Category Archives: Nature

Heavens above. . .and the lightning below


Two videos from a heavenly perspective.

First up, a remarkable ultra-high definition video of the Sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — and you can watch in full 2160p resolution if your screen is capable, simply by selecting the resolution by clicking on the little gear wheel [lesser resolutions are also available, including the 1080p we watched.

From NASA Goddard:

NASA | Thermonuclear Art – The Sun In Ultra-HD [4K]

Program notes:

It’s always shining, always ablaze with light and energy that drive weather, biology and more. In addition to keeping life alive on Earth, the sun also sends out a constant flow of particles called the solar wind, and it occasionally erupts with giant clouds of solar material, called coronal mass ejections, or explosions of X-rays called solar flares. These events can rattle our space environment out to the very edges of our solar system. In space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video, we experience SDO images of the sun in unprecedented detail. Presented in ultra-high definition, the video presents the dance of the ultra-hot material on our life-giving star in extraordinary detail, offering an intimate view of the grand forces of the solar system.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Music tracks in the order they appear from the album Deep Venture

7-Northern Stargazer
9-Negative Thermal Expansion
13-Photophore
6-Osedax
12-Retroreflector

All tracks are written and produced by Lars Leonhard

And from the fireworks of our nearest we go to a look at the Earth below, albeit from a heavenly perspective.

From Britain’s ODN comes a look at some spectacular though more down-to-earth pyrotechnics with resolutions up to 720p:

Tim Peake shares amazing time lapse of lightning striking Earth from space

Program notes:

British astronaut Tim Peake shared a time lapse from the International Space Station showing lightning striking Earth. . Report by Lydia Batham.

Heavens above!: Visualizing gravity waves


From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day:

BLOG GRAV

LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes
Illustration Credit: LIGO, NSF, Aurore Simonnet (Sonoma State U.)

Explanation: Gravitational radiation has been directly detected. The first-ever detection was made by both facilities of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Washington and Louisiana simultaneously last September. After numerous consistency checks, the resulting 5-sigma discovery was published today. The measured gravitational waves match those expected from two large black holes merging after a death spiral in a distant galaxy, with the resulting new black hole momentarily vibrating in a rapid ringdown. A phenomenon predicted by Einstein, the historic discovery confirms a cornerstone of humanity’s understanding of gravity and basic physics. It is also the most direct detection of black holes ever. The featured illustration depicts the two merging black holes with the signal strength of the two detectors over 0.3 seconds superimposed across the bottom. Expected future detections by Advanced LIGO and other gravitational wave detectors may not only confirm the spectacular nature of this measurement but hold tremendous promise of giving humanity a new way to see and explore our universe.

Headline of the day: A century later, Einstein scores


From the Independent:

Gravitational waves announcement: Scientists confirm detection of ripples in spacetime

  • Scientists say that the discovery is the biggest of the century — far more important than that of the Higgs boson
  • Gravitational ripples in the fabric of spacetime, first predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, have now been detected by scientists who believe the discovery opens new vistas into the “dark” side of the Universe

UPDATE: RT has posted a video of the full press conference announcing the discovery here.

DroughtWatch: A tiny part of Cal is drought-free


The latest report from the United States Drought Monitor charts continued declines on California’s drought categories, and for the first time in weeks, a small part of the state in the extreme Northwest [0.22 percent] is no longer in any stage of drought, while the worst category [Exceptional Drought] has dropped by 0.93 percent, the second worst [Extreme Drought] has dropped 2.5 percent, Severe Drought by 4.31 percent, Moderate Drought by 0.49 percent, and the lowest level, Abonormaly Dry, has dropped by that 0.22 percent:

BLOG Drought

Jerry Brown completes his corporate sellout


In California the Democratic Party has usually sided with the forces of corporate development, even while hiding behind the pretense that their efforts are all for the common good rather than private profit.

Here in Berkeley, that facade is embodied by Mayor Tom Bates, who built his career on the blue side of the state legislature, then, when forced out by term limits, found his calling as the developer’s friend here in Berkeley.

Bates has run an administration under which he and his allies have purged city boards and commissions of those who either called for restraint or insisted that the city follow its own ordinances and demand that builders of apartments and condos build fixed quotas of units for low-income tenants.

On countless occasions while covered land use politics for the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, the saw the city council and the planning and zoning board grant exemptions allowing builders to cut the quotas and substitute funds which wouldn’t begin to cover the actual costs of replacements.

As a result, the city’s poorer residents, many of them people of color, are being driven out, their residences turned over to one percenters and those who aspire to joining their ranks.

Bates and his friends have profited handsomely for their actions, with folks from the development and real estate industries providing the lion’s share of their campaign contributions, as we documented in numerous reports.

And when a specially appointed commission created to propose a new downtown plan came up with proposals that didn’t hand over the keys to developers, Bates and his allies simply tossed it out.

City staff have done well, too. Two of the biggest projects in decades are being headed by the city’s former land use planning manager, who spun through the revolving door with a platinum handshake awaiting him on the other side.

Another Democrat, Jerry Brown stormed onto the scene [albeit with a little help from some shady folks] back in the 1970s, loudly proclaiming himself an apostle of British economist E.F. Schumacher, whose seminal work, Small is Beautiful: A study of Economics as if People Mattered, argued that development needed to be restrained, the environment preserved, and community values nurtured.

Brown’s devotion to Schumacher began to wavered, in large part because his then-girlfriend met with a rebuff from the California Coastal Commission, agency created to protect the natural wonder that is the Golden State’s coastline.

Brown declared the commissioners were nothing less than “bureaucratic thugs” for denying a permit to Linda Ronstadt to expand her Malibu home.

More from the New York Times:

The commission was voted into existence under California’s ballot proposition system in 1972, and it was made permanent when Mr. Brown signed the California Coastal Act of 1976 during his first of two consecutive terms as governor.

But he grew critical of the commission in the late 1970s after it denied an application by the singer Linda Ronstadt, Mr. Brown’s girlfriend at the time, for work on her home in Malibu. Mr. Brown was elected governor again in 2010 and 2014.

And now, with Brown back in the governor’s office four decades later, he’s sitting back contentedly as his now pro-development commission fires its executive director, a man who scrupulously followed the commission’s enabling ordinance and its charge to protect the coastline from rapacious speculators.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The California Coastal Commission’s decision late Wednesday to fire its executive director, Charles Lester, after closed-door deliberations sparked outrage by environmentalists and is expected to leave deep divisions.

Many of the more than 100 Lester supporters awaiting the decision broke into tears or reacted angrily.

During an emotional meeting before the vote, many speakers warned that replacing Lester would send a powerful signal to staff to be more accommodating to development.

“It’s disgraceful that the commissioners voted in secret to fire Dr. Lester,” Steve Jones, oceans communications specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a written statement. “This isn’t over.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Jack Ohman precisely captures the moment in an offering he titled “The Lifeguard”:

BLOG Ohman

So much for Small is Beautiful.

So if you haven’t seen the California coast yet, come quick, before you view is blocked by an endless sprawl of condos.

At least until they’re either leveled by the Big One or drowned beneath rising seas.

And now for something completely different. . .


Love a good conversation? You know, one in which two people approach each other with respect and talk about the things that give meaning to their lives?

If so, then you’ll enjoy this meeting of two minds, one a highly respected essayist and novelist, the other a classically trained musician.

There’s a natural affinity between musicians and writers, or at least that’s been the case in our own experience. Both mine the world for experience, then interpret what they discover through their own inner creativity, working with the tools of the respective callings.

In this video from University of California Television, the conversation is between Steven Schick, Distinguished Professor of Music and holder of the Reed Family Presidential Chair at the University of California, San Diego, and essayist, author, and short-story writer Barry Lopez, who has held teaching appointments at several leading universities:

Music and Nature: Barry Lopez and Steve Schick — Helen Edison Lecture Series

Program notes:

National Book Award-Winning author and environmentalist Barry Lopez joins UC San Diego’s Steve Schick, a world-renowned percussionist, to explore the intersection of music, words and the natural world.

Lopez’s description of the writing process, from the initial process of selection and immersion in the subject of the world to the act of setting the words down on paper [a process greatly enhanced by music], brought repeated smiles of our lips.

Sit back, pour a nice glass of red, and enjoy. . .

Chart of the day II: Marine life climate threats


Overall climate vulnerability score — Overall climate vulnerability is denoted by color: low [green], moderate [yellow], high [orange], and very high [red]. Certainty in score is denoted by text font and text color: very high certainty [>95%, black, bold font], high certainty [90–95%, black, italic font], moderate certainty [66–90%, white or gray, bold font], low certainty [<66%, white or gray, italic font].

Overall climate vulnerability score — Overall climate vulnerability is denoted by color: low [green], moderate [yellow], high [orange], and very high [red]. Certainty in score is denoted by text font and text color: very high certainty [>95%, black, bold font], high certainty [90–95%, black, italic font], moderate certainty [66–90%, white or gray, bold font], low certainty [<66%, white or gray, italic font].

From A Vulnerability Assessment of Fish and Invertebrates to Climate Change on the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf, a major study of the impact of climate change on the continental shelf along the Northeast United States from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina through the Gulf of Maine conducted by a team of 24 federal scientists and published in the open access journal PLOS One.

The authors note:

Here we conduct a climate vulnerability assessment on 82 fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast U.S. Shelf including exploited, forage, and protected species. We define climate vulnerability as the extent to which abundance or productivity of a species in the region could be impacted by climate change and decadal variability. We find that the overall climate vulnerability is high to very high for approximately half the species assessed; diadromous and benthic invertebrate species exhibit the greatest vulnerability. In addition, the majority of species included in the assessment have a high potential for a change in distribution in response to projected changes in climate. Negative effects of climate change are expected for approximately half of the species assessed, but some species are expected to be positively affected (e.g., increase in productivity or move into the region).