Earth Changes
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Blackbox

Mysterious ball lightning may be a hallucination

Image
© Scott Stulberg/Corbis
The fluctuating magnetic fields in lightning strikes may induce hallucinations of glowing orbs called ball lightning
Seen something pale and round floating in the midst of a thunderstorm? If it lasted for a few seconds or less, it might be all in your head. Fluctuating magnetic fields, created by a nearby lightning bolt, could trick the brain into "seeing" round glowing objects, explaining at least some observations of mysterious 'ball lightning'.

The phenomenon is often described as a hovering orb of light - smaller than a beach ball - that lasts for a few seconds or minutes. It is thought to occur when lightning strikes the ground, but its exact cause is not clear.

Now it seems the glowing blobs may be a hallucination. Moving charges, in lightning strikes or in wire coiled around a patient's head, generate magnetic fields. A fluctuating magnetic field induces an electric field that, if powerful enough, can make neurons fire in the visual cortex. Pale ovals, bubbles, lines, or patches are sometimes observed by patients who undergo transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

During a lightning storm, the initial stroke towards Earth is so short that we wouldn't have time to react to it - two to three millionths of a second. After it hits the ground, a return stroke, which carries some of the charge back into the sky with a thunder-causing shockwave, lasts around 0.2 milliseconds - very near the shortest duration of the clinical stimulation.

Bizarro Earth

Why deep-water oil spills do their damage deep down

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© Deepwater Horizon Response
Oil and gas stream from the riser of the Deepwater Horizon well
Surface slicks may account for as little as 2 per cent of the oil now spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a study of a controlled deep-water spill conducted in 2000 by the US Minerals Management Service and a consortium of oil companies, including BP.

The study challenges the estimate by federal officials, based on the amount of oil on the sea surface, that around 5000 barrels (800 cubic metres) of oil per day are pouring into the sea from the site where the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was destroyed by fire last month. It also adds weight to reports of massive underwater oil plumes that government officials are now downplaying.

In June 2000, Project Deep Spill released hydrocarbons into the sea off the coast of Norway at a depth of about 800 metres. The tests included releases of 60 cubic metres of crude oil and 60 cubic metres of diesel fuel over separate 1-hour periods.

Researchers were unable to calculate the amount of crude oil that surfaced because it emulsifies or mixes with water. They did, however, determine that only between 2 and 28 per cent of the diesel fuel that was released rose to the surface. The average was 8.7 per cent.

Bizarro Earth

Which U.S. Volcanoes Are Most Dangerous Right Now?

Image
© USGS/HVO
Lava bursts 450 meters high in September 1984. Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, on the Big Island, has had dozens of eruptions over the past 18 years during a streak of activity.
There are 65 volcanoes in the United States and its territories that scientists consider active, including Mount St. Helens. Of those volcanoes, 12 are on alert, which means they are on heightened watch for eruptive activity, and two are erupting right now or expected to erupt shortly.

Volcanic activity is constantly monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is responsible for alerting the population and airlines of potential volcanic activities and issuing a warning if there is an impending volcanic eruption, said USGS seismologist Seth Moran.

"For a remote volcano, airlines need to know that a volcano might erupt so they are prepared to change their route to avoid the ash," USGS Volcano Hazards Program coordinator John Eichelberger told Life's Little Mysteries.

For a volcano near population centers, people may need to take precautions, such as having dust masks or staying out of a danger zone, or in extreme cases they may need to evacuate, Eichelberger said.

Igloo

Geologist Declares 'global warming is over' - Warns U.S. Climate Conference of 'Looming Threat of Global Cooling'

Chicago - A prominent U.S. geologist is urging the world to forget about global warming because global cooling has already begun.

Geologist Dr. Don Easterbrook's warning came in the form of a new scientific paper he presented to the 4th International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago on May 16, 2010. Dr. Easterbrook is an Emeritus Professor at Western Washington University who has authored eight books and 150 journal publications. Easterbrook's full resume is here.

Dr. Easterbrook joins many other scientists, peer-reviewed research and scientific societies warning of a coming global cooling. Easterbrook is presenting his findings alongside other man-made global warming skeptics at the three day conference in Chicago.

Igloo

New Ice Age 'to begin in 2014'

© World Net Daily
Habibullo Abdussamatov
Chicago - A new "Little Ice Age" could begin in just four years, predicted Habibullo Abdussamatov, the head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia.

Abdussamatov was speaking yesterday at the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago, which began Sunday and ends today.

The Little Ice Age, which occurred after an era known in scientific circles as the Medieval Warm Period, is typically defined as a period of about 200 years, beginning around 1650 and extending through 1850.

Bad Guys

Less Toxic Dispersants Lose Out in BP Oil Spill Cleanup

BP PLC continues to stockpile and deploy oil-dispersing chemicals manufactured by a company with which it shares close ties, even though other U.S. EPA-approved alternatives have been shown to be far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.

After the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and a deepwater well began gushing crude in the Gulf of Mexico three weeks ago, BP quickly marshaled a third of the world's available supply of dispersants, chemicals that break surface oil slicks into microscopic droplets that can sink into the sea.

But the benefits of keeping some oil out of beaches and wetlands carry uncertain costs. Scientists warn that the dispersed oil, as well as the dispersants themselves, might cause long-term harm to marine life

Satellite

NASA, Google Data Show North Korea Logging In as "Protected Area"

Using NASA satellite data and Google Earth, a Purdue University researcher has reported finding evidence that North Korea has been logging in what is designated as a protected United Nations forest preserve.

Guofan Shao, professor of geo-eco-informatics, studies the Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve, a 326,000-acre forest preserve in North Korea. Since many researchers are unable to visit North Korea, Shao studies changes in the forest using remote sensing data.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization operates the Man and Biosphere Programme, which tries to understand the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and reduce that loss in 551 sites worldwide. Shao said Mount Paekdu - together with an adjacent biosphere in China - has the world's highest plant biodiversity in a cool, temperate zone and is the habitat for many wildlife species, including the endangered Siberian tiger.

"This mountain is significant in terms of biological conservation," he said.

Hourglass

Gulf Oil Being Pulled Into Loop Current

The oil is now being pulled into the loop current.

As AP notes:
On Sunday, researchers said computer models show oil has already entered the loop current that could carry the toxic goo toward the Keys, the third-longest barrier reef in the world.
This is shown in the following image by from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, annotated by ROFFS:

Frog

Scientists Discover Tiny Wallaby, Spiky Nosed Frog in Asia

Image
© National Geographic/Tim Laman
The world's smallest known wallaby (Dorcopsulus sp. nov.).
Scientists exploring a remote Indonesian forest say they have uncovered a collection of new species, including a Pinocchio-nosed frog, the world's smallest known wallaby and a yellow-eyed gecko.

An international group of scientists found the species in the remote Foja Mountains on the island of New Guinea in late 2008 and released the details, including pictures, on Monday ahead of the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.

Many of the species found during the survey are believed to be new to science, Conservation International and the National Geographic Society said, including several new mammals, a reptile, an amphibian, and a dozen insects.

Eye 2

BP and the 'Little Eichmanns'

© US Navy / MC2 Justin Stumberg
Cultures that do not recognize that human life and the natural world have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic value beyond monetary value, cannibalize themselves until they die. They ruthlessly exploit the natural world and the members of their society in the name of progress until exhaustion or collapse, blind to the fury of their own self-destruction. The oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, estimated to be perhaps as much as 100,000 barrels a day, is part of our foolish death march. It is one more blow delivered by the corporate state, the trade of life for gold. But this time collapse, when it comes, will not be confined to the geography of a decayed civilization. It will be global.

Those who carry out this global genocide - men like BP's Chief Executive Tony Hayward, who assures us that "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume'' - are, to steal a line from Ward Churchill, "little Eichmanns." They serve Thanatos, the forces of death, the dark instinct Sigmund Freud identified within human beings that propels us to annihilate all living things, including ourselves. These deformed individuals lack the capacity for empathy. They are at once banal and dangerous. They possess the peculiar ability to organize vast, destructive bureaucracies and yet remain blind to the ramifications.

The death they dispense, whether in the pollutants and carcinogens that have made cancer an epidemic, the dead zone rapidly being created in the Gulf of Mexico, the melting polar ice caps or the deaths last year of 45,000 Americans who could not afford proper medical care, is part of the cold and rational exchange of life for money.