April 22, 2010
Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has had all the attention lately, but a much bigger and meaner eruption might be around the corner from its cousin, Katla. This beast almost always erupts around the same time as Eyjafjallajokull, and geologists don’t expect this eruption to be any different. Katla is actually connected to Eyjafjallajokull underground via a common magma chamber, thus the connected eruptions. The main concern is that the ash plume will be even bigger than Eyjafjallajokull’s and will cause even more air travel problems. Another major concern is the fact that Katla is underneath a huge glacier. When 2,000 degree lava comes into contact with that much ice, you’re bound to have major flooding, and history has shown that indeed Katla’s eruptions have caused flooding problems for Icelanders. In fact, I’d say the only thing Katla has on Eyjafjallajokull is that its name is hella shorter and easier to pronounce/spell. (Via Daily Galaxy)
I’m sure you’ve already seen plenty of Iceland volcano photos since it’s been so prevalent in the news lately, but I must share this link: Live Science has a really nice gallery of volcanic lightning images that are simply breathtaking. All of them are of the recent Eyjafjallajokull eruption.
The US Military is not generally known for being environmentally-friendly… let’s face it, they blow up things, destroying not only buildings but also the land, not to mention releasing tons of toxic smoke and gases from the explosives. However, the Navy is trying to at least make a dent in their carbon footprint by adopting renewable fuels for their fighter jets, and eventually all other fuel-consuming vehicles/ships/aircraft as well. They’re about to test a new Camelina-based biofuel for the first time in an F/A 18 Hornet fighter. These are the same types of jets flown by the famous aerobatics demo team the Blue Angels. It’s pleasantly surprising to see the military taking such important steps in the right direction. (Via EcoGeek/National Geographic)
In other news- I now have more homebrew for your drinking pleasure, if interested. It’s a hefeweizen from an ingredient kit. I plan for this this be my last kit brew. I feel confident enough now to start using/tweaking online recipes, buying the ingredients separately and creating some brews that can be truly called “my own creations.” I’m actually about to start on a Belgian blonde ale. This hefeweizen, though, is just a simple straight-up wheat beer. It’s not a Belgian style (no orange peels or corriander) so it won’t taste like Blue Moon, and it doesn’t use any funky yeast strains or spicing to produce fruity flavors (such as Yazoo’s hefe, which has a distinct banana nose to it). It’s actually a very middle-of-the-road, normal-tasting wheat beer. If you want any, you know how to get in touch with me.
August 5, 2009
NASA is assembling the Ares I-X rocket currently in the the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kenndey Space Center. This rocket is a test version for the Ares I which, under the current plan, will eventually take astronauts to the ISS and moon. They plan to do the test flight on Oct. 31st of this year. However, Obama’s Augustine Commission is currently reviewing the direction of NASA and could come out with a report that recommends scrapping the Ares rockets in favor of retro-fitting the space shuttle’s external fuel tank/SRB assembly to work with the new Orion Crew Vehicle. (I’ve posted about this before.) I’d say the test will happen regardless of the Augustine Commission’s recommendations, and furthermore I’d speculate that their findings will be somewhat dependent on the results of this test flight. Either way, it’ll be cool to see what happens. (Via Universe Today)
It’s unfortunate that most really big advances and breakthroughs in science are the result of military initiatives. (See: THE INTERNET) A scientist can ask the government for money to research a technology that could greatly improve the lives of everyone, but as soon as he/she mentions that the technology could have military applications, their chance of getting said money goes up exponentially. Such is the case with one of the most mysterious facilities ever to be built. No, I’m not talking about Area 51, I’m talking about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) in Alaska. This thing is literally capable of creating its own miniature aurora in the sky. It’s a 3.6 megawatt antenna array aimed directly into the sky, and its purpose is to turn the ionosphere (a layer at the top of the atmosphere full of charged particles) into a giant low frequency antenna. I think the intent of the scientists behind this project is good, but the facility has fueled tons of conspiracy theories. Some even say it is responsible for Hurricane Katrina. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know exactly how ultra low frequency radio waves can affect the weather, but I do know that something powerful enough to blast the ionosphere and create a mini-aurora is pretty awesome, and the scientific knowledge that can be gained from such experiments is well-worth the evils of military application. The main military application in this case is the penetrating power of those ultra-low frequency radio waves generated by the ionosphere. Those waves could be used to detect underground bunkers and communicate with submarines deep in the ocean. Other radio waves are quickly absorbed by just a few feet of water or land, but these high-powered, low frequency waves have much more penetrating ability. I suggest reading this well written article on Wired about HAARP for more info if you’re interested. Here’s what the antenna array looks like:
South Park may have pulled off the impossible: putting Kayne West’s ego in check. This Billboard.com article reports that last Wednesday’s episode “skewered the famously self-important rapper… painting him as a narcissistic figure so out of touch with reality he couldn’t even take a (very politically incorrect) joke.” Well done, South Park. Check out Kayne’s blog post here.
Stephen Colbert is a smart guy. The most brilliant thing he’s done recently is rally his fans to vote on an open NASA poll for the name of their next node to be added to the International Space Station. They had some suggestions- Serenity, Earthrise, etc… very typical-sounding names for stuff like that. But they had an write-in option, which Colbert exploited. The result was that the name “Colbert” won the contest for naming the node, and NASA has been scratching its head as to what to do about it ever since. Tomorrow night we’ll find out their decision in a clever way- astronaut Sunita Williams will be on the show to unveil the name. Will it really be Colbert? Only time will tell. It’ll be an interesting episode for sure…
The CIA and USAF have finally declassified a project that was based at the mysterious Area 51 base in Nevada. The LA Times interviewed 5 former employees of the facility who disclosed details on a top-secret spy plane code named OXCART. This plane allegedly has an odd shape, and was capable of flying at Mach 3. This could explain a HUGE number of the UFO sightings in that area, because according to this article there were 2,850 test flights of this thing, all conducted from Area 51. This is a bigger deal than it may seem, because up until now, the government didn’t even acknowledge that Area 51 existed. By declssifying this project they’re now admitting that it does exist. A big step forward if you ask me. I’ve always been fascinated by the place, and really want to go out there just to walk up to the signs telling you that you’ll be shot if you try to break in. I’m quite sure that there are some crazy things going on there involving technology that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but I won’t say or believe that they’re reverse-engineering UFO’s and keeping aliens in freezers until proof of such a claim exists. Via io9.
Friday’s tornado outbreak was pretty devastating, though the vast majority of the damage was from an EF3 twister that hit nothern Murfreesboro. The official NWS survey has determined that a total of 4 tornadoes hit middle TN on friday- three EF1’s and one EF3. The report actually says “at least EF3,” so there’s a chance it may be upgraded to an EF4. One of the things that made this particular tornado so devastating was the fact that it was a multiple-vortex tornado. I will leave you with this absolutely amazing video footage shot from a tall building in Murfreesboro. (Probably the bank building.) You can easily see the smaller funnels inside the main vortex. The first few seconds are jittery but he sets the camera down and you get a long, clear look at this monster. Watch closely at about :45, 1:15, and 1:30 where you can clearly see a smaller vortex to the right of the main one.