Sunday, August 4, 2013

And Now, All's Well...

Sunflowers - photo by theLibraryLander Family
“Love is anterior to life, posterior to death, initial of creation, and the exponent of breath.”
~ Emily Dickinson

And now a final dispatch from this blogger, after a year's worth of daily posts. It's been my unstated goal to post something every day for a year, some bit of wayward news or  trivia, something to kindle wonder or mild interest. I've tried to be positive and appreciative of small favors, as indicated by the name of this blog. I hope I've succeeded in that. Books and libraries are my vocation and leisure and I can't help but extol these at every opportunity. I'm also captivated by the Universe and its myriad wonders; one only has to contemplate its vastness and magnificence to become awestruck.
There may be another blog in the offing, though I have no idea what form it will take - it certainly won't have clockwork posts! Whatever shapes itself into being will come forth; I can only hope it will be as interesting and fun as the Empty Middle Seat has been. So, we'll have to wait and see what it is...

Sunrays by theLibraryLander

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Year of Sky on Earth

From APOD:
"Explanation: Each panel shows one day. With 360 movie panels, the sky over (almost) an entire year is shown in time lapse format as recorded by a video camera on the roof of the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, California. The camera recorded an image every 10 seconds from before sunrise to after sunset and from mid-2009 to mid-2010. A time stamp showing the local time of day is provided on the lower right. The videos are arranged chronologically, with July 28 shown on the upper left, and January 1 located about about half way down. Although every day lasts 24 hours, daylight lasts longest in the northern hemisphere in June and the surrounding summer months, a fact which can be seen here as the bottom (and soon top) videos are the first to light up with dawn. The initial darkness in the middle depicts the delayed dawn and fewer daylight hours of winter. In the videos, darkness indicates night, blue depicts clear day, while gray portrays pervasive daytime cloud cover. Many videos show complex patterns of clouds moving across the camera's wide field as that day progresses. As the videos collectively end, sunset and then darkness descend first on the winter days just above the middle, and last on the mid-summer near the bottom."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Spectacular Centaurus A

Centaurus A
ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)
From APOD:

"Explanation: A fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, gigantic glowing gas clouds, and imposing dark dust lanes surrounds the central region of the active galaxy Centaurus A. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope has been processed to present a natural color picture of this cosmic maelstrom. Infrared images from the Hubble have also shown that hidden at the center of this activity are what seem to be disks of matter spiraling into a black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun. Centaurus A itself is apparently the result of a collision of two galaxies and the left over debris is steadily being consumed by the black hole. Astronomers believe that such black hole central engines generate the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A and other active galaxies. But for an active galaxy Centaurus A is close, a mere 10 million light-years away, and is a relatively convenient laboratory for exploring these powerful sources of energy."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dolphin Speak

bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin by US Fish and Wildlife Service (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Anyone who's kept up with dolphin research probably won't be surprised to hear that they actually have names for each other. Of course, their names don't sound anything like "Flipper" since dolphins use whistles as part of their communication. You can hear examples of these dolphin calls on the Voices in the Sea website, which also has a collection of calls by other cetaceans. News reports recently have revealed the new research that has come to light about dolphin communication.
Almost anyone growing up in the 60's and 70's likely was entranced by dolphins since they figured so prominently in TV shows and movies, as well as literature. As a child, I recall reading Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, about an orphan boy who is rescued by dolphins, or the "People of the Sea."  And who doesn't remember back in the 70's, the rather oddly compelling movie, "Day of the Dolphin" which depicted dolphins mimicking human speech. Much of the literature and media was influenced by John C. Lilly, whose research on dolphins revealed the depth of their intelligence and socialization. Humans throughout history have connected with dolphins and admired their beauty and ability to form relationships with humans.
dolphin sculpture ancient greece
Dolphin sculpture - Greece, 300 B.C. - A.D. 100,  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, public domain

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Economic Thought

Thorstein Veblen - public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Thorstein Veblen - via Wikimedia Commons
Henry Ford - Library of Congress, public domain
Henry Ford - Library of Congress

Interesting that Thorstein Veblen and Henry Ford shared a birthday, July 30, though born in different  years, six years apart. One wrote about the differences between the labor and leisure classes and the other personified this in his accumulation of industry and wealth. Henry Ford established and promoted one of the greatest symbols of, "conspicuous consumption", the automobile. Even though cars eventually came within everyone's capacity to own, early on it was only the wealthy who had them. Just a small Economic Thought for the day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy 55th NASA!

Roadmap to the Milky Way - NASA/JPL-Caltech
Roadmap to the Milky Way (artist's rendition) - NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA gives our Milky Way Galaxy a makeover with a new view of the structure of our home galaxy (artist's rendition). We really are such a small blip in the vast realm of stars! Below, the NASA insignia - Motto: For the Benefit of All.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Texas Reflections

Texas Reflection 1 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Texas Reflection 2 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Texas Reflection 3 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturnian Seasons

The Seasons of Saturn
Image Credit: R. G. French (Wellesley College) et al., NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
From APOD:

"Explanation: Since Saturn's axis is tilted as it orbits the Sun, Saturn has seasons, like those of planet Earth ... but Saturn's seasons last for over seven years. So what season is it on Saturn now? Orbiting the equator, the tilt of the rings of Saturn provides quite a graphic seasonal display. Each year until 2016, Saturn's rings will be increasingly apparent after appearing nearly edge-on in 2009. The ringed planet is also well placed in evening skies providing a grand view as summer comes to Saturn's northern hemisphere and winter to the south. The Hubble Space Telescope took the above sequence of images about a year apart, starting on the left in 1996 and ending on the right in 2000. Although they look solid, Saturn's Rings are likely less than 50 meters thick and consist of individually orbiting bits of ice and rock ranging in size from grains of sand to barn-sized boulders."

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Literacy Bridge

PBS News hour did a nice story on the Literacy Bridge program, which brings talking books to people who cannot read, especially those in Africa.  This is a great example of a very small, simple device which can have a big impact on people's lives.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Gorgeous Galaxy - the Sombrero

sombrero galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy from Hale
Image Credit & Copyright: Caltech/Palomar Observatory/Paul Gardner, Salvatore Grasso, and Ryan Hannahoe
From APOD:

"Explanation: What's going on in the center of this spiral galaxy? Named the Sombrero Galaxy for its hat-like resemblance, M104 features a prominent dust lane and a bright halo of stars and globular clusters. Reasons for the Sombrero's hat-like appearance include an unusually large and extended central bulge of stars, and dark prominent dust lanes that appear in a disk that we see nearly edge-on. Billions of old stars cause the diffuse glow of the extended central bulge visible in the above image from the 200-inch Hale Telescope. Close inspection of the central bulge shows many points of light that are actually globular clusters. M104's spectacular dust rings harbor many younger and brighter stars, and show intricate details astronomers don't yet fully understand. The very center of the Sombrero glows across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is thought to house a large black hole. Fifty million-year-old light from the Sombrero Galaxy can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of Virgo."
A nice close-up below taken earlier by the Hubble Telescope:
sombrero galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy from Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anniversary of the Founding of Detroit

detroit skyline by shawn wilson
Detroit skyline, seen from Windsor Ontario, by Shawn Wilson, via Wikimedia Commons
Just learned recently that today is the 312th anniversary of the founding of Detroit, by French explorer  Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac. The city has a rich and long history, made all the more poignant considering the economic and social travails it is currently enduring. It is difficult to know if Detroit can solve its problems and once again become at least a bit of the vibrant hub it once was. Let us hope and pray so - Detroit's residents deserve no less.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The View from Saturn: Our Own Pale Blue Dot and Dusty Moon

earth and moon from saturn
Earth and Moon from Saturn
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
From APOD:

"Explanation: You are here. Everyone you've ever known is here. Every human who has ever lived -- is here. Pictured above is the Earth-Moon system as captured by the Cassini mission orbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the brighter and bluer of the two spots near the center, while the Moon is visible to its lower right. Images of Earth from Saturn were taken on Friday. Quickly released unprocessed images were released Saturday showing several streaks that are not stars but rather cosmic rays that struck the digital camera while it was taking the image. The above processed image was released earlier today. At nearly the same time, many humans on Earth were snapping their own pictures of Saturn."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

30th Anniversary of the Lowest Recorded Temperature in the World

Vostok Station Antartica
Location of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. Original a composite satellite photo by NASA (public domain via Wikipedia)
This was recorded at the Vostok Station in the  Antarctic on July 21, 1983 when it was winter in the southern hemisphere. According to NOAA's National Climate Data Center, this is the most reliably documented occurrence of the lowest temperature in the world. Kind of refreshing to think about during the current summer heat wave in the northern hemisphere!