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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.

The Profile

Age. 37
Gender. Female
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Altadena, CA
School. Other
» More info.
The World

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
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
My hero(s)
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER

Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
The Schedule
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
Looking Backwards
Wild Swans
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 Geomorphology
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
Cube Route
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
New Moon
Breaking Dawn
Armageddon's Children
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
Crucial Conversations
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Dandelion Wine
To Sir, With Love
London Calling
Watership Down
The Invisible
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Host
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Help
Zion Andrews
The Unit
Quantum Brain
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
Memento Nora
The Name of the Wind
The Terror
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Libyan Sands
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Calculating 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 Martian
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre � la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Red Mars
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
A Gentleman in Russia
The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism
Seneca: Letters from a Stoic
The Juanes Module

Juanes just needed his own mod. Who can disagree.
Stormy Seas
Thursday. 2.28.08 8:53 pm
In the spring of 2005, I was on the ship the MV Explorer when it was struck by a rogue wave and disabled in the northern Pacific. Here is some video footage of our sister ship, the MV Voyager, which, in a freak coincidence, was similarly disabled in the Mediterranean two weeks after our ship. It is exactly the same model of ship, our weather was worse, and we were farther away from land by several hundred miles. So this footage can give you an idea of what it was like to be inside a ship our size with no engines in a stormy sea....

Cruise Ship Caught In Cyclone - Watch more free videos

Pay special attention to 1:02!

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This is me when I used to have curly hair
Sunday. 2.24.08 11:47 am

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Saturday. 2.23.08 3:24 pm

I mean, spending my day making hotel reservations in Iceland doesn't hurt. And I decided that in addition to summiting Hekla volcano I'm also going to attend a workshop on volcanic ash dispersal on the top of Askja volcano, right next to the caldera. They're like, "bring everything you need [including food] with you! Prepare as you would for an alpine expedition! Strenuous hiking will be involved!"

But it isn't just that... my research is going splendidly! Everything I read about my research makes me so excited I can't sit still enough to read it! I want to highlight everything on the page and read all the background research! It wasn't so long ago that I would fall asleep reading all of these exact same papers. But this time when I read them, I know what they're talking about, and they're basically all saying, "look at me, and how much I can help your research!" HOORAY!!! FORTRAN! HOORAY! FLUID MECHANICS! HOORAY!! CONSERVATION OF MOMENTUM! HOORAY!

Side note: Conservation of angular momentum gets a hearty thumbs DOWN.


It almost makes up for that really ... [insert adjective here]... dream... I had... last... night... about... this... one... person....
treacherous dreams!


::edit:: it occurs to me, as someone who never consumes caffeine, that the giant handfuls of chocolate-covered expresso beans that I've been eating every time I go into my office could have something to do with my extreme and anomalous level of excitement::

::edit2:: I think I'm going to puke now ::

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Longitude and Perspective
Wednesday. 2.20.08 8:03 pm
Well, I met the woman who wrote Longitude and Galileo's Daughter (Dava Sobel). She also has another book called The Planets. You can see why I went to see the talk. To think my own Grand Tour of the Solar System is still stalled at Mercury (but oh, what I have in store for you on the Moon!!)

Reading Longitude has been on my list of things to do forever (I remember when it trickled through the family), and of course I love the history of science (i.e., my obsession with the River Rhine I, II, III, IV, V after reading the book The Rhine: An Eco-Biography.)
I've been especially interested in Galileo's relationship with the Catholic Church of late, because I've been reading "What's So Great About Christianity?". Which is a topic for another entry, but you should read it!
It made me think about what being an author would be like. I'd imagine you'd go to these book signings and meet all of these strange people and they'd tell you all sorts of things about themselves... maybe things they don't usually tell anyone, about their hopes and dreams, about their secret interests, their goals for the future and intense inner ponderings.... why do they tell you?

I think it's because when you read a book, like they say... the author provides half of the book, the story, and (even if it isn't about him) a kind of deep insight into the workings of his mind. Then you, the reader, must rise to the occasion and provide the other half of the experience. This is why the same good book is completely different to everyone who reads it, because each person's internal resonances are different, shaped by their different life stories. So when you meet the author of a book that has profoundly touched your life or ignited your passion for a subject, that person has come into your life so personally, has sat with you in your room for hours on end, has literally shaped the person that you are... that you feel like you can share with him that inner chord that he managed to strike with such a compelling and harmonious note. And that moment, that meeting, is so very important. It would be so easy to kill it with impatience or carelessness, and the impact on the earnest reader would be devastating.

That's why, if I were ever an author, my primary goal at a book signing would be to be extremely kind to everyone there, like Sava Sobel was to everyone tonight. And even if people had to wait in line forever, they wouldn't mind in the end, because they'd appreciate the slow and measured way that I would by necessity greet the many other halves of my story. And I'd hope that some day, I would talk to someone at a book signing, and when they left the room they'd go running back to their library or laboratory or office set alight with ideas and excitement for the future, just as I have tonight.

I even told her about my nutang and how I love to write about science here. I don't tell anyone about my nutang! Why did I do that?

Anyway, I don't think she'll find it...
I think perhaps the only thing she'll remember about me is the pseudonym "zanzibar". But perhaps in a way zanzibar is more truly me than anything.

And zanzibar has half of many stories left to tell you.

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Volcanoes of the World
Saturday. 2.16.08 8:01 pm

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How to Cut Diamonds with Scissors Made of Water
Saturday. 2.16.08 12:49 pm
So in fluid mechanics we were learning about carbon nanotubes. These tiny cylinders (about 10E-09 m in diameter, hence the name) are likely to revolutionize many sectors of industry. They are made out of carbon, with a unique chemical structure making them extremely strong. Like diamonds, they are made of carbon, and their bond structure makes them even stronger than diamonds, depending on which way you try and break them. They tend to aggregate into ropes, and you can fuse them together, creating the possibility of making them into extremely strong wires. They are also good at conducting heat.

So. How does this have to do with a pair of water scissors?

Well, given that carbon nanotubes are so strong, they are exceedly difficult to cut. Engineers would like to cut them to whatever length they desire for their projects, but now they have to deal with the fact that they're going to be whatever length they grow to be (perhaps a couple microns). Thus the problem was put to researchers: How can we cut a micron-scale nanotube accurately when its bonds are stronger than a diamond's? We must make a pair of nanoscissors!

One group tried to do it chemically, sort of how some people cut DNA. But they had to use extremely strong chemicals, and they always ended up destroying the carbon nanotubes instead of cutting them.

Another laboratory decided to cut them physically by mixing them with extremely tiny bits of zircon (a very hard and resilient mineral), and then shaking the container. Unfortunately, this method also usually reduced the carbon nanotubes to bits or damaging them instead of cutting them.

Enter the group at Brown. Fluid mechanicians, they decide to cut the carbon nanotubes using water. How? Cavitation, of course!

Cavitation is a process by which turbulence or disturbences (pressure waves, what have you) in a liquid cause tiny areas where the pressure is low enough for the liquid to turn into a gas. This is kind like boiling, except boiling is usually accompanied by temperature rising enough to turn the liquid to a gas, because the state of a material is dependent on both temperature and pressure. But even when boiling, the first bubbles usually nucleate on contaminating particles or along the wall of the container, where local pressure is slightly lower.
After these bubbles form, they almost immediately collapse after the pressure goes back to normal. They collapse at super-sonic speed, and because the process is adiabatic, as the volume shrinks, the temperature goes way up-- to the tune of some 5000 degrees C. The energy produced very locally by this process is so high that the popping bubbles often give off sparks as they collapse, as well as pressure waves that can be heard as very loud sounds.

This aspect of cavitation makes it a huge engineering concern, and a big concern for secret spy nuclear submarines (see: Hunt for the Red October, "We're cavitating!!!") Cavitating makes a huge number of extremely loud pops, which can be easily picked up by the sonar on other vessels (i.e., Commies!!). The skins of submarines are optimized to reduce cavitation as much as possible, but it depends on what maneuvers you are doing. Cavitation can also happen in pistons and pipes and near the propellors of ships. The energy from the popping bubbles wears huge pits into the metal in these systems, incurring a large cost and necessitating the replacement of parts well before they should be worn out.

Cavitation is also a concern when using ultrasound on the body, because pressure waves like those used in ultrasound, if it's turned up too high, can induce cavitation in your blood, wreaking havoc on the nanostructures in your vessels. (Don't worry, they never turn it up that high!)

Cognizant of the effect of cavitation on nanostructures, the people at Brown decided to see how carbon nanotubes reacted to cavitation. As it turns out, if you put a lot of carbon nanotubes into water, when the bubbles form, the nanotubes are attracted to the low pressure region and in a sense adhere to the surface of the bubble. When it collapses, the surface area over which the nanotubes are spread decreases drastically, and the nanotubes buckle... along eigenmodes!

If you imagine pushing a rug from either side, the rug will buckle in a series of folds that are usually evenly spaced. These are the eigenmodes of the rugs, and the spacing between them would be the eigenspacing, as eigen just means "characteristic" in german. But you can change the eigenspacing of your rug by pushing it together with different energies. (It will also have different eigenspacing depending on how stiff a rug it is. You can imagine that a doormat might have only one eigenmode, while a blanket would have a lot.)

So, by controlling the size of the bubbles that form (by controlling the kind of sonic waves that initiate the cavitation), you can cut the carbon nanotubes to pretty much any length you want!

Using scissors.... MADE OF WATER!!!

Anyway, that was a really cool class.

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La Jour de la Saint-Valentin
Friday. 2.15.08 10:09 am
So it's the day after Valentine's Day. We've been hearing all the stories drifting in of what everyone did last night. One guy made dinner with his sweetie-pie and they consumed half a salmon, a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, and untold glasses of wine. That didn't sound half bad. Another fellow just talked about the massive amount of wine that was involved. Hm...
The Welshman took his darling to a play in the next town over. It was rather experimental, written by a British-Irish playwright... but it was about this author who always writes stories about children being murdered, until children start being murdered in the very same way that he described. Then he gets incarcerated by his government and tortured so that they can try and find the truth. Doesn't really sound very Valentinesy, but I dare say, the Welshman's idea of Valentine's Day sounds quite civilised. (Note the use of the British orthography.)

As for my Valentine's Day, I had a bunch of amazing plans and they were all completely ruined.

I was all ready to sit in my office working on my proposal, then I was going to eat a Hot Pocket for dinner (the fiesta kind, my fav!). Then around 9:15 I was going to go see a movie by myself. After the movie I would return to my office where I would pretend to work but actually write enigmatic Nutang entries and refresh my facebook page a thousand times. Then I was going to look for free polka music online while listening to french news radio, finally driving home around 1am and being so tired that I'd sleep through my meeting this morning.

HOWEVER, I told my roommate about my desire to see this movie. "So... you're going to this movie with some people from work?" she probed. "Uh... well... actually I was just going to go by myself." I answered. It had sounded very "scene" and "emo" in my mind, me, going to the movie, looking mysteriously melancholy... but saying it out loud just made it sound pretty lame. Turns out she wanted to know who I was going with to see if she could go, too. Naturellement!

SOooo we ended up having a hilarious time eating Mexican food at the Azteca local restaurant, going to the movie [Persopolis, very good!], and admonishing the cats in unconjugated French for never pulling their weight in the household [nous travaillons pendant toute la journee, et voila, quand nous arrivons a la maison, vous n'avez pas fait la vaisselle! Vous n'avez rien fait!] until wee hours of the morning.

And I didn't sleep through my meeting. I fairly leaped out of bed this morning.

Vive la France!

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The Birth of Entropy, the Death of Boltzmann
Thursday. 2.14.08 1:27 am
So apparently I got a 5/40 on my first advanced fluid mechanics homework. Oops.
But today we learned how the famed physicist/mathematician Boltzmann (like Boltzmann's Constant!) killed himself after his work was roundly criticized by Mach (like Mach number!) and some other contemporaries (except for Maxwell, like Maxwell's Equations, who worked with him... hence Maxwell-Boltzmann!)

He had just discovered the second law of thermodynamics, the law of Entropy, that is, the law that says that the net state of the universe will always tend towards increasing disorder. So basically, if you have a closed system, (no energy is entering it!) then everything will get more and more disordered as a function of time. It was rejected by many scientists for whom he had great respect. He actually killed himself *just* before experiments proved that he was right.

I may be appallingly bad at advanced fluid mechanics, but I am smart enough to know that killing yourself is a really stupid idea.

Which technically makes me smarter than Boltzmann.


Boltzmann's actual tombstone:

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