SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

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Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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The meanest, most-quickly-intensifying hurricane in the Western Hemisphere.

24 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has a lot of superlatives for Hurricane Patricia, the Category 5 storm that leapt up out of nowhere to devastate Puerto Vallarta: Stunning, historic, mind-boggling, and catastrophic: that sums up Hurricane Patricia, which intensified to an incredible-strength Category 5 storm with 200 mph winds overnight. At 2:46 am EDT October 23, 2015 an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft measured a central pressure of 880 mb in Patricia, making it the most intense hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere. The aircraft measured surface winds of 200 mph, which are the highest reliably-measured surface winds on record for a tropical cyclone, anywhere on the Earth. The previous strongest Eastern Pacific hurricane was Hurricane Linda of 1997, with a pressure of 902 mb (estimated from satellite imagery.) The strongest Atlantic hurricane on record was Hurricane Wilma of 2005, with an 882 mb central pressure. Patricia does not beat the record-lowest pressure […]

Science Art: Fig 114 – July normal sea-level pressure, Southern Hemisphere.

14 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen Making the invisible visible – the air over the South Pole, Australia, Tierra del Fuego, Cape Town and beyond. From General Meteorology (Published Formerly Under The Title Synoptic and Aeronautical Meteorology), 1944, by Horace Robert Byers, Sc.D. The first printing seems to have been in 1937, and the maps have a marvelous Deco feel to them. Expressive in their functionality. Organic curves, laid across grids.

Moving rocks caught on camera.

29 August 2014 // 0 Comments

You might have heard, like many Discovery News readers, of the weird moving rocks of Death Valley – the ones with the long, curving trails behind them. No one’s ever seen how these huge boulders skate across the desert until now: The first witnesses to an enduring natural mystery are an engineer, a biologist and a planetary scientist who met thanks to a remote weather station. … Now, with video, time-lapse photographs and GPS tracking of Racetrack Playa’s moving rocks, the mystery has finally been solved. … agged plates of thin ice, resembling panels of broken glass, bulldoze the rocks across the flooded playa, the scientists reveal today (Aug. 27) in the journal PLOS One. Driven by gentle winds, the rocks seem to hydroplane atop the fluffy, wet mud. “It’s a wonderful Goldilocks phenomenon,” said lead study author Richard Norris. “Ponds like this are vanishingly rare in Death Valley, and it may be a decade […]

The walled city of New York… after the oceans rise.

6 May 2014 // 0 Comments

Scientific American paints a peculiar picture of the Big Apple’s future, with the hustle and bustle taking place behind a series of levees, walls and other barriers to keep the ocean out: “The city is on a good path … but it needs to be studying the barriers,” said Jeroen Aerts, a professor of risk management at the Institute for Environmental Studies in Amsterdam and lead author of the analysis, which also included researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. “Risks increase very rapidly due to climate change.” The analysis of future flood options for New York City does not capture all the psychological factors at play, such as concerns about huge floodgates being an eyesore or political factors, but aims to do a straight cost-benefit analysis of which measures can control flooding at an acceptable cost. … Assuming a “middle climate change” scenario of about a foot […]

Anti-lightning lasers zap storms.

2 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment wards off bad weather with a new finding… that lasers can be used to divert lightning strikes: Currently, high-intensity lasers, produced with modern technology essentially disappear over distances greater than a few inches or several feet at best when focused tightly, due to diffraction – the same effect that makes a stick seem to “bend” when dipped into water. This makes them too short-ranged for applications such as diverting lightning. The breakthrough lies in embedding the primary, high-intensity laser beam inside a second beam of lower intensity. As the primary beam travels through the air, the second beam – called dress beam – refuels it with energy and sustains the primary beam over much greater distances than were previously achievable. The researchers’ results were published in Nature Photonics. “Think of two airplanes flying together, a small fighter jet accompanied by a large tanker,” says Maik Scheller, an assistant research professor in the […]

Our air pollution *weakens* hurricanes (but makes them wetter).

11 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily says “aerosols produced by human activities” – that is, soot and exhaust fumes and all that great air pollution – definitely has an effect on the weather. It’s just not the one you might expect: Renyi Zhang, University Distinguished Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, and colleagues Yuan Wang, Keun-Hee Lee, Yun Lin and Misty Levy … found that aerosols tend to weaken the development of hurricanes (tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean) or typhoons (those formed in the Pacific). They also found that aerosols tend to cause a hurricane to fall apart earlier and wind speeds are lower than storms where anthropogenic aerosols are not present. On average, there are about 90 hurricanes or cyclones that form each year around the world, meaning their findings could be crucial in how we evaluate and prepare for destructive tropical storms. “The results are surprising,” Zhang says, “because other studies have leaned […]

Sooty, with a chance of diamonds.

16 October 2013 // 1 Comment

Pennies from Heaven? P’shaw! Nature looks over the vastly overvalued weather report on Saturn and Jupiter: …Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering in Flintridge, and Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, now say it is possible. They are laying out their argument this week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Denver, Colorado. In their scenario, lightning zaps molecules of methane in the upper atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, liberating carbon atoms. These atoms then stick onto each other, forming larger particles of carbon soot, which the Cassini spacecraft may have spotted in dark storm clouds on Saturn. As the soot particles slowly float down through ever-denser layers of gaseous and liquid hydrogen towards the planets’ rocky cores, they experience ever greater pressures and temperatures. The soot is compressed into graphite, and then into solid diamonds before reaching a temperature of about 8,000 °C, when the diamond melts, […]

SONG: Cloudbusting (by Kate Bush) (a penitential cover)

5 November 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Cloudbusting” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: This is a penitential cover. I was late with the last song. This is a song about Wilhelm Reich’s tragic life (through the eyes of his son), written by Kate Bush, although I kinda favor Gemma Hayes’ version. ABSTRACT: I was never that big of a Kate Bush fan at the time all of my friends were listening to her. But man, she’s composed some great grist for great covers. I guess it takes repeated exposure for this virus to take hold. What’s strange, maybe, is that at the time all of my friends were listening to Kate Bush, I was reading plays about Wilhelm Reich, the disciple of Freud who this song is about. Now, some folks might say this isn’t so much a song about science as about pseudoscience. Reich, they might say, was a charlatan or a loon. I’m […]

SONG: Particle

23 September 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Particle.” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant (with apologies to Antonio Vivaldi). SOURCE: Based on “How Fungi Create the Amazon’s Clouds”, Time, 5 September 2012, as used in the post “Mushrooms that make the weather.” ABSTRACT: Unlike the last few songs, this one has nothing to do with a SongFu prompt; we’d kind of fallen out of synch with our respective due dates, and by the time this month’s prompt rolled around (about television crushes), I’d already started working on a song about the fungus particles that make it rain. I may whip out a TV-crush song yet for October. This one, though, was almost done to a much simpler chord progression – something like Am/G/F/F – but I’ve long been obsessed with the Bobby McFerrin/Yo-Yo Ma version of Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Two Mandolins” (Because the “Don’t Worry” guy! Being beautiful!) and figured if “Whiter Shade of Pale” could rip […]

The mushrooms that make the weather.

14 September 2012 // 1 Comment

Time travels to the Amazon to reveal the fungi that creates the clouds: The clouds in the Amazon, just like everywhere else, consist of water vapor clinging to tiny clumps of carbon compounds. In forested areas, the carbon compounds are byproducts of plants’ metabolism; in populated areas, they are often from human pollution. Most of the time, atmospheric chemists can see the carbon clumping taking place; when the microscopic bits reach a certain size, they are able to attract and hold water. In the Amazon, the clumps seem to appear out of nowhere, nearly fully formed. … Max Planck graduate student Christopher Pohlker traveled to a pristine stretch of forest in Brazil to see if he could solve the riddle…. To figure out the chemical make-up of those particles, he and his colleagues brought the squares to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and placed them in the facility’s synchrotron, where X-rays of varying energies […]

Earthquake warnings from above.

19 May 2011 // 0 Comments

MIT’s Technology Review takes an interesting look at some atmospheric findings – hot flashes in the air, basically – that could help predict earthquakes: Dimitar Ouzounov at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and a few buddies present the data from the Great Tohoku earthquake which devastated Japan on 11 March. Their results, although preliminary, are eye-opening. They say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck. At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicentre, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up. These kinds of observations are consistent with an idea called the Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling mechanism. The thinking is that in the days before an earthquake, the great stresses in a fault as it is about to […]

Desert feeds jungle.

11 August 2010 // 0 Comments

Nature reveals a hidden connection between Sahara dust and the Amazon rainforest: Significant amounts of plant nutrients have been found in atmospheric mineral dust blowing from a vast central African basin to the Amazon, where it could compensate for poor rainforest soils. The basin, known as the Bodélé depression, is the site of a once-massive lake in Chad. Bodélé is thought to be the dustiest place on Earth. … Charlie Bristow, a sedimentologist at Birkbeck, University of London, and lead author of the study, says, “A hypothesis we are investigating at the moment is that because it’s coming from the lakebed, this iron is going to be more bioavailable than if it were coming from the deeply weathered surface of the Sahara.” “The Amazon is essentially a leached or leaching system,” says Bristow. Nutrients in the soil are washed away by rains. “So although it is very productive, it is actually quite nutrient-poor.” So nutrient […]

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