Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scientists Being Tried for What?

In L'aquila, Italy, six seismologists and a government official are being tried in court for manslaughter from failing to predict and warn the city of an earthquake in 2009.  (What the fuck did I just read?!)  In case you don't know, NOBODY can exactly predict earthquakes in a scientific way.  (there is one instance but that is for another day).  The earthquake in dispute here is the earthquake of 2009, where a 6.3 magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people and caused millions of dollars in damage.  Here is a picture of some of the damage.
There was one factor that might have contributed to this situation.  Leading up to the big earthquake there were a lot of very small ones.  Much more than usual.  A local man who was not a scientist started predicting a big earthquake using techniques that are not exactly scientific.  His predictions of a big earthquake began to make the town grow very impatient and almost into a panic. So the government sent a bunch of seismologists to the area to predict more accurately when the quake would happen.  And of course, since earthquakes are not predictable they couldn't tell when it would happen.
These scientist are basically being charged for not warning the city that it was going to happen eventhough there is no way to tell when an earthquake will happen.  Each scientist faces up to 12 years in prison.  This is absolutely fucking ridiculous.  They should prosecute the local fortune tellers for not warning locals of bad things either.  This is obviously an attempt to calm the masses and hold a few individuals responsible.  The whole earthquake killing people is a tragedy by itself, and the government of Italy does not want to be outdone so they are putting science on trial here.  An obvious better alternative to this witch-trial would be to fix buildings and update them to withstand earthquakes.  Leave your thoughts

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mount Everest - Part 1 - climbing that SOB

Mount Everest is the biggest, iciest, most badass piece of rock, ice, and sheer intimidation on earth.
It has killed over 220 people.  Most of these deaths do not come from people falling off one of the various cliff faces or from hypothermia.  Most of the deaths actually are direct results from lack oxygen.  Some times a climber will be tired and decide to nap but never wake up.  Other times death can result from something as simple as a sprained ankle and not being able to make it down in time.  To give you an idea of how hard it is to breath at 29,000 feet, at base camp which is 17,500 feet, you would get about half of the oxygen that you are used to.  What does that feel like? Breathe through a straw non-stop for the next day and you'll see.

Now at even 17,500 feet, you will begin to suffer from dizzyness, you will not be able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, and using extra physical effort can lead to passing out from lack of oxygen.  Your body cannot send enough red blood cells to your brain to deliver oxygen so you will not be able to think right or even stand up straight.  And you will suffer from horrible diarrhea and vomiting because your body is not used to the extreme altitude.  (Remember, this is all at 17,500 feet, not 29,000. We still haven't even started to climb.)  You are now succeptable to suffering from a "High Altitude Cerebral Edema".  This simply means that your brain will swell up and you can die anywhere from hours to days, so time is not on your side. And the only symptoms of suffering from one of these is dizzyness which you will be suffering anyway from the altitude.

Now let's assume that you make it to the 17,500 feet basecamp and don't suffer from any of those symptoms. (except the diarrhea because you're an asshole for not subscribing to this blog earlier).  Now to go up you can't just do it all at once, you have 5 more checkpoints, or basecamps, to stop at.  One of the things you must do is spit in the face of god and go across one of the scariest possible forms of death on this earth; The Khumbo Icefall.   On the Khumbu Icefall you must cross steep pillars of ice and go across crevasses that can be hundreds of feet wide using only a common household aluminum gardening ladder.  Oh and remember this whole thing is constantly moving meaning that as some climbers can tell you (or they could if they were still alive) that as you are standing on halfway on a cheap gardening ladder above hundreds of feet of freefall with only sharp ice crystals and frozen rocks to break your fall at the bottom.  This means that if the Indian Tectonic Plate decides to move just an inch you will fall to your death of deaths.  A death fitting only a mortal combat video game. Here are a few pictures of what it looks like.  Note there are not pictures of the bottom of these crevasses because they are just too deep for any light to get down there. Notice that the only thing between these people and death is a gardening ladder that costs less than $100 at Home Depot.

just shit my pants
I told you don't look down.

I'm guessing that you're either dead or you got through using some Harry Potter bullshit.  Now what?  Now you have to climb up the western face of the mountain that is often called The Valley of Silence.  It's called this because you are speechless when you look up at what you are about to climb;  The face of Lhotse. (which in Nepalese I can only assume means Satan)  A 4,000 foot, vertical face of frozen rock, ice, and terror that is between 40 and 80 degrees steep.  Now in that last sentence let's emphasize the words vertical, 4,000 feet,  and ice.  So if you lose your footing you will slide down 4,000 to your icy death at a very steep angle into some very sharp ice. Now when you get to the top of Satan, you are in zone 4 and get to go to zone 5. (yay)  Don't get too excited. Zone 5 is also called The Death Zone.  Here, your body can only get about a third of the oxygen that you are used to at sea level.  When you only get this much oxygen, your body basically tells you to go fuck yourself by producing too many red blood cells, shutting down your digestive tract, and making your heart beat more than Homer Simpson at a fat camp.  There is not a human body that can adapt to the 25,000 feet altitude of the death zone, not even the sherpa's.  If you stay for too long your body will shut down and die.  Now if you manage to get to the death zone, you have been climbing for at least a month.  This means that your body is sleep deprived, malnourished, and more exhausted than probably ever in your life.  You have also been putting up with temperatures as low as -100 degrees farenheit and winds up to 120 mph.

stay tuned for part 2

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia

These are pictures of the Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia.  It was built about eight to nine-hundred years ago originally as a Buddhist monastery.  Unlike most of the large Kmer temples this one was decided to leave relatively unrestored and to not get rid of the vegetation.  As you can see this temple has really merged with the jungle over the years and the people in charge want to keep it that way.
But essentially "leaving the temple to the jungle" is taking its toll after about 800 years.  The structural stability is starting to fail in some of the buildings and so engineers are starting to selectively get rid of some trees and vegetation.
In case you are wondering, the trees are mostly silk-cotton trees that are hundreds of years old.
Now here's some more pictures of this bad ass temple.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spider Trees??

In 2010 there was MAJOR flooding in Pakistan.  And by major, I mean one fifth of the entire country was under water.  Over 300,000 square miles of land were under water.  To put this into perspective, Texas is only about 265,000 square miles.  While the flooding was a terrible thing that displaced millions of people one interesting thing has resulted;  Millions and millions of spiders climbed tress to get away from the rising water.  The water took so long to recede back to normal levels that the trees in the affected areas basically became cacooned in spiderwebs.
Pretty fucking crazy huh?  well, there is one good thing that has resulted in all the spider trees across Pakistan; Mosquito populations have declined and the spread of malaria has greatly slowed down. This is pretty amazing considering how much standing water there was after the flooding.   Here's some more pictures;

millions and millions of spiders reclaiming trees as their own?  Now that's the fucking craziest thing I've ever seen