Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.
The Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service has released a new short-term forecast for the Mississippi River at downtown St. Paul. (There's still too much uncertainty in the models to make a new crest prediction for the area.) We should see the river rise above flood stage by midday on Thursday, 3/24.
Courtesy National Weather Service
Click on the image for a larger view.
The remaining 50 emergency workers were pulled from the Fukushima Daiichi plant tonight for an hour or so due to a spike in radiation levels. (They're back in, now. For more on just how much radioactivity nuclear operators can be exposed to, read this NYTimes article.) The disaster is now rated a 6 on the 7-point scale. Three Mile Island was a 5; Chernobyl was a 7. 200,000 people within a 12 mile radius of the power plant have been evacuated. Another 140,000 people within a 20 mile radius of the area have been told to stay inside, and a 19 mile no-fly zone has been imposed over the plant. The only good news tonight seems to be that the winds are blowing out to sea, helping to disperse the radiation away from populated areas.
This MSNBC update also includes a good infographic about how much radiation people are generally exposed to.
The Washington Post has a good interactive feature that sums up the crisis.
More in the morning...
UPDATE: Here's an updated video showing the terrifying force of the tsunami that swept across the Japanese city of Sendai. It's not just an unstoppable wave; it's a juggernaut of debris.
Courtesy USGSA monster earthquake hit northern Japan today at 2:46pm local time (11:46pm CST) causing tremendous damage including the triggering of a deadly and devastating tsunami. The images of destruction coming out of the country are both stunning and heartbreaking. Early reports say a 30-foot wave slammed into the city of Sendai washing away houses, cars and other debris – some of it in flames. The city is located about 80 miles from the quake’s epicenter and has a population of over 1 million people. According to the USGS Earthquake site the tremblor occurred at a depth of about 15 miles. The initial shaking is reported to have lasted two minutes, and has been followed by several strong aftershocks. It’s the most powerful quake to hit Japan in 140 years, and there are already reports of 200-300 deaths. But unfortunately that will more than likely rise as time goes on and reports are updated. Tsunami warnings have been issued across much of the Pacific Rim and also Russia. Seven foot waves have already hit Hawaii.
Courtesy USGSA strong earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand toppling several buildings and killing an undetermined number of people. According to the US Geological Survey the magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred at a depth of 3.1 miles near Christchurch, which is New Zealand's second largest city. The quake struck on Tuesday at 12:51PM local time (6:51PM Monday EST), followed by several strong aftershocks. The city's population of 350,00 has been recovering from a similar quake that struck last September 4th.
Courtesy Public domainToday marks the birthday of naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, born February 12, 1809. Darwin's most important work On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, and laid out his theory of evolution through natural selection. The publication caused an uproar in religious circles at the time, because evolution went against the prevailing biblical notion that all life on earth had come into existence in whole form rather than evolved.
If you'd like to learn more about Darwin's accomplishments, what better way to do so on his birthday than to read his obituary that appeared in the April 29, 1882 issue of Scientific American. Happy birthday, Mr. Darwin!
Darwin's obituary as pdf.
Courtesy Mark RyanAs I've admitted before in these pages, I'm a big, big fan of the history of paleontology, especially that involving the infamous "Bone Wars" that took place in the American West during the 19th century. So I was real happy to hear that PBS is running a segment on its American Experience series tonight titled Dinosaur Wars. It's all about that legendary feud between paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. Several of the dinosaurs seen here at the Science Museum of Minnesota (and elsewhere) were first discovered and named by these two scientists as they raced to outdo each other in collecting and naming fossils. The show is scheduled for 8pm tonight (here in the Twin Cities), but as usual check your local listings for exact times in your area. If you can't wait until then or can't watch tonight, Rebecca Hunt-Foster over at Dinochick Blogs, gives a nice, lengthy synopsis of the program's content.
From the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology website:
"Dr. Alfred Sherwood Romer (1894 -1973) was the leading contributor to the discipline of vertebrate paleontology throughout the 20th century. He was founder and first president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. His text book “Vertebrate Paleontology,” published in three editions from 1933 to 1966, set the standards of excellence for anatomical investigation, systematic analysis and evolutionary understanding that continue to form the basis for our discipline.
He was a superb educator at all levels: public presentations, classroom lectures, and supervisor of more than 25 graduate students. These professional descendants, now extending into the 4th or 5th generation, are a living legacy of his contributions and aspirations. He integrated and promoted the study of vertebrate paleontology to a degree that may never be equaled, as well as being a model for professional colleagues and friends. His enthusiasm for the discipline and life in general was always evident and contagious, always with a human touch and a great sense of humor. "
I still have the copy of Romer's Vertebrate Paleontology my folks bought me for Christmas in 1966.
Courtesy Mark RyanToday marks the birthday of Arthur Lakes (1844-1917), a geologist, artist, and teacher who discovered some of the first dinosaur remains in the western United States. During the spring of 1877, Lakes was out measuring rock formations above Morrison, Colorado when he and companion John Beckwith stumbled upon the huge fossilized bones of dinosaurs. When Lakes sent samples to Yale paleontologist Othniel Marsh, it started the great western bone rush that would soon escalate into the infamous Bone Wars between Marsh and his arch-rival Edward Drinker Cope. While in Marsh's employ, Lakes created several iconic watercolor paintings of the diggings that occurred in Morrison, and later at Como Bluff in Wyoming. You can read more about Lakes in a post I made last year on his birthday.
Courtesy Public domainSir Richard Owen, Victorian-era anatomist and paleontologist best remembered for first coining the term "Dinosauria" in 1842. The word, which translates to "terrible lizard" (or the punchier, I think, "fearfully-great lizard") placed the prehistoric reptiles into their own taxon.
Courtesy Mark RyanOwen later headed the natural history collections at the British Museum, and, in the early 1850s, along with sculpture Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, created the first public (and now outmoded) models of dinosaurs. The life-size sculptures that can still be seen today at Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham, London. Owen died December 18, 1892.