Sunday, November 23, 2008

You Breathe That?

I went into the Valley today to blow some glass. Lots of glass. I had an ornament commission to fill. And it would be a slam dunk but for my oddly low yield. I kept getting some spiral fractures from the top of the ornaments while putting hooks on. In a normal day when I make, say 35 ornaments, I might completely bungle at most 2 or 3 and have a similar number of odd looking seconds. Today, I completely destroyed 9 ornaments and had about 7 "seconds". Of about 50. Which means I doubled my scrap rate. Nuts!

I'm going to go medieval and blame the bad air. Normally when I drive into the Valley, I can see all the way to the mountains on the other side of Burbank. Today, I could barely see to the next exit. It's been quite a few days since the fires got put out, but the air is still filled with ash. It was almost possible to look directly at the sun due to the filtering effects. It looks nasty and grey with a sickly yellow tinge. It reminded me of my old bedroom carpet. Or what I imagine London in the days of coal heating to look like. Yuck.

Fortunately, my air seems pretty clean in comparison. And I work in a HEPA filtered cleanroom for part of the day. But there is ash "dust" on my patio and stoop. I wonder if it's blowing over from the Valley.

I've been watching (and by that, I mean listening to while doing other stuff like blogging) lots of TV programs about the history of Earth and related science. Whenever someone says "oh, volcanic eruptions can disrupt crops somewhere else" I can say, "well, maybe, but it wouldn't be *that* bad, would it?" Yes, I know about the year with no summer after Krakatoa or a similar volcano blew. I know that intellectually. Kind of how I know I have too much stuff but don't really believe I have too much. It's different when you see it. And it wasn't until I noticed the halo around the sun that it really clicked.

I think I was slow to believe because I've never lived anywhere that air got trapped before. In Boston, I lived within 2 miles of the ocean and 2 hours from mountains. In Minnesota, the wind picks up speed across Alberta and North Dakota before sheering across, so it's got some good momentum going. It does not stick around. Here in the LA area, it's alarming to see the air on some days. One day I drove over the 405 into LA and there was a distinct line where the air was clear on top and greenish underneath. Bleah. My little valley has a good air flow down to the ocean, thankfully keeping it pretty clean.

Now I get it. Yep. A big impact crater can throw a lot more crud into the air than a coupla bad fires. A really bad volcano can block out the sun too. Thousands of volcanoes would be tough to take. There seem to be a lot of scientists pointing out that there were lots of volcanoes when the "great dying" of 250 million years ago and the dinosaur wipe out of 65 million years ago. And I just learned why - andipodal effects. Remember how the tsunami of a couple years ago was triggered by an earthquake? Similarly, a big meteor impact can cause vulcanism on the opposite side of the globe.

It appears that the 250myo event had a roughly 7 mile diameter meteor impact which caused most of Siberia to get covered in sympathetic lava. Something like that is bound to wreak a little havoc. In this case 99% of life on earth died off and dinosaurs rose from the rubble. I don't know which volcanoes triggered for the 65myo dinosaur di-eoff event, but it was likely a 6 mile diameter meteor so presumable there were some. I'm starting to think there's something to that volcano theory after all.

I'd also never gotten a good explanation for "hot spots" that create things like Hawaii, until just now - antipodal effects of impacts causing weak spots and compressions on the opposite side of the globe. This works for me. It makes a lot of sense. And seeing Hawaii's hot spot is still going strong, so it makes more sense to me now that volcanoes so coincidentally timed would continue to spew effluvia for enough years to really stick it to everyone. So... what was opposite the start of Hawaii's island chain? It makes me want to print out a large map from google maps and piece the continents back together. Well, I want to do that anyway.

And I also wonder, does an impact that large change the earth's orbital position relative to the sun at all? Even a mm? I should do the calculations... Could it change the rate of rotation or the angle of tilt? Because that would also mess up the existing life forms. I wonder also, when Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter, did anything spew out from an antipode? We got the good view of the impact, so we wouldn't have seen the back. Or does gas not transmit the shock as well as water or solids? Or was it just too small for Jupiter to notice?

Anyhow, the air was dirty today.

No comments: