April 21, 2006

Ship tracks

A maze of long white clouds is interwoven into the uneven field of white that covers the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of the United States. Though these clouds resemble airplane contrails, they are actually ship tracks, clouds that form around the exhaust released by ships into the still ocean air. Water molecules collect around the tiny particles (aerosols) from exhaust to form a cloud seed. More and more water accumulates on the seed until a visible cloud is formed.

Ship tracks are a part of climate change and demonstrate how human activity can result in cooling of the climate. More clouds mean that more solar radiation is reflected directly to space. The effect of ship exhaust is to give clouds that have more and smaller droplets, and therefore a higher reflectivity. Such clouds are not as likely to result in rain.

April 18, 2006

Jump and flip

I was riding my bike home from the train station this afternoon and I started thinking about Eldon Potter, and I couldn't help laughing out loud. I remembered a piece of wisdom Eldon had given me years ago, after he returned from a bike riding trip in the desert. Apparently rattle snakes like to sun themselves on the roads, posing a potential hazard for cyclists. You could for instance run over one of them with your front tire, causing the snake to be flipped up into the pedals and your legs. The trick, Eldon's trick that is, is to jump your front tire over the snake. That way, when your back tire hits the snake and it gets flipped up, it is only a hazard to the people behind you.

Train of thought

Smedley Butler, The Fighting Quaker

Kate noted that a whole bunch of us are turning 40 right about now. Heard about a friend who celebrated the big 40 at a geothermal spa in the cascades, and that everyone was drinking gimlets. Happy birthday, Dave!! The story made me look up 'gimlet' at my favorite website, Wikipedia:

A gimlet is a hand tool for drilling small holes, mainly in wood, without splitting. It was defined in Gwilt's Architecture (1859) as "a piece of steel of a semi-cylindrical form, hollow on one side, having a cross handle at one end and a worm or screw at the other".

A gimlet is always a small tool. A similar tool of larger size is called an auger. The cutting action of the gimlet is slightly different to an auger, however, as the end of the screw, and so the initial hole it makes, is smaller; the cutting edges pare away the wood which is moved out by the spiral sides, falling out through the entry hole. This also pulls the gimlet further into the hole as it is turned; unlike a brad awl, pressure is not required once the tip has been drawn in.

The name "gimlet" comes from the Old French guimbelet, probably a diminutive of the Old English "wimble", and the Scandinavian wammie, to bore or twist; the modern French is gibelet.The term is also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing, and also to describe the twisting, boring motion of using a gimlet. The term gimlet-eyed can mean sharp-eyed or squint-eyed (one example of this use is Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, who was known as "Old Gimlet Eye").

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimlet"

This guy turned out to have an interesting life story:
Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881June 21, 1940), nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet Eye," was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. Butler was awarded the Medal of Honor twice during his career, one of only 19 people to be so doubly decorated. He was noted for his outspoken non-interventionist views and his book War is a Racket, one of the first works describing the military-industrial complex. After retiring from service, Butler became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, communists, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s. Butler came forward to the U.S. Congress in 1934 to report that a proposed coup had been plotted by wealthy industrialists to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

April 15, 2006

Spring photos

Spring is here!
These are some pictures I took of the flowers that have come up around our house. The second photo is of the buds on the blueberry bush. I will be keeping a close watch on the blueberries come late July.

April 12, 2006

Home improvement

Its Eastertime, which for me means home improvement time. Easter 2005 I rebuilt the kitchen. '04 was building a home office that is now used by Fredrik to play computer games, in addition to hosting my clothes pile. '03 was floors. This year I am renovating the little bathroom-- painting, putting in a new floor & sink. So far so good-- spackling is done and the first coat of paint is drying. I gave myself a really cool frosty white hairdo (but just on one side) while reaching in to paint behind the toilet.

It is GREAT to see the flowers coming up around the house. I am always a big fan of the tulips which are growing about an inch a day, 8" total so far next to the house but not yet blossoming. Kids have been having fun playing outside-- the snow finally melted so now Anders can dig in his sandbox. He has invented several new games like running around like a nut saying 'Here comes the bulldozer!' over and over again.

It was a long hard winter this year-- March was colder than February (and February was bad enough, not to mention December or brrr January), and we got hit by the most snow they've had here in over 25 years. Teaching winter term always takes a lot of time and attention. All in all, what could be better than a few days at home with the family.

April 08, 2006

What do they say about us?

I went to a meeting for parents at Fredrik's school last week. There is a new student in class 2b whose family comes from Iraq. At the meeting her mother said thank you to everyone for making her daughter feel welcome in the new school. After the meeting (a. The school librarian told us the plots of 7 children's stories and encouraged us to read to our kids. b. The teacher told us how at the start of the school year they read about the creation of the Universe from Genesis and that now they are making a time line of the Universe starting with the Big Bang-- they had a fingerpainted timeline on the bulliten board, looked pretty cool, and the teacher complained that all the interesting stuff happens right at the end. c. I gave a summary of the paren't council meeting-- one parent is writing a letter to the editor asking for the speed limits around the school to be enforced; another parent complained that the cafeteria gives the same size portions to all kids from preschoolers to fifth grade boys; one mother's son was coming home famished after eating a school lunch that only contained 5 or at most 7 meatballs; at home he eats 15 to 20...)...after the meeting, the Iraquian mother comes up to me and asks me where I'm from. America I reply, and wait. She told me that she had mixed feelings about the Bush administration, and I agreed. Then she told me how much she loves America, and that her sister is married to an American and they live in Colorado, and that she will be visiting them this summer! She was so excited.

My friends and family always ask me, 'What do they say about us over there!?' And these are some of my experiences.

I was at the lunchtable in Copenhagen last week talking with some students and colleagues, including on this day a student whose family moved to Denmark from Iran when she was a teenager. She was telling us about her many cousins who live in Iran. One of her cousins had participated in the student protests at the University of Tehran a few years ago, but then the soldiers started shooting people, and so the protests stopped. Some family members living in Iran said to her that the best thing that could happen to their country would be if the US were to invade it. As it is now, they are forbidden to leave the country, and all news comes through government channels. She has many stories of government corruption. I couldn't help thinking of that class I took in High School from Sarah Foreman, Utopia, where we read Orwell's 1984. How to overthrow Big Brother? Well one solution would have been to invite invasion by the US by letting it be known that the government was trying to figure out how to make nuclear weapons. And, it doesn't hurt if your government is threatening to wipe its neighbors off the map.

April 06, 2006

Cool Feedbacks

Just a quick note to say that I am working on a climate feedback post. There are a lot of cool feedbacks, so to speak. One of the basic ones is that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas. A warmer planet means warmer air which holds more water vapor, leading to increased warming. But, more water vapor could also lead to increased cloudiness. If those are high clouds then they trap heat and have an insulating effect, warming the surface, but if they are low clouds they cool the surface by reflecting sunlight.

Have been busy throwing a 'robot' birthday party for a group of 9 year olds, preparing a bunch of 20 year olds for an exam in molecular physics, getting the lab ready for a visitor from Tokyo, representing class 2b at the school council meeting, chasing kids around, commuting, etc. etc. But you, the readers of LB, have never been far from my thoughts.

April 01, 2006

Questions about climate change

A while back Tim McGuire interviewed me on his blog about climate change. I sent him answers to a series of questions-- for example:

Is the earth's climate getting warmer?
Why is it getting warmer?
What effects have been seen so far?
Are scientists who question global warming ostracized or regarded with suspicion?

You can see the answers to these questions and others by following this link.

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