Musings

21 November 2017, Tuesday

Thanksgiving message to classes:

Thanksgiving is a much needed break for you, I am sure. I enjoy the simplicity of the holiday, and I enjoy giving thanks. Much of the world's environment is in very bad shape, and people live much shorter and less happy lives as a result. Most of us here are very fortunate in that we have good air, good water, and an ample supply of food. I hope we can preserve this goodness. That's why we educate ourselves to keep the goodness going for our generations down the line. We can mess it up for them.

Thanksgiving is associated with food. Last week, a second friend/colleague told me he had a food allergy that he acquired by a bite from the lone star tick. Both of these friends describe going into an anaphylactic shock after eating meat from a mammal. Fortunately for them on Thanksgiving, the primary meat is turkey. This allergy they have is very serious, and both of them keep an EpiPen nearby for emergencies in case they have an attack. That is frightening. This year, I was bitten twice by lone-star ticks. The ticks are clearly identifiable with a prominent white spot on a brown background. I remember being bitten in the past by lone-star ticks. Every week, I test to see if I developed an allergy by going and getting a big ole hamburger. So far, I am ok.

What could be the reason that I continue to be allergy-free while these guys must be careful. Well, it could be genetics, but I am thinking that it was my lifestyle as a child. When I was a child, I was eaten up every day by ticks during the summer. Every day it seemed, I had to pull ticks off after I was bitten, and I was good at it; in fact, I did not think anything about it. Could it be that my staying outside every day and experiencing what nature had to give saved me later in life from nature's pathogens as an adult. It is quite likely. There were no videogames when I was a kid, so I had to play outside. To support my statement, scientists believe a lot of allergies can be reduced if children experience more outdoor activities of different sorts. It makes sense.

In 2003, I was bitten by a black widow spider. I toughed it out. Could it be now that I am immune to latrotoxin, which is the nerve venom of the black widow? It is very possible, but I don't think I will test that presumption.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and be mindful of all things that are good. As I get older, I am getting better at that.


30 October 2017

The first frost of the 2017-2018 winter season happened in the Hattiesburg area on 29 October 2017. It is a bit earlier than the average date, which is around 18 November. Sometimes, frosts don't arrive in south Mississippi until Thanksgiving. The earliest frost date I remember in Hattiesburg is 9 October 1989; so, there is over a month and a half range for the earliest frost date. If you want to keep track of the climate in your area, you can keep a notebook of the earliest frost date from year to year. That sounds like fun. You might not be able to detect global climate change from your information because urbanization leads to the urban heat island effect, so frost dates becoming later could represent urbanization effects.

You've heard of La Nina, which is the opposite of El Nino. Well, at this time in October, conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific show signs of a La Nina developing. If La Nina does blossom fully, she will lead to a dry, cool winter for southern Mississippi with frosty mornings and mild, cool days. Typically, there is no extreme cold during a La Nina winter in the Hattiesburg area. Now, to be clear, that is just from my observations--so that prediction may be far from perfect. You can go to https://www.climate.gov/enso and see the blue-coded cool water developing in the eastern Pacific. That's a clear symptom of La Nina. We'll wait to the next report in November to see where she goes.

Reference

Frost Dates for Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 2017, The Old Farmer's Almanac (accessed 30 October 2017)

4 October 2017, Wednesday

The Climate Change chapter was posted this week. It is a subject that is quite in the news, and for good reason. With natural changes and man-made changes, it is hard to make a definitive and exacting statement about what will happen; but, of course, it is right to be concerned. We humans have large brains, and using that gray matter well will help us avoid unpleasant events that we can change.

There is a bit of positive news on the Climate Change front. I watch carefully the extent of Arctic Ice around the North Pole. 2012 is the record for the least amount of Arctic ice. It appeared that 2017 would follow the record-low pattern of 2012, but things started improving in July, and ice is increasing rapidly to a much more comfortable amount.

You can go to http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ and click on the graph in the upper right. You will see the 2012 line and the 2017 line. If you are looking for good news to brighten your day, this graph will help.


31 August 2017, Thursday

There is unimaginable misery in Houston, Texas--and now Beaumont to the east. Even when the floodwaters recede, one cannot go home again. The sheetrock/drywall is mush, dangerous mold abounds, and, of course, anything electrical is no longer trustworthy. Hurricane Harvey was an ordinary hurricane. The Gulf Coast hasn't experienced many powerful hurricanes since Katrina, so we must readjust. We can't really blame this storm on climate change because even an ordinary hurricane will cause massive flooding when it gets stuck, and Harvey got stuck over Houston. Historically, there have been other hurricanes drop 50 inches of rain on a single location. Hurricanes are tremendous heat-redistribution machines that relocate heat from the lower atmosphere and lower latitudes to the upper atmosphere and upper latitudes. The magnitude of energy in these machines is astronomical. Just think of the 25 trillion gallons of water dropped on Texas and Louisiana. We tend to build cities in precarious locations. New Orleans is perhaps the ultimate precarious location in the category of flooding. Being below sea level does not help. There are other reasons as well; for example, the silt-laden Mississippi River has been wanting since the 1970s to change course and travel down the Atchafalaya to the sea. The Atchafalaya River is quite west of the Mississippi River's current route. Regarding locating cities, it is perhaps worthwhile to think of the presence of hills.

25 August 2017, Friday

Hurricane Harvey is churning up greater and greater strength off the Texas Coast as we speak. It will likely be a Category 3 storm when it hits the coast. We in Hattiesburg, Mississippi will likely receive considerable rain and a chance for flooding. It is hard to say with exactness when dealing with hurricanes. Before hurricane season, I take a look at temperatures of the eastern Pacific Ocean to see if conditions are either in a state of normality, in a state of El Nino, or in a state of La Nina. Right now, we are in very normal conditions with the eastern Pacific Ocean. With normal conditions, the Gulf Coast of the US is more prone to have hurricane impacts, so be ready to batten down the hatches until December. For more information about conditions in the Pacific, go to http://www.climate.gov/enso .


17 July 2017, Monday

On 21 August 2017, a total eclipse will occur in the United States on a path from Oregon to South Carolina. In Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1984, I remember the effects of a near-total eclipse. The effects are quite memorable, and Hattiesburg will experience them again with the predicted 85% near-total eclipse of 2017. Here are a few effects I remember:

1. The whole atmosphere darkens. It is not like a setting sun with bright and dark spots.
2. The breeze will pick up.
3. Sunlight that passes through tree leaves will reflect images of the eclipse on the ground, so one can see images of the eclipsing solar disk on the ground.



18 January 2017, Wednesday

Astronaut Eugene Cernan (born 1934) died Monday, 16 January 2017. He was the last man to step foot off the moon. On Netflix, there is a documentary about him titled "The Last Man on the Moon". I watched it, and it made me sad because, as a boy, the space race meant a lot to me. That glory is all in the past. The year 1972 marks a turning point in our national momentum toward major scientific goals. I will soon do an essay soon about 1972. A personal goal of mine is to shake hands with one of the few remaining astronauts still alive. I better hurry; they are all in their 80s now. I am sorry I didn't get to meet Eugene. He and I, I know, would agree on so much about how much we need the kind of scientific goals we had in the past. If you want to meet somebody, don't hesitate.

In the menu on the left, there is a topic titled Apollo Videos. There is a youtube video of Cernan's lunar module taking off from the moon (3rd video on the page). Those scenes are so cool. We were so smart then. Let's rejuvenate that smartness. Let's give it the ole college try!
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