California winters are warming

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First off, here is a list of songs about California,

  • California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas
  • Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • California - Rufus Wainright
  • Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
  • Drive My Car - The Beatles

Second off, here is a list of winters,

  • The winter that has the winter Olympics
  • Winter squash
  • The winter of our discontent
  • Nuclear winter
  • The winter that is coming

Now that that's sorted, an article that was recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters is telling us that California's winters have been getting warmer. The authors, presumably winterologists, looked at five different historic temperature records and looked at the maximum and minimum temperatures for each day in every winter since 1920.

The five data sets of temperature all agreed that California winters are getting warmer:

  • Since 1920, minimum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 1.2-1.9 degrees/century
  • Since 1970, minimum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 2.0-3.9 degrees/century
  • Since 1970, maximum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 2.0-3.7 degrees/century
  • One of the data sets actually had max temperatures cooling by 0.3 degrees/century since 1920, but the other four data sets showed max temperatures warmed by 0.6-1.2 degrees/century since 1920.

So, if you like warm winters that are getting warmer, California might be the place for you. Although, if you like the opposite of droughts, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes, and the eminent threat of a quasi-apocalyptic tsunami, maybe just stay where you are...

Note: all temperature units have been given in degrees Celsius, mainly because I don't live in the US or the 19th century.  (NOTE: Even if I did live in the US, I'd still use Celsius, because I enjoy things that make at least a modicum of sense)

Super-hydrophobic exterior doses of kale

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The 2016 Bioinspiration & Biomimetics article Why is it difficult to wash aphids off from superhydrophobic kale? answers the age old question, why is it difficult to wash aphids off of kale? Or is that more of a new age question?

It's because, as the name suggests, superhydrophobic kale has a superhydrophobic exterior, giving it the super power of fearing super water. As it turns out, cabbage aphids also have superhydrophobic exteriors, and when the aphids land on the kale, it's as the age old adage goes, "superhydrophobic exteriors attract superhydrophobic exteriors," and then it's as if the two superhydrophoical entities become one.

I've always said, there is no bond greater than that between a superhydrophobic kale and a superhydrophobic cabbage aphid. That is a bond that no water can ever break. But it turns out that a steady stream of air can. So... it's not actually that strong.

It's like the bond between the somnambulist and the somnambulist's cousin. Hosing them down won't help. Try air.

I don't believe in Flat-Earthers

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Much like how the trolls will chortle and chortle and/or chortle after convincing Billy G to become brunch, "Flat-Earthers" are all agiggle when science minded entities take the bait. On Wednesday, because the eclipse was getting dangerously close to no longer being talked about, IFL Science published an online thingy explaining to these "Flat-Earthers" that the Earth is not flat, that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and that Sailor Moon was sailing that moon-ship right between the two. And, of course, the comment section was all atwitter with the typical how-dumb-are-these-nincompoops? rants.

And the "Flat-Earther" trolls basked in their post goatal-brunch glory and laudded one another, exclaiming, "Huzzah! Behold what we have done!"

They convinced a smart, demi-respectable institution (e-stitution?) to waste valuable webnet space on explaining something that was well known even back in the time when ancient Greco-Roman wrestling was just called wrestling (I just call it man-squishy-fun-time). Everyone knows the Earth is round. It's just that some trolls get off on demonstrating that scientists are condescending enough to think that there are non-scientists dumb enough to think the Earth is flat.

That being said... ya, sure, there are probably one or two Uncle Jimmys out there that can't read between the troll posts and think, ya, I've also never been on a plane or read a book--why not have the Earth be flat! But that's just a gullible uncle, not a flat-Earth advocate producing web content intended to spacebait astronomers and those of us who paid attention in 3rd grade Astrophysics. Flat-Earthers do not really exist. They are trolls. What I'm saying is, I believe in trolls.

Scientific Reports reports that goldfish drink like fish

Have you ever been told you drink like a fish? According to a recent Scientific Reports report, carp and goldfish drink like their lives depend on it. When their fishbowls and/or ponds freeze over in the winter, their water becomes starved of oxygen. In non-carp animals, this would be somewhat troubling, as low levels of oxygen in your body can lead to a lethal build up of lactic acid. And a lethal build up of pretty much anything can be deadly

Lactic acid is what your muscles produce when they do muscly things, and then your body uses oxygen to break the acid down. That's why you get out of breath when you exercise. But it turns out that goldfish and carp, instead of needing oxygen, can just directly convert lactic acid into alcohol.

So, in this sitch when the fish wish to stay alive but have no oxygen, they just convert lactic acid directly to alcohol and bliss out. And, much like my Uncle Jimmy, these fish spend their winters under ice and over the legal limit. All of this is to say, I am officially dedicating the rest of my human life to evolving fish genes so that instead of running out of breath when I climb a stair or two, I just get drunk! Tired of listening to Uncle Jimmy drone on about the snowmobile traffic in the hinterlands of Newfoundland? Just casually pound out a few of my fave isometrics, and ride that wave of lactic whiskey all the way to Goldfishville. What?

Basically, oceans

The ocean was the antagonist of the Clooney classic The Perfect Storm and the protagonist of the Clooney classics Ocean's 11 through 42. Now some scientists are suggesting that it can be the panacea for all our climate change pan-aches. 

In their recently published paper in Reviews of Geoscience, people who I assume are oceanographers have taken the position that dumping a bunch of rocks into the oceans, making the oceans more basic (as in the opposite of acidic), would help ameliorate (although would more likely Amelia-Badeliate) the inevitable catastrophic effects of climate change. Here's the thought process,

  • the oceans are good at removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • oceans are better at removing CO2 from the atmosphere the more basic the water is
  • let's dump a bunch of powdered rocks in the ocean to make it more basic
  • added bonus: oceans are less acidic, which is killing coral. But making it less acidic will speed up ocean intake of CO2, which makes the ocean more acidic...

It's an interesting idea, but it's still geoengineering. Geoengineering basically means "engineering the globe to our liking." One immediate problem with that is how and who gets to define "our liking." What's good for the Canada goose might not be good for Uganda. Also, if you do your calculations wrong, you've just fu... Amelia-Badeliated the planet. Not to mention any unforeseen, unintended consequences of attempting to drastically altar 70% of the Earth's surface. What could go wrong?!

Seriously, what could go wrong?

The meteoric rise of the mesosphere

 Image from  NASA

Image from NASA

For years, even before there were people, not a single person on Earth knew what a mesosphere was. Years later, maybe even today, it's hard to find a levitating toddler that isn't proselytizing the intrinsic virtues of mesospheric science. (In case you've been living on top of a rock for the past all years of your life: the mesosphere is the middle part of the atmosphere.)

A paper was recently published in Radio Science, which describes how Norwegian radar stations observed meteors breaking up in the Earth's middle atmosphere. Radar signals were used to track meteor broken-up-bits moving around in the mesosphere, which in turn allowed clever mesospherists to calculate mesospheric wind speeds and other wind characteristics. Mesospheric winds are not easy to measure, so this paper is kinda a big deal. Bigly.

You may be asking yourself, "Why should I care about wind speeds 90 km (1 Gillion miles) above the surface?" Good question. Unless you yourself are a mesospherist, it would be insane for you to care about mesospheric wind. Come to think of it, why are you still reading this? Do you just think that scientific progress is neat? The bee's knees? (is it the "bee's knees" or the "bees' knees"? How many bees are there?) The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the mesospheric wind.

(NOTE: this is a sentence that was cut from this post: When meteors break up they move on with their life and find some other meteors to date. How do you date a meteor? Radioisotopes. This is terrible.)

What science plays fast and loose with

We've all been there: we're playing super fast and we suddenly realize, what's better than playing fast? Playing fast AND loose! Well, a handful of scientists have also realized this and decided to publish papers on the very topic. Or at least they decided that the phrase "playing fast and loose" deserved to be in the title of their paper.

 This represents all title search results on  Web of Science  for "playing fast and loose."

This represents all title search results on Web of Science for "playing fast and loose."

In the spirit of playing fast and loose, three separate articles were simply called Playing fast and loose. I guess the authors felt that what the titles lacked in specificity, they'd make up for in irony. And at least one economist, writing in the journal History of Political Economy, felt that somebody had committed the high crime of "Playing Fast and Loose with the Facts About the Writings of Malthus and the Classical School." I mean, someone was bound to sooner or later...

And, I know I should probably say something about playing fast and loose with reorganization energies for protein-to-protein electron-transfer and interfacial dynamics, but I can't. The paper itself is on "binding equilibria and binding dynamics... obtained for several systems: cytochrome c:cytochrome c peroxidase (CCP), cytochrome c:cytochrome b5, and hemoglobin:hemoglobin reductase." So... pretty fast and loose...

Watch for falling ice

Ever since humans and weather were both a thing, humans haven't known what hail's deal is vis-à-vis climate change. This was mainly because humans have lacked the computing power needed to accurately simulate hail storms within our climate models. But, hail ignorance no more! A recent study in Nature Climate Change reports that climate models are now sophisticated enough to properly simulate hail production given different climatic changes. Phewf! Finally, I can relax!

So, what have the models taught us? Well, If you're living where it's typically cool and dry, you can expect an overall decrease in days with hail in the future, but an increase in days with large hail. Hence, the study predicts that in the Prairies, Plains States, and Western Canada, physical damage due to springtime hail will possibly increase by upwards of 40%. That's a lot of cracked windshields! This might be a good time to invest in that Prairie door-to-door carport sales racket your brother-in-law's been on about...

On the flip side, if you live where it's hot and humid, God has taken pity on you and you are likely to experience a decrease in springtime hail damage due to climate change. No more wearing bike helmets in thunderstorms for you, Florida!

The study also specifically points out that there's going to be more hail damage in places like Alberta's "Hail Alley," which is not to be confused with my 22-volume manifesto "Hail, Allie!", a call to give Jane Curtin unilateral control of all national weather stations.

What kind of physicist are you?

The perfect summer solstice quiz!

Have you ever wondered, if I were a physicist, what kind of physicist would I be? Well, even so, here's a quiz you can take that lets you know what kind of physicist you would be based on questions that Myers-Briggs themselves have called, "Derivative. Maybe even a third order derivative."

Bright nights in shining airglow

Have you ever had one of those nights: you're stranded in the hinterlands, miles away from any source of artificial light, there's no moon, no aurora, yet suddenly you realize that it's bright enough to read a map and you seem to have no problem navigating the corn maze?

Surprisingly, you're not alone. Throughout history, there have been accounts of nights, without moonlight and without aurora and without electricity and without fire, where people noticed, "hey, I can see stuff!" These kinds of nights have cleverly been termed, bright nights.

The authors of an article accepted in Geophysical Research Letters think that satellite observations can explain this bright night phenomenon. Turns out it's all due to waves of airglow.

 Airglow: the same atoms and molecules that glow in the aurora during magnetic storms, are essentially always glowing at low levels, just too faint for us mere mortals to see from the ground. Photo from  NASA .

Airglow: the same atoms and molecules that glow in the aurora during magnetic storms, are essentially always glowing at low levels, just too faint for us mere mortals to see from the ground. Photo from NASA.

The study suggests that, occasionally, multiple waves of airglow will align at a particular location in the upper atmosphere, leading to one extremely bright patch of airglow (perhaps right above your secret hinterland corn maze!). This area of intense airglow could be just barely perceptible by humans going about their night on the surface, who would say something like "huh. I think this night is brighter than usual. I'm going to call it a bright night." And then a Black Eyed Pea would call it a bright, bright night. And then we'd all laugh and laugh and not bump into each other because we can see everything because of airglow.