photoI got back last night from an awesome trip to Colorado. I’m too busy catching up with work and life in general today to spend much time on a blog post, so I’m just gonna post a few of my favorite phone/instagram pics from the trip, and point you to my instagram feed to see the rest. FYI, I use two fantastic apps for iPhone photo editing- Afterglow and Snapeed (which I’ve just learned has a desktop application as well), so if you haven’t tried those- I highly recommend it!

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The Burgers Winter 2011/2012 Mixtape is here and available for you listening/downloading pleasure. I kicked it off with some classic deep cuts, then took it to a chill/sexy/moody vibe, then finished it off with some great new discohouse. I’m kinda proud I managed to crank out a mix that didn’t involve Breakbot or Bit Funk. Those two dudes make pure gold out of everything they touch. It’s really hard to resist. But right now my DJ hard-on is all for Gigamesh. Seriously- that dude’s been busy making amazing remixes and golden original tracks. Check out his EP called “Space Dinosaur Stuff.

LOL. It’s actually just “Gigamesh EP.” Anyway, here’s my mix:

Tracklist:

Prince-Controversy
Gino Soccio-Try it Out
Madi Diaz-Trust Fall (Jensen Sportag RMX)
Niki & The Dove-Mother Protect (Goldroom RMX)
Gigamesh-When You’re Dancing
The Magician ft. Jeppe-I Don’t Know What to Do (Fabian RMX)
Knight One-Hearts of Oak
Girls Generation-The Boys (Robotaki RMX)
Database-New Disco
P Money and Dan Aux-Kinda Lovin’
Caravan Palace-Clash (Jupiter RMX)

Some cool science-related stuff I’ve come across the past few days:

  • Let’s be frank, the climatologists were absolutely dead wrong in their prediction of a warmer-than-average winter in the eastern US for 2010/2011. Their forecast was based on the fact that historically, La Nina winters are warmer in the eastern US. We are definitely in a La Nina winter, so what the hell has been going on? The fact is, the global climate is VERY complex, and our computer models for both short-term and long-term forecasting are still struggling to get a grasp on what’s really going to happen. The main culprit for our cold winter this year is the Arctic Oscillation. This is another large-scale weather pattern that is fairly unpredictable over the long-term, and has so far overpowered any effects the La Nina pattern has had on the southeast US. The Nashville office of the National Weather Service has been posting fairly frequent updates about this situation, so I recommend reading the latest one to get the detailed explanation you may or may not be desiring. It would appear that winter will be re-establishing its grip on TN for a few more weeks at least.
  • In the past year all the major mobile phone service providers have been touting their new 4G networks. But honestly none them have speeds even close to what was traditionally defined as “4G.” The International Telecommunication Union has a set of standards for what speeds can be considered 2G, 3G, 4G, and so on. 4G used to be defined as download speeds of 100 Mbps to 1Gbps. Those kinds of speeds won’t be attained for 4 to 5 years, by most estimates. In December of 2009, the ITU changed the rules on what can be called 4G, which allowed all mobile phone service providers to instantly start labeling their slightly improved wireless broadband speeds as such. Most of these speeds are probably better described as “3.5G” or “3G+” but I honestly don’t care. I just don’t want people to think that the speeds they’ll experience on their mobile browsers is somehow leaps & bounds faster. This information came from an article on Wired that I recommend if you want more detailed info.
  • I came across this amazing video clip on Universe Today on Monday, but am just now getting around to posting. The sense of scale when talking in astronomical terms is very difficult for a human mind to comprehend, so when things like this come along that really help illustrate that sense of scale, I’m fascinated. This video clip shows what several different planets, including another earth, would look like in the night sky if they were as close to us as the moon. Just wait until Jupiter shows up. (According to the comment from the creator below the video, this is actually what it would look like through a weak pair of binoculars… so what you’re seeing isn’t meant to depict the entire night sky, only about 62 degrees of it.) Be sure to click on the HD button and make it full screen.

If you’re in Nashville you’re no doubt sitting around waiting for this massive ice-mageddon that is supposed to happen today. Make no mistake, ice storms can be extremely dangerous when they actually happen, but more often than not they end up being far less severe than initially forecast. This is because these types of storms are incredibly complex and the most difficult of all weather phenomena to forecast. Here’s how they work, and why I’m usually skeptical of forecasts involving them:

When an ice storm happens there is always a strong mass of cold air in place (just look at how cold it was yesterday and monday!). Then a low pressure system moves in from the south or southwest, creating a mid-level wind flow from the south or southwest. Mid-level in meteorology is loosely defined as 5,000-10,000 or so feet above sea level. This southerly wind flow brings both warm air and moisture with it, creating a layer of warmer air above the cold air at ground level. This means the precipitation starts out high up as snow or rain, then becomes all rain as it falls through the warmer layer, then refreezes when it gets to the stubborn layer of cold air at the surface. Depending on the thickness of this cold layer, the rain drops will freeze while falling (sleet), or will freeze upon contact with the ground (freezing rain). Usually in these situations, the surface temperature is right at or just below freezing. This freezing precipitation only lasts as long as the cold layer stays below freezing, and that surface layer always eventually warms up. Here’s a graphic I’ve posted on this blog before, to illustrate:

Based on the forecast models, and published forecasts I’ve seen, there’s no doubt Nashville will see some frozen precip today, but I have a feeling that it will change to all rain, and the surface temp will creep up to the mid 30’s by late afternoon or so. The current forecast calls for the ice to remain the longest in the northeastern counties of middle TN, so those folks may see enough accumulation to start downing trees and power lines. I doubt there will be enough accumulation for that to be a major problem in Nashville, and all areas south and west. I’m fairly certain that Nashville’s heat island effect will aid in getting the surface temps up sooner rather than later. Furthermore, most roads have been salted heavily, and even the secondary roads have some salt on them transplanted by car tires, and with the surface temp hovering right around freezing the salt will have no problem preventing ice on the roads. Since the temperature is forecast to continue rising as the night goes on, due to the warmer air in the mid-levels working its way down, there shouldn’t be any problems at all by midnight or so.

PLEASE DON’T THINK THAT I’M TELLING YOU TO DRIVE NORMALLY IN WINTER WEATHER. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION WHEN THERE’S A CHANCE OF WINTRY ROAD CONDITIONS. PLEASE BE CAREFUL, ESPECIALLY IF CROSSING A BRIDGE OR OVERPASS AS THOSE FREEZE MUCH EASIER.

What I’m saying here is that this will NOT be ice-mageddon. For Nashville at least.

I find it interesting that while this July is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record (duh, just walk outside), just 1 year ago we were experiencing one of the coolest Julys on record. More on that at the National Weather Service.

That cool summer was followed by a cool winter as well, and though it’s hard to even think about snow right now, it was also one of the snowiest winters on record for most of the eastern US. I mentioned this once before, but a new study confirms the findings that last winter’s brutality was due to the convergence of 2 things- El Nino and a negative North Atlantic Oscillation. The former usually brings more precipitation to the southeastern US, and the latter usually brings colder air to the southeastern US. (Via EurekAlert)

I haven’t mentioned beer on this blog in a while… so here’s whats up with my homebrewing endeavors: I currently have a batch of northern English brown ale in the bottles carbonating. Haven’t tasted it yet but they should be ready to drink this coming friday. I’m about to start another batch of the ESB/Pale Ale hybrid that I made in May. That was by far the best batch of beer I’ve made, and it will be the first one I’ve repeated. I’m still not to the point of all-grain brewing yet, as I haven’t built a mash tun. It’ll happen soon though.

Here we go again. I recommend investing in Kroger stock this year, because they’re gonna get a big boost in sales in TN from all these “snowstorms” wherein a meteorologist utters the word “snow” and 75% of the population immediately clears the milk, bread, and egg isles. (Apparently people only eat french toast during snowstorms?) As usual, I’ve been monitoring the progress of the forecast and find it interesting that the NWS hasn’t issued the winter storm warning yet, only a watch. I’m sure the warning will come, but it’s kinda funny that they’re hesitating, no doubt because of the giant snow fail from a few weeks ago. (To be fair, some areas around the midstate did get something close to the forecasted amounts, though no one really got the full 2-3 inches that was initially forecast…) This system is a little different than the last one, however. This one will most definitely have enough moisture to generate the 3-5 inches, unlike the last system which had moisture “issues.” The big limiting factor with this system will instead be temperatures. Nashville will literally be right on the dividing line between having an ice/rain mix and having an all snow event. If this system decides to track just 50 to 100 miles further north than the models think it will, that will cause more warm air to advect farther north, and we’ll end up having mostly rain friday changing to a little snow on the backside fri. night into sat. morning. If it decides to track slightly further south, we’ll have all snow, but much less of it, and areas to the south of us could actually see more snow than Nashville does. This system has a little better chance of “success” in giving us a good ol’ fashioned snowfall than the last one, but I wouldn’t place any bets yet.

Big rumors abound in the blogosphere about Obama’s budget proposal due to land in Congress on Monday. The biggest rumor is that it will completely cutout NASA’s Constellation program, which is the rocket system currently under development to not only replace the Space Shuttle, but also put men back on the Moon. I reported many times on the progress of the Augustine Commission and its recommendations for how NASA should proceed given that its current “trajectory” was financially unsustainable. One of the options they proposed was to eliminate the Constellation program and let commercial spaceflight companies like SpaceX takeover the duties of getting astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-earth orbit missions. I have a feeling that if the budget really does cut the Constellation funds, that’s where we’ll be headed next. Honestly I think it may not be a bad idea, because it would allow NASA to focus more on getting man further out into the solar system, and eventually to Mars. I tend to agree with Dr. Phil Plait’s (the Bad Astronomer) sentiments on the issue (as usual) but I’m not in total agreement with him that we should still go back to the moon. But then again, he’s the astronomer with a Ph.D and I’m not. For even more info, check out Universe Today. Check those blogs again on Monday afternoon, as I’d say they’ll be able to update waaaay sooner than I will once the actual budget info is released.

SNOW FAIL

January 7, 2010

This has happened so many times before, you’d think forecasters would get a clue. As a weather nerd I’ve followed the same models the forecasters use, they are easily found on the NOAA/NWS website. For some reason, the models often fail to take into account just how ridiculously DRY the air is with these Canadian arctic highs, and how stubborn it can be. We’ve had a very cold and VERY DRY last few days because we’ve been under the influence of a high pressure center that slid down the midwest into the southeast from Canada. The low pressure system and associated front that is currently passing through middle TN is ahead of yet ANOTHER Canadian DRY airmass. Even though there is some moisture associated with this front, there isn’t enough to overcome the insanely dry air at the surface. There’s plenty of snow flying around waaaay up there, but it’s evaporating as it falls through the lower layers of the atmosphere via a process called sublimation. As of about 10am, we are finally starting to see a few tiny grains of snow making it to ground in downtown Nashville. Other areas to the north and west have already seen about 1/2 inch, but I doubt Nashville will even get that much. It won’t be over till the front pushes on through later this afternoon, though. The only thing we can be 100% sure of with this system is that it will be FYAO cold this weekend.

UPDATE 3pm: Snowflakes finally started fleshing out around noon in downtown Nashville as moisture finally reached the lower levels, but it still has only amounted to a dusting.

This has happened before, and I just don’t see why conventional wisdom never makes its way into these forecasts sometimes. They rely too strictly on the computer models. To the meteorologists defense, however, winter weather has always been, and always will be VERY fickle and hard to forecast in the southeastern US. Also, the science of meteorology is always a work in progress, and any forecast past 1 day or so is at best an educated guess. No matter how sophisticated our computer models get, they will never be near as complex as the forces at work in our atmosphere, and until we devise some method of actually controlling the weather, a 100% accurate forecast past 12-24 hours is simply impossible. For more info on why snow is pretty hard to come by in TN, see my post on the subject from last year.

That being said, here’s my conspiracy theory: Kroger is in cahoots with the NWS and all other forecasters in the southeast. They promise them a cut of the massive profits from all the bread, milk, and eggs sales in exchange for inflating the snow amounts.

KIDDING!!!

January is often a time for lots of updates from the world of astronomy, because it’s when the American Astronomical Society has their yearly conference/meeting. This year’s is a big one, with lots of news regarding exoplanets. Unofortunately, no Earth-twins have been found yet but there are some other interesting stories from Kepler and many other sources. Some highlights so far:

The Kepler mission has found its first batch of exoplanets, all of which are gas giants similar to Jupiter (though one is reportedly more like Neptune) orbiting very close to/quickly around their parent stars. It’ll be a few years before it finds anything else, because anything else takes a lot longer to orbit. Since Kepler is specifically looking for transiting planets (the planet passing directly between its parent star and us) it has to have 3-4 transits to be absolutely sure of its findings. Since planets like ours take a year or more to orbit… well, you do the math. It even found one gas giant that has the same approximate density as sytrofoam. (Via NASA and NewScientist)

Another interesting tidbit to come out this year is a much clearer picture of just how common solar systems like our own are in the universe/galaxy. According to astronomers from Ohio State University, who were heading up a larger collaborative effort called MicroFUN (micro-lensing follow-up network), about 1015 percent of all stars have planet systems like ours (meaning a few gas giants orbiting far out, with probably a few small, rocky planets in closer). 10-15 percent may seem like a small number, but when you consider the overall vast number of stars just in our own galaxy alone, you’ll realize that even 10 percent equals hundreds of millions of solar systems. It should be quite obvious now that there are other worlds out there very similar to our own, we just haven’t found solid evidence of them yet, so we can’t be 100% sure. But I am confident the Kepler, the CoRoT mission, or maybe even a ground-based telescope, will find one within the next decade. (Via EurekAlert! and Space.com)

Here’s a little bit of everyday science for you:

We’ve all been annoyed when we get out of our cars or walk across a carpeted room in the winter time and shock the #&*$@! out of ourselves on the door/other metallic object. So why the hell does it always happen so much more in the winter? It has to do with the humidity. Especially in the eastern US, the winter months are much MUCH drier than the summer ones. (Remember that Relative Humidity is NOT a direct measurement of how much moisture is actually in the atmosphere, go by the dewpoint- the lower the dewpoint, the less moisture is in the air.) Colder air has less moisture capacity than does warmer air, thus the winter months are very dry. Well all know that static electricity is the buildup of an electric charge in our bodies and/or clothes due to simple friction. During the summer months when the air is more humid, the moisture in the air allows those charges to constantly dissipate because we all know water is a good conductor of electricity. The static electric charge never has a chance to build up because it’s constantly “seeping” away into the moist air. In the winter, the dry air does not conduct and “seep” away the static electric charge, allowing it to build up until we reach for something metallic such as a doorknob and POW! the electricity instantly discharges in one big spark and we get shocked.

May ’08 ‘stache

January 5, 2010

So it looks like the ladies of Nashvillest decided to make my May 2008 ‘stache famous by putting my ugly mug on their blog this morning (probably yesterday morning by the time you read this). Due to the fact that I’m in the midst of moving into a new house with Megan, I haven’t kept up with the blogosphere for the past few days. I actually find it quite hilarious. There are much worse photos of me out there, so I can’t really complain. I could try to find a funny picture of Morgan or Christy (though I’ve only actually met Christy in person, ha…) but no one would really care because let’s face it, they have at least 10x as many readers because they’re a “real” blog. If you don’t read Nashvillest, you’re either a) several years behind the curve in local interwebz happenings, or b) not from Nashville. But even if you aren’t from here, there’s plenty of interesting stuff on there for non-locals, so get over there!

I hope everyone is prepared for the Great Nashville Blizzard of 2010. (A.K.A. a couple inches of snow) I really can’t wait to see Nashville drivers on Thursday. I’m probably going to take a video camera around with me everywhere I go…

Tennessee, meet Dogwood Winter. Let’s face it, people, every year we get 1 or 2 cold snaps in April, and southerners usually name these “winters” based on whatever is in bloom at the time. Usually Dogwoods are in bloom when it happens so I usually call it Dogwood Winter. But seriously… SNOW tonight?

A somewhat surprise reunion happened at Radio City Music Hall over the weekend- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr came together on stage for the first time since 2002. I don’t know how I missed hearing about this lineup until now… but it was a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation called “Change Begins Within.” Brooklyn Vegan has several video clips posted.

In other reunion-related news, Simon & Garfunkel are going to reunite for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, Billboard.com reports.

Photo via io9.

Photo via io9.

Nerd alert!

io9 reports that Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver) will make a few appearances in the opening episodes of the latest installment of the Stargate franchise, Stargate: Universe. Not only will RDA make an appearance, but several other veterans of the older series SG-1 and Atlantis are supposedly making appearances. This makes me very happy because I’ll miss those older characters. The Stargate series has easily challenged Star Trek as the most successful science-fiction television franchise in history. SG-1 alone outlasted any of the Star Trek series by reaching an impressive 10 seasons. I guess it depends on who you ask, but that figure alone is unheard of for a sci-fi series.

Speaking of Star Trek, physicist Michael Alcubierre from the University of New Mexico is known for coming up with the idea of a real-life warp drive. Yes, you heard me, a warp drive, as in the thing that allows the Enterprise to go faster than light. But unfortunately quantum physics has put a serious damper on this theory. Universe Today reports on a new set of research that concludes that Hawking Radiation would be present within the space-time “bubble,” and this radiation would literally fry anything inside the bubble. Of course, this whole thing was pretty impossible to begin with because according to U.T., the energy such a device would require is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter if it were converted to energy. Whoa…

I read today on Clusterflock that the Xerox Corporation is working on a special type of paper that erases itself, making it reusable. This is truly revolutionary, and I hope it gets off the ground sooner rather than later, though the article warns that it could be many years before this technology could be made commercially viable.

The “a-ha” moment came from developing compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear. In its present version, the paper self-erases in about 16-24 hours and can be used multiple times.