Courtesy Mark RyanA new and troubling paper from the Committee on Understanding and Monitoring Abrupt Climate Change and its Impacts predicts possible and somewhat grim outcomes for some of Earth's natural systems from climate change that could rival the extinction event of the non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago.
The abrupt impact could be coming faster than previously expected and would negatively affect human and physical climate systems as well. The document warns that the abruptness of the changes could be unanticipated and could find us unprepared to deal with them
Records of past climate preserved in tree rings, ice cores, and ocean sediments show that the atmosphere contains higher levels of carbon dioxide than it has in a very long time. Carbon emissions from human activity continue to add to this rising concentration. Other activities including deforestation and resource extraction place additional environmental pressures on our climate and other natural systems.
At the end of the Cretaceous, all species of non-avian dinosaurs, along with the megafauna of flying and swimming reptiles were wiped off the face of the Earth. Many dinosaur species showed signs of decline even before the Chicxlub asteroid delivered the final kibosh on their existence.
Dr. James W.C. White, a professor of Geological Sciences and of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder chaired the committee which included more than a dozen earth scientists and ocean researchers from universities in both Canada and the United States, and from the National Academy of Science.
A prepublication copy of the entire 201-page paper is available to read without charge on the National Academies Press page. You can also download it for free although it was a little tricky getting it to my computer.
Ever since I was a kid I've loved playing with magnets. They're just so amazing! Remember those nifty, magnetic Scottie Dogs you could buy? Often one was black and the other was white but sometimes they were the same color. You could set them up on the table and push one away with the other until the loose one flipped around and the two joined together with a dull snap. Or how about using a magnet underneath the table to move a paperclip around the tabletop? That was always fun. I still like playing with magnets. When I worked in the Dino and Fossils gallery here at the museum, I carried a magnet with me and would demonstrate the magnetic properties of iron ore, especially the very magnetic mineral, magnetite.
I've been watching some videos lately about magnets and magnetism, and an oddball magnetic liquid called ferrofluid, which you can make in your kitchen. Anyway, I've gathered some videos here to share with our Buzz audience. The first (above) is about the strongest magnet in the world! The next is a levitation demonstration using neodymium magnets, followed by a couple videos utilizing ferrofluid, and ending with instructions on how to make your own at home.
Courtesy Mark RyanIt's Earth Science Week and this year's celebration centers around maps and mapping and their importance in geology and other earth sciences. Then on Saturday, October 19th from 1-4pm, the Science Museum of Minnesota is celebrating National Fossil Day with some special fossil-related exhibits throughout the museum. This year's theme is Paleozoic life, which is exactly the types of fossils commonly found in the southern half of Minnesota. Unfortunately, the official National Fossil Day website is closed due to the US government shutdown that continues, but that shouldn't stop anyone from celebrating fossils. Join us Saturday for some fossil fun.
Courtesy Wikimedia - en:User:Fir0002Eden Steven, a physicist at Florida State University is developing ways to possibly conduct electricity using spider webs and carbon nanotubes.
A carbon nanotube is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon that’s been rolled into a tube. A nanotube’s diameter is at least 10,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair. Carbon nanotubes are strong and have been found to conduct electricity and heat.
Florida State University reports Steven used just a drop of water to attach powdery carbon nanotubes onto spider silk. He gathered the spider silk himself, using a stick to gather webs outside his lab.
The experiment has drawn much national attention. “It turns out that this high-grade, remarkable material has many functions,” Steven said of the silk coated in carbon nanotubes. “It can be used as a humidity sensor, a strain sensor, an actuator (a device that acts as an artificial muscle, for lifting weights and more) and as an electrical wire.”
Steven wanted to investigate eco-friendly materials and was especially interested in materials that could deal with humidity without complicated treatments and chemical additives.
“Understanding the compatibility between spider silk and conducting materials is essential to advance the use of spider silk in electronic applications,” Steven wrote in the online research journal Nature Communications. “Spider silk is tough, but becomes soft when exposed to water. … The nanotubes adhere uniformly and bond to the silk fiber surface to produce tough, custom-shaped, flexible and electrically conducting fibers after drying and contraction.”
To learn more about Eden Steven's work visit:
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A long-buried, underwater forest of Cypress trees was recently discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. The forest, estimated to be about 50,000 years old, was once buried under tons of sediment, heading toward possible fossilization, until the natural forces (most likely 2005's Hurricane Katrina) riled up the Gulf Coast waters and uncovered it again. Hundreds of stumps and fallen logs - some huge - covering 1.3 square kilometers can now be seen in 60 feet of water, 10 miles off the coast of Alabama. The Cypress forest once populated the area around the Mobile-Tensaw Delta when the Gulf's coastline was farther south, and the water level was 120 feet lower than it is today. As the climate began to warm, rising sea levels eventually drowned the forest. The trees all died but oxidation and decomposition were halted as a constant rain of delta silt covered the forest for thousands of years. When cut, the well-preserved wood still smells as fresh as living Cypress, but now that the forest has been uncovered again, wood-boring marine animals are back at work tearing it down.
This amazing video from NASA (via EarthSky) shows an incredibly gigantic eruption on the Sun's surface that produced three different types of events: a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and a really interesting and rare phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Coronal rain occurs when hot plasma in the eruption cools and condenses then follows the outline of the normally invisible magnetic fields as it rains back to the Sun's chromosphere. I found that particularly amazing to see.
The images were gathered on July 19, 2012 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. One frame was shot every 12 seconds over a span of 21.5 hours from 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT. The video plays at a rate of 30 frames per second, so each second equals 6 minutes of real time.
What's extra cool is when the scale of this thing is compared to the size of Earth. If you were feeling small earlier today, you should be feeling microscopic after watching this.
Rituals come in all forms and are celebrated by humans the world over. Some rituals are considered more well known than others.
In fact some are even brought into the main stream whereby they are given universal acknowledgement. The rituals that involve fire are the most prominent. The first famous fire ritual would probably have to be that which surrounds the Olympic flame. This is a flame which has been ceremonially lit every four years for the last 2000 years. This is one of the reasons it is referred to as the “Eternal Flame”. This is not a ritual that is confined to a few, but rather the whole planet as we have just witnessed from the recent London 2012 games as well as the great games that have gone before.
The “Mrapen” eternal flame located in Indonesia, is a very famous naturally occurring flame which emerged from the earth. The flame is mystical in its nature and occurred as gas was ignited by the fire hundreds of years ago. There is historical evidence that the flame has been burning at least since the 15th century. It’s a flame that never goes out despite the ravages of wind and rain. Considered sacred, it is used as part of an annual Buddhist ceremony called “Waisak”. It has even been used as a torch relay flame for some Indonesian sports events.
Another flame we can point to is the one located in Turkmenistan which is aptly nicknamed “The Gates of Hell”. This flame is more of a fiery inferno than a flame since it is 38 feet wide and has been on fire for over 38 years. It is known as the Darvaza Gas Crater. This is no natural occurrence but rather a result of a 1971 Russian industrial accident. After a drilling rig dug a little too far, it culminated in the release of poisonous gases. It was set alight in order to prevent an environmental leak – with the belief being that it would burn off soon. This created a continuous fire.
Many eternal flames will be pivotal to rituals and religions across the world. The Jewish faith uses the flame as part of a ritual which occurred at the Tabernacle and now the Jerusalem Temple. It was part of a commandment that a fire should burn continously at the Outer Altar. In modern times we can see reference to the eternal flame in the form of “sanctuary lamps”which are kept in the synagogues across the world. Flames will continue to be used as a symbol of respect and sacredness as it is the only element that can convey such feelings with force and illumination.
This look at this bizarre and wonderful natural phenomenon was sent to us by wildlife and nature enthusiasts Chessington Holidays. Which phenomena make your jaw drop? Has any fire burned longer than the Mrapen?
Courtesy Mark RyanWhat a difference a year can make. The water levels of the Mississippi River this year are at their lowest on record, yet just last year, in the spring of 2011, extreme flooding of Ol’ Muddy was a source of deep concern for those living along its eroding banks.
NASA’s Earth Observatory page shows the striking difference in the river’s appearance near Memphis using two Landsat satellite images taken a year apart. One photograph shows the river in August of 2011 just after the river returned to its pre-flood levels. But if you compare it to a more recent image, its obvious that water levels have gone the opposite direction from flooding. The site conveniently allows you to combine the two views into a single image with a scroll bar you can manipulate back and forth over to see “then and now” differences (just click on the "View Image Comparison" button below the photos).
The lower levels of 2012 have allowed the US Army Corp of Engineers to patch and reinforce some of the levees built along the river to hold back flood waters, but tons of sediment from last year’s floods have reshaped river traffic corridors, reducing barge holding capacities and adding additional shipping costs.
Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia This cool evolution timeline is really fascinating and fun to mess around with. I'm guessing Charles Darwin would agree it's a vast improvement over the one that appeared in Punch Almanac in1882 when he was still alive (see image at right). This new one was created by John Kyrk, a biology-trained artist in San Francisco in collaboration with Dr. Uzay Sezen, a plant biologist from the University of Georgia. The timeline is available in several languages and would be very useful in a classroom setting when studying evolution and paleontology.
The site is interactive and follows the evolution of our universe from the Big Bang to the present. You start it by clicking and sliding the red pyramid on the right. As you scroll across the timeline, various events in the history of the Universe, Solar System and ultimately, the Earth show up on the screen. All along, links also appear that either explain concepts or show examples of them. In the upper left hand corner is a menu linking you to several corollary Flash animations by Kyrk explaining cell biology and how RNA, DNA, cells, water, and other basic elements of life (including viruses) operate. Kyrk thinks animated illustrations are very useful in teaching and remembering ideas and concepts.
All the phases of Earth’s formation and development are covered in the evolution timeline, including the Late Heavy Bombardment, Snowball Earth, Cambrian Explosion, stromatolites, photosynthesis and iron formation. Once life begins to rise up, your computer screen will run amok with Earth’s diverse species populations from the one-celled animals, trilobites and fish to amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs and mammals – the whole shooting match. All the major extinction events are shown, too.
The site also contains a link to this YouTube video version of someone else working the timeline so you can just sit back and watch how it happens, But I recommend working the interactive page yourself. A lot more happens and is available than the video allows you to see. Note that you’ll need Flash for it to run on your computer.
I wonder how Darwin would have reacted if he were able to see his theory illustrated in this way?
The title is a quote by electronic music composer Edgard Varèse. It is a quote that I recently took to heart as a composer myself. Unfortunately, I am typically separated from the science field, as I focus on my musical endeavors. In an effort to rectify this, I have recently begun a series of audiovisual works that marry the two fields. This blog seems like the perfect environment to showcase my work to date.
The piece I am advocating for here is called Ferrous, which showcases the unique properties of ferrofluid. This liquid contains microscopic magnetic particles, which will react to any external magnetic field. By introducing a magnet, we can see the fluid take the shape of the magnetic field lines emanating from that magnet. In this piece, all of the magnets are manipulated below the ferrofluid, but their shape and movement remains clear as the liquid mimics them. I used four different magnets of varying shapes and strengths to showcase the liquid’s wide range of visual possibilities. The visuals are further enhanced by the brilliant gold colors that reflect off of the ferrofluid-stained aluminum foil container.
All of the audio is derived from two sources that embody the materials used in the piece. One was sloshing liquid, which represents the fluid aspects of ferrofluid; the other was metal banging on metal, which represents the solid aspects (i.e. when the magnets are interacting with the iron in the ferrofluid). These sounds are then filtered in many different ways (i.e. delay, pitch shift, distortion, time expansion and compression, etc.) to create the final score. I gave each magnet their own musical character by designating particular filters for each one. For example, the bar magnets in the middle of the piece use a lot of quick pitch shifting to underscore the variety of visual effects they can create, while the round magnet at the end makes great use of delay as a driving rhythmic force, as well as distortion to underscore its sheer magnetic power.
Working on this project has been an amazing experience for me so far. Science is just full of so much inherent beauty and I already have a few ideas for other videos like this in the near future. I would love to hear your responses to this video and any thoughts for this project going forward. But for now, enjoy!