Monthly Archives: October 2012

We must unhumanize ourselves a little

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it.
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads—
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?

Sunburst at Sea 375












Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. — As for us:

We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we are made from.

by Robinson Jeffers, 1929
Image: Lovell Birge Harrison (1854-1929)
Sunburst at Sea, c. 1913
The Johnson Collection

Earth’s Van Allen Belt Song: coming soon in stereo!

NASA just keeps coming up with new wonders!  This week, they’ve released the first recordings from twin spacecraft that are settling into their 2-year mission to learn more about the Van Allen Radiation Belts, concentrations of high-energy particles held in place by Earth’s magnetic fields.  The audio released this week is just a taste of what’s to come; the Radiation Storm Belt Probes are just in their initial 60-day testing phase.  Researchers are excited at the audio quality they’re getting, and hope to use the two spacecraft to generate stereo recordings in the months to come.  

Click here to hear the first Van Allen Belt “song” to be released (30-second MP3)

The current recording is brief, and researchers stress that they are not recording audio in space; these are radio waves, with oscillations at acoustic frequencies of up to 10kHz (humans can hear from about 20Hz to 20kHz).  The Van Allen Radiation Belts are often energized by solar storms, spurring dangerous concentrations of high-energy radiation, including “killer electrons,” which can disrupt satellites; the radio waves being studies here are thought to be one of the key energy sources that create these perilous zones.  Meanwhile, though, the sounds offer a tantalizing audio glimpse of the dynamic, energetic sheath of electromagnetism that forever pulses around our seemingly-solid planetary home.

Flying Ant Day 2012

Here we go again!  Another early fall rainy day is followed by a bright sunny morning on which the front yard comes magically to life: tiny, shining wings fluttering skyward from the moist soil, carrying flights of ants – mostly queens, a few males as mobile mating partners – heading off en masse to find new homes.

Last year, I was caught totally by surprise, flabbergasted and enraptured, when I looked out the window and saw the yard full of tiny tinkerbells; see this earlier post for that initial befuddlement, along with the research I did to discover the details of the annual ritual flight.

This year, I could step past confusion (and its flip side, “trying to figure it out”)  and right into reverie at the fleeting wonder of it all, along with some close observation.  I sacrificed a couple minutes of pure experience in order to get a few pictures to share.  The story they tell is well worth the trade-off!

The earth here is always teeming with the tiny black ants that today spawned some new colonies; literally any square foot that you lean down to take a look at will be laced with diligent workers traveling this way and that, intent on their place in this instant of the colony’s extended embodiment here in Lower Cañoncito.  This morning, the ground was scattered with patches of the newly-winged messengers:

Ants on rockWEB

Some rose right from the ground, though most seemed to seek at least a pebble to climb to the lip of, and a few scrambled up tufts of grass:

Ants ready to goWEB

All this was exciting enough, but then I looked closer and discovered a bit of extra delight, mystery, and drama….

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