Home Again


 

A few hours ago I opened my front door. Life put in stasis Tuesday afternoon began to splutter and whir, opposing forces took their place in line.  Three days mail, the dog demanding full attention, my son with a litany of questions and answers, emails, phone messages, garbage I forgot to take out – that excruciating transition between holiday and home.  Always happy to home, yet never comfortable with the “transition” , I eased myself back by downloading almost 500 photographs.

Those pictures solidify three short days in my life – a spur of the moment road trip, covering upwards of 2000 kilometers – days packed with laughter, numerous odd quests and eye popping discovery. Too muddled to nail down a single “ponder” – a few snapshots – each one destined to become ponder fodder a day or two from now.

2014-08-26 19.05.36

2014-08-27 17.05.19

2014-08-28 07.53.06-2

 

2014-08-28 21.39.49

2014-08-28 08.37.45

2014-08-28 19.36.20

 

 

Too tired for background, location or explanation, these were taken over the last few days in the interior of British Columbia. Each has a story to follow.

 

Advertisements

Road Trip


Miraculously, a window of mid-week opportunity opened in my schedule. With summer threatening to breath her last gasp – the only sensible thing to do is take a road trip. This time tomorrow I’ll be 250 miles away enjoying all the Okanagan Valley has to offer. Visiting family, a little wine tasting, exploring back roads, and hopefully witnessing a thunderstorm or two. I’ll be back Friday – undoubtedly with pictures and a full report.

http://www.okanaganbritishcolumbia.com/

Until then, a link to a post written about my hometown…..

Zombie Ant Fungus


Mankind is pretty smug, we see ourselves as jewels in the evolutionary crown – top of the food chain, dominant species, masters of our domain, Terms like “natural order” or “balance of nature” play second fiddle to foolish notions of superiority.  Language and opposable thumbs gave birth to civilization,  evolution dealt us a good hand. We tend to forget nature dealt every species a great hand.

Consider a spore producing organism – no brain, nervous system or ability to move other than mature spores catching a breeze or falling to the ground – you’re pondering Fungus. Now imagine spores that only attach themselves to carpenter ants – spores able to kill hosts just outside their home, use the corpse to mature, grow new spores, and toss them to the ground. Spores guaranteed to infect oblivious ants entering the nest – now you’re pondering Zombie Ant Fungus.

Assistant professor David Hughes of the Entomology Dept. at Penn State c0-authored a paper on Zombie Ant Fungus.

“Ants are remarkably adept at cleaning the interior of the nest to prevent diseases. But we also found that this fungal parasite can’t grow to the stage suitable for transmission inside the nest whether ants are present or not.”

“What the zombie fungi essentially do is create a sniper’s alley through which their future hosts must pass. The parasite doesn’t need to evolve mechanisms to overcome the effective social immunity that occurs inside the nest. At the same time, it ensures a constant supply of susceptible hosts.” – David Hughes

Nature runs a tight ship, evolution knows when to act and react. Zombie fungus isn’t a freakish accident. Dealt the hand needed to maintain balance – a hand no different than the one we got – everything happens for a reason. there’s a reason for everything. If nature decides mankind needs a zombie fungus  – use your opposable thumb to tweet #Zombiespores.

 

http://earthsky.org/earth/zombie-ant-fungus-kills-its-hosts-on-the-doorstep-of-their-nest?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=90a5dc27d3-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-90a5dc27d3-393970565

Finding Andromeda


Traveling at the speed of light for 2,538,000 years you would reach our closest galaxy, Andromeda. To put it simply – moving at 186,000 miles per second for over two and a half million years, covering a distance of 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles.

If you happen to be in the northern hemisphere and want to try finding Andromeda – now is the perfect time. Attempting Andromeda within cities or urban areas is futile – Andromeda requires the darkest of darkest skies.

Look to the eastern sky around 9 PM and locate the Great Square of Pegasus. Think of Alpheratz as 3rd base – draw an imaginary line between first and third base – that line points towards Andromeda.

09aug30_430
Next allow your eye to adjust and find two “streamers” to the north (left) of Alpheratz. Streamers being “lines” of brighter stars. These “streamers” form constellation Andromeda. Find Mirach – the brightest star along the bottom line, let your eye draw a line between Mirach and the star Mu in the “streamer” above – keep going about the same distance above Mu, and say hello to Andromeda.  I won’t promise a jaw dropping spectacle – more like a fuzzy smudge.
Finding Andromeda isn’t about razzamatazz. Even if you fail – the act of finding two and a half million year old light from another galaxy, is worth the effort.

Holey Space


Massive holes, deep holes, old holes – space holes. Holes in the vastness of space – vague, imperceptible apparitions free to behave anyway they please. Invisible cosmic riddles hidden from all but infrared light. Holes of unimaginable scope occupying the vast expanse  perceived as “empty”.  Holes without explanation or understanding – can they bend time, are they portals, do they obliterate everything foolish enough to wander up and say hello?

Images from the European Space Agency (ESA)  Herschel Space Observatory found a .2 light year wide hole in constellation Orion. Using infrared technology, Herschel verified a “blob” in nebula NGC 1999 (a star cluster within the confines of Orion) was indeed a hole in space as we know it. Science has a theory as to how the hole opened  (a void left when fledgling star cluster V380 Ori was born), beyond that – questions from depth to destiny are anyone’s guess.

A "hole in space" captured by Herschel.

A dark patch in a green blob of gas and dust (top) is a hole in the nebula NGC 1999.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100512-science-space-black-hole-herschel-stars/

Our Milky Way galaxy churns around a “super massive” black hole. Black holes are all about gravity – imagine our planet the size of a dime – small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but weighing the same and packing the exact gravitational forces as its former self. Next multiply that by hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions, and you have a black hole. A region of space so densely packed with matter, gravitational pull won’t let light escape. By definition – an object in space so dense that its escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.

Watch this video – black holes are beyond cool.

http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/black-holes/

Old Holes


Ancient holes exist beneath our radar. Often referred to as “digs” or “sites” , we tend to ponder them as novels rather than chapters or pages. For now lets just call them holes – I don’t care if the story makes sense or chapters flow sensibly – take a look at some very old “holes”.

Constructed around 800 AD, Chand Baori in India is a spectacular old hole. This Stepwell ( a well behaving more like a pond – water reached by descending steps) has 3,500 steps sloping 100 feet to the bottom. In monsoon season, the well fills almost to capacity.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2269135/Well-I-Incredible-man-watering-hole-India-features-maze-seemingly-ending-steps.html

Derinkuyu in Turkey may not be a hole in the traditional sense, but any civilization that digs a 13 level, over 100 foot deep underground structure able to house 20,000 people, makes my list of old holes. Attributed to the Phrygians around 800 BC, each level could be secured behind rolling stone doors from inside the structure. Sophisticated ventilation kept fresh air flowing to deepest corners, and a tunnel almost 5 miles long connected it to the underground city of Kaymakli.

Qanat Firaun is below ground and excavated by hand – I see no reason not to consider it an old hole. Credited as the worlds longest ancient underground aqueduct, it runs for over 100 miles beneath present day Jordan and Syria. Work began around 80 AD to supply water to the Roman frontier known as Decapolis – capital city Gadara was home to an estimated 50,000 people. Also called the Gadara Aqueduct – so much water funneled beneath the desert, thousands of fountains and baths gave ancient Gadara a staggering daily water consumption of 500 litres per capita. I call that a remarkable old hole.

A Hole Story


We’ve been digging since the dawn of time – turning earth in search of water, metals, minerals and gems. Caves, tunnels, crypts, bunkers, treasure vaults, food storage – purposely hewn testaments to our ingenuity.

Bingham Canyon Copper Mine in Utah is the largest man made hole on the planet. Three quarters of a mile deep, two and a half miles wide, In continuous production since 1906 – now owned by United Kingdom based Rio Tinto – it dodged falling copper prices and a planned closure in 2013, when copper prices began to climb. Rio Tinto has plans to build a second mine, 2000 feet beneath the floor of the existing open pit.

http://www.weather.com/news/science/environment/bingham-canyon-mine-worlds-biggest-man-made-hole-ground-20140724

Second place goes to the Mirny Diamond Mine in Siberia -1,722 feet deep and 3,900 feet wide – between 1955 and 2001, it produced over 10 million carats of diamonds every year. Large scale mining has ceased in the open pit, mining activity now takes place underground.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2013/06/28/russian_diamond_mine_is_the_worlds_second_largest_hole.html

Kimberly Mine in South Africa deserves mention for reaching a depth of 705 feet, width 3,600 feet – dug entirely by hand. Between 1871 and 1914. upwards of 50,000 men armed with picks and shovels, extracted 6000 pounds of diamonds from this ridiculously steep round hole.

The Kola Borehole in Russia is in a league of its own. Who knew Russia and America not only raced for space – each wanted to be the first to reach Earth’s core. American effort “Project Mohole” exhausted funding in 1966, the site off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean was abandoned. Starting in 1970 until 1994, Russian scientists managed to bore a hole 7.5 miles into Earth’s crust. The project closed when temperatures at the business end exceeded 356 degrees Fahrenheit – super heated rock behaved more like plastic, making further drilling impossible. Far from being deemed a failure – core samples showed the existence of biological fossils in rock more than 2 billion years old. In all, 24 species of single cell marine plankton were identified.
Far from being the whole story – tomorrow I’ll look at ancient holes.