Cool free stuff

I’ve mentioned the Earthviewer app from HHMI before: think of it as a bit like Google Earth, only you can dial it back to any period in the planet’s history. There have been a couple of developments: it’s also available for Android, and it’s added some new features, including tracking for major fossils. So now you can see the long strange journey of Tiktaalik’s bones on the screen.

They’re also making available a lovely big poster of earth’s history. This year, we here at UMM are putting together a teacher training program to be implemented in the summer of 2015, and it’s going to be a lot of work for us — but I’m realizing that HHMI has already done a lot of material preparation that will help a great deal.

I’ve been known to moan in chagrin over all the multimedia garbage that Answers in Genesis provides to corrupt education in this country — you can just pop into AiG’s website and download lesson plans and powerpoint slides to teach creationism. But now HHMI makes them look feeble as well as wrong.

California’s largest lake is doomed

The Salton Sea with Mount San Jacinto in the background

The Salton Sea with Mount San Jacinto in the background — CC photo

A week ago today a good-sized storm blew into Southern California’s desert off the Sea of Cortez, a.k.a. the Gulf of California. In the Salton Basin (a.k.a. the Salton Trough) north of the Gulf winds averaged 40 mph or so, with gusts above 60. The Salton Sea fills the lowest part of the Salton Basin and the winds churned that water, roiled up its murky, anaerobic depths, and released a cloud of stench, mostly hydrogen sulfide, into the air. People who’ve lived in the Basin are used to that smell, but last weekend the wind off the Sea of Cortez picked up that mixed hydrogen sulfide cocktail and blew it to Los Angeles. On Monday, air quality management districts got complaint calls from residents of Simi Valley, almost 200 miles from the Salton Sea.

It took a day or so before everyone agreed that the Salton Sea was to blame for the stench, and now a few more people are aware of the fact that it’s in trouble. There are plans to “fix” the Sea that would cost several billion dollars, which is getting no traction at all in Sacramento given rabid anti-tax sentiment in California. But “fixing” the Sea in the long term is futile, and the reason involves the Colorado River, plate tectonics, and — possibly — the Grand Canyon.

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Who are you going to believe? The geologist or the professional pageant contestant?

I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and I am horribly biased — it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. So I quite like Dana Hunter’s tour of the geology of a subduction zone. It’s a perspective with which I’m unfamiliar, focused as I usually am on complex shorelines and soothing rain showers and slugs and salmon.

And then I learn that the recently crowned Miss Seattle, a carpetbagger from Arizona, hates the place.

Ew, I’m seriously hating seattle right now Take me back to az! Ugh can’t stand cold rainy Seattle and the annoying people.

I say run her out of town on a rail and hand the tiara over to Dana.

A different view of Las Vegas

I’ve been to Las Vegas several times, but every time I’ve spent all my time inside a building, usually a noisy casino. Not this time! I made a hike out to Red Rocks, a very lovely place.

That’s a blurry Vegas off in the distance on the top left, if you were wondering.