Archives for posts with tag: sciencenews

…or at least it’s starting to feel that way. I swear it crops up in at least half the products I’ve obnoxiously checked since being tipped off by Mom. I did a little research on how they manufacture it; in some versions, yeast cells are exposed to a sodium chloride (salt) bath, which causes the poor little things to start pushing out all their water in a sort of extreme reverse osmosis. They blow themselves out— it’s called plasmoysis and looks a little like this:

I really hoped there’d be a decent informational yeast extract piece I could link to, but I got really disheartened from searching when the top thing on YouTube was a toast speed-painter’s tribute to Vegemite.

I sure do hate the Internet sometimes.


Sam and I have a joke where I start shouting that before any trip over the mountains. I explained what it is to Levin and Rachel just this weekend as we drove I-90 over to Ephrata.

That’s a spectrogram of seismic activity near Hoodsport on the Olympic Peninsula from yesterday. Don’t worry too much about how to read it but do notice there’s a whole lot of shaking going down— hundreds of events in the last few days. Check out this great web gadget from the UW where you can plot realtime tremor data on a Google Maps API. I’ll write up a proper ETS post later this week.

You’ll almost certainly feel none of this shaking… unless the Cascadia Subduction Zone uses the minor oomph imparted from this long rumble to trigger the dread megathrust earthquake. But, hey, at least the Northwest will have had a pretty last few weeks of life.

So I think this might be in the top ten Worst Places On Earth.

It’s a lake in the southern Ural Mountains next to the site of the second-worst inadvertent nuclear disaster in history. Starting in the 1950s, the Soviets used it as an open-air spent nuclear fuel pit— this only after they stopped dumping it into the local river which flowed into the Ob…

They supposedly kept 4.44 exabecquerels— an SI unit measuring radioactivity, I had to look it up— worth of waste in the lake. A meaningless number, I know— Wikipedia suggests the Chernobyl disaster released 5 to 12 of the same unit, and that’s over thousands of kilometers. This would all be disgusting on its own without the 1957 Kyshtym disaster angle. The nearby Mayak facility had a coolant malfunction in a storage tank leading to a non-nuclear explosion and a radioactive cloud hundreds of miles wide. Hundreds of people died agonizing, mysterious deaths while tens of thousands were evacuated from a closed area the Soviets later covered up as a nature preserve. The CIA found out about it early but kept its lips sealed while rumors swirled for decades; they didn’t want to harm the fledgling American nuclear power industry.

Flash forward to poor Russia— specifically, Russia as of 0935 UTC this morning, courtesy of the Terra satellite. Not all of those are clouds. The fires plaguing Russia are advancing on Ozersk, the renamed town next to the old Mayak facility. Russian scientists had already been warning of the fires aerosolizing leftover Chernobyl fallout. I tried finding a good “Kremlin choked in smog” picture but got too disheartened to search after seeing had “Half-isolated Saakashvili harbors aggressive plans against Russia still” as the top story above the fires. I kid you not, this is the picture they used of him:

Welcome to the twenty-first century, everybody.

Here’s another cool movie of the recent complex solar eruption.

For the post I put up the other day about it, I uploaded a video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory that I couldn’t find on YouTube yet. This morning, I got this email from everyones’ friends in Mountain View:

Your video August 1 Coronal Mass Ejection might be eligible for the YouTube Partnership Program, which allows you to make money from playbacks of your video.

Making money from your video is easy. Here’s how it works: First sign into your YouTube account. Then, review and complete the steps outlined here…

…If your video is approved, we’ll start placing ads next to the video and pay you a share of the revenue as long as you meet the program requirements.

We look forward to adding your video to the YouTube Partnership Program.

Thanks and good luck!

The YouTube Team

First time I’ve had something get enough hits to trigger their automatic moneygrubber— it’s an odd feeling. Kind of makes me feel like I need a shower. Video’s ineligible anyway, I think, since it’s publicly (i.e., government) produced footage.

Keep your eyes peeled tonight and tomorrow for more aurora! The second, slower coronal mass ejection is still arriving and I noticed earlier tonight that the Space Weather Prediction Center has extended its geomagnetic storm watch through Friday. I’m heading to Eastern Washington this weekend and am hoping against hope the ionosphere is still willing to put on a show that far out.

Oh and, here’s what Monetitizing looks like, if you were wondering:

Here’s a graph of 5-minute averaged gross X-ray flux for the past couple days from the GOES satellite. Basically, it’s a graph of energy in certain wavelength bands being emitted by the Sun :

It’s logarithmic, but don’t worry about that if you don’t understand it. The letters on the right are the weight classes for coronal mass ejections, or solar flares. As and Bs are your intercontinental phone line static and X is your transformers-exploding geomagnetic superstorm.

The other day, there was a C3 class flare from Earth-facing sunspot 1092. It’s a pretty moderate size as these things go, but probably just enough to touch off the Northern Lights. But here’s the cool part. The coronal mass ejection triggered a larger solar event, ripping a huge magnetic filament off with it. I think that’s the filament across the top in the image below from SOHO.

The filament is around half a million miles long— twice the distance between Earth and the Moon— and the whole damn thing took off with the flare and heaved straight for Earth.

Fingers crossed for dark clear skies— there oughta be one hell of an aurora at the least.

I saw on breaking news about a 7.3 in the Moro Gulf, off the Philippines. CNN said it was “616 kilometers (575 miles) deep,” so I headed to to see which number was wrong. Arrived to pre-CNN news that the 616 was right— for the second of two 7.4 events within half an hour of eachother. The first earthquake was 576 kilometers deep; both are way deeper than the shallow Pacific Northwest variety I’m more used to.

Pretty funny screwup for but not for poor Mindanao. Beam positive juju— they got hit horrifically by a tsunami from the same seismogenic zone in 1976.

An ESA mission made a flyby of the largest asteroid yet visited by human spacecraft.

There’s some pretty cool pictures on the ESA website— but I wanted to show off something that caught even my sleepy eye. Check out these subparallel grooves from another set of Rosetta images:

It took some looking, but I eventually figured out where I’d seen those grooves before.

That’s Phobos— one of the moons of Mars. (It’s mostly visible light, if you’re wondering; some near-infrared as well). You can see those same sorts of grooves, which used to be blamed on Stickney Crater, which the big dimple near the bottom right— those are landslides on its crater rim! A 2006 paper mapped them to show the grooves fall into 12 general age groups and hypothesized they could represent scoring from regular deliveries of ejecta from impacts next door. But Lutetia is a wandering asteroid… what would score it with crater chains on a regular basis? The main belt is far too capricious a place to expect such precision. It’s not like the Empire Strikes Back in there.