Saturday, August 31, 2013

Silences of Millenniums

General Sherman Tree
Largest living organism in the world
Sequoia National Park
Giant sequoia trees cannot readily reproduce in their native habitat because their seeds will only grow under full sun and in mineral rich soils.

The biogenesis of sequoiadendron giganteum is precariously dependent on several phenomena including sunlight, moisture, and fire. Successful regeneration requires periodic wildfire to clear competing vegetation.

The oldest known sequoia is believed to be 3,500 years old based on ring count.
"The sequoias belong to the silences of millenniums. Many of them have seen a hundred human generations rise, give off their little clamors and perish. They seem indeed to be forms of immortality standing here among the transitory shapes of time."
Edwin Markham
That these enchanting giants have a lifespan 20 to 50 times that of our maximum lifespan arouses our imagination.
The power of imagination makes us infinite.
― John Muir

Saturday, August 24, 2013


For keen observers chaos and order converge like tributaries join into one river. For keen observers imperfection becomes perfection and moments spiral into the eternal.

1. Utility & Purpose
Nature does nothing uselessly.
- Aristotle

2. Surface & Depth
Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. Imperfection & Beauty
In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.
- Alice Walker

4. Moments & Timelessness
There's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.
- Sarah Kay

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flows In - Flows Out

Much of the poetic phenomena observed in nature are traceable to fundamental principles.

A water balance is an equation describing the flow of water in and out of a defined system much like an accountant's ledger of income minus expenses.

Catchment hydrology is the study of water in a drainage basin that uses a water balance to account for surpluses and deficits.

Water balance is based on the principle of continuity. Like a water budget, it considers:
Flows into a volume in a period of time minus the flows out of that volume in that time.

The Palisades of the West Gallatin, 1874
by William Henry Jackson
Water either accumulates, or is depleted, which follows from the law of conservation of mass.
No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.
— Native American Proverb
Fundamental laws abound in nature. Carl Sagan wrote, "The Earth spins because it did so as it was formed and there has been nothing to stop it since", which is an expression of Newton's laws of motion.

As mortal yet permanent passengers on Spaceship Earth, might we ever-so-slightly pay down whatever debt of gratitude we might have, at least during the conscious leg of our journey, by seeking to understand these phenomena in the context of fundamental principles?
"These woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

— Robert Frost


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Views Toward Home

Views of the Earth recorded from interplanetary spacecraft are relatively rare.

Images made from space looking back towards Earth give us a culturally unprecedented perspective on the vast space and flash of time in which we exist.
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us."
Carl Sagan
Earthrise, 1968
from Apollo 8

Earthrise is the name of an iconic photograph of the Earth taken during the Apollo 8 moon mission in December 1968. This photograph was made by astronaut William Anders seven months before the first lunar landing.
"The most influential environmental photograph ever taken."
- Galen Rowell, wilderness photographer
This image, recorded at a distance of 240,000 miles, is the first view of earth from an interplanetary spacecraft.

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot, 1990
from Voyager 1
Pale Blue Dot is the name of a photograph of Earth taken from a record distance of 3.7 billion miles from our planet by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990.

The primary mission of Voyager 1 was to leave the solar system, but the unmanned spacecraft was commanded by NASA to turn its camera back to photograph the Earth at the request of cosmologist Carl Sagan.

This photograph shows earth as a barely perceptible dot travelling in the dark expanse of space.

Some Perspective

At some distance, the Earth becomes barely perceptible. Humans, along with all other living organisms, are temporary voyagers in a vast, expansive system.

From cosmologist Carl Sagan:
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Large Earthquakes

The magnitude of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake has been estimated at 7.9 (Moment Magnitude Scale). The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was the first natural disaster of its magnitude documented by photography and motion pictures.

San Francisco Earthquake aftermath on Market St.April 18, 1906

Seismologists describe earthquake size in the Moment Magnitude Scale. The largest earthquakes recorded between 1900 and 2013 are:
Location Date UTC Magnitude
1. Chile 1960 05 22 9.5
2. Prince William Sound, Alaska 1964 03/28 9.2
3. Off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra 2004 12/26 9.1
4. Near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan 2011 03/11 9.0
5. Kamchatka 1952 11/04 9.0
6. Offshore Maule, Chile 2010 02/27 8.8
7. Off the Coast of Ecuador 1906 01/31 8.8
8. Rat Islands, Alaska 1965 02/04 8.7
9. Northern Sumatra, Indonesia 2005 03/28 8.6
10. Assam - Tibet 1950 08/15 8.6
11. Off the west coast of northern Sumatra 2012 04/11 8.6
12. Andreanof Islands, Alaska 1957 03 09 8.6
13. Southern Sumatra, Indonesia 2007 09/12 8.5
14. Banda Sea, Indonesia 1938 02/01 8.5
15. Kamchatka 1923 02/03 8.5
16. Chile-Argentina Border 1922 11/11 8.5
17. Kuril Islands 1963 10/13 8.5
Last Updated: 2012 April 11

Many large earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire:

Ring of Fire, from USGS

For tracking earthquakes around the world in near real-time, follow GrokEarth's @SeismicPing feed on Twitter. To track earthquakes within a 300 mile radius of San Francisco, follow GrokEarth' @SeismicPingSF feed on Twitter.
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”
John Keats