty parking lot next door to ye olde day job place, where B & I take a quick walk on breaks sometimes. You’d think parking lots would be rather stark and boring to walk through, but this is a richly-landscaped one, and so there are pretty trees and bushes and things. Sometimes there are wee little living things, like this very tiny caterpillar who was absolutely determined to cross that blacktop desert and reach the insect equivalent of Utopia.

Image shows a tiny green caterpillar on asphalt.

Cryptopod I

Alas, rapid movement and twilight aren’t great for photography, but we had a merry old time watching the little green bugger wriggle its way toward luscious, lovely leaves.

Image shows a tiny green caterpillar on asphalt.

Cryptopod II

So shiny and green! I remember ‘pillars much like this one from my childhood in Arizona. Watching them navigate the leaves and stems on their chosen weed, coaxing them to crawl round on me hand, trying to figure out how they function… they provided hours of entertainment. Shame about what they did to my mother’s tomato plants.

Ah, well. Not being a gardener, I can still take some childish pleasure in ‘em. Hopefully most of you can, too!