Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

How To Forecast Weather Without Gadgets

June 2nd, 2010 No comments

I stumbled across this today, and thought it was worth sharing. There are lots of ways to forecast the weather without relying on gadgets. Knowing how to do it old school is a great skill to have, and helps you understand the fundamental properties of weather. Check out this graphic, and have fun learning!

How To Forecast Weather

Bad Weather On The Horizon!

February 20th, 2010 No comments

I’ve been thinking about this blog recently, and decided to take it in a new direction. I’ve really wanted to do a blog about weather related subject, and while thinking about a blog name, I realized I already had the perfect one in “Thunderstruck!” So, starting in the very near future, you can expect this blog to be almost 100% weather related. I’ll focus both on weather basics, as well as severe weather subjects. I’m really hoping to go storm chasing in Tornado Alley this spring or summer, and expect to return back with tons of pictures like the one below (not taken by me).

I hope you like the new direction of this blog, and I look forward to and welcome your comments. Thanks for visiting “Ive Been Thunderstruck!”

An awesome looking supercell!

An awesome looking supercell!

The Dreams of which Stuff is Made

October 12th, 2009 No comments

I came across an interesting post today, called The Dreams of which Stuff is Made. This is the sort of thoughts about our physical world that totally get me thinking about just how amazing all this really is. Consider these few items, and then head over to the post for more :

  • Tightly coiled in the nucleus of every cell of your body is six feet of DNA bearing your genetic code. Since the body has around 10 trillion cells, there are about 10 billion miles of DNA inside you.
  • With your eyes, you can see the past. Look at the North Star and you are looking at 1300 A.D. Today’s light left that star nearly 700 years ago.
  • Right now, as you remain “still,” you’re moving 400 times faster than a bullet. You are traveling 1,000 miles an hour with Earth’s daily rotation, 67,000 mph with Earth’s yearly journey around the sun, 550,000 mph with the solar system’s revolution around the Milky Way, and 1.3 million mph with the galaxy’s motion through the universe. A bullet goes about 3,000 mph.

I try and talk with people about this stuff all the time, but I can tell they just don’t get how amazingly complex this world…this universe…really is. They get angry when an email doesn’t reach them in 2 seconds, but never stop to think of how amazing that process really is. Or they take the light from stars for granted, not realizing what they are looking at could actually be gone.

Take some time to think about the universe, and what’s really going on. Fun stuff!

Why Dew Point Matters To Southern Arizona

July 15th, 2009 No comments

The monsoons have arrived in Southern Arizona, and I’m loving every drop of rain, every bolt of lighting and clap of thunder. We have had some AWESOME storms so far! I’m out trying to take some decent lighting pictures…you can check out the latest pics here (proudly hosted at SmugMug!).

As a novice storm chaser, I’ve been learning a lot about what it takes to actually form a thunderstorm each day. Fortunately, some local weather forecasters (ErinJordanKOLD, PickeringKOLD and ChuckGeorgeKOLD) have been providing daily storm updates on Twitter, and have parsed out some science knowledge at the same time. One of the things they constantly mention, and which is an important component of thunderstorm formation, is dew point.

According to Wikipedia, “dew point is the temperature to which a given parcel of air must be cooled, at constant barometric pressure, for water vapor to condense into water (all links courtesty of copying from Wikipedia).” Dew point is also associated with relative humidity, in that a high relative humidity indicates that the dew point is closer to the current air temperative. As noted above, dew point is given in degrees (for instance the current dew point temperature in Tucson is 51F). A relative humidity of 100% means that the dew point temperature (temp at which dew forms) is equal to the current temperature, and that the air is maximally saturated with water (can hold no more water, and thus condenses).

Dew point is important for reasons other than storm formation. The higher the dew point, the more uncomfortable it feels outside. In periods of high relative humidity and high dew points, the ability for sweat to evaporate from the body decreases, which reduces the cooling effect related to sweating. That tends to make us hotter, and makes being outside a bit more dangerous.

That’s all good info, but I really wanted to know how dew point influences thunderstorm formation, because I simply love those storms! With an estimated 40,000 thunderstorms occurring world-wide on any given day, and the high occurrence of such storms in areas where factors influence dew point, there must be a correlation, and a direct one at that.

Turns out that dew point plays a great role in thunderstorm formation. There are three factors – moisture, instability, and a lifting mechanism – that contribute to thunderstorm formation. Typically in the Southwest United States (Arizona in specific), dew point levels are very low…in the teens or lower. But each summer a shift in air flow occurs, drawing moisture up from Mexico. That infusion of moisture into the atmosphere leads to higher dew points, and when they have reached the mid-50s for three consecutive days, then the monsoon has officially begun!

Dew point is essentially the low level moisture that actually fuels thunderstorm development. Severe thunderstorms are more likely to occur when the dew point is 55F or higher, providing more potential fuel for the storm as the dew point increases. There are other moisture factors as well, which change in significance as you move higher in the atmosphere. But, for purposes of this discussion, it’s the low level stuff that counts.

So, there you have it. The more moisture in the lower levels, the higher the dew point, the greater the chances of a thunderstorm developing!

Virgin Birth in Sharks

October 10th, 2008 No comments

There is a very interesting article today at about virgin births in sharks. Yes, that’s correct…scientiests have found another instance where a pup carried by a female Atlantic blacktip shark contained absolutely no male genetic material at all.

This is the second documented case of parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, in sharks. The first instance occured at a zoo in Omaha, NE.

The medical mystery began 16 months ago after the death of the Atlantic blacktip shark named Tidbit at the Virginia Beach aquarium. No male blacktip sharks were present during her eight years at the aquarium.

In May 2007, the 5-foot, 94-pound shark died of stress-related complications related to her unknown pregnancy after undergoing a yearly checkup. The 10-inch shark pup was found during a necropsy of Tidbit, surprising aquarium officials. They initially thought the embryonic pup was either a product of a virgin birth or a cross between the blacktip and a male of another shark species — which has never been documented, Chapman said.

Tidbit’s pup was nearly full term, and likely would have been quickly eaten by “really big sand tiger sharks” that were in the tank, Chapman said in a telephone interview from Florida.

That is what happened to the tiny hammerhead pup in the Omaha case.

“By the time they could realize what they were looking at, something munched the baby,” he said of aquarium workers. The remains of the pup were used for the DNA testing.

Virgin birth has been proven in other species, including some bony fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds.

Absent the chromosomes present in the male sperm, the offspring of an asexual conception have reduced genetic diversity and, the scientists said, may be at a disadvantage for surviving in the wild. A pup, for instance, can be more susceptible to congenital disorders and diseases.

Scientists speculate that such births could become more common if population densities become so low that female sharks have problems finding partners.

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What Is The Law Of Parsimony?

October 9th, 2008 No comments

The law of parsimony, also called the law of economy or Ockham’s razor, proposes that a problem should be stated in its basic and simplest terms. In scientific terms, it states that the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem should be the one selected. Credit for outlining the law is usually give to William of Ockham (1284? – 1347?), an English philosopher and theologian, who wrote that “entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary.”

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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When Did The Concept Of The Square Root Originate?

October 8th, 2008 No comments

The concept of the square root has been in existance for many thousands of years. Exactly how it was discovered is unknown, but several different methods of exacting square roots were used by early mathematicians. Babylonian clay tablets from 1900 to 1600 BCE contain the squares and cubes of integers 1-30. The early Egyptians used square roots around 1700 BCE, and during the Greek Classical Period (600-300 BCE) better arithmetic methods improved square root operations. The 16th century, French mathematician Rene Descartes was the first to use the square root symbol.

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Who Invented Stainless Steel?

October 7th, 2008 No comments

Metallurgists in several countries developed stainless steel between 1903 and 1912. An American, Elwood Haynes, developed several alloy steels and in 1911 produced stainless steel. Harry Brearly of Great Britain receives most of the credit for its development. Frederick Beckett, a Canadian-American metallurgist and German scientists P. Monnartz and W. Borchers were amount early developers.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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Did Dinosaurs And Humans Ever Coexist?

October 6th, 2008 No comments

No. Dinosaurs first appeared during the Triassic Period (about 220 million years ago) and disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 65 million years ago). Modern humans (Homo sapiens) appeared only about 25,000 years ago.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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How Many Species Of Insects Are There?

October 5th, 2008 No comments

Estimates of the number of recognized insect species range from about 750,000 to upward of one million – but some experts think that this represents less than half of the number that exists in the world. About 7,000 new species are described each year, but unknown numbers are lost annually from the destruction of their habitats, mainly tropical forests.

[Source : The Handy Science Answer Book]

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