Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Leidenfrost Effect

I've observed this many times but haven't really thought about what is happening.  When you drop water on a stove burner that is at the right temperature, they form little beads that skitter around on the burner and only slowly get smaller.  What is happening is referred to as the Leidenfrost effect.  When a liquid comes in contact with a mass significantly higher than its boiling point, a layer of vapor insulates the liquid and prevents it from boiling, at least for a little while.

I came across this interesting video demonstrating the effect when dropping a red hot metal (Nickel) ball into water.  For a while you can see a thin layer of vapor surrounding the ball.  Eventually, the insulating effect is overwhelmed as the ball cools and the water is not vaporizing instantaneously. After this the water boils furiously.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4

While looking at the UK National Trust site about Stowe Gardens I came across a National Trust website that encourages kids to get outside and experience nature.  Its called 50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4 and it uses badges and a list of activities to motivate kids and their parents to experience the outdoors.  The British always seem to be ahead of us when it comes to natural history, more walkers, birdwatchers and amateur naturalists per least it seems so to me.  Maybe there is more of an appreciation of the natural world because there is less wilderness.  In America, we have so much that it is sometimes taken for granted.

Kids are naturally curious.  The infinite variety and potential for discovery in the outdoors is the perfect place to satisfy that curiosity.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Temple of British Worthies

I checked a book out of the Library called A Global History of Architecture by Ching et al. I am reading about Stowe Gardens in England and am interested in a structure called Temple of the British Worthies - a shrine to Great Britons. There are 16 individuals depicted on the shrine among them Shakespeare, John Milton and Alexander Pope. Others like the Architect Inigo Jones I had never heard of before. When I have a bit of time I'll look them all up and see what they did . Since this was built in the 18th Century it reflects the ideals of the Age. I wonder who would make it to a 21st Century Temple of British Worthies or a Global list?

Page on the Temple and links to the other sights at Stowe

Temple of British Worthies - - 643854

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meet the Lobster Moth

I came across a picture of this unusual moth caterpillar called the Lobster Moth or Lobster Prominent (Stauropis fagi).  I've never seen anything like it.  Its front legs are huge and it really looks like some alien creature.  The adult moth is a nondescript Notodontid found throughout the Palearctic that looks like many species I find outside my house.  Some of the local species have pretty unusual looking caterpillars with weird humps and tentacles, but nothing like this species.

 Wildlife of Chernobyl

Interesting video on the reappearance of wildlife in the evacuation zone of Chernobyl.  Tweny Six years ago 300,000 people were evacuated from the area around the nuclear reactor. The re-wilding of the area is an interesting subject.  The animals in the zone have very high levels of radiation, however there have been few malformations observed.  Over time perhaps more radiation-resistant animals will flourish as those more sensitive will die at a differentially higher rate.  Alternatively, a tremendous amount of unobserved damage may be occuring.  I wonder how the radiation affects things like the bacterial and fungal communities in the soil.  An interesting anecdote was that radioactive mushrooms collected in the evacuation area occasionally make it to markets in populated areas.

I'm wondering about the parallels to Fukashima.

Hopefully, EarthFirst or some other radical environmentalist group never gets a nuke or radiological weapon.  One could imagine a future scenario, where in order to exclude people from some area, they paradoxically contaminate it to (partially) save it.

Here's my movie script idea - Radical group seeks to "save" large swaths of the planet from human habitat destruction by radiological contamination.  Crowdsource the script.