Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Was Tycho Brahe murdered by Kepler? Doubtful at best, but it's nice to see research putting paid to the absurd notion that he died of superhuman bladder control.

(Note to NYT: Please remove writers obsessed with Hollywood adaptations or aspiring to be gossip columnists from the science beat.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Flying reptiles are in the news:
"The whole snake itself is just one long wing," Socha said. "That wing is constantly reconfiguring, it's constantly reforming and contorting... Parts of the body, depending on where they are in space, might be interacting with the wake from the front part of the body, and this might hurt or help or be neutral."
Flyingsnake.org will reward some browsing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More often than not, I'm quite fond of New Mexico's climate. But sometimes.... is this a classic southwestern weather alert or what?
Snow, Wind, and Critical Fire Weather Conditions to Impact NM Today

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New seismic fault discovered in central Idaho:
Scientists at Idaho State University have mapped a previously unknown and active seismic fault in the northern Rockies capable of unleashing an earthquake with a magnitude as high as 7.5....

....Glenn Thackray, chairman of the university's geosciences department, said the 40-mile-long fracture in the Earth's crust at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains near the tiny mountain town of Stanley is cause for some concern.

"There's a chance in the next few decades there will be an earthquake on this fault, and if it does happen it will be a rather large earthquake," he said.

Scientists located the fault with a remote sensing technique that relies on laser-equipped airplanes. They were able to gather data about its history by analyzing sediment cores lifted from Redfish Lake, a mountain lake on the fault line famous for its historic sockeye salmon runs.

Thackray said researchers believe the fault triggered two earthquakes over the past 10,000 years, one some 7,000 years ago and another 4,000 years ago, suggesting significant seismic activity occurs at the site every several thousand years.
I visited the fault scarp from the 1983 Mount Borah earthquake this summer (another illustration here). With nearly ten feet of vertical displacement in places, it's quite impressive. The mountains rose six inches while the valley floor dropped nine feet. We run a rapid on the Middle Fork of the Salmon whose main obstacle is a boulder dislodged from the cliffs by the quake 70 miles away. East-central Idaho is shaky country. Quakes here would be a big deal if the area weren't so sparsely populated.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wee, Sleekit, Cow’rin, Tim’rous Beastie

The Secret Lives of Harvest Mice

Very cool, and an example of really bravura wildlife photography. They still look like treats for pythons, though.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jonah Goldberg receives an interesting question:
I have a co-worker who is a 38-year-old Muslim from Niger... He is here on a permanent visa and plans on eventually becoming a citizen.... With some prodding from him, I have taken upon myself the task of assigning him a list of movies he needs to see in order to explain America and its myriad cultures to him... I’d love it if you could ask your readers…are there some movies that perhaps wouldn’t make a Best Movie list that I should include anyway? My only criterion is that the film has to delve into a different subculture of American life, either past or present. Whether or not you like a movie is not relevant.
In accordance with the interests of this blog, let's narrow the scope a little. What movies would you recommend to an outsider to understand the people and lifestyles of the modern American West?

My thoughts:
  • Lonely Are the Brave: Just saw this for the first time a few months ago, and it's damn good. Old western love of freedom and wildness collides with modernity and development in Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains.
  • Into the Wild: An extreme manifestation of the love of solitude, nature and adventure that draws people to the West.
  • The Milagro Beanfield War: Has its detractors, but northern New Mexico village life has never really made it on film anywhere else. Also shows the role water plays around here,something which folks from elsewhere have an awfully hard time grasping.
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: For such politically charged material, this one does pretty well in wrestling with the world of the border. Excellent dark humor on display.
  • Rancho Deluxe: I hesitate to list this one, since I'm not at all sure what a foreigner would take away from it; but it's a lot of fun despite some mannerisms, and the dope-smoking rustler je ne sais quoi is unique and appealing. Would that Montana were remained thus. Plus, it's got Slim Pickens.
  • Smoke Signals: Most interesting Indian movie I could think of, not romanticized, but not too squalid either, and has a sense of humor. I'd love to hear other suggestions, though. My only other vaguely satisfactory idea is Thunderheart.
Some vaguely related thoughts:
  • All of the above get their landscapes right, which is pretty rare for filmmakers. Note to Hollywood: more and more people know and care about this issue, we find it distracting, and it makes you look like idiots. Please film your next Geronimo movie in southern Arizona, not in Utah.
  • Many aspects of the West simply haven't made it to the screen. Mormonism, for instance: September Dawn was apparently a bit of a flop. Anyone actually seen it?
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang movie doesn't look promising. Release date has been pushed back from 2008 to 2010 to 2013. Last I heard they were going to film in New Mexico for tax purposes. I love NM, but that's not going to cut it landscape-wise (see above).
Lastly, since suitable movies are in somewhat short supply, what book would you like to see on film to exemplify the modern West (assuming it would be done well)? My first impulse is Peter Bowen's Wolf, No Wolf.
It's official: squid can fly. With photographic evidence.
From what has been gathered through the small body of evidence, these species of squid capable of 'flying' use a kind of jet propulsion to project themselves out of the water, whereupon they extend their fins to guide the trajectory and create lift.
Thanks to Odious for the tip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Speaking of which, it's about time I blogged the new addition to the family:

Woodhouse's toad

I believe he's a Woodhouse's toad, though I stand open to correction if anyone knows better. Someone caught him wild and gave him to the store where we get our pythons' mice, and we decided he'd be happier with us than there. He's been settling in pretty well, and feeding him is great fun.

It's been a real challenge to find a name for him, though. We went through an awful lot of options: Gilbert, Timur, Chinggis, Killick, Jarbidge. We've very nearly settled on Belisarius, narrowly edging ahead of Ptolomy. We'll see if it sticks.
Ranchers and hookers unite to stick it the Endangered Species Act by saving the Amargosa toad. Let's see more of this kind of conservation, especially involving toads.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hallbjörn Hjartarson, the king of Icelandic country music. You can listen to a song here.

Hat tip to Rajan Parrikar, an excellent photoblogger who seems to split his time between Iceland and Goa. I definitely recommend clicking a good ways into his archives.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"He’s been asexually budding and having the younger versions of himself bid for city contracts."

Surprisingly, this is not just another special New Mexico election moment, but rather a civic-minded sci-fi bagatelle from John Scalzi.