blurp | Science, Art, Life

Monday, December 29, 2008

Coming to terms with Christmas

I just finished reading the Power of Myth a couple weeks before christmas. Its a great book that I recommend all atheists should read because it puts religion in perspective next to the original mythology. It has helped me become less cynical and more compassionate.

Unarguably, most atheists know more than most religious peeps regarding the similarities that all religions have. But what was cathartic for me was understanding archetypal principles that have popped up in mythologies (stories developed to help people with psychological difficulties: puberty, death, killing to live, etc ) and how those concepts were messed-up during assimilation by religions (organized by people for various types of power).

Concepts such as "god" is within us and therefore all things are holy and connected, and that death brings life - that all life relies on death. Are mythological concepts to help us live psychologically health lives. They are not literal - obviously there are not little gods living in each of us, but metaphorical - which is where religion often screws them up; by forcing a literal translation.

But parts of those healthy mythological stories can be found in modern religion. Like when I look at the Christmas Trees they use to irk me - I felt oppressed by the overtly religious symbol in so many public places. But now when I look at it I think about the cycle of life and death, and I think about the solstice, and the moon cycles. And the simple need for a happy celebration during a gloomy time.

So I don't know how clearly I've expressed myself here in this post. But the conclusion is that learning a little comparative mythology has freed me to be less of a grinch and more compassionate.

I'm curious to hear other's thoughts about the book or other similar or opposite experiences.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Geology Meme

Finally a meme I can get behind! This one looks like fun; includes travel and geology!

Top 100 things a geologist should see (from geotripper)

1. See an erupting volcano

2. See a glacier
I've seen glaciers in both Iceland and Patagona.

My husband and me at the Perito Merino glacier in Argentina.

3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland
In Yellowstone and Iceland.

Me a the original geyser in Iceland. It was a very windy cold day.

4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta.

5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage
Cedar Creek in my home town, and the Mississippi River (which I live only a couple blocks away from)

6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia)
My family went to many caves on our driving trips through out the US, but one nice cave near my current home is Crystal Cave. Where I went on geo field trip in college.

7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile.
My family took a driving trip out west where we stopped at an open pit mine in Utah. I remember playing in a giant machine tire.

8. Explore a subsurface mine.

9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California).
I have been near/on the Ballantrae Ophiolite Complex in Scotland but I didn't know it, so I don't think that counts.

10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too).

11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw.

12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere.

13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada.

14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland.

15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website). I would assume I have accomplished this - I been on coastlines on both sides of the US, throughout Europe, and in Japan - I just don't know my tectonics well enough to which directions which plates are heading in.

16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic. One fall I even dressed as a gingko for Halloween using freshly fallen leaves.

17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Glacier National Park is a great place to see fossil stromatolites, while Shark Bay in Australia is the place to see living ones) I have one sitting on my desk that I found in road cut on a college geology field trip in WI.

18. A field of glacial erratics I don't know about a field of them, but I grew up in WI and MN so random giant rocks laying around are kinda common.

19. A caldera

20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high The NPS website says the dunes at death valley only reach about 100 feet high - so I'm giving myself .5 for this one.

21. A fjord In Iceland.

22. A recently formed fault scarp

23. A megabreccia

24. An actively accreting river delta

25. A natural bridge

26. A large sinkhole

27. A glacial outwash plain

28. A sea stack

29. A house-sized glacial erratic

30. An underground lake or river

31. The continental divide

32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals

33. Petrified trees

34. Lava tubes

Me in a tube in iceland

My husband climbing out the entrance to the above tube. We had to follow cairns to find the entrance which is nearly impossible to see until you are on top of it.

35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back.

36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible

37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.

38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m)

39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale.

40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe.

41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania,

42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.

43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high

44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
Its not devils tower, but a waterfall in Iceland with beautiful columnar jointing.

45. The Alps.

46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below.

47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art

48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.

49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.

50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.

51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck

52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.

53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.

54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.

55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows.

I haven't been to the Giants Causeway but I saw polygonally fractured basalt in Iceland - this photo is in a different location than the above waterfall surrounded by columnar joints. I've always thought that columnar jointing and polygonally fractured basaltic flows were the same thing - am I wrong?

56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.

57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn".

58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain

59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington

60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity

61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley

62. Yosemite Valley

63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah

64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia

65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington

66. Bryce Canyon

67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone

68. Monument Valley

69. The San Andreas fault

70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain

71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands

72. The Pyrennees Mountains

73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand

74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)

75. A catastrophic mass wasting event

76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park

77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)

Again - its not Hawaii, but Iceland - the land of geologic bliss

78. Barton Springs in Texas

79. Hells Canyon in Idaho

80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado

81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia

82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0.

83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ

84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil)

85. Find gold, however small the flake

86. Find a meteorite fragment

87. Experience a volcanic ashfall

88. Experience a sandstorm

89. See a tsunami

90. Witness a total solar eclipse

91. Witness a tornado firsthand. (Important rules of this game).

92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower

93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.

94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.

95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century

96. See a lunar eclipse

97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope

98. Experience a hurricane

99. See noctilucent clouds

100. See the green flash

Whew - that was a lot of work! I think that puts me at about 36 - more photos to come!

Migraine Art

Here are a few images created by people with aura migranes (from The New York Times):

There are more here.

And here's the accompanying article by Oliver Sacks.

Thanks to Tim Boyle for the links.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Migraine with Aura

So I guess I get migraines now!

I've often wondered if I've had them in the past because I've had some doozy headaches, but yesterday I saw these pretty spinning sparkly circles about 15 mins before my headache started which I guess pretty much means they are migraines.

I think I'm fortunate as far as migraine sufferers go, I just need to drink a bunch of water and sleep for a few hours to get rid of the headache. And I'm blessed with the ability to fall asleep anytime anywhere. Plus those auras are kinda cool to watch once you know they will go away.

I found this website where people have posted animations of what their auras look like. I think its an interesting connection to art. Mine are kinda like the video below but are sparkly, like the sun shining through thin shards of ice, and are snow-flake shaped.

Lots of people are blogging and commenting that these occur when they are dehydrated - that coincides with my experience. I got my headache last night immediately after an intense yoga class in a HOT room where I was sweating a lot.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Anyone want a free subscription to SEED mag?

I'm going to renew my subscription and they are a offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

First dibs to anyone who has posted a comment on my blog and then open to everyone else. Let me know by Friday.

The offer is only free to addresses in the US, and you'll have to feel comfortable giving me your address.


Two Book Reviews

Two Great Books I've Read over Thanksgiving:

Annie Liebovitz: At Work

Generally speaking I avoid photography books because I don't want to fill my brain with other peoples ideas of what is good and bad. I'm fearful that would erase my natural joy in photography. However, I love this book because it actually strips away all of my excuses and insecurities about my photography and art in general. Its written in an engaging style and gives the stories behind some of her most famous photos. Also, it has great paper quality; I love turning the soft luscious pages to find another awesome photo on the next page.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

This book was recommended to me years ago by a friend who I sometimes really like and sometimes detest. He is a white handsome guy who is horribly entangled in the boys club. After a particularly frustrating sexist experience I asked him to read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" to which his response was "I don't buy it." Ugh. But this same guy would also give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. So I couldn't read the book he recommended for a while because it reminded me of him and made me feel pissed off. Well, I got over that and am now about halfway through the book. I'm really enjoying it. Its refreshing to read a book about mythology that includes Christianity. One of the basic ideas so far is that all life exists because of death - even plants get thier energy from a dying star. And that humans have developed myths and rituals to help us deal with that pain and guilt we feel about perpetually killing to remain alive. Another big point is that life on earth, with space and time, is essentially a mental state of being aware of opposites (life/death, god/human, man/woman, good/evil, etc.) and that before we are alive and after we die we re-enter Eden/heaven by melding into an unfathomable sense of oneness. Its an interesting read.