Llano Estacado

Galaxie PuffMorning workouts bring cracked dust trails and seldom used railroad tracks.  The California Sun is nowhere near as hot as the one over the New Mexico desert where I roamed aged 12.   Yet, it’s just hot enough to peel back layers of memories revealing the most pleasant sensations of my early rides to the college where I’d double-booked classes only to capture lab time with the mainframe.  What’s missing now are the oil pits, wind-blown plumes of invisible petroleum stink, and the web of caliche roads which seem to hold the Llano Estacado to Earth.  In boiling heat I plotted back country pumpjack routes ending near the southwest quadrant of the road circumscribing NMJC.  Summer weekdays I made the trip on an old ten-speed carving frustrating ruts when the hardpan failed. I suppose I was motivated by the same obsession I see in my own children today: Machine time. Still, I see no similar adventure in their own lives–solo quests over treacherous lands–and it saddens me.  And today, every small avoidance on my trail run triggers instincts to instruct them as to what to watch for, what to avoid, the geology, and the observation of the toil of others, but my children aren’t there.  Their absence begs the question:  What have we wrought?  A question repeating in my mind, but the words are not my own.  While science and society progresses, we haven’t made any significant strides in our own nature.  We’re still viciously vying for wants; corruption has no obvious face, and it is everywhere; the workplace is just a facade behind which hides a nature no different from ranchborne butchery; and cooled offices and retina displays have only changed the face of our routines.  Beneath the thin veneer of our professions exists the same grunting club armed primate waiting to bash in your head for a few corporate kudos. How to prepare them?


Reprint:  Hemoglobin

Roughly eight billion years ago a star exploded, casting into space the iron its engine produced, continuing the seeding of the cosmos with one of the basic ingredients required for life.

Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element (by mass) forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth’s outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust. Iron’s very common presence in rocky planets like Earth is due to its abundant production as a result of fusion in high-mass stars, where the production of nickel-56 (which decays to the most common isotope of iron) is the last nuclear fusion reaction that is exothermic. This causes radioactive nickel to become the last element to be produced before collapse of a supernova leads to the explosive events that scatter this precursorradionuclide of iron abundantly into space.

Iron is the essential element in hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen to burn nutrients that power life in vertebrates.

Hemoglobin (pron.:/hməˈɡlbɪn/; also spelledhaemoglobin and abbreviated Hb or Hgb) is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells of all vertebrates[1] (with the exception of the fish family Channichthyidae[2]) as well as the tissues of some invertebrates. Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the respiratory organs (lungs or gills) to the rest of the body (i.e. the tissues) where it releases the oxygen to burn nutrients to provide energy to power the functions of the organism, and collects the resultant carbon dioxide to bring it back to the respiratory organs to be dispensed from the organism.

Vertebrates are a form of life on Earth that began 525 million years ago, and here we see a photograph of two vertebrates:  A dirty blonde primate nursing her infant daughter, absorbing the 4 million year old view of the Sierra mountains, while sitting on a 1,200 year old volcano.

This moment of rest and observation lasted about twenty minutes.


Big Skies

Had one of the most inspiring conversations with Chrissie Brodigan yesterday.  She’s someone I’ve known only as an association for the past couple of years, and after talking with her yesterday, after she left Mozilla about ten months ago, I realized I was missing out on someone who seems to have an amazing capacity for empathy and demonstrates courage and integrity.  The deepest previous impression I’d had of her was when she approached me after I gave a wreck of a speech at a Mozilla all-hands post-Firefox 4.  She stopped me in the hallway to tell me I was inspiring.  I took her comment with grace (at least I think I did), but I was in a terrible state–embarrassed beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.

I like to think I’m able to understand and read people.  Specifically, I like to think that I can tell honest people from dishonest; however, recent experiences have taught me that my success rate is not as high as I’d like.  Chrissie is likely an example of a quick wrong judgement on my part.  Not because I thought her honest or dishonest, demonstrating or not demonstrating integrity, but rather, because I didn’t pay attention.  I should have tried harder to engage her and others around me even though I was in a terrible state.  I would have found it uplifting if I had, just as I experienced yesterday.

To top off the day, Steph was sending great messages all day about her time with the kids, inspecting obsidian knives and objects from Africa at the museum.  She told me I should be outside with my camera to see the skies.

So I did.

Huge skies yesterday reminded me of this shot taken recently, of a very similar day, down in South Bay, on an afternoon having lunch just with Steph, at Freebirds.

Things are wonderful right now.





Babyland 1

Several years ago I used to ride my bike to work, and sometimes I’d take the train to San Jose and bike from there to home.  It was just a little shorter that way, and it added some variety to what was usually an hour and fourty five ride.  Once off the train, I’d sometimes take San Carlos–a street lined with strange, at least to me, stores out of a time warp.  It’s very California.  Once you hit the corner of San Carlos and Bascom you will see Babyland, or what used to be Babyland.  Back when I was on the bike, it was open.  Now, it’s a shell of a building.  In its day, it appeared to be a great place to buy baby furniture; however, there’s just something about the place that’s a little off.  It’s from another time.   It’s a roundish building that resembles an auto dealership from yesteryear.  Most striking is it’s BABYLAND sign and it’s skull faced clown baby logo-thing.   Once I noticed they went out of business, I promised myself I’d photograph it before it disappeared forever.

Chas called it when he asked me, “Dad, why does the baby have a skull head?”  Ford piles on with “Yeah, and the place is right next to a strip joint.”

No wonder they closed.


Acacia Skies

Enjoying an amazing very Spring day.  Even cleaned out the tree house with Chas and Jolene.  The acacia trees are in full bloom, everywhere.

The Acacia is used as a symbol in Freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul, and as funerary symbolism signifying resurrection and immortality. The tree gains its importance from the description of the burial of Hiram Abiff, the builder of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.[18]

Egyptian mythology has associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life, such as in the Myth of Osiris and Isis.

Several parts (mainly bark, root and resin) of Acacia are used to make incense for rituals. Acacia is used in incense mainly in India, Nepal, and China including in its Tibet region. Smoke from Acacia bark is thought to keep demons and ghosts away and to put the gods in a good mood. Roots and resin from Acacia are combined with rhododendron, acorus, cytisus, salvia and some other components of incense. Both people and elephants like an alcoholic beverage made from acacia fruit.[19] According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Acacia tree may be the “burning bush” (Exodus 3:2) which Moses encountered in the desert.[20] Also, when God gave Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, he said to “make an ark ” and “a table of acacia wood” (Exodus 25:10 & 23, Revised Standard Version). Also, in the Christian tradition, it is thought that Christ’s crown of thorns was woven from acacia.[21]

El Capitan and Yellow Pine


El Capitan is composed almost entirely of El Capitan Granite, a pale, coarse-grained granite emplaced approximately 100 mya (million years ago). In addition to El Capitan, this granite forms most of the rock features of the western portions of Yosemite Valley. A separate intrusion of igneous rock, the Taft Granite, forms the uppermost portions of the cliff face.

A third igneous rock, diorite, is present as dark-veined intrusions through both kinds of granite, especially prominent in the area known as the North America Wall.[3]

Along with most of the other rock formations of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan was carved by glacial action. Several periods of glaciation have occurred in the Sierra Nevada, but the Sherwin Glaciation, which lasted from approximately 1.3 mya to 1 mya, is considered to be responsible for the majority of the sculpting. The El Capitan Granite is relatively free of joints, and as a result the glacial ice did not erode the rock face as much as other, more jointed, rocks nearby.[4] Nonetheless, as with most of the rock forming Yosemite’s features, El Capitan’s granite is under enormous internal tension brought on by the compression experienced prior to the erosion which brought it to the surface. These forces contribute to the creation of features such as the massive Texas Flake, a large block of granite slowly detaching from the main rock face about halfway up the side of the cliff.



Jolene Inspects the Pandimensional Matter Tractors

While Team Sicore repeatedly tests the friction coefficient of the ice layer covering Badger Pass, Jolene and I explore the surrounding territory.  Here she diligently inspects the equipment for mission-worthiness.

An intriguing feature of string theory is that it predicts extra dimensions. In classical string theory the number of dimensions is not fixed by any consistency criterion. However, to make a consistent quantum theory, string theory is required to live in a spacetime of the so-called “critical dimension”: we must have 26 spacetime dimensions for the bosonic string and 10 for the superstring. This is necessary to ensure the vanishing of the conformal anomaly of the worldsheet conformal field theory. Modern understanding indicates that there exist less-trivial ways of satisfying this criterion. Cosmological solutions exist in a wider variety of dimensionalities, and these different dimensions are related by dynamical transitions. The dimensions are more precisely different values of the “effective central charge”, a count of degrees of freedom that reduces to dimensionality in weakly curved regimes.[14][15]

One such theory is the 11-dimensional M-theory, which requires spacetime to have eleven dimensions,[16] as opposed to the usual three spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension of time. The original string theories from the 1980s describe special cases of M-theory where the eleventh dimension is a very small circle or a line, and if these formulations are considered as fundamental, then string theory requires ten dimensions. But the theory also describes universes like ours, with four observable spacetime dimensions, as well as universes with up to 10 flat space dimensions, and also cases where the position in some of the dimensions is is described by a complex number rather than a real number. The notion of spacetime dimension is not fixed in string theory: it is best thought of as different in different circumstances.[17]

Nothing in Maxwell‘s theory of electromagnetism or Einstein‘s theory of relativity makes this kind of prediction; these theories require physicists to insert the number of dimensions manually and arbitrarily, and this number is fixed and independent of potential energy. String theory allows one to relate the number of dimensions to scalar potential energy. In technical terms, this happens because a gauge anomaly exists for every separate number of predicted dimensions, and the gauge anomaly can be counteracted by including nontrivial potential energy into equations to solve motion. Furthermore, the absence of potential energy in the “critical dimension” explains why flat spacetime solutions are possible.

This can be better understood by noting that a photon included in a consistent theory (technically, a particle carrying a force related to an unbroken gauge symmetry) must be massless. The mass of the photon that is predicted by string theory depends on the energy of the string mode that represents the photon. This energy includes a contribution from the Casimir effect, namely from quantum fluctuations in the string. The size of this contribution depends on the number of dimensions, since for a larger number of dimensions there are more possible fluctuations in the string position. Therefore, the photon in flat spacetime will be massless—and the theory consistent—only for a particular number of dimensions.[18] When the calculation is done, the critical dimensionality is not four as one may expect (three axes of space and one of time). The subset of X is equal to the relation of photon fluctuations in a linear dimension. Flat space string theories are 26-dimensional in the bosonic case, while superstring and M-theories turn out to involve 10 or 11 dimensions for flat solutions. In bosonic string theories, the 26 dimensions come from the Polyakov equation.[19] Starting from any dimension greater than four, it is necessary to consider how these are reduced to four dimensional spacetime.


Chas Pattern Instance: Taunting the Poloti


The Ahwahneechee people called the waterfall “Cholock” (“the fall”) and believed that the plunge pool at its base was inhabited by the spirits of several witches, called the Poloti.[4][5] An Ahwaneechee folktale describes a woman going to fetch a pail of water from the pool, and drawing it out full of snakes. Later that night, after the woman had trespassed into their territory, the spirits caused the woman’s house to be sucked into the pool by a powerful wind, taking the woman and her newborn baby with it.

Jolene Inspects the Bose-Einstein Condensate Nacelles

Jolene inspects the Bose-Einstein condensate nacelles for heat fractures while the rest of Team Sicore prepares for an icy low-friction descent.

A Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC) is a state of matter of a dilute gas of bosons cooled to temperatures very near absolute zero (0 K or −273.15 °C[1]). Under such conditions, a large fraction of the bosons occupy the lowest quantum state, at which point quantum effects become apparent on a macroscopic scale. These effects are called macroscopic quantum phenomena.

Compared to more commonly encountered states of matter, Bose–Einstein condensates are extremely fragile. The slightest interaction with the outside world can be enough to warm them past the condensation threshold, eliminating their interesting properties and forming a normal gas.[citation needed]

Nevertheless, they have proven useful in exploring a wide range of questions in fundamental physics, and the years since the initial discoveries by the JILA and MIT groups have seen an explosion in experimental and theoretical activity. Examples include experiments that have demonstrated interference between condensates due to wave–particle duality,[21] the study of superfluidity and quantized vortices, the creation of bright matter wave solitons from Bose condensates confined to one dimension, and the slowing of light pulses to very low speeds using electromagnetically induced transparency.[22] Vortices in Bose–Einstein condensates are also currently the subject of analogue gravity research, studying the possibility of modeling black holes and their related phenomena in such environments in the lab. Experimentalists have also realized “optical lattices“, where the interference pattern from overlapping lasers provides a periodic potential for the condensate. These have been used to explore the transition between a superfluid and a Mott insulator,[23] and may be useful in studying Bose–Einstein condensation in fewer than three dimensions, for example the Tonks–Girardeau gas.

In 1999, Danish physicist Lene Vestergaard Hau led a team from Harvard University which succeeded in slowing a beam of light to about 17 metres per second[clarification needed]. She was able to achieve this by using a superfluid.[26] Hau and her associates at Harvard University have since successfully made a group of condensate atoms recoil from a “light pulse” such that they recorded the light’s phase and amplitude, which was recovered by a second nearby condensate, by what they term “slow-light-mediated atomic matter-wave amplification” using Bose–Einstein condensates: details of the experiment are discussed in an article in the journal Nature, 8 February 2007.[27]

Life In Jupiter

Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulfide. The clouds are located in the tropopause and are arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These are sub-divided into lighter-hued zones and darker belts. The interactions of these conflicting circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence. Wind speeds of 100 m/s (360 km/h) are common in zonal jets.[43] The zones have been observed to vary in width, color and intensity from year to year, but they have remained sufficiently stable for astronomers to give them identifying designations.[23]

The cloud layer is only about 50 km deep, and consists of at least two decks of clouds: a thick lower deck and a thin clearer region. There may also be a thin layer of water clouds underlying the ammonia layer, as evidenced by flashes of lightning detected in the atmosphere of Jupiter. This is caused by water’s polarity, which makes it capable of creating the charge separation needed to produce lightning.[31] These electrical discharges can be up to a thousand times as powerful as lightning on the Earth.[44] The water clouds can form thunderstorms driven by the heat rising from the interior.[45]

The orange and brown coloration in the clouds of Jupiter are caused by upwelling compounds that change color when they are exposed to ultraviolet light from the Sun. The exact makeup remains uncertain, but the substances are believed to be phosphorus, sulfur or possibly hydrocarbons.[31][46] These colorful compounds, known as chromophores, mix with the warmer, lower deck of clouds. The zones are formed when rising convection cells form crystallizing ammonia that masks out these lower clouds from view.[47]

Jupiter’s low axial tilt means that the poles constantly receive less solar radiation than at the planet’s equatorial region. Convection within the interior of the planet transports more energy to the poles, balancing out the temperatures at the cloud layer.[23]

When the North American Plate on its slow journey westwards encountered the Pacific Plate approximately 250 million years ago during the Paleozoic, the latter began to subduct under the North American continent. Intense pressure underground caused some of the Pacific Plate to melt, and the resulting upwelling magma pushed up and hardened into the granite batholith that makes up much of the Sierra Nevada.[19] Extensive layers of marine sedimentary rock that originally made up the ancient Pacific seabed were also pushed up by the rising granite, and the ancestral Merced River formed on this layer of rock. Over millions of years, the Merced cut a deep canyon through the softer sedimentary rock, eventually hitting the hard granite beneath. The encounter with this resilient rock layer caused the Merced River to mostly stop its downcutting, although tributary streams continued to widen the ancient canyon.[20]

Over about 80 million years, erosion caused the transportation of massive amounts of alluvial sediment to the floor of the Central Valley, where it was trapped between the California Coast Range on the west and the Sierra Nevada on the east, forming an incredibly flat and fertile land surface. The present-day form of the upper Merced River watershed, however, was formed by glaciers, and the lower watershed was indirectly but significantly affected.[21][22]

When the last glacial period or Ice Age arrived, a series of four tremendous valley glaciers filled the upper basin of the Merced River. These glaciers rose in branches upstream of Yosemite Valley, descending from the Merced River headwaters, Tenaya Canyon and Illilouette Creek. Tenaya Canyon was actually eroded even deeper by an arm of the Tuolumne Glacier, which formed the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and Hetch Hetchy Valley on the Tuolumne River in the north. Little Yosemite Valley formed as a result of the underlying rock being harder than that below the Giant Staircase, the cliff wall containing Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. These three branches of each glacier combined to form one large glacier about 7,000 feet (2,100 m) thick at maximum, stretching 25 miles (40 km) downstream past the mouth of Yosemite Valley, well into Merced Canyon. These glaciers formed the granite cliffs that now constitute landmarks such as Half Dome, El Capitán, and Cloud’s Rest.[21][22][23]

The first and largest glacier was the Sherwin or Pre-Tahoe glacier, which eroded the upper Merced watershed to an extent close to its present form. Three stages followed during the Wisconsinian glaciation; these were the Tahoe, Tenaya and Tioga stages, of which the Tioga was the smallest. The Tioga glacier left at the mouth of Yosemite Valley a rocky moraine. This moraine was actually one of several moraines deposited by the four glaciations, which include Medial Moraine and Bridalveil Moraine.[24] After the Tioga Glacier retreated this moraine formed a lake that flooded nearly the entire valley. Gradual sedimentation filled Lake Yosemite, creating a broad and flat valley floor. Sediments of glacial origin continued to travel down the Merced River following then, helping to form the flat floor of the Central Valley.[21][22][23]

This is a view of the clouds over the Merced River Valley, Yosemite, just as the Sun decided to set.  We were exhausted from two days of hikes and a day on the slopes.  The kids were in the truck, stripping off their clothes, only to curl up and sleep during the ride home.  More images pending time in the darkroom.

This image is dedicated to Michelle Budziak who helped me debug my enlarger and get rid of that dreaded halo effect.  Thank you, Michelle.