So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre à la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
Thursday. 9.24.09 8:22 pm
Thursday. 9.24.09 3:58 pm
Life is difficult. Life is mostly difficult because there are so many possibilities and you only have a limited amount of time to explore them.
For example, what am I going to do in the next two years?
Should I take a bunch of classes and try for the Engineering Masters?
Should I try and study in France for a semester?
If I weren't going to Antarctica, I could probably do both... but I'd much rather go to Antarctica!
Should I write about radar or water coming out of volcanoes?
Induration hypotheses or lava properties?
After I graduate, (aged 27) the road forks again:
Post-doc in Paris studying Martian climate models?
Post-doc in Maryland studying brand new images coming down from the Mercury mission?
Job paying me lots of money at Exxon?
Post-doc studying volcanoes at the New Zealand Volcano Observatory?
Post-doc at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. studying Mars?
Post-doc at the Southwest Research Institute studying Mercury?
Post-doc at the Desert Research Institute in Reno studying wind?
Fellowship studying desert processes at some Asian university?
Peace Corps/Michigan Tech program fighting volcanic hazards in poor nations?
Post-doc in Southern France dividing time between studying volcanic ash and going to Antarctica to collect it?
Move to New Zealand with no plan for employment at all?
Work at a hostel in northern France, learning French?
Teach English in South Korea?
Or my newest plan: Write a grant to study inverted topography at the University of Ürümqi!!!
The post-doc positions are each 1-2 years, so after that (aged 29) my path would branch again:
Space Research Institute Staff Scientist
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Scientist
National Center for Atmospheric Research Scientist
--Something having to do with fluid mechanics or engineering--
An old advisor of mine used to say:
"Some geologists study the Northern Shield of Canada, horrible, cold, mosquito-infested places.... me? I study the Galapagos Islands. Why? Because somebody has to study paradise, and it might as well be me."
This has been my philosophy for everything since. After all, somebody has to do my dream job..... it might as well be me.
And then there is the whole question of settling down in the Midwest and getting married and having a bunch of kids...
How many eligible bachelors are there in Ürümqi?
Monday. 9.21.09 9:39 pm
The journey of water molecules from snow to ice is not always a linear one.
Imagine a stack of spheres. You drop all of the spheres haphazardly into a pile, and then shake them around a little bit until they settle into their lowest energy state-- that is, they achieve "perfect packing". Perfect rhombohedral packing, to be exact.
The story is much more complicated with snow, you see, because a snowflake is about the furthest shape you can get from a sphere.
As snow falls into a pile, the snowflakes on the bottom are put under pressure from the ones above. They are also insulated from the cold surrounding atmosphere by their mates. At their spindly edges, the snowflakes begin to buckle, break and deform, becoming more like spheres. They settle slightly due to gravity, eliminating large empty spaces. They also start to melt just slightly, especially at the pointed edges. They call it "cintering". Over time the snowflakes are cintered and deformed until they form a kind of snowflake lattice, where all of the snowflakes form the walls of cavities filled with air. Eventually these cavities break or shrink, putting greater and greater pressure on the air. Air is a gas and eminently compressible, so it shrinks and shrinks in volume along with its shrinking cavity. As the layers of snow build up above, the layers at the bottom are under so much pressure that the air pockets close.
Unable to escape, the air is forced to somehow become a part of the molecular lattice of the ice. One way to do this is to dissolve, sometimes splitting into component atoms and existing in the empty spaces between atoms in the ice lattice. The other way is to squeeze into cage-like molecular structures called "clathrates". Clathrates in this case are a collection of water molecules that form a cage around an empty space. All kinds of molecules can find their way here such as methane, sulfur species, or air.
Climate scientists often attempt to use the bubbles trapped in the ice as a measure of what the atmosphere was like when the bubbles were closed off from the environment way back when the ice was still made of snow. In this technique you are limited to snow that hasn't completely become ice yet (it is called "firn"). In order to get at the climate of times long long ago, climate scientists investigate the atmospheric gases trapped in the clathrate structures.
Both of these techniques are very clever, but the fact that air comes in and out of the firn quite a lot during its compaction into ice means that the resolution on the exact date of that atmospheric composition can sometimes be shockingly bad. After all, it can take 80-90 years for snow to become ice, and all that time the firn is interacting with the atmosphere and smearing out the atmospheric signal. In one case at the Russian base in Antarctica (Vostok), the date at which the atmosphere was trapped has an error bar of up to 490 years! The exactness of the ice dates is directly dependent on the accumulation rate of snow at the site. If new snowflakes and atmospheric bubbles are buried very quickly, they will turn to ice more quickly and the smearing effect will be less. If the accumulation rate is slow, the snow and firn will sit there circulating atmosphere in and out of pore space for hundreds of years, smearing out all of the climate signal during that time.
For more information, see the awesome book by Paterson, 1981 The Physics of Glaciers
If Death Were a Number, I Would Be Aleph-Zero
Sunday. 9.20.09 9:39 pm
"Yes yes yes!"
"No No No!"
"Yes times infinity!"
"No times infinity to the infinity!"
Have you ever had this argument? Probably most of us has. It is possible that at the time we sat and pondered exactly how much infinity times infinity was, and if it were really possible to add infinities together or take infinities to the power of other infinities. What does infinity really mean, anyway, and can we ever hope to wrap our minds around it?
It is also possible that some hitting and kicking and punching and pulling of hair ensued, though whether this was an outgrowth of the fundamental frustration of the human mind to conceive of infinity, I cannot say.
So there are several different kinds of infinity.
Imagine the natural numbers, let's say, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5...etc." They go on into infinity, non?
But let's imagine the rational numbers, that is, numbers that can be represented using fractions, like 1/2, 1/3, or 7/22. How many of those are there? Also an infinite number!
But despite the fact that the rationals and the naturals are infinite in number, we say that they are also "countable". How can something be infinite and yet countable? Well that depends on your definition of "countable". Sure, you could never count to infinity in your lifetime or an infinite number of lifetimes. But on the other hand, everyone can start counting to infinity in the natural numbers and be absolutely certain that they aren't missing any. 1, 2, 3, 4... there aren't any natural numbers between 1 2 3 or 4 that you would be missing. In the same way you could count the rationals, making a grid where you had 1/1, 2/1, 3/1, etc. going horizontally and 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, etc. going vertically and you could ostensibly get all of the rational numbers in existence, because after all, the rationals are just combinations of the naturals. You would probaby get an infinity on the order of infinity times infinity. It would still be countable: you could start counting up rationals and be sure you aren't missing any.
However, if you made it your goal to count the real numbers, you would immediately run into a big problem. What problem is this? Well imagine we wanted to begin by counting up all the real numbers between 0 and 1. We could start with 0.01, and then go up to 0.02. But if we did that, we'd be missing all the numbers like 0.001 or 0.0000001 or 0.0000023343434 that lie between 0.0 and 0.01 and 0.02. In fact, between any two real numbers, there exists an infinite number of real numbers, because you could just extend those decimal places out as far as you like, in whatever combinations you can imagine, making however many numbers as you like between 0 and 1. This, to be sure, is a new kind of infinity. This is an uncountable kind of infinity, and as you may have guessed, its magnitude is far greater than the normal kind of infinity that you just imagined when we were counting natural numbers or rational numbers.
Mathematicians, thinking of this idea for the first time, decided to differentiate between different magnitudes of infinity. They called infinity after the Hebrew letter "aleph". For the regular old type of countable infinity, they chose the term Aleph-Zero. Most types of infinity that one encounters fit into this term. Even if someone made some kind of proclamation like, "Infinity times infinity" or "infinity to the infinity", they would all still fall under the countable kind of infinity of Aleph-Zero.
Even when we discuss the number of real numbers, we can say that the number of digits available to use for each number is Aleph-Zero, because we can say that there is one digit, there are two digits, three, four, and not be missing any in between. But each one of an infinite number of numbers can have Aleph-Zero digits, so we know we are dealing with a much larger form of infinity.
The number of real numbers fits under the term Aleph-One.
Thursday. 9.17.09 7:08 pm
A geologist friend of mine got to actually go to Zanzibar. How unfair is that?
Wednesday. 9.16.09 1:56 pm
Now that I had become suddenly sensible of the fatuity of the hopes I had begun to cherish, I suffered not merely what another lover might, but in addition a desolate loneliness, an utter forlornness, such as no other lover, however unhappy, could have felt.
---Looking Backwards, by Edward Bellamy
A Notice of Withdrawal from Public Life
Tuesday. 9.15.09 10:22 pm
Well, the semester has begun and as usual I'm in way over my head. I've decided that my only recourse is to withdraw completely from public life.
I have taken my former list for this semester:
Take Mathematical Methods for Engineers and Physicists
Take Glacial Dynamics
Read about radar
Secretly take Music Theory
Go to the gym
Learn Kiswahili or Turkish
Grad/Med Christian Fellowship
Theological meeting group
Finish 3 papers
Prepare for Antarctica
Hang out with friends
Graduate Student Council
and I have narrowed it down to this:
Audit Mathematical Methods for Engineers and Physicists
Audit Glacial Dynamics
Read about radar only when I can't stand to read about anything else
Go to the gym
Theological meeting group only once a month
Backrub Club x3 (only enough so I don't get thrown out)
Finish 2 papers
Prepare for Antarctica
I'm still not sure I can fit all that in before I leave for Antarctica. Note how I left "sleep" in there, aren't I optimistic? And Nutang... well, it seems like the time I spend on here goes up the busier I am, so that one gets to stay.
But at least today I got PQ'd!! (I am Physically Qualified for deployment to Antarctica according to their teams of physicians!)
Blinded by Science
Sunday. 9.13.09 9:57 am
I think I'm in danger of becoming my professors.
Last night I came home early from a cocktail party because I was tired and I find people who have been drinking tiresome. But on the way home I had to stop myself from driving to work and working on my research project. This morning I woke up and lay in bed, thinking about extra loops I could add to my code to increase its efficiency and checks I could make to see where I'm having numerical overflows and why. I walk into the bathroom and I'm thinking about ground-penetrating radar, the shapes of ash particles, where I can get some seives with different sizes of holes so that I can get an idea of grain size versus distance from the volcano out in Antarctica. I want to go search for some papers to read about Mt. Erebus, Mars, radar, thermal infrared. I want to buy a time-lapse device for my camera so I can monitor the winds from our field site. I feel like a detective, with pictures and statements pinned on a bulletin board. I feel like I am on the verge of putting the whole puzzle together at last and solving the mystery.
I have a lengthy daydream where I get up in front of the people in my field and inform them that anytime they need me to simulate a volcanic eruption for them, they can just let me know and I'll do it. They'll find that so convenient. I imagine them coming up to me afterwards with their favorite volcanoes. We'll become friends and collaborators. I'm a little frustrated that I've scheduled a bunch of social activities for today which will delay my efforts to work until Monday.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME!?!?!?
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