Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Where the buffalo roam

Prior to the white man, the great prairies of North America supported 30+ million bison along with a  myriad of plant and animal species that truly boggled the mind. After the white man arrived, with cattle, corn fields and systematic slaughter of the bison in hand, the grasslands of America were reduced to just a faded memory, something thought to be lost forever, until now.

When white settlers first arrived, a large swath of the U.S. was blanketed in tallgrass prairie. But turmoil came to the landscape shortly thereafter, as those settlers mowed down the bountiful biodiversity to get at the fertile soil beneath. Of the 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that existed, only four percent of it remains today, ghosts among the cornfields.

It wasn’t just delicate grasses and wildflowers that were wiped out. An estimated 30 million bison roamed the Lower 48 before an extermination campaign brought that number down to around 300 by 1884. The animals have since rebounded somewhat in the the forests of the West and plains of the South, but the remaining tallgrass prairies in more northerly latitudes like Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana are largely devoid of the grass-munching, mud-wallowing ungulates.

Enter the bison ...

The reason it isn’t a forest, though, is because disturbances beat back the trees. Those disturbances include fire, which Nachusa managers have used for years to slow woodland growth and provide crucial soil nutrients. Now, they have a partner in disturbance crime in the bison, who chow down on grass and spread fertilizing poop and pee all over the prairie.

Not surprisingly, plant communities with bison are becoming more diverse because the animals act as natural lawn mowers, opening up space for non-grass plants and flowers to grow. On the weird side of the ledger, Jones has found small animals in areas that bison frequent are heavier. It’s not wholly clear why, though she hypothesized that “maybe it’s because bison are lumbering nutrient providers and urine might increase invertebrates for mice to chow down on.” After all, we know animals love pee.

Hopefully this is just a start point to restoring the prairie to it's rightful place in North America because it's the right thing to do, right?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hey America - WTF

Hey America - WTF, pot is legal in CA, a really smart move by a sensible country, unlike the good ole USA mired in jesus, guns and tax cuts.

Stop making sense - Talking Heads

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Checking out Luna yet again :)

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shoots the moon, this time, in 4K. Awesome without a doubt.

In the fall of 2011, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission released its original Tour of the Moon, a five-minute animation that takes the viewer on a virtual tour of our nearest neighbor in space. Six years later, the tour has been recreated in eye-popping 4K resolution, using the same camera path and drawing from the vastly expanded data trove collected by LRO in the intervening years.

The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a variety of lunar terrain features. Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space. Some are large and old (Orientale, South Pole-Aitken), others are smaller and younger (Tycho, Aristarchus). Constantly shadowed areas near the poles are hard to photograph but easier to measure with altimetry, while several of the Apollo landing sites, all relatively near the equator, have been imaged at resolutions as high as 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel.

The new tour highlights the mineral composition of the Aristarchus plateau, evidence for surface water ice in certain spots near the south pole, and the mapping of gravity in and around the Orientale basin.

Have to show another. :)

Just like the near side, the far side goes through a complete cycle of phases. But the terrain of the far side is quite different. It lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar Man in the Moon on the near side. Instead, craters of all sizes crowd together over the entire far side. The far side is also home to one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin, visible here as a slightly darker bruise covering the bottom third of the disk.

Science never disappoints. :)

Monday, October 08, 2018

Passing Thru

Checking out NYC's upper west side, with side trips to Grand Central Park and Times Square, is the focus of this clip showing yet another view of people passing thru a city that never sleeps. Enjoy

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Speaking truth to power

Speaking truth to power, something us rubes are not doing in these dark times.

There be dragons

There be dragons, not only in myth and legend but also in galaxies, entities known as black holes,  the most mysterious object known to science. 

The distance hasn’t stopped astronomers from drawing a fairly accurate map of the heart of the galaxy. We know that if you travel inbound from Earth at the speed of light for about 20,000 years, you’ll encounter the galactic bulge, a peanut-shaped structure thick with stars, some nearly as old as the universe. Several thousand light-years farther in, there’s Sagittarius B2, a cloud a thousand times the size of our solar system containing silicon, ammonia, doses of hydrogen cyanide, at least ten billion billion billion liters of alcohol and dashes of ethyl formate, which tastes like raspberries. Continue inward for another 390 light-years or so and you reach the inner parsec, the bizarro zone within about three light-years of the galactic center. Tubes of frozen lightning called cosmic filaments streak the sky. Bubbles of gas memorialize ancient star explosions. Gravity becomes a foaming sea of riptides. Blue stars that make our sun look like a marble go slingshotting past at millions of miles per hour. Space becomes a bath of radiation; atoms dissolve into a fog of subatomic particles. And near the core, that fog forms a great glowing Frisbee that rotates around a vast dark sphere. This is the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way, the still point of our slowly rotating galaxy. We call it Sagittarius A*, that last bit pronounced “A-star.” The black hole itself is invisible, but it leaves a violent imprint on its environment, pulling surrounding objects into unlikely orbits and annihilating stars and clouds of gas that stray too close. Scientists have long wondered what they would see if they could peer all the way to its edge. They may soon find out.

The incredibly complex quest to see ours requires creativity at the level of an 
Einstein, a Newton or a Hawking, take your pick.

If this works ...

Read this extraordinary NY Times' piece to learn why trying to see our dragon is truly worth the effort.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A Serious Hack of a different kind

Hacking via software is bad, hacking via hardware is something else all together different in terms of unfettered access into every nook and cranny of the system being hacked ... for years on end.

To whit.

Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

“Having a well-done, nation-state-level hardware implant surface would be like witnessing a unicorn jumping over a rainbow”

How best to do it.

There are two ways for spies to alter the guts of computer equipment. One, known as interdiction, consists of manipulating devices as they’re in transit from manufacturer to customer. This approach is favored by U.S. spy agencies, according to documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The other method involves seeding changes from the very beginning.

Perot is famous (among other things) for his statement during the 1992 presidential campaign that if NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was not a two way street (, it ed) would create a "giant sucking sound" of jobs going south to the cheap labor markets of Mexico.

Think China in 2018 as the US cannot make computers anymore, tech America invented but gave away for a song. Makes one weep doesn't it?

Nihillism 101

Ok, I actually accept the fact climate change is real. In fact, best guess estimates coming from "my" researchers, god forbid, are predicting a 7 degree F rise by 2100, something rather bigly but I'll be dead so screw it. Let the world burn while I make money, right?

To whit.

The study predicts a rise in global temperatures of about four degrees Celsius, or seven degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. Worse, it asserts global warming is such an inevitable reality, there’s no point in reducing auto emissions, as we’re screwed anyway.

“The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet,” is how the report put it.

To make a real difference, it adds we’d have to “move away from the use of fossil fuels,” which is “not currently technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

In other words, don't move toward profitable and sustainable tech, just let the planet cook and lose money for the US because I won't be around to suffer the consequences, right?