30 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Z Stands For: Ziziphus zizyphus

Ziziphus Zizyphus (also Ziziphus jujuba) is more commonly known as jujube, tsao, red date, or Chinese date. In Arabic, it is known as nabq, dum, tsal, sadr, zufzuuf, and sidr. Anab is the Persian word for it. In Tamil it is called "ilanthai pazham", "yelchi hannu" in Kannada, and "regi pandu" in Telugu. It is mostly used as traditional medicine, and for food.

The jujube is native to Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. It was first domesticated in 9000 BCE, on the Indian subcontinent, and has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years; there are 400 different cultivars in China, and the fruit was even mentioned by Chinese poets in 600 BCE. It was originally brought to the USA in 1837, and the USDA imported the plant in 1908. It was also introduced to parts of Australia and Africa.

Jujubes are part of a family that includes around 55 genera and 900 species. Ziziphus zizyphus has thorny branches and grows to between 5-10 meters with green, ovate leaves that turn yellow in the fall. The flowers are small, only 5 mm (.2 inch), and they flower for several months. The fruit is drupe (a fruit where there's an outer covering over a hard core containing a seed) and varies in size depending on the kind of jujube. It's green and smooth when immature and reportedly tastes like an apple, and when mature it becomes dark and wrinkly. Tests have been done to show they have high amounts of vitamin C, A, and B2.

Jujubes are used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine (to alleviate stress, as an antifungal, antibacterial, to soothe sore throats, and so on), and their leaves have been found to have the ability to suppress taste. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. There are red and black jujubes; black jujubes are smoked (as in cooked, not inhaled) to bring out their taste. There is jujube tea (which also comes in teabags), juice, vinegar, and wine.

In Korea they are used in tea and samgyetang (a sort of soup), and as snacks in Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan. In some places it is added with tamarind, red chillies, salt, and jaggery and left to dry in the sun, and small dishes called "ilanthai vadai" are made out of the resulting dough. Cakes are made from the fruit in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.




So, for the inevitable question: have you ever eaten jujube, Ziziphus zizyphus, or one of its products? If not, would you try it?

-----The Golden Eagle

29 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Y Stands For: Yellowstone

Yellowstone was the world's first national park. It was established in 1872, signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant on March 1st. It is a World Heritage Site and designated Biosphere Reserve, with 2.2 million acres, and covers parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

(Yellowstone River, Upper Falls. SOURCE)

The name "Yellowstone" came from the Minnetaree (a Native American Indian tribe) word for a river with yellow sandstone bluffs: "Mi tsi a-da-zi". French trappers interpreted this as "Yellow Rock River", and called it "Pierre Jaune" or "Roche Jaune". Lewis and Clark came into contact with the same tribe, and also called it Yellow Rock River.

(Canada Lynx. SOURCE)

Yellowstone National Park is home to several threatened endangered species, including the Canada Lynx, the gray wolf, and the grizzly bear. Some other notable animals are the American bison, bighorn sheep, bobcats, coyotes, elk, moose, mountain lions, mule deer, to name the large ones. 67 mammal species live in the park (the largest concentration in the 48 states), 322 species of birds are recorded (148 of them nesting in the park), 16 species of fish (although 5 of them are non-native), 6 reptile species, and 4 species of amphibians. There are also 7 conifer species, 1,100 native species of plants, 199 non-native species of plants, 186 species of lichens, and 406 species of thermophiles.

The Yellowstone Caldera is the largest supervolcano in North America. It is indeed considered an active volcano, producing half the world's volcanic activity. The caldera has been measured at 55 km (34 miles) by 72 km (45 miles) in size, although a new survey has shown it could extend for up to 640 km (400 mi) east to west.

Three supereruptions have happened in Yellowstone's history--at 2.1 million, 1.3, and 640,000 years ago. The last time Yellowstone exploded, it sent 1,000 cubic km (240 cubic mi) of dust into the air, and if it was to erupt again (supervolcano eruptions are predicted to happen sometime in the future; in fact, we're overdue) it could bury North America in ash and disrupt life around the globe.

They say it won't be happening anytime soon. But, obvious in the recent catastrophes, the prediction of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters is shaky at best.




Do you think supervolcano eruptions are something we should be worried about? Do you think Yellowstone will erupt in the near future, or do you think this is just a bunch of pointless speculation?

Also, have you ever been to Yellowstone?

-----The Golden Eagle

28 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: X Stands For: Xeilyathum

Xeilyathum is another word for Oncidium, which is a genus containing 330 species of orchids. Some of its common names include Dancing Ladies, Dancing Dolls, and Butterfly Orchids. Oncidium are from the subtribe Oncidiinae, orchid family Orchidaceae. The name comes from the Greek "oncos" which means swelling or growth, in reference to the lumps on the lips of the flowers. Oncidium is also called Baptistonia, Braasiella, Cohnia, Cohniella, Cyrtochilum, Gynozodon, Lophiaris, Miltonioides, and Xaritonia.

Oncidium species are spread across Northern Mexico, parts of south Florida, South America, and the Caribbean. They can live in all kinds of conditions; one started to bloom in a ship's cabin en route from South America, and one species is found at 6,000-7,000 meters elevation. They first arrived in England in 1760, and one person was said to have commented "these plants are more difficult to kill than to keep alive!"

Many species in the genus Oncidium are ephiphytes--meaning that they grow on other plants, although they don't harm the host. Some are also lithophytes--plants that grow in and on rocks. Oncidium orchids are pollinated by a certain kind of bee, which is aggressive by nature, and the flower has evolved so that it triggers something in the insect to cause it to attack. When it does, its head gets covered in pollinia, a mass of pollen grains. The bee then, of course, attacks another flower and its pollen-covered head presses against the stigma of the flower.




Have you ever kept orchids?

-----The Golden Eagle
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27 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: W Stands For: Water

Water is one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms: H20.

Because of the way the hydrogen atoms are attached, water molecules have a slight positive charge and a slight negative charge, which attracts the other water molecules around them. The polar nature of water means it has a high surface tension--and that tension decreases with temperature. This is why hot water cleans better, since there's less surface tension and the water can get into all the smaller pores and whatnot. Soaps and detergents also lower surface tension.

Water has three states of matter. There's water as a solid (ice), water as a liquid (which is what we usually know it as), and water as gas (steam). Water going from solid to liquid is melting, liquid to gas is evaporating, gas to liquid is condensation, gas to solid is frost formation, and solid to gas is sublimation.

Water forms from the nuclear fusion at the core of stars. When the hydrogen that's fused into helium is used up and the helium begins to fuse, oxygen is produced. Then iron is formed, and there are no stable reactions possible to fuse the iron, so the star explodes. The supernova remnants get thrown out through space and the elements (including oxygen) are free in the interstellar medium. And since hydrogen is three times more abundant than helium, oxygen and hydrogen eventually bind together.

***Due to problems with bandwidth (the site inserted an image in here that said "STOP THIEF"--or, more accurately, it was "STOP THEIF") I removed this image. Check link below to see the image.***

Because water is (at least here on Earth, and it's likely to be the same elsewhere) vital for life, there's a hunt on to find it in other places throughout the universe. Some places it has been found include the Moon (more famously in the form of NASA's LCROSS spacecraft which purposefully crashed into the surface), comets, and Mars. There are signs of water on Europa and Ganymede (Jupiter's moons), and the spectrum (the wavelength of light emitted by atoms) of water has been found in interstellar clouds.




Do you think we'll find out for sure that there are large quantities of water on other planets? Do you think we'll ever be using water from other planets or moons to help us travel through space?

-----The Golden Eagle
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26 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: V Stands For: Vultures

Vultures, if you ask me, don't get enough respect.

(Ruppell's Griffon Vulture. SOURCE)

There are two kinds of vultures--Old World Vultures and New World Vultures, a total of 23 species. These two groups emerged through convergent evolution (when two separate populations acquire the same or similar traits), and are found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. Old World and New World aren't closely related, and they're only called vultures collectively because they occupy the same ecological niche.

(King Vulture. SOURCE)

Old World Vultures are part of the family Accipitridrae (which includes eagles, kites, buzzards, and hawks) and live in Africa, Asia, and Europe. These sorts of vultures find their food by sight only, and can see food up to 4 miles away.

New World Vultures, along with condors, live in the Americas. They belong to the family Cathartidae, which is part of the group of Accipitriformes. Several New World Vulture species have a good sense of smell and can scent their prey up to 1 mile.

(Egyptian Vulture. SOURCE)

The thing I don't get is why it's always the vulture who has the part of the bringer of death (and they don't actually hover over an animal that's about to die, though they will kill the sick and weak who would die anyway), symbolizes approaching doom, represents evil, shrieks and screams at the good guys, and all that other very charismatic stuff.

(Turkey Vulture. SOURCE)

So they eat dead things. Heck, they're not the only creatures in the animal kingdom who eat food that's been sitting around for a while. Scavengers actually help clean up the planet--without them, carcasses and bodies would simply hang around to rot and decay. But when it's eaten by something like a vulture, that problem is eliminated and all that's left are bone fragments and maybe a few scraps for other scavengers to pick up. Animals fed, body gone.

Isn't that a good thing?



And if you'd like to learn about International Vulture Awareness Day, go HERE.


So, what do you think of vultures? Love or hate? Pests, or helpful cleanup crew?

-----The Golden Eagle

25 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: U Stands For: Underground Cities

There's lots of stuff underground. For one thing, if you want to go really far down, there's Earth's core which is approximately 5505 C.

And a bit closer to home there are underground cities, which is what this post is to focus on.

Some notables:

The largest underground city in the world is Montreal's RÉSO, or La Ville Souterraine. It has 30 kilometers (19 miles) of tunnel, spread across 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles). The 3.6 square kilometers (1.4 square miles) of floor space provide 80% of Montreal's office space, 35% of its commercial space, and during the winter around 500,000 thousand people use the city. There are 10 metro stations, 1,200 offices, 2,000 stores, 1,600 housing units, 200 restaurants, 2 universities, 40 banks, 7 hotels, a cathedral, exhibition halls, and a sports complex.

The catacombs of Rome are under and close to the city. There are at least 40 catacombs discovered. They began in the 100s and, due to overcrowding and shortage of land, systems were built on top of each other by the excavators; the catacombs cover 2.4 square kilometers. There are also 6 known Jewish catacombs, discovered in 1918, which extend for 13,000 square meters (140,000 square feet) and are from around 100-200 AD, possibly still used in the 400s.

Derinkuyu is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey. It is part of a network of underground complexes found across Cappadocia, which is what the area including the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir, is called, in the Central Anatolian region. Derinkuyu has 11 floors, goes to a depth of 85 meters, and could hold between 35,000 and 50,000 people. There were wine and oil presses, cellars, stables, chapels, and, unique to Derinkuyu, a religious school set in a chamber with a barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Dìxià Chéng is a bomb shelter under Beijing, China. It was built in the 1970s in case there was a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and because it was for military defense, it has been called the Underground Great Wall. It covers 85 square kilometers (33 square miles), and is 8-18 meters (26-59 feet) below the surface. There were 90 hidden entrances to the tunnels, but now there is only one at Chongwen Qu. The complex had restaurants, schools, factories, warehouses, theaters, clinics, a skating rink, a mushroom farm for growing foods that don't require much light, and over 70 sites for potential water wells. There was protection from chemical attack, radioactive fallout, and even flood.




Have you ever visited an underground city? If so, which one? If not, do you want to?

I hope you all had a happy Easter!

-----The Golden Eagle

23 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: T Stands For: Teleportation

Teleportation usually comes across as a science fiction mechanism of traveling interstellar distances instantaneously, between planets, from ships, to bases, and etc. But while it isn't as grand or as immediately obvious as a person being teleported across space, quantum teleportation (a bit different from transfer of actual matter) has been done by scientists.

Quantum teleportation, also called entanglement-assisted teleportation, is when a unit of quantum information or "qubit" is transmitted from one place to another, without that qubit crossing the space between the two points. It doesn't physically transport any matter or information, and no particles are reassembled at the second location.

Scientists are capable of doing this because of quantum entanglement, which is when particles are linked to each other even when physically separated, share a single quantum state, and remain in quantum superposition (the idea the particles can be two things at the same time--this links to the idea of Schroedinger's cat of being both alive and dead) until a measurement is taken. Because the particles are entangled, and in two states at once, in theory the measurement of one would immediately affect the other, faster than the speed of light. Albert Einstein called this "spooky action at a distance".

Some uses for this technology? Quantum teleportation could be used for communications. It could allow transmission of large amounts of information, speed up quantum computation, and perform tasks impossible for classical systems.




Do you think we'll be using quantum technology in the relatively near future? Do you think teleportation will ever reach the point where people, or even just macroscopic objects, could be transported from one place to the other?

And please, PLEASE don't quote Star Trek. I've read enough articles researching this post with the phrase stuck in there somewhere. :P

-----The Golden Eagle

22 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: S Stands For: Show (Crusader Challenge)

To find out about this challenge, go HERE.

Brown clouds of dust and fumes rose from open vents in the ground, obscuring the sinking disk of the sun. A strong wind blew and began to carry dark gray clouds toward the horizon, my hair whipping around my cheeks. The air above the desert expanse shimmered in the dusk light from heat and rising smoke.
   I closed my eyes to block out the hellish image before me and let my lungs fill with the stale, heavy air, the taste of salt and acrid chemicals on my tongue. Turning my back to the sun seemed like relinquishing the final link to survival, even if succeeding the mission mean saving the lives of thousands, but I moved to take in the obstacle I had to facebefore I collapsed out of hunger, or my legs gave out from moving miles upon miles, to a destination I had almost forgotten.
   And, if he truly was following me, before the assassin caught up with my trail.
   The tunnel in front of me looked abysmal, the edges gray and dull in the faint, fading light. I took a step forward, but stopped as something primeval begged to run away. I bit my lip hard and focused on the pain; the consequences would be horrific if I warred with myself at this crucial moment, when the stakes loomed.
   The wind stirred the dust again, and my eyes stung and watered. I made my legs move and my arms pump, saccadic, as I ran for the tunnel, the wind pushing me forward, urging me into darkness that made my hands tremble. Inside, I touched the side of the tunnel for support, a cool, liquid substance beneath by fingertips.
   A foot that wasn’t mine tapped against the tunnel floor.
   “You'll never learn, Hanan.”

295 words. (Note: this is not from a WIP or other current project.)

What do you think?

-----The Golden Eagle

21 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: R Stands For: Rovers

Specifically, Spirit and Opportunity.

Artist's rendering of a Mars Exploration Rover.Image via Wikipedia

Spirit made a successful landing on January 4th, 2004, and Opportunity landed January 25th. So far, Opportunity has been functioning 25 times longer than originally planned. It is currently heading for the Endeavor crater.

(Opportunity. SOURCE)

Spirit on the other hand stopped communicating with Earth March 22nd 2010, although NASA is now trying other ways of communication in hopes the rover will wake from hibernation as its batteries charge from the Martian summer.

Both rovers discovered evidence that could indicate water used to be on Mars. Spirit found crystallized minerals in magma, possibly dissolved by water, along with a high concentration of salt in the soil. Opportunity found bedrock formations that form because of a current, along with hydroxide ions in jarosite, which could mean the mineral formed in the presence of water.

(Spirit's first image. SOURCE)

Hopefully, Spirit will communicate again with Earth and begin exploring Mars again. But even if it doesn't--it went far beyond its expected time--the rover made some important discoveries, as did its twin.




Do you think there's a chance Spirit will come out of hibernation?

-----The Golden Eagle
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20 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Q Stands For: Quantum Mechanics

Ready for another science post, everyone? :)

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics dealing with wave-particle duality. Wave-particle duality is when matter acts like both a wave (think liquid) and a particle (think atoms). Quantum mechanics describes a physical system through a wavefunction, which predicts the chances of a particle being in a certain state at a certain time. This sort of probability is called probability amplitude.

The thing about the wavefunction is that the more you try to calculate one part of the system, the less accurate your measurements will be with regards to another part of the system. This is called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

(Good ol' Heisenberg. SOURCE)

The uncertainty principle brings into question the role of the observer. The Copenhagen Interpretation is the standard interpretation of measurement, the "statistical nature of reality", and the philosophical debate over what effect an observer has over a system. It says that observation causes the wavefunction to collapse; also referred to as consciousness causes collapse. One of the more famous thought-experiments to demonstrate this sort of thing is the Schroedinger's Cat experiment. (In which no live cats were harmed, by the way. Just thought-experiment ones.)

But there are other ideas on how quantum mechanics works. There's the Many Worlds Theory, Consistent Histories, Ensemble Interpretation, de Broglie-Bohm Theory, Relational Quantum Mechanics, Transactional Interpretation, Stochastic Mechanics, Objective Collapse Theories, von Neumann/Wigner Interpretation, Many Minds, Quantum Logic, Modal Interpretations, Time-Symmetric Theories, the list goes on and on.

Obviously, there's a lot of figuring out to do.




No question this time. You have the floor on quantum mechanics!

(Also, I won't be around to your blogs today. I'll do my best to catch up with posts tomorrow, and I'll be sure to swing by anyone who comments here.)

-----The Golden Eagle

19 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: P Stands For: Particle Physics

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the elementary particles of matter and radiation. An elementary, also called fundamental, particle is something that has no substructure--it is not made up of smaller particles. Particle physics is also referred to as high energy physics, because fundamental particles can only be created in particle accelerators.

The classification of all those particles comes together in the Standard Model. The Standard Model has only twelve basic particles, which are governed by four forces.

The twelve matter particles are quarks and leptons. Each of these two groups has "generations"--the first generation being lighter and more stable, while the second and third are heavier and less stable. All the stable matter in the universe belongs to the first generation, because the particles that make up the second and third decay to a more stable level.

There are up quarks, down quarks, charm quarks, strange quarks, top quarks, and bottom quarks, to cover the first six out of the twelve. Then there are electrons, electron-neutrinos, muons, muon-neutrinos, taus, and tau-neutrinos.

Three of the four fundamental forces--the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force--result because of the exchange of "force carrier particles", called bosons. Fundamental particles exchange these bosons and, therefore, discrete amounts of energy. The strong force is carried by the gluon, the weak force by the W and Z bosons, the electromagnetic force by the photon, and the graviton for the gravitational force has not been found yet.

And last but not least, there's the Higgs Boson, which is thought to be the reason other particles have mass. The boson is predicted to exist because of the Standard Model, which incorporates it to solve problems with current theoretical physics. Experiments are being done to prove its existence with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and Tevatron at Fermilab (although the latter will cease operations in September), but it has yet to be observed.


A very cool video on the Standard Model (the scientists probably explain things way better than I do):



What do you think of particle physics? Do you think the Higgs boson will be found soon? Do you think the Standard Model, despite the fact it omits gravity from the calculations, will continue to be the way scientists describe fundamental particles?

-----The Golden Eagle
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18 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: O Stands For: Oceans

(An example of the five major oceans and the World Ocean. SOURCE)

71% of Earth is covered by ocean. The area of the World Ocean--which is the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern Oceans combined as a single body of salt water--is 361 million square kilometers (139 million square miles), and is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometers (310 million cubic miles) in volume. The average depth is 3,790 meters (12,430 feet), and the deepest point is 10,924 meters (6.787 miles), at the Mariana Trench.

99% of Earth's living space is provided by the oceans--it is estimated they provide 300 times the habitable volume of land habitats. 90% of of that living space exists in the deep sea, the area below 200 meters (660 feet). Around 230,00 marine species are currently known, but that number could be up to ten times higher.

Humans have explored less than 10% of the ocean. The Challenger II reached the Mariana Trench in 1951 and named its deepest point Challenger Deep, and the Trieste also reached the Trench in 1960 with a two-man crew, but much of the ocean floor is still unmapped and unknown.

News and information on ongoing and past projects, such as the Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration and the exploration of the deep reefs of the Indo-Pacific, can be found HERE.




Have you ever seen the ocean?

-----The Golden Eagle
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