Saturday, October 26, 2013

Earth Maps

Maps help define, explain, and navigate Earth. Charting Earth has been around for at least 8,200 years. The graphical representations of one's perception is recognized as an acquired skill that predates all forms of written communication.
"Maps codify the miracle of existence."
― Nicholas Crane, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet
Evidence of early maps include cave paintings and later the ancient maps of Babylon, Greece, and Asia.

The Cantino Planisphere
Completed by an unknown Portuguese cartographer in 1502.
Charting Earth grew rapidly during the Age of Discovery in the early 15th century through the 17th century.
"I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. ... All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps."
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

New Providence, New Jersey 1905.
NW corner of the Plainfield Quadrangle (USGS)
Advances in global-positioning and digital mapping continue to be made as we move into the 21st century.

Flat, three-dimensional, or virtual, maps are symbolic and metaphoric representations of space that are adopted as a sort of world language in accordance with our perception.
"A labyrinth is a symbolic journey . . . but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Maps offer a finger-hold on the meaning of space both empty and occupied.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Potential & Discharge

The flashing tentacles of light in lightning are a visual manifestation of an electrostatic discharge between two electrically charged regions in storm clouds, or between storm clouds and the Earth's surface.

Storm clouds are like giant electrical capacitors in the atmosphere. The upper region is positively charged. The lower region is negatively charged. The cause of these electric potential differences is inconclusive in the scientific community.

The flash of light we see occurs at the moment oppositely charged regions equalize. Lightning can occur from a cloud to itself; from cloud to cloud; or between a cloud and the ground.


The awe-inspiring power, and the fear-inducing and potentially destructive nature of lightning, beget deeply held cultural mythologies throughout the ages.

In ancient and modern cultures, a lightning bolt is often considered a weapon of a sky god to be deployed as an act of retribution.

Prominent cultural mythologies:
Zeus' head and thunderbolt
coin from Epirus, 234 BC
  • The thunderbolt was a weapon given to Zeus in Greek mythology by the Cyclops (and Jupiter in Roman mythology). Lightning appeared on Greek and Roman coins;
  • In the Hebrew Bible, arrows are represented as lightning in Habakuk 3:11 and as divine punishment in Deuteronomy 32:42, Psalms 64:7, and Job 6:4;
  • In Hittite mythology, a triple thunderbolt was one symbol of Teshub;
  • In Vedic religion, and later Hindu mythology, Indra is the god of lightning armed with a thunderbolt;
  • In Celtic mythology, Taranis is the god of thunder;
  • Thor is the god of thunder in Germanic mythology;
  • Bai-Ülgen creates the thuderbolts in Turkish mythology;
  • In Maya mythology, Huracan is sometimes represented as three thunderbolts;
  • The Ani Hyuntikwalaski, or thunder beings, are beings that cause lightning fire in a hollow sycamore tree in Cherokee mythology;
  • The Thunderbirds, Nimkiig or Binesiiwag in Ojibway mythology, create thunder and lightning that's both benevolent and malevolent to people;
  • In Igbo mythology, the thunderbolt is the weapon of Amadioha; and
  • In the Yorùbá religion, the thunderbolt is the weapon of Shango.

"Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?"
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

Temperature, Frequency, Sound and Light

The maximum temperature in lightening (52,540 °F) is about five times hotter than the surface of the sun (10,340 °F).

There are about 1.4 billion lightning flashes per year in the Earth's atmosphere occurring approximately 40–50 times a second.

Thunder is the sound of the shock waves emanating from the intense electrical discharge.

Lightning emits white light, but appears as different colors depending on local atmospheric conditions.

"It is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost"
Black Elk(1863 – 1950), from Black Elk Speaks


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Being the Stream

Emerson observed the unboundedness of living organisms.
"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn"Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yet unboundedness is a apparent paradox in a closed ecosystem like Earth's biosphere ― or is it?
"Such a contradictory state of affairs is feasible only because the resources accessible to life can be used over and over again."J.I. Gitelson
A path toward deep ecology, and the realization of interconnectedness, is to cast aside what we have learned so that we might reconnect with a deep-seated, primordial awareness ― an awareness devoid of subject or object.
"The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there."
Hakuun Yasutani
Light and shadow are aspects of the whole, just as usefulness and uselessness are aspects of the whole. Taoist philosophy asserts that the moment we choose one side over the other we upset nature's balance.

Allowing ourselves to be immersed in interconnectedness involves the challenging discipline of embracing opposites. Gary Snyder writes about the meditative discipline of being at home in the whitewater and the eddies:
Being the Stream

Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Nascent Island

Satellite images from Earth Observing-1
A new island composed of mounded sediment recently emerged off the coast of Pakistan.

It was created by a mud dome following a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Mud domes occur when liquids, gases, and solid materials are geo-excreted due to the jostling of seismic activity. The occurrence of mud domes correlate to a subduction zone like the Makran Trench, where tectonic plates boundaries like the Eurasian plate and Arabian plate converge.
"Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of non-knowledge."
Isaac Bashevis Singer
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake is believed to have loosened sediment above a cache of subsurface natural gas allowing un-trapped gas to rise. The rising gas transported mud, rock, and sand upward to create the dome that is visible today.

Perhaps wind and wave erosion will eventually cause the island to disappear beneath into the sea. For now, the island is about 100 yards in diameter and rises 65 feet above the sea.
"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this."
Henry David Thoreau