Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Google Earth


Recently, Google released a new map system to allow for a 3D Earth view. The new maps depict Earth as a 3D planet, and allow users to explore mountains and cities in 3D.  At first, Google Earth could be downloaded and installed on a computer, but now it is available at maps.google.com for Google users to use without downloading it.

To try the new maps, sign in to your Google account and go to maps.google.com. In the tab on the left, click "Get it now" where it describes the new Google maps. If you do not see the button, try  typing "new maps" into the search bar and pressing Enter. The "Get it now" button should appear above the results.

My photograph of the Grand Canyon on left, Google Earth's Grand Canyon on right
(same location)

I really like the new maps. Besides being able to explore the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest, I especially like what happens when I zoom out all the way: Earth becomes visible with a lit side and a shadowed side, and the blackness around the planet is filled with stars that correspond to the actual positions of stars in the sky. The dark side of the planet is filled with city lights, just as the real planet would have, and both the light and dark sides of the planet contain clouds in the actual positions of clouds on the real planet. It is amazing.

The lighting of the planet, as well as the position of the sun relative to the other stars, is beautifully accurate. I was very impressed that Google even included the planets in the starry sky.

When I start to zoom in on the planet (using the mouse scroll-wheel), all this changes. The clouds are still there, but the stars disappear and the planet no longer has a dark side. This allows for easier navigation of the globe. The clouds fade away after zooming in further.

At closer zoom levels, finer details are visible. In most places, only the terrain is 3D, and the houses are steam-rolled flat to the ground. In other places, however, Google used a special algorithm using visual data to detect 3D structures such as houses or trees. In these areas, the scenery is much more impressive. It may look like a cheap video game, but when you realize that the houses and trees were built using computer software and photographs, it is very amazing.

Racine, WI, near Lake Michigan; notice the 3D structures
The main problems I found are the following:
1. Sometimes, adjacent satellite images are tinted differently, resulting in a striped landscape
2. The bumps on the ocean floor are treated as mountains, so when viewing the ocean at an angle, it looks bumpy and unrealistic
3. There's no way to hide the labels
4. Countries look the same in Summer as in Winter, even when zoomed out completely

So that's what I have to say about Google Earth. Have anything you'd like to add? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Art Maker Pro

On Khan Academy, a while ago, I wrote a program that would allow users to draw a picture, and then the program would generate another program which they could copy and paste and save. The new program would animate the drawing of the same picture. The program was named "Art Maker".

Recently, I created a new version of my program. The original only allowed for black and white; the new version includes color, as well as a dialog box system which I designed. The program uses only my own code - I didn't borrow anybody else's (as far as I can remember).

To embed the program on my blog, I had to use Khan Academy's script; unfortunately, their script isn't working very well here, so the program is cut off at the edge. You can access the program itself here: https://www.khanacademy.org/cs/art-maker-pro/5733417664643072

I finished the program before Christmas so I could release it for everybody to use on that day... so Merry Christmas!

To use:
* Click Generate to generate a JavaScript with Processing program in the pop-up console. You can copy the program and paste it in the New Program window on Khan Academy.
* Click Undo to undo the last stroke. Click Edit to change the palette.
* Pick a color by clicking the palette.
* Hide the top bar by clicking in the upper-right corner of the canvas; show the bar by clicking in the
* upper-left corner.
* Draw by clicking and dragging. This intentionally does work when the Generate Code dialog window is open. White doubles as an eraser.
* To get past the opening screen, either wait or click somewhere on the canvas.

Keyboard shortcuts:
* Enter: Generate code
* Z: Undo
* E: Edit Palette


Art Maker Pro

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Apfelkuchen

Apfelkuchen is an apple pie baked German style. The word literally translates to "apple cake", but is used in Germany to mean apple pie. Apfelkuchen has many variations. One variation involves baking apples inside a sweet, sugary crust in a tube pan. My mom had a recipe for apfelkuchen which she got from a German woman she knew, but she lost it. The following recipe is my imitation of that recipe. If you try it, let me know how it turned out!

Crust:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour

Filling:
8 - 10 apples, sliced (peeling is optional) 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
                                                   
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add baking soda and flour, and stir until combined. Pat about half of the mixture in the bottom and up the sides of a tube pan.

For the filling, combine the sugar and vanilla. Add the mixture to the apples and mix evenly. Place the apples into the pan with the dough, and carefully place the remaining dough on top. The apples should be completely covered with the dough. If you have any dough left over, you can core an apple or two and cover it with the remaining dough.

Place the apfelkuchen in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and the crust is golden-brown (check the apples by piercing with a fork). Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before flipping onto a platter and removing pan. Serve warm with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Apfelkuchen is also good plain or cold.

Note: Vanilla-sugar can be used instead of sugar, if the vanilla is omitted.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter in the Rockies

Blowing snow lit up by the sun, which recently set behind those two peaks
A couple of days ago I went skiing. That's not unusual, because I love to ski. Every year I go skiing quite a few times - usually starting in November, when Arapahoe Basin opens, and ending in June, when the snow melts and they have to close.

When I went skiing, I brought my camera to the ski resort and took a few pictures. I didn't take any videos or photos of the skiing, but I did take some photos of the moon above the mountains.

If I come up to the mountains from Denver, there are two options to get to Arapahoe Basin. One option is to  take the I-70 through the Eisenhower tunnel, continue past Arapahoe Basin until the next exit, drive through Dillon, and then backtrack to the resort. When I go through the tunnel (which I don't very often), I like to hold my breath until I get to the other side. This is especially difficult when I run into a traffic jam halfway through.

A quicker route is to get off the I-70 onto Loveland Pass Road, which is a curvy road that winds over a mountain pass and is much more direct. This road is rather narrow and has a very steep slope on one side of it, so in snowy conditions it can be closed and I have to take the route through the tunnel.


When I was on Loveland Pass Road, I saw some flashing lights up ahead and a scrape-mark in the snow on the cliff. I immediately suspected that somebody had slid off the edge. Sure enough, when I got to the lights, I could see an autorack truck that had fallen off the edge and smashed into the trees below. There were some men climbing up to the road, and some cables connecting the fallen truck to another one which would probably pull it back up. I didn't get a chance to take a photograph, but I knew I'd be coming back that way later, so I decided to take a photo then.

View of Loveland Pass Road from the I-70, with the trucks circled
Unfortunately, the road was closed by the time I got back - probably because they were trying to pull the truck back up - so I had to take the longer route that passed through the tunnel. Then, on the highway, I took some photos of the truck accident from below. You can see my photos in this post. The trucks are on Loveland Pass Road, and the mark is where the truck slid down the cliff. I'm not sure whether the truck got back on the road - it could still be hiding in the trees, or it could be that autorack on the right in the picture.

That day must have been marked for trouble, because on the same road, only a couple of miles from the truck accident, there was another accident that involved two cars that had collided. Glass and chunks of metal were all over the road. And then there was also a 1.5 hour backup on the I-70 because of construction on one of the Twin Tunnels. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of other accidents that I missed. Well, at least I made it home safe!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Orange Candle

This candle was leaning over too far, so I propped it up with a folded piece of paper.
In the cold, dark months of the year, candles are more than welcome. Not only do they give off a cozy light, but they also give off heat and warmth. The trouble is that candles cost money - not only for the candle itself, but also for the candle holder. So is there an alternative to buying candles?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Green Alternatives: Are They Really So Green?

The spiral-shaped tube of this compact fluorescent lamp results in a bulb much more compact
than the fluorescent tubes seen in stores - hence the name.
I recently wrote the following essay for school. Because of my school, I haven't had time to post very many things on my blog, but since I wrote this anyway I figured I might as well post it. It's an informative essay formatted MLA style explaining why sometimes green alternatives are not always what they're thought to be.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Psychological Videos

Here's an explanation: My college psychology teacher is probably the best teacher I've ever had. She shows fun videos, has the students do fun activities, and allows the students to give presentations to help the subject matter sink into their heads better. It would probably seem a little odd to see college students making paper "brain hats," but the students (especially the girls) enjoy that kind of thing more than the average person would probably think.

Anyway, the last two videos she showed us during class were TED talks. They pertained to what we were learning at the moment - namely, the mind's perception of things and attention. I enjoyed them, so I thought I'd post them on my blog in case somebody hasn't seen them yet.

Here are the videos, embedded. When given instructions, be sure to follow them carefully so you'll better understand what they're getting at:




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Colorado Flooding


A cold front clashed with the warm, moist air from monsoons in the south. As the warm air was cooled by the cold air, large clouds formed. The resulting rain began on the afternoon of September 10th where I live.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Instant Chat Application

Here's a version of the instant chat system I mentioned in my previous post. It updates in real-time, so unlike most forums, you don't have to reload the page to see new comments.

You can include HTML in the comments, but I disabled the <script> tags because users misused them. I also added a <console> tag and an <incode> tag. To post a comment, either click the button or press the Alt key on your keyboard.

There may or may not be other people on the chat app. If you want to chat with someone, email the link to that person.

If you do not see the app, please click HERE.



Instant Chat Application
Instant Chat System
INITIALIZING...
Name:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mesocyclone


The sky was dark. Occasional raindrops pattered outside. Thunder rumbled. A computer geek sat in the glow of a computer, typing and staring at the screen as if in a trance. He happened to be working on an instant chat application, using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. When he was complete, he would host one version of the app on his Computer Science blog. He later hosted another version HERE.

Suddenly, the wind outside picked up all at once. As it howled, the windows cracked and popped. At one corner of the house came a spooky moaning sound. Only then did the geek come out of his trance; he stopped typing and turned towards the window.

That geek was me. The reason I ceased to type was because I knew that the pickup of wind was unusual, and that it can be a sign of a nearby tornado. I scanned the fields, trying to guess approximately how strong the wind was. The wind had picked up dirt and was blowing it through the fields, so I knew from experience that the wind was particularly strong. I got out of my chair and looked up at the sky through the windows, checking whether a tornado was forming. Ever since I was very young, I was fascinated with tornadoes, and was always on the lookout, hoping to see one. I sometimes dream about tornadoes. Unfortunately, we live in a place where tornadoes are rare, so I've only seen a single tornado my whole life.

I noticed clouds turning in the sky - a mesocyclone. A mesocyclone is a vortex of air within a convective storm - that is, rising air that spins. I called the rest of my family to come look at the turning clouds. I ran and got my camera, and started filming. I really hoped some kind of tornado would form; even a small, weak one would have satisfied me. I watched the clouds as a funnel started to form. Then it dissipated; a tornado never formed.

I had been hoping for a tornado, but what I saw was the next best. I had read a lot about mesocyclones, cumulonimbus clouds, and thunderstorms, and it was very interesting to see it in real life. I could even see the opening for the rear flank downdraft.

I later took the videos I got and removed parts of them. Here's the result:


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pileus Clouds

A cumulus cloud with pileus. This pileus is a small one.
There are multiple pilei on the cloud in this photo.
See if you can find them.
Pileus, pronounced pie-lee-us, is a small, smooth, silky-looking lenticular (lens-shaped) cloud that can appear above parts of either a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud. (If you don't know what a cumulus cloud is, click HERE. Cumulonimbus clouds are basically very large cumulus clouds.) A cloud attached to pileus is said to be "with pileus" or to "have pileus".

Clouds with pilei can develop into very large
cumulonimbus clouds.
Pilei form when a strong updraft at a lower altitude acts upon air at a higher altitude, and causes it to cool below its dew point. The result is that as the air cools, the water vapor in it condenses and forms a cloud. Because of the conditions required for it to form, a pileus cloud is usually a sign of severe weather; the cloud that it forms above is likely to develop into a cumulonimbus if it hasn't already.

Early this afternoon, it was bright and sunny, but there were a couple of cumulus clouds with pileus, so I immediately predicted a thunderstorm. Sure enough, only a couple hours after that, it started raining harder than it has in a long time, and I could smell ozone from the lightning that kept flashing outside.

It isn't raining any more, but I can see a huge cumulonimbus far in the distance, and dark clouds overhead.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Orb Weaver


This morning my sister noticed a tiny little spider, only a few millimeters wide, sitting in its web. It was a type of orb weaver. It had built its web, which was only about the size of my palm, between a couple of bars of a railing. The spider was sitting in the center of the web, waiting for something small to come along and get caught.

One of my friends suggested throwing an ant into the web; he wanted to see the spider at work. We looked around, but couldn't find the slightest trace of an ant. I didn't really care - I had already seen plenty of spiders catch their food  - but my friend was not satisfied. He stuck the tip of his pocket knife gently into the web and jiggled it around. His efforts proved futile; the spider could tell it wasn't an insect and did not budge from his position at the center. My friend succeeded only in messing up the web.

The upper-left corner is where my friend put his pocketknife.
The entire web is only the size of my palm.
Soon my sister found a few ants. We were able to get one into the web, and this time we saw the spider act. It ran over to the ant, and tried to grab it and wrap it in web. The ant was struggling, however, and being as large as the spider, was a difficult prey. The spider kept running forward, backing away, and running forward while the ant kicked and struggled. Finally it managed to bundle up the ant, using sticky threads pulled from the web.

At this point, I was able to take a few photos of the spider. The top photo is a closeup of the spider from behind as it works on bundling the ant more securely. The next photo is of the web itself, with the spider ¼ of the way down; my camera didn't focus very well, so if you view the photo full-size the web looks a little blurry.

After that, another ant somehow got into the web. I don't know which of us put it in, but one of us must have; I don't think it got there itself. The spider bundled up that one, too. After that, it looked like it started eating the ants, but I'm not sure; the spider was rather small and hard to see.

I enjoyed my experience with the spider. I can't say it taught me anything, because I had already closely observed other spiders' - especially orb weavers' - behaviors; however it was very interesting to observe it again. I'll end with a question inspired by my friend: what if a spider were a vegetarian?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Drought

The actual sun appeared bright red, but my camera picked up some invisible radiation as violet.
This photo was not enhanced.

Last year was very dry. Wildfires raged through the state, and a firework ban on Independence Day made everybody even more sorry about the lack of water.


I think this summer is turning out to be a repeat. So far we've had 3 historically significant fires: the Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,280 acres and was the most destructive ever recorded in Colorado (in terms of property damage); the Royal Gorge Fire, which burned 3,800 acres and jumped the Royal Gorge; and the West Fork Complex, which is still burning 0% contained, and has so far burned more than 83,004 acres.
Photos of an affected area, arranged  in chronological order.
Just today, we watched a wildfire almost in our backyard, and saw the firefighters putting it out. We packed up in case we had to evacuate, but they got it under control and put it out. They had a helicopter with a water basket hanging below it, and the pilot kept getting water from a facultative lagoon at a nearby sewage treatment plant and dumping it on the fire. He was amazing at flying that thing; he could even fly sideways.

I hope things improve. Wildfires might look neat, but they aren't exactly safe. I don't like firework bans, either.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Black Forest Fire


Six days ago, a fire started in Black Forest, Colorado. The wind was very strong, and the fire quickly grew to become the most destructive fire in the history of Colorado.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Letter to Astronomy Magazine

I recently sent a letter to Astronomy magazine about one of the articles in the April 2013 issue. The article was titled Astro April Fools and was written by the columnist Bob Berman. I didn't like how lightly Bob treated Y2K, so I wrote the following letter:
I have been a subscriber to Astronomy magazine for about 3 or 4 years, since I was about 12. Probably my favorite part of Astronomy magazine is Bob Berman's Strange Universe. However, in the April 2013 issue, Bob seems to treat Y2K a little too lightly. Although not as bad as advertised, there really were dangers; computers really did fail, and bad things did happen.

Caption:A French sign displaying an inaccurate date because of the Y2K bug.
Image taken from Wikipedia.
Think about a normal computer problem, like the one that happened a few weeks ago: an airline's computers were down for only a couple of hours, but it cost them thousands of dollars. When something like this happens, the computer can be reset; once the bad data is gone, everything goes back to normal. Reseting a computer wouldn't work in the Y2K scenario. The date is the bad data, and restarting the computer doesn't help with that. Instead of computers being down for a couple of hours, they could be down for a couple of days.

Why did so little happen during Y2K, then? The bug was more widely advertised than any other in the history of computing. Software companies received worried phone calls from airliners and many other companies asking about the problem; so realizing the danger, they hired whole teams of programmers to ensure nothing happened when we time-warped.

However, not everybody took action, so some bad things did happen as direct results of Y2K bugs. Down's syndrome test results were inaccurate, resulting in 2 abortions after false positives. Radiation-monitoring equipment in Japan failed. An alarm sounded in a nuclear power plant. Not so bad; but that was after preparation. What would have happened had we ignored it?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Skim a Pond


Last Friday I went skiing at Arapahoe Basin. Yes, there's still snow up there - but the warm weather is melting it, resulting in conditions known as Spring skiing. The water from the melted snow collects in valleys and trenches, forming ponds excellent for skimming.

Skimming is skiing on water. To skim a pond, the upward force from the skis must exceed the skier's weight, and it must continue to exceed his weight until the skier gets across the pond. The force is determined by the skier's forward velocity, the surface area of the bottom of his skis, and the angle of his skis.

On Friday when I visited Arapahoe Basin, I skimmed a few ponds. It's lots of fun, as long as you don't slow down too much halfway through the pond. Here's a video from my trip:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Warm Weather


Finally - it's nice and warm outside. The meadowlarks are singing, and cumulus clouds fill the sky. In some places, this kind of weather has been going on for the past couple of months. Where I live, though, we've been having cool weather, so a 70° day seems very warm.

Here are some of the pictures I took today:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sprout Jar

Photos of seeds from yesterday, to scale.
The onion is the one on the left.
A couple of days ago I planted 3 seeds in a clear glass jar, so I could watch them germinate. 2 of the seeds came from one of my basil plants, and the other came from a green onion plant. This is partly a test on the quality of my home-grown seeds, but also a fun gardening activity; after all, who wouldn't like to sprout  some seeds and watch them grow?

Here's how you can make your own sprout jar:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Halbach Array

Yesterday I learned about something really cool called a Halbach array. It's a special arrangement of magnets that has a magnetic field on one side, but not the other.

The array and its effect were discovered in 1973 by John C. Mallinson, but it was named after physicist Klaus Halbach, who invented the array 7 years later - not knowing someone else had already gone to the trouble.

Halbach array, showing approximate field lines.
The way the Halbach array works is similar to a bunch of lined up horseshoe magnets. There are North and South poles, but they are all on the same side of the row. Horseshoe magnets are clumsy, so in the Halbach array, regular bar magnets are used instead. The magnets are oriented so that their magnetic fields match those of the horseshoe magnets they're replacing; that way, the effect is nearly the same.

A perfect Halbach array is only magnetic on one side, greatly reducing stray magnetic fields that can interfere with other equipment; and since the magnetic field is all on the same side, it is twice as strong as a regular magnet's field. Because of those properties, Halbach arrays are useful in a variety of applications, including:
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • Inductrack Maglev train system
  • Particle accelerators
  • Free electron lasers
Then there's the Halbach cylinder, where the magnetic field is in a bore down the center, and the Halbach sphere, where the magnetic field is in an empty spot inside the sphere. They aren't as simple as the array, so I won't explain them in this post.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Water Balls


One day in Arizona, I made pancakes. The pans were a little different than I was used to; I normally use a buttered cast-iron skillet to fry my pancakes, but the apartment we were staying in didn't have any of those. As far as pans went, all they had were stainless steel frying pans - which are very different from cast-iron skillets.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dividing Paper Puzzle


When I was young, I would fold a sheet of letter paper in half, for origami projects. It occurred to me that the two halves looked almost the same as the whole sheet of paper - except they were smaller. I could see they weren't exactly the same shape; they were off by a little bit. But the idea stuck in my head.

You can use a pen, instead of scissors, to halve the paper.
Those rectangles all have the same shape, but are different sizes.
One night when I was 12, I thought about my idea. I wondered if it was possible to have a sheet of paper that could be cut in half, resulting in 2 smaller versions of the same paper. That would be neat, to be able to cut a paper in half and get 2 papers that had the same exact shape. If that were possible, then you could cut those papers, too; and the resulting papers would have the same shape as all the other papers. You could keep cutting in half forever, and each paper, no matter how small, would have the same shape as all the others.

I HAD to figure it out. Was it possible, or not? I took a pen (or pencil, I don't remember) and a sheet of paper, and began writing. In a few minutes of working with math and numbers, I found that it was possible. I had the solution right in front of me.

The puzzle is this: what could the dimensions for the paper be?

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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Journey Home


We got back home from our trip to Arizona about a week ago.

Instead of driving back the way we came, we drove through New Mexico, so I didn't get to see the Grand Canyon again. But I got to see parts of New Mexico I hadn't seen before. Here are some photos, listed in chronological order:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Common Arizona Cacti


When referring to multiple cactus plants in the English language, some say "cactuses", others say "cacti", and a few don't change anything and just say "cactus". All are acceptable, but I prefer to say "cacti".

Cactus plants are very common in Arizona. They are specially adapted to the dry climate; some types can live through up to 10 years of drought. Their green, fleshy stems are often ribbed, making it easier to expand to hold water. The majority have sharp spines, instead of leaves; photosynthesis occurs in the stems. The spines only grow from areoles, which all cacti have.

The largest type of cactus in Arizona is the Carnegiea gigantea, or "saguaro" (suh-wah-ro). If you saw this type of cactus, you would remember it more easily than any others. It gets so tall when mature that none of the other cacti can even start to compare; mature saguaros dwarf even the tallest men.


There are many other types of cacti besides the Saguaro in Arizona, but here are the few you'd be most likely to see:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum


On Monday we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert museum, which is just west of Tuscon. It's like a zoo, but there are a lot of things besides animals there - like meteorites, caves, and plants.

Western Screech-Owl
To the left is a Western Screech-Owl. The handler for this bird said the owl doesn't actually screech, and the name isn't accurate.

American Kestrel
On the right is a live male American Kestrel. Notice that the handler is wearing a glove to protect his hand from the sharp talons. In the wild, those talons are used for killing prey. This particular bird has never used its talons on live prey, however. It was born in captivity, and has never been fed anything alive. Because of this, the bird hasn't developed the skills it needs to survive alone in the wild.
Here's a Harris's Hawk. Notice how much larger it is than the Kestrel:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Meteor Crater


After we visited the Grand Canyon, we visited Meteor Crater, a ¾ mile wide impact crater in a northern Arizona desert. It is said to be the best-preserved crater in the world.

In this photo, you can see the crater's bumpy rim
on the horizon.
Scientists believe that Meteor Crater was formed 50,000 years ago by a meteorite only 50 meters wide. It blasted such a large crater because it moved at a rate of something between 37 and 60 times the speed of sound. That's very fast. When the meteor hit the ground, it gave off energy equivalent to 10 - 20 million tons of TNT.

The meteorite became extremely hot when it hit. It became so hot that most of it was vaporized, and the rest melted. The ground where it hit was no more fortunate; it vaporized and melted, too. A large quantity of material was thrown away from the site, and rained onto the ground for miles around.

After the impact, fragments of the meteorite that had broken off in mid-air fell out of the sky onto the ground. Due to higher air resistance, they fell at a much lower velocity than the main meteorite, so they survived impact. Some of those fragments are on display in the museum next to the crater.

When we visited Meteor Crater, the wind was very, very strong with nothing out in the flat desert to stop it. At the edge of the crater, the wind was intensified as it blew up and over the rim. The fee was more than we had expected - $16 for adults, $8 for kids. When my mom had visited the crater for the first time many years ago, the fee had only been $1. I didn't want to turn around without viewing the crater, so my mom paid the money and we went in.

The middle observation deck, about ⅔ up the crater wall.
It wasn't as much of a rip-off as we originally thought. Admission to the museum was included, and there was a short movie followed by a presentation. I had planned on going down into the crater, but it was off-limits for reasons of preservation and liability; plus, the sides of the crater were steep, and the wind was blowing very hard. So instead, I satisfied myself with looking through the telescopes on the observation decks.

A mine shaft. You can also see a 6 ft astronaut cutout and flag if you
look closely; those are memorials of NASA's training in the crater.
In the picture to the right, you can see some old equipment and light-colored soil. Here's why it's there: in the early 1900's, Daniel Barringer tried to find the meteorite that had excavated the crater. He thought the meteorite was as large as the crater, and wanted to sell the metal from it. For 27 years he searched by drilling into the ground, but he never found anything worthwhile. The soil, I presume, is from his drilling, and it's probably the same with the equipment.

I find Meteor Crater very impressive; it is the mark left by an event that released an enormous amount of energy all on a small place in an instant, wreaking havoc and destruction. Yet it shows how even the most powerful and significant events can fade and disappear, while everything continues on as if it never happened - the only memory of the disaster being a hole in the ground.

For the next post in the Arizona Road Trip series, go to http://greatmst.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-desert-museum.html

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Grand Canyon


On the second day of our road trip (see my last post here), we visited the Grand Canyon, which is in northern Arizona.

The Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River. The river ran over soil on the ground, and washed it away. Soon the river got to solid rock, and began to wear through that, too. As it wore through the rock, a huge gorge formed, with the river flowing through it. That gorge was the early Grand Canyon.

As time went by, the canyon got deeper and deeper. The sides of the canyon fell into the river at places, and the river washed it away. When it rained, creeks and streams ran down into the canyon, eroding the sides and giving it an intricate, complicated shape.


Finally, after about 40 million years of erosion, my family and I came along, and looked at the result. It's pretty impressive. Unfortunately, it was rather cold at the time, so we weren't able to stay as long as we would have liked; but it was a great experience just the same.

While I was there, I took the stereoscopic pair of images you can see at the bottom of the post. If you go cross-eyed until the images completely overlap, the combined result will appear 3D. It is very hard for inexperienced people to do that; if you have trouble, try this: put your fingertip in front of the screen, below the photos. While looking at your fingertip, slowly bring it closer and closer to your face. Keep your head level relative to the photos while you do this. Pay attention to the two photos, and stop moving your finger when the photos completely overlap (about 1 foot from your face). Carefully look at the photos; do not allow your eyes to readjust. If you're lucky, the result will be an image that appears 3D. If not, that's okay; some people just can't do it.



For the next post in the Arizona Road Trip series, go to http://greatmst.blogspot.com/2013/02/meteor-crater.html

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arizona Road Trip


I am currently on vacation in Arizona. It's really interesting here. For one, there are cool plants here that aren't where I live - like palm trees, and cacti taller than houses. For another, the weather is really nice; sunny  most of the time, and not too cold.


To get to the place we're staying, my family drove for two days, from Colorado through New Mexico to Arizona. Here are some of the photos I took along the way (just click to view):