Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘science

Sun Rises

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Today marks the return of Standard Time for most people in the U.S. but the sun paid no attention. The earth and sun did nothing unusual to change our circadian rhythms today.

Cyndie captured this image a few minutes before the sun appeared. It didn’t matter to the universe what time our clocks were set to read.

We will reconcile the adjustment to an apparent hour-earlier darkness because we must. Society has yet to reconcile our differing opinions about changing clocks twice a year, but science appears to be leaning toward the conclusion that better health and well-being is possible by eliminating the bi-annual clock adjustment and maintaining Standard Time year-round.
 (Ref: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0748730419854197)

I have a good friend who never hesitates to remind me how much he likes that we adjust the clocks twice a year to alter the daylight for our routine activities. He is not alone, which explains why the repeated debates arise twice every year in the spring and fall yet nothing seems to come of it.

It’s not the kind of thing that we can each just choose for ourselves. It’s a lot like our national leadership. Independents don’t hold much sway in our two-party system and we can’t each choose to follow our own preferred President. We need to function in a system whether we agree with it or not.

The sun and the earth don’t care either way. For some reason, I find solace in that. Knowing the universe pays no heed to our trifling clock settings helps me cope with a system to which I disagree.

It hasn’t helped as well with tolerating national leadership that shows no interest in helping shift us away from abusing the planet to everyone’s detriment. I suspect the universe will have the last laugh in that contest.

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Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2019 at 11:05 am

Mad Weather

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Using just a couple hours in the dark Tuesday night to plow and shovel the 9 inches of snow we received, left the overall job of cleaning up around here far from complete. I spent yesterday at the day-job again, arriving home with no interest in rushing out again to do the rest of the plowing or shoveling, so plenty of spots remain covered.

The deck ended up with a fascinating snowscape of waves and lines unlike anything I remember seeing before. We have ended up with a variety of interesting patterns over the years, but never one with peaks so tall while the slots between remained wide open.

It must have been the result of a perfect dryness of the flakes and lack of wind while they fell.

The pending challenge which we are very curious to have revealed, is whether the predicted next wave of snow will double what already fell Tuesday, and make our job of clearing paths and trails –and the back deck– even more challenging that it was already going to be.

Last night, Cyndie and I watched a rented sci-fi thriller, “Life” (2017), a movie that depicts a space station crew studying a one-celled life form picked up on Mars that unexpectedly grows into a threatening menace. At one point in the movie, the lead scientist ponders the terrorizing underway by the organism they had named, “Calvin”.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. But he has to kill us in order to survive.”

While out in the snow last night, under a “downpour” of more freshly falling flakes, I realized I was feeling a similar sense about the multiple blasts of winter weather battering us of late. My mind tends to perceive the storms as having cognition and intentionally pummeling our region with increasing levels of abuse.

But the weather doesn’t hate us. It is just an unemotional result of ingredients playing out on a global scale. Somewhere, a butterfly flapped its wings and we got walloped by winter.

Still, I can’t deny the distinct impression that, even though the weather might not hate us, it’s behaving an awful lot like it’s a little bit mad at us right now.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2019 at 7:00 am

Embracing Uncertainty

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Noticeable change happens again. The industrial influence on our morphing climate notwithstanding, change is always ongoing. It is a matter of degree and a relative measurement.

At one point, geologists thought continents drifted. Now it is recognized that tectonic plates are in a constant state of interaction. Astronomers figure the days are numbered for our sun, putting the beginning of the end somewhere in the range of only a few billion years.

Some people once thought the earth was flat, even though it wasn’t. I expect there are people who may have thought Saturn would always have rings around it, or at least, for the foreseeable future.

Two headlines in my Science news feed caught my attention yesterday and triggered this thought exercise about our perceptions of a dynamic universe from a static frame of mind.

New research is confirming the theory that Saturn’s iconic rings are temporary. The particles are “raining” down onto the planet, pulled by gravity. Saturn could become ringless within 300 million years, or sooner!

Meanwhile, scientists have discovered a new, and most distant object in our solar system. Who ever thought we actually knew how many planets there were?

Guess where this line from yesterday’s list poem came from?:

• Take care about ever being too certain.

Closer to home, Cyndie and I are trying to figure out how both of us lost consciousness around a simple act of returning a bucket to the house from the barn. On Sunday, we took a few minutes out to catch a couple of the Buff Orpingtons and clean their butt feathers. I hold the hens while Cyndie wields a variety of tools and tricks to reclaim feathers from a stinky mess.

After that, we tended to horse chores and then headed back to the house. Cyndie asked me to carry up a bucket of things, and one or the other of us (we are no longer sure who) had Delilah on a leash.

Two days later, in what seemed another world away, Cyndie asked me what I did with that bucket and the stuff that was in it. This many days removed, my first thought was, “What bucket?” I honestly had zero recollection of what she was referring to.

What had I done?

Slowly, I began to recall carrying the bucket up. It seemed to me that I was at dual purposes, and set the bucket down —on the front steps?— to do something other than going into the house. I suspected it was continuing to walk Delilah, but now we can’t be sure who had the dog.

Why would she have asked me to carry the bucket, other than because she was taking the dog for the extra walk?

Since I regained memory of having carried the bucket and its undefined contents up to the house, I figured I must have set it somewhere simple. Tuesday night, I looked in the garage, but didn’t see it in the most likely spot to temporarily set something.

As I stepped to the door back inside, the bucket came into view. It was empty and someone other than me (who could that be?) had placed it beside the indoor steps to the house.

Cyndie has no memory of having done so, thus her headlamp and face mask that she thinks were in the bucket remain mysteriously lost.

What is it with us and losing headlamps lately?

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Final Donation

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Some people are uncomfortable focusing on death before that grim reality is unavoidably forced upon them. I don’t have that problem, although I will admit to a passing curiosity over the risk of “thinking” something so fatal into occurring.

The end of life subject has come up for me enough times recently that I have now chosen to take action to put in place a plan for my body when I die. Thanks to my sister, Judy, I learned that donating my body to science provides a no cost option for cremation.

I interpret that as a bonus to the even more valuable service of contributing to the advancement of medicine by donating my body for science after I am no longer living in it.

Making a whole body donation is one of the most compassionate funeral alternatives available. When you donate your body to science, Science Care can eliminate and cover all of the costs. With the rising costs of living and final arrangements, whole body donation can be a real blessing not only for medical researchers but for family members.

http://www.sciencecare.com/free-cremation-benefitting-the-community/

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After a quick internet search for information, I chose to register with Science Care. Having already opted to be an organ donor when getting my driver’s license renewed, it was nice to see that Science Care is prepared to work together with other organizations to fulfill both possibilities.

It all happens in a sequence.

The last step in the registration for donation is to inform my family so that they will be aware of my wishes and know who to contact at the time of my death. What better way than right here in this space. So, Cyndie, kids, and my siblings, take note.

When I say I want to donate my body to science, it’s not just idle talk. I mean it.

And, I have taken the steps to facilitate that process, just in case I don’t live long enough that science will have finally perfected that suspended animation thing where our bodies are kept alive until some future generation has mastered a way to stay healthy forever.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

More Science

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This is so cool. In a wonderful compliment to the fascinating sublimation of ice off our deck that I wrote about last week, yesterday we were treated to the other side of that coin, so to speak: deposition.

The air is loaded with moisture this week, and we are experiencing some gorgeous hoar-frost.

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“When these water vapor molecules contact a subfreezing surface, such as a blade of grass, they jump directly from the gas state to solid state, a process known as “deposition”, leading to a coating of tiny ice crystals.”

Hoarfrost: The Science Behind Frost on Steroids
By Jon Erdman  –  October 20 2015 07:00 AM EDT – weather.com

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The scenery on my drive home from work yesterday just kept getting more and more spectacular as I approached our ranch. Views of the hillsides covered with flocked trees across the landscape are absolutely intoxicating.

The first time I saw a Christmas tree flocked completely white when I was a kid, I thought it looked ridiculous. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want such a bizarre looking tree. In time, I came to recognize the artificial trees were mimicking the inspiring look of hoar-frost.

Now I understand, sort of.

While out walking to a high spot in the hay-field with Delilah to take pictures of the barn with the flocked trees as a backdrop, I received a vivid demonstration of how much our darling Belgian Tervuren enjoys snow. In a blink, she appeared to regress back to a puppy and romped in the deep powder with reckless abandon.

It is rewarding to see her so happy, as she has suffered a bit of neglect in the last few weeks, between Cyndie’s illness and the sudden death of Legacy. She has been very patient and a wonderful companion during this time, which leads us to want to reward her with opportunities to play and be the center of our attention again.

It’s another kind of science. Animal love.

Letting a dog thrive at doing what dogs love to do with the people who take care of them.

Getting to do it in a natural wonderland of spectacular frosted trees is a bonus!

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Written by johnwhays

January 26, 2018 at 7:00 am

Interesting Science

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I was actually beginning to write this interesting science post last Sunday morning, back when it was so cold outside, but then Cyndie burst in to announce we had a horse emergency. Boy, did we.

I spent a little time with the three chestnuts after I got home from work yesterday. They were mostly preoccupied with munching the freshly served hay that Cyndie had just put in the boxes, but there were some brief moments of acknowledgement from each of them.

They seemed a little hapless to me. It could just as easily be a projection of my own forlorn perspective, but they are obviously in the middle of trying to adjust to the sudden absence of their principle decision maker, so hapless feels like a logical possibility.

It snowed a lot on Sunday and Monday this week, so I also did some shoveling yesterday afternoon. The deck on the back side of the house had not been cleared since the snow piled up. I wanted to get that cleaned off before the next thaw arrives, which we are anticipating for the next few days, starting with this afternoon.

The last time I was writing about the deck was because it had remained surprisingly clear throughout the prior snowfall, partly because it had been so windy, and partly because that precipitation started as a drizzling rain. If you are a regular reader, you may recall that I posted a picture of it.

Well, by the afternoon of the very next day, the deck surface had changed so dramatically that I took another picture for comparison.

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I’ve written about this before, because it is a winter phenomenon that fascinates me. The ice sublimates from a solid to a gas without actually becoming liquid in between. It just disappears into cold, thin air.

If you enlarge the photo on the left, you can see the bumpy glaze of ice on the boards that formed as the relatively warm and wet precipitation started to fall. I originally posted that photo because I was amazed the several inches of snow that came out of the sky by the end of the event, never accumulated on the deck.

The wind kept the deck surprisingly clean.

By the afternoon of the next day, despite temperatures down around zero degrees (F), I glanced out and noticed that a large majority of the deck boards were now dry. There were hardly any of the icy bumps from the day before.

They hadn’t melted. The deck was completely dry. The frozen bumps had sublimated.

It’s like magic!

Or science.

Something like that.

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Written by johnwhays

January 18, 2018 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Delicious Program

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I want to shout from the stove top about a brilliant three-part program PBS has dished up, “Food – Delicious Science.” It is a thrilling science story of the food on our plates and the physics, chemistry and biology that lies hidden inside every bite.

The hosts, Michael Mosley and James Wong, are wonderful, both to watch and listen to as they guide this exploration of the fascinating details about the food we eat and how our body reacts to it. Their energy for the topic is infectious and their way of describing the complex science of our everyday eating experiences comes across as a comfortable conversation with a friend.

When they taste things that cause a reaction —both good and bad— their expressions convey the experience so well, I almost need to wince or sigh right along with them.

If you eat food, and I’m betting that you do, this program is worth watching. It is informative, entertaining, inspiring, educational, and will absolutely enhance the entire experience of preparing and consuming the nutrition and fuel we need to thrive.

Be forewarned, viewing this program just might generate an insatiable urge to eat something delicious.

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