Monday, April 22, 2013

Reflections on Earth Day 2013

Grey, grey Earth Day.  

A blanket of fog extends from the ocean inland, perhaps as far as downtown Los Angeles.

On the beach there is only sand, grey water, and grey sky.

Once upon a time Earth had no seas.  Comets brought water.

Once there was no moon either.  As the debris from the sun's birth circled, consolidating into today's solar system, something hit Earth with a huge impact, blasting debris upward to become the moon.

Hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon somehow led to sea life... which led to reptiles, birds and mammals, including us.

Today the moon pulls Earth's seas as it rotates around us.  

Seagulls pick at the head of a fish on the beach.  

Humans walk and fish and surf on this grey morning at Santa Monica Beach, and we pause to celebrate our planet.  

Perhaps we take steps to protect life, or perhaps we work and play as thoughtlessly as the sea gulls and sandpipers. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sea Stars Hanging On

These sea stars are hanging on for dear life at the Venice breakwater.

When I happen to jog at very low tide, I can walk out and see them clinging to the rocks.  

They're under assault from a number of directions.

Sometimes people visiting the beach peel them off and take one home for a souvenir. 

Pollution from the sewers that empty directly into the ocean also threatens them.

Then there are the sea gulls and other natural predators.

These living things were at this beach three hundred years ago when only native people lived here.

They were moving slowly from rock to rock on many seashores long before humans existed, and they may be here long after Los Angeles and the human race are gone.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meteor Showers: Fire and Water

A flash of our past and our future: the meteor impact near Chelyabinsk, Russia, early Friday morning.

This meteor was about 55 ft. in diameter, weighed 10,000 tons, and is a remnant of the dust and rocks that swirled around the early sun 4.5 billion years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Comets hitting Earth brought our water, eventually building to our oceans.  

Meteors peppered earth early in its 4.45 billion year history, one impact causing a chunk of earth and debris to rebound away and become our moon.  

Even now 100 tons of material the size of sand or smaller still hits Earth every day, reports Phil Plait on on Slate. 

When I walk on the beach tomorrow morning, I'll thank God for the gift of oceans.

I'll be waiting for the sunset bypass of Asteroid 2012DA14--17,000 miles from Earth and the size of a football field.

In 1908 a meteor exploded above Siberia, flattening trees over a 25-mile area.

The meteor that caused extinction of the dinosaurs about 60 million years ago was about the same size as the asteroid that will pass us by on Friday.

"It is only every 2,000 years or so that an object the size of a football field descends to Earth and causes significant damage, according to NASA," reports the Wall Street Journal, referring to the meteor fly-by on Friday.

As if humans were keeping a list in 4,000 BCE, 2000 BCE, and the turn of the first millennium CE.

In contrast, a much smaller meteor like the one over Chelyabinsk causes damage on Earth about once every one hundred years.

Thank God that 2012DA14 will not be returning us to the dust from which we were formed.

Note of correction: 

In the first hours after the meteor passed over Chelyabinsk, some pranksters posted on YouTube videos of a gas crater in Darwaza, Turkmenistan, claiming it to be the site of impact of a part of the meteor.  I fell for it and posted the link below on my blog.  The footage also appears in the first link above of various Chelyabinsk videos pasted together, some from news broadcasts.

In this YouTube video someone walks through the snow around the edge of gas crater nicknamed "Gates of Hell."

Weratu Nectur posted this explanation of the 1971 crater on YouTube on Feb. 16:

In 1971 near the village of Darwaza, geologists discovered an accumulation of underground gas.  As a result of excavation and drilling, they stumbled on an underground void.  Then the earth collapsed and formed a large hole filled with gas.  

The fumes did not go out, so they decided to burn.  Geologists expected the fire would go out after a few days, but they were mistaken.  Since 1971, the natural gas coming from the crater stays lit day and night.

At any rate, this gas crater gives us a glimpse of what the meteor crater in Arizona near Flagstaff may have looked like when it happened between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grey on Grey

                                                                                                                                                                                    Back to jogging on the beach today after three months of rest under doctor's orders.

At 8 am it was raining--not good for my return to beach walking.

By noon the day had turned spectacularly sunny with fast-moving huge clouds.  Just a trip to the post office and a few errands before the beach, I promised myself.

But by 3 pm a bank of fog had rolled over Santa Monica Bay.  Visibility was about fifty feet at the beach.

Grey on grey.  

At least it was low tide--a low of -0.7 feet at 3:14 pm--plenty of wide flat soaked sand to run on.  In fact, you could have put a four-lane highway between the waves and the high-tide level of the rest of the beach.  

On the subject of knee problems: I had no idea that being left-handed could also mean being left-legged.  As it turned out, my right knee had been taking a beating because muscles in my right leg are so much weaker and less used than those in my left leg.  

I'm doing exercises and physical therapy to strengthen my quads and other muscles so the patella won't grind against the tibia so much.  Getting old--it's a challenge!