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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Science Vine - Issue 3: Petrified Lightning, Suing Science, & Shuttle Wake-up Songs

Science Vine – Issue 3 - August 31, 2010

Petrified Lightning

I’m sure most of you have heard of petrified wood, and maybe even seen some yourself either in pictures or at a museum. But how about petrified lightning or fulgurites? It’s possible that at some of you who have never heard of petrified lightning or fulgurites have actually seen them without realizing it!

When lightning strikes the Earth in some sandy or silica-rich soil, it can literally melt the ground and leave it’s mark as fulgurites: hollow, glassy tubes that represent the path the lightning took. They are often root-like in structure, with evident branching, which seems consistent with the branching lightning seen in the sky. And they can range in size from very small to several centimeters wide and several meters long.

You might be petrified of lightning, but there’s nothing to fear from fulgurites. And if you find one, especially a big one, you could be in for some serious money from collectors and/or museums. But even though lightning strikes the Earth 100 times every second on average according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, fulgurites are very rare. So, while you might have seen one without know what it was, you probably won’t find one even if you know what you’re looking for. Isn’t that the way it always works?

For more information:
Wikipedia: Fulgurite
Fulgurites: Petrified Lightning in the Ground (Warning! Fascination content is HIGH! And, there’s pictures here too!)

Man seeks to sue science.

Man logically loses litigation attempt.

According to a Discover Magazine blog:

Back in 2008, a Hawaiian fellow named Walter Wagner claimed the Large Hadron Collider’s hunt for the Higgs boson would end in apocalypse, and sued to stop the collider from going online. His suit was soon dismissed by a federal judge, but with the fate of the world on the line, Wagner kept trying.

A simulated event at the CMS particle detector of the LHC of the european particle physics institute, CERN. This simulation depicts the decay of a Higgs particle following a collision of two protons in the CMS experiment. [Image credit: CERN. From Wikipedia user Harp.]

But, to make a long story short, an appellate judge for the United States District Court in Hawaii has ruled that Wagner failed to show “credible threat of harm.” You see, the United States doesn’t control the collider, which spans the border of Switzerland and France. The LHC was indeed built with some U.S. government financial support, but the U.S. only has observer status on the operations governing body: the CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) council.

So, it appears that the U.S. can’t be held accountable if the LHC somehow destroys the Earth by creating an Earth-eating black hole or similarly apocalyptic strange matter!

For those of you who have a sense of humor, check out the site I’ve listed below. It’s a serious site, but intelligent beings that know a lick of science won’t be taking it seriously!

For more information:
Discover Magazine:
Judge: Man Can’t Sue over LHC’s “Potential Destruction Of The Earth”


Did you ever wonder what astronauts wake up to when they’re orbiting about 200 miles (325 kilometers) high above the Earth in the Space Shuttle? Why, Space Rock music, of course!

And who gets to choose the particular songs they hear? Why, Houston, of course! EXCEPT that now NASA has just opened voting booths to the public. That’s right, now YOU can vote on what music our shuttle astronauts get to wake up during the STS-133 mission, which is currently set to launch in November of this year.

So, to have your own voice in the musical voices that shuttle astronauts will hear, check out NASA’s Top 40 and pick out a song! They’ve listed 40 songs, all of which you can listen to, that have been played on previous missions, and the songs range from Beautiful Day by U2 to Rocket Man by Elton John to What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. The theme from Star Trek by Alexander Courage is currently leading in the polls, followed closely by Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf. Over 1.2 million votes have been cast so far, so get yours in now!

And on that note (pun intended, of course), so ends this issue of Science Vine.

© 2010 Gary D. Timothy

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Science Vine - Issue 2: Google Mars, SpaceQuakes, and a Tachyon Joke

Science Vine- Issue 2, July 27, 2010

And the bartender says “Sorry, we don’t serve tachyons here.”
A tachyon walks into a bar…
Now, just in case you’re relatively physics challenged, click here for help with seeing the light. Or you can just left click and drag your mouse pointer over the seemingly empty space below for a clue.
A tachyon is a theoretical particle that travels faster than light, and as such, it would travel backward in time. This means that a tachyon would arrive before it left! Thus the reverse nature of the joke above.
For masochist individuals who wish to torture their own gray matter into temporal shreds of technicalities, please see ( for a good time before you get there.
NASA and Microsoft Research are adding new features in the WorldWide Telescope software that provide viewers with high-resolution 3-D maps of the Red Planet. This online virtual telescope allows you to explore the universe using images that NASA spacecraft have taken.
I recently checked it out for myself. Below is a screenshot from my computer featuring the Happy Face on Mars. Conspiracy theorists, please note that the crosshairs in the images are not alien formations on Mars, but rather alien formations on my computer screen!