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An Introduction Guide to Steampunk

2 Oct
Multimedia eLearning essay by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights
Steampunk is a wonderfully curious subculture — percolating with creative optimism, healthy playfulness — an inventive postmodern science fiction genre, which blends Victorian era, 19th Century alternative history with contemporary technology.
Goggles are a popular accessory for Steampunk practitioners.
Goggles are a popular accessory for Steampunk practitioners
A sub-genre of science fiction — Steampunk appears as if caught in some strange time warp. The practitioners of this loosely knit community of post-industrialist feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry incorporating watch gears and a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments.
Steampunk has remained under the radar of mainstream media, which is surprising since it’s one of the fastest growing cultural trends in recent memory! Now reaching the tipping point, this curious lifestyle movement is beginning to influence mainstream media, major retail and fashion labels.
Hand crafted, often one of a kind Steampunk jewelry is sold by vendors at the festival.
Hand crafted, often one of a kind Steampunk jewelry is sold by vendors at the festival.
Hand crafted, repurposed products, which uses wood, glass and metal (especially brass) are associated with the Steampunk movement. Manufactured plastic materials are rejected and viewed with contempt at Steampunk social gatherings.
Steampunk fashion or clothing is an eclectic mashup of Victorian era and Art Nouveau styles.

Steampunk fashion or clothing is an eclectic mashup of Victorian era and Art Nouveau styles.

Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 1

 

Steampunk Etymology   

Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 10
Although SP is a postmodern hybrid genre, Victorian era writers associated with its original inspiration are: H G Wells, Jules Verne and Mary Shelly. These 19th Century, vanguard novelist inspired future generations of science fiction writers, which throughout the 20th Century created new genres of their own.
Steampunk is not directly associated with the British Royal Monarchy of Queen Victoria (ruled from 1837 until 1901). The Victorian era is a convenient reference for what symbolizes the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution. Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 8
This era had the greatest technological developments of the 19th Century, including: massive agricultural output, wide distribution of railway systems, steam turbine engines (for world commerce and travel.), development and wide scale utilization of electrical power, telecommunications including ( telegraph, telephone and wireless radio) and the automobile’s internal combustion engine.
 Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 11
Regarding western social economics, the Victorian era sees for the first time, a middle class emerging, which establishes an expanding consumer based society. Trade unions are allowed to flourish, leading to greater protection for workers, including women and children. Human rights in general make huge advancements as slavery is eliminated in most of Europe and North America.
The actual term Steampunk derives from the science fiction genre — cyberpunk, which emerged in the early 1980s. In 1987, science fiction author K. W. Jeter, wrote a letter to science fiction magazine Locus, using the term, ‘steam-punks’, in describing an emerging science fiction genre inspired by Victorian fantasies.                    
Steampunk vendor shows off his hand crafted wares.
Steampunk vendor shows off his hand crafted wares.

Finding Steampunk Festival Events

When I first attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, I marveled at its charming neighborhood of Farhaven — a historic district with Victorian and Edwardian style brick architecture. A couple of summers ago I returned to Fairhaven in mid-July to sightsee. To my delight the first Fairhaven Steampunk Festival was in full swing and provided the photos used for this article.
Historic Fairhaven District has many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including this multilevel wooden stairway
The Historic Fairhaven District has many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including this multilevel wooden stairway
Beautifly proportioned brick buildings make for an ideal backdrop for a steampunk fesitival.
Beautifully proportioned brick buildings make for an ideal backdrop for a Steampunk festival.

Steam_punk_Fairhaven_BPP_2013_w 14

Steampunk Cinema & Television

A partial list of films which have Steampunk elements or themes
Metropolis – Fritz Lang Director (1927)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Starring Kirk Douglas (1954)
Wild, Wild, West – CBS Television Series (1965-69)
City of Lost Children – Starring Ron Perlman (1995) 
Wild, Wild, West – Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline & Salma Hayek (1999)
The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Starring Sean Connery (2003)
Steamboy – Japan’s most expensive animated film ever made, 10 year production (2004)
Golden Compass -Starring Nicole Kidman (2007 Film)
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game Of Shadow – Starring Robert Downey Jr. (2011)

 

STEAMPUNK Personas

Scientist,
Aristrocat
Adventure
American Wild West
Steam Punk Film

To Learn More About Steampunk, Click On The Links Bellow

The Nine Novels That Defined Steampunk | The Steampunk Workshop

What is Steampunk? | Steampunk.com

HowStuffWorks “How Steampunk Works”

What is Steampunk? History and Culture that Define Steampunk

A History of Steampunk, Part 1 – Definitions | Jay Kristoff – Literary Giant

Steampunk – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Defining Steampunk Is Worthwhile « Steampunk R&D

What Is Steampunk?

Steampunk Scholar: Defining Steampunk

Steampunk 101 | Tor.com

Get Ready for Mainstream Steampunk | 5 Reasons You’ll Be Talking About Steampunk in 2013 | TIME.com

Steampunk Magazine

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Blinded By Light, In The Middle Of Night

16 Aug
Multimedia essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights  — Second Edition
For an alternative formatted view of this essay, please visit — http://www.BigPictureOne.wordpress.com

My photo wingman, Rick Wong and I headed into the heart of darkness in quest of the Perseid meteor showers. Mount Rainier National Park—was our ultimate destination. We chose the iconic, volcanic landmark for framing an infinite field of stars, which we believed was far from the glare of city lights. Traveling at night in Rick’s new Ford Fusion, using the hybrid’s voice recognition, made it easy to arrive at the park without using a map. Reaching our destination, luminous sparkling stars lit up the still night, but we were surprised with some uninvited competition, which nearly stole the show.

A stunning view of Mount Rainier reflected in Reflection Lake, with the summer stars overhead. The pink and orange glow on the left side of the mountain is light pollution emitted from the City of Tacoma, approximately 65 miles northwest.

 

We found an ideal location above Reflection lake, with the Cascade Mountains’ most famous stratovolcano in the background. An unexpected warm light was glowing behind Mount Rainier, which I reasoned, was a faint remnant from the earlier sunset. However,  the sun had set at least four hours earlier, so it couldn’t be the source of the illumination. Rick suggested “its light coming from the City of Tacoma,” located about 65 miles away. During a 20-second long exposures used to take images of the snow-capped mountain, I began thinking about the effects caused by light pollution.  

With a bright moon rising, we worked fast to keep up with the changing light, until its intensity eventually overpowered the stars.

With the moon steadily rising behind us, it too was causing us to shift focus on what to photograph. Like a giant diffuse reflector, the moon projected soft filtered sunlight onto a previously dark, formless landscape. As the moonlight overwhelmed the intensity of the starlight, it removed the opportunity for crystal clear views of the Milky Way, as well as faint meteor sightings. Being photo opportunist, we used the moonlight opportunity to reveal shadow-detail  on the south face of Rainier.    

The photographer appears in the dark, like some sorcerer conjuring an intense red light before Mount Rainier and her crown of stars above.

A Peaceful Paradise Lost

There’s a tranquil feeling while in the process of taking long exposures at night; it’s normally quiet with minimal distractions to overwhelm the senses or interrupt your focus. I personally enjoy these rare opportunities of solitude, to visualize an image using a minimal—Zen like perspective.

Distractions can be disruptive during these in-the-now-moments, as when cars coming around corners with intense, high-beam headlights.  More than once, clusters of cars with high beam lights appeared… just as the moon illuminated the mountain’s reflection onto a perfectly still lake. I quickly used my hands, in an attempt to shield the lens from light flare. Finally, the cars diapered into the darkness with no approaching vehicles until dawn.

Photo-illustration of the multiple effects of light sources which can cause light pollution by unintended distraction or spill-light.

Moving above the lake to find new angles for interesting compositions, I began to notice something, which I had not noticed before.  Lights of various colors, were coming from photographers bellow me, created by their digital camera’s preview monitors and infrared sensors for auto focusing. With the low light-sensitive Nikon cameras I was using, their monitor lights appeared like a bright flare in my long exposure photos. Now, I had one more unwelcome light source to deal with, which required strategic timing in making exposures to avoid the glare. 

Again, my thoughts returned to the issues of light pollution. I remembered back home when I wanted to photograph a full-moon  at night and a neighbor’s floodlight lit up the backyard. Their floodlight forced me to find the last remaining isolated shadowed corner of the yard.

My reminiscing was cut short by a distant, but bright, pinpoint of light flashing from bellow Mount Rainier’s summit.  Flashlights from mountain climbers near Camp Muir shined bright like lighthouse beacons in the semi-darkened rocks and glacier fields. Even the faintest light can shine bright at night as documented in World War II. Warships were forbidden from having any exterior lights on at night, including a lit cigarette, otherwise they could be spotted from great distances by enemy submarines.  

Lights from mountain climbers on the approach to the summit of Mount Ranier.

Encountering the Universe’s Brilliance

The improper, overuse of outdoor lighting has erased a fundamental and connecting human experience—encountering the universe’s brilliance with its galaxies and stars shining in the night sky! Making a visual contact with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of the greatest shows seen from Earth.

In less than a century of civilization’s reliance on electric technology: two-thirds of the U.S., half of Europe and a fifth of people in the world—now live where they cannot see the Milky Way with the unaided eye. You can appreciate how we lost our stellar view by seeing aerial photos taken from orbiting spacecraft and the International Space Station. These startling images taken of Earth at night, reveals a man-made galaxy of artificial light, which cancels out much of the real ones in the sky above.  

Some years back, I was a part-owner in a small recreational ranch, in Eastern Washington’s, Okanogan County. Brining friends over from Seattle, it was often nighttime when we arrived. The instant of exiting the cars, was a startling event as the Milky Way’s intensity of light overwhelmed your senses. The “ranch” was remotely located, at about 5,000 feet in the mountains, near the Canadian border and 30-miles from the closest town. Days would go by where we didn’t see a car or even hear a small airplane go overhead… it was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life, to perceive nothing except wind going through trees and seeing only starlight at night for hours at a time.

Image courtesy of NASA

 A television interview with the director of a major observatory in Southern California recounted when Los Angeles had its last electrical blackout —people were calling 911 and his observatory, reporting of strange, bright objects in the night sky. Actually what the callers were seeing for the first time, was the natural light from intensely shining stars of the Milky Way.

Image courtesy of NASA.

 

Besides forfeiting a life inspiring, wondrous view of the cosmos, there’s tangible losses associated with light pollution. Conservative estimates are 30 % of U.S. outdoor lighting is pointed skyward in the wrong direction, which wastes billions of dollars of electricity. The unnecessary practice of lighting clouds, burns more than 6 million tons of coal, which adds harmful greenhouse gas emissions, along with toxic chemicals into our atmosphere and water.

Further scientific studies indicate wildlife is suffering the ill effects of excessive urban lighting.  The City of Chicago has taken measures to turn off or dim its high-rise lighting to enable migrating birds to continue normal migration patterns. An increase in species of insects attracted to light, along with rodent attraction to bright city lighting is a growing concern to many scientists. 

Heavy equipment product shots never look quite this good. Scheduled improvements to the viewing area above Reflection Lake, had some equipment taking a nap, before going to work when the sun came up.

Education Is the Solution to Light Pollution

The reason light pollution has continued to multiply is, we have grown accustomed to its seemingly benign expanding presence. After all, probably no one can point to a single case of a person killed from overexposure to light pollution?  However, there is a correlation to growing health risk associated with overexposure to artificial light in the form of physical fatigue and damage to eyesight. In 2009, the American Medical Association established a policy, which supports the control of light pollution.

Municipal lighting codes are beginning to help define and eliminate unnecessary light pollution. Lighting enforcement can create a more pleasing environment, by reducing excessive urban lighting, which causes fatigue from glare and cuts down on unnecessary electric utility cost. Redirecting outdoor lighting away from the sky where it is needlessly wasted is a simple and easy solution.

Installing motion detector security lights are another efficient and productive mitigation strategy. For security purpose, a light which is triggered by motion is much more effective for crime prevention than a continuous floodlight. Motion detector lights have a clear advantage of focussing our attention onto an area where there’s a sudden change from darkness to bright-light.

The Milky Way is what we should be able to see at night if it was not for unrestricted light-pollution. You can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the right 1/3 of the frame. Nikon D700 – Nikkor 28mm lens @ F3.5 @ 20 seconds August 11 11:48 p.m.

The encouraging news is… the key to reducing light pollution is a simple matter of basic education and action. Public awareness of over-lighting requires a minimal expenditure, which will quickly pay for itself in energy savings and perhaps return the opportunity to experience one of the greatest shows seen from earth. ~

Light pollution glossary:

Urban Sky glow: the brightening of night skies over municipal and communities. Caused primarily from collective reflected light and poorly directed light, which is pointed upward.

Light trespass: light falling or spilling into areas where it is not intended. Also know as “spill light” such municipal streetlights, which go beyond indented illumination of street signs and sidewalks and lighting residential homes.

Glare: A direct, bright or harsh light, which causes discomfort or pain. The effects of glare can be reduced or eliminated with the use of a shield or filter.

Uplight: Light angled inappropriately upward towards the sky and serving no purpose. Uplift washes out the night sky and reduces opportunities for astronomers and stargazers to enjoy the beauty of the planets, moon and stars.

Clutter: Poorly planned, confusing and unpleasant use of multiple lights usually associated with urban or retail lighting. Retail business sometime competes by using overly bright, multicolored or pulsating light

Links to articles & related resources on light pollution:

 http://www.darksky.org/assets/documents/is001.pdf

http://www.njaa.org/light.html

http://www.skymaps.com/articles/n0109.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/geopedia/Light_Pollution

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There’s Nothing New Under the Sun, or is There?

19 Jul

Science Tech Tablet provides periodic updates on solar activity, the essay begins after the Space Weather Prediction Center Report

Prepared jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA,
Space Weather Prediction Center and the U.S. Air Force.
Updated 2013 Jul 19 2200 UTC

Joint USAF/NOAA Solar Geophysical Activity Report and Forecast
SDF Number 200 Issued at 2200Z on 19 Jul 2013

IA.  Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from 18/2100Z to
19/2100Z: Solar activity has been at very low levels for the past 24
hours. There are currently 7 numbered sunspot regions on the disk.

IB.  Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is likely to be low with a
slight chance for an M-class flare on days one, two, and three (20 Jul,
21 Jul, 22 Jul).

IIA.  Geophysical Activity Summary 18/2100Z to 19/2100Z: The geomagnetic
field has been at quiet to unsettled levels for the past 24 hours. Solar
wind speed, as measured by the ACE spacecraft, reached a peak speed of
674 km/s at 19/1650Z. Total IMF reached 12 nT at 18/2100Z. The maximum
southward component of Bz reached -9 nT at 19/0122Z. Electrons greater
than 2 MeV at geosynchronous orbit reached a peak level of 2710 pfu.

IIB.  Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected
to be at unsettled to minor storm levels on day one (20 Jul), unsettled
to active levels on day two (21 Jul) and quiet to unsettled levels on
day three (22 Jul).

III.  Event probabilities 20 Jul-22 Jul
Class M    15/15/15
Class X    01/01/01
Proton     01/01/01
PCAF       green

IV.  Penticton 10.7 cm Flux
Observed           19 Jul 114
Predicted   20 Jul-22 Jul 115/115/115
90 Day Mean        19 Jul 121

V.  Geomagnetic A Indices
Observed Afr/Ap 18 Jul  016/015
Estimated Afr/Ap 19 Jul  011/014
Predicted Afr/Ap 20 Jul-22 Jul  014/020-011/015-008/010

VI.  Geomagnetic Activity Probabilities 20 Jul-22 Jul
A.  Middle Latitudes
Active                35/30/25
Minor Storm           20/10/05
Major-severe storm    05/01/01
B.  High Latitudes
Active                10/15/15
Minor Storm           25/30/30
Major-severe storm    50/40/30


 A multimedia eLearning essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights — First Addition

 Please note: This essay is a follow-up from my chronicle on solar storm effects of the 1859 Carrington Event on an industrial era society— forward to the postmodern, microelectronic world of today. To better understand the context of this article, it’s suggested you view my introduction solar storm essay found  by selecting the March 2012 archives found on left side of this page.  The National Academy of  Sciences (NAS) (funded by the U.S. Congress) produced a landmark report in 2008 entitled “Severe Space Weather Events— Societal Impacts.” It reported how people of the 21st-century depend on advance-technology systems for daily living, The National Academy of Science stated— Electric power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.  A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina. [1] Some leading solar researchers believe we are now due for a century-class storm.                                

Photo courtesy of NASA

You’re encouraged to help make the essay interactive by entering comments or observations in the dialogue box at the end of the essay.
The essay is a work in progress, please check back as more content will be added
in the coming days.  — To see this essay in another format, please visit the site: http://www.BigPictureOne.wordpress.com
July 15, 2012 aurora borealis sighting near Everett, WA. This event was caused from an X-class solar storm, which occurred within a week of another X-class storm (X-class being the most severe classification). The 11-year solar cycle is approaching a solar maximum around 2013, this will most likely bring more intense solar storm activity.

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Depending on your interpretation of the essay’s title, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to our neighboring star’s behavior. Since our Sun left its infancy as a protostar over 4 billion years ago, by triggering a nuclear fusion reaction and entering a main-sequence stage, its solar mechanics have maintained relative consistent patterns. What has not remained the same is the evolution of life on Earth, in particular, our species’ development of a civilization which now is dependent on a form of energy called electricity. Our Sun is now playing a version of solar roulette with the World’s social and economic future.

The name “aurora borealis” was given by Galileo Galilei, in 1619 A.D., inspired from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and Boreas from the Greek name for north wind. First record siting was in 2600 B.C. in China. Collision between oxygen particles in Earth’s atmosphere with charged (ionized) particles released from the sun creates green and yellow luminous colors beginning at altitudes of 50 miles (80 kilometers). Blue or purplish-red is produced from nitrogen particles. The solar particles are attracted by the Earth’s northern and southern magnetic poles with curtains of light stretching east to west.

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Reaching back only a few generations into the 20th Century, electricity was considered a luxury—today ordinary life would be impossible without it! And that’s where our beloved Sun comes into the picture, to potentially cast a shadow on our dependency of electricity. Solar storms have been a reoccurring event before time began, but they didn’t affect people outside of providing a fantastic, special effects light-show  until a critical event happened in 1859.  

In the mid 19th century, while the industrial revolution was near full development, the resource of electric power was first harnessed. Shortly after electricity was put into use for communication using telegraph technology (a 19th century equivalent of the Internet), is when the Sun revealed                                                                                                     a  shocking surprise in the most powerful solar storm ever recorded, which was known a the Carrington Event.

The year 1859 was near a peak in the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle, when the Sun’s polarity readies for reversal. Approaching  the end  sequence of this magnetic shift, brings a solar maximum , which produces violent solar flares and ejects plasma clouds outwards into space. If the flare occurs in a region opposite of Earth, a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) may send a billion-ton radiation storm towards our planet. Fortunately, the Earth is protected by a robust atmosphere and a magnetic field surrounding the globe, which protects us from most  solar winds. However, an intense solar storm with its charged plasma cloud  can overwhelm our planet’s protective shields. When an extreme solar storm’s magnetic energy counteracts with our planet’s protective magnet field, it creates geomagnetic induced currents (GICs). GICs are massive amounts of electromagnetic energy which travel through the ground and ocean water, seeking the path of  least resistance in power lines, pipe lines and rail tracks. 

In the 1859, Carrington event, the GICs surged through the world’s emerging global communication system,known as the telegraph. So much power was generated from the solar storm entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it sent massive currents through telegraph wires, catching offices on fire, nearly electrocuting operators and  mysteriously continued sending signals with batteries completely  disconnected.     

A visual indication of the Earth’s magnetic field being overwhelmed occurs when the aurora borealis appears. If the cosmic-light-show can be seen near the tropics, it’s an indicator our planet’s magnetic fields are severely being overrun. In the extreme solar storm of 1859, the aurora borealis was seen near the equator and it was reported  people were able to read newspapers outdoors at midnight. Navigational compasses (19th century version of GPS)  throughout the world spun-out-of-control due to the flux of electromagnetic energy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
A more recent, dramatic example of a solar storm’s impact is the 1989, Quebec-Power blackout. The geomagnetic storm created was much milder than the solar maxim of the 1859, Carrington Event. However, it’s a chilling preview of what a complex, unprotected  electrical grid faces when up against the forces of super solar storm. Quebec-Power’s large transformers were fried by the GICs overloading its grid network. Electrical grids and power-lines  act like a giant antennas in pulling in the  massive flow of geomagnetic energy. In the 1989 solar storm incident, over 6 million people lost power in Eastern Canada and the U.S., with additional connecting power grids on the verge of collapsing.  Again, the powerful 1989 solar disturbance was not the 100 year super storm, but a small preview of what can if  preparations are made to protect the power grid.
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Solar scientist are now able to put together how extreme storms follow an 11 year solar maxim cycle, like the one we’re now entering, and should peak sometime in 2013. Already this year, six major X-class solar storms, the most intense type, have occurred since January. Within one week of July, we had two of the X-class storms, with last one pointing directly at Earth. On July 13, 2012, the Washington Post’s Jason Sometime, wrote an article with his concerns on how NASA and NOAA were sending out inconsistent warnings about the solar storm from July 12.

A spectrum of telecommunication may be lost during severe solar and geomagnetic storms. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

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The federal agency FEMA, appears to have learned its’ lesson from Hurricane Katrina and being proactive with a series of super solar storm scenarios. These  scenarios  illustrate the many challenges towards maintaining communication and electric power, based on the strength of the solar event. Without reliable power, food distribution will be problematic. Today we have less reliance on large warehouse  inventories and more dependenancy on — “just in time” food delivery. According to Willis Risk Solutions (industrial underwriter insurer for electric utilities) and Lloyds World Specialist Insurer (formerly LLoyds of London), there’s a global shortage of industrial large electric transformer, which now are only made in a few countries. It would take years to replace the majority of the World’s electric transformers and technically require massive amounts of electric power, which ironically, would not be available in an event of an extreme geomagnetic storm.  http://www.lloyds.com/News-and-Insight/News-and-Features/360-News/Emerging-Risk-360/Transformers-a-risk-to-keeping-the-power-on-230810
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The companies and  the federal agencies mentioned in this essay, are overall, considered highly respected and cautious in forecasting major threats to societies and national economies. All of the mentioned government entities and scientific organizations realize it’s not a matter  if, but when will the next super solar storm be aimed and sent to Earth.
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The good news is we can still take the necessary precautions to protect our society and economic future form this clear and present threat. Here’s a link to the 2008 National Academy of Science (funded by congress) report:  Severe Weather—Understanding Societal and Economic Impact: A Workshop Report (2008). This group meets every year to work on preventative strategies. The report contains cost-effective protection plans for electric power grids, please see link provided.        http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12507 
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Second Addition: More to be added in the days ahead including…
— Update on U.S. House of Representatives and Senate sponsored  legislation for solar and geomagnetic storm preparedness.
— Electric power industry mitigation and preparedness for solar and geomagnetic storm preparedness.
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Chronicles of the largest solar and geomagnetic storms in the last 500 years.

1847  — First geomagnetic storm caused by solar flare inadvertently documented with telegraph technology.  Reports were the telegraph system was sending clearer signals by disconnecting its batteries and using the geomagnetic energy from the storm.  First published affects caused from geomagnetic storm.

1859  — Becomes known as the “Carrington Event;” telegraph system becomes inoperable worldwide as reports of offices are set on fire from supercharged telegraph wire. This is the largest geomagnetic storm in 500 years. Scientist impressed with the event begin documenting future solar storm activity. The destructive power from a storm of this magnitude would devastate global power grids, satellites, computer and communication systems.

1921 — Know as the “Great Storm,” it impacted  worldwide telegraph and radio signals with total blackouts  and cables were burned beyond use. This scale of geomagnetic storm is likely to occur approximately once every 100 years.  As we approach a century mark since this type of storm took place — it’s possible another one could happen at anytime, with devastating results unless preventative measures are taken.

1989 —  Major solar flare erupts on surface of the Sun opposite of Earth; a resulting solar storm trigers a massive geomagnetic storm, which overwhelms Quebec’s power grid. As a result of the storm, six million people instantly loses power as U.S. Northeast and Midwest connecting grids come within seconds of collapse. As a result, Canadian government becomes proactive and takes effort to protect its power grid from future solar storms.

2003 — Know as the “Halloween Storms” this series of geomagnetic storms disrupted GPS, blocked High Frequency (HF) radio and triggered emergency procedures a various nuclear power plants. In Scandinavia and South Africa, section of  power grids were hit hard, many large power transformers were destroyed by the powerful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs).

Chronological  Reports and News Accounts of Solar Storms From 1859 to 2003

This is one of the most comprehensive  list of solar storm accounts on the web. The site chronicles strange solar storm happenings; such as reports in the early 1960s  with TV programs suddenly disappearing and reappearing in other regions. Other unsettling reports include the U.S. being cutoff from radio communication from the rest of the world during a geomagnetic storm. Please see link below:

http://www.solarstorms.org/SRefStorms.html

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Solar Storm Acronyms and Terms

ACE — Advance Compositional Explore = NASA satellite used in detecting and monitoring potential damaging solar flares and CMEs.

AC — alternating current

BPS — bulk power system 

CME — coronal mass ejection = caused from a solar fare near the surface of the sun, which sends  a billion-ton radiation storm out into space.

EHV — extra high voltage

FERC — United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

GIC — geo-magnetic induced current = an extreme solar storm’s magnetic energy counteracts with our planet’s protective magnet field, creating electric current which conducts or travels through the ground or ocean water.

GMD — geo-magnetic disturbance

GAO — Government Accounting Office

GPS — global positioning system = A series of satellites positioned in an Earth, geostationary orbit for use in military and civilian navigation

NERC — North American Electric Reliability Corporation

NASA — National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NOAA — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminestration

POES — Polar Operational Environmental Satellite

SEP — solar energetic particle

SOHO — Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (satellite)

STDC — Solar Terrestrial Dispatch Center (Canada)

STEREO — Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Satellite)

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Sources and Links

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NASA Resources
Illustration courtesy of NASA
A useful illustration for understanding NASA’s efforts with Heliophysics System Observatory
Detail explanation of space weather and NASA monitoring can be found at the following link:   http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html
NOAA Solar storm monitor sites:
NOAA is the nation’s official source of space weather alerts, monitoring and alerts. The following NOAA site provides realtime monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events.  http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/
http://www.n3kl.org/sun/status.html

Washington Post story on conflicting NASA and NOAA solar forecast warnings for the July 12, 2012 solar storm event.
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/solar-storm-incoming-federal-agencies-provide-inconsistent-confusing-information/2012/07/13/gJQAkm06hW_blog.html

NASA and NOAA sites (post warning of impending dangers to the electrical grid from solar storms producing extreme geomagnetic induce currents (GICs) on Earth). http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/21jan_severespaceweather/ http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/26oct_solarshield/ http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/space.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/18/solar-storm-flare-disruption-technology

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/07/solar-flare-cme-aurora/

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/subjects/emr-isac/infograms/ig2012/4-12.shtm#3

My solar storm articles from February www.bigpictureone.wordpress.com  and in the March addition of  www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com  present a comprehensive picture of how solar flares and solar storms originate, with the potential of producing geomagnetic storms on Earth.  If these geomagnetic storms are severe enough, they can threaten our way of life. Some strategies and common sense precautions are offered  for civic preparedness in the case of an extreme solar event.

 

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The Unworldly Splendor of Oregon’s Painted Hills.

3 Apr

Photo/video and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The sun had just set as I arrived at my friend’s condominium on Lake Washington near Seattle.  Rick was loading camera equipment into his SUV Ford Escape, which is a gasoline-electric hybrid and incidentally one of the first American-built hybrids.

We had a long drive ahead of us and we’d be traveling all night until reaching our destination in the high desert of Central Oregon.  It was a cool, but clear, May evening, as the SUV climbed steadily up Snoqualmie pass; taking us over the Cascade Mountains and  into dryer Eastern Washington.  After a few hours of driving the glow from a near full moon was illuminating the desert sagebrush outside the town of Goldendale on the Columbia River.

Wind turbines above the Columbia River are lit by the moon.

Our adventure to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, was planed  to coincide with a full moon to illuminate the surreal Painted Hills within the Monument.  Rick and I use digital cameras, featuring full-sized imaging sensors and fast optical lenses, which are ideal for capturing in lowlight environments.  Taking the opportunity to harness some moonlight as it rose above the Columbia Gorge, we made a stop to photograph wind turbines, which populate this section of Washington and Oregon.  The site is ideal for wind farms due to the wind tunnel conditions created by compressed airstreams forcefully moving through the constricted Gorge.   

Standing next to a colossal tower is a strange experience.  These wind catchers are the largest machines you’ll probably encounter on land and the eerie sounds produced from the massive propeller blades takes some getting use to.

Driving on the Washington side of the Columbia River and into Oregon you see legions of wind turbine sentinels, as they constantly harvest the restless winds.  It takes an hour of driving south on the highway before we no longer have towers flanking our drive. What I’m surprised not to see are other cars traveling in either direction on the highway.  The vast size of Eastern Oregon is not appreciated unless you spend some time touring in its’ large, unpopulated counties.

After traveling all night and encountering some falling snow as the hybrid SUV started ascending the road to the high desert—we finally entered into the realm of the primeval Painted Hills.  It’s totally dark now that the moon set hours earlier, so we pull into a remote area to catch a couple of hours of sleep before our video and photography expedition begins.  The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument is organized into three Units; the Painted Hills is the third Unit, which contains 3,132 acres of wildlife, plants and some unusual geology.

Over millions of years, layers of ash from nearby volcanic eruptions mixed with clay through the process of erosion to cause intense patterns of color.

The following morning was a like waking up in some eye-candy dreamland.  The colors just popped out of the scene like a TV monitor, which had been over adjusted with the saturation turned way up.  Stunned by the startling beauty, I grabbed my video camera on a tripod and began shooting panorama footage.  Ready for capturing the details of the environment; an external microphone was used to record the outburst of chattering songbirds, which had woken up to herald the beginning of a new day.  My first impression was an experience of sensory overload; it was  challenging to take in all the colors, sounds and surreal shapes of the textured topography.  What I was seeing, appeared to be out of this world —like viewing some futuristic post cards of a terraformed  Martian landscape.

What I remembered from earlier road trips to Southwest was how striking the Painted Desert in Arizona appeared but that now seemed pale in comparison to the Painted Hills.  What makes the  geology at this site so vivid with saturated color was caused by a series of volcanic  eruptions, occurring over millions of years.  The accumulation of bright  layers of ash, dust and clay mixed together from relentless years of erosion — forming intense, saturated strata of colors, layered into the hills.

What remains buried beneath the volcanic soil is a time-capsule, of preserved fossil remains from mammals and plants, which thrived  during the  Cenozoic Era – the Age of Mammal [roughly 65 million years ago.] This National Monument is a target rich environment for paleontologist studying fossils from this time period.

After I shot about an hours worth of video from the spot we had park at from the night before, it was time to scout other dramatic locations.  Not too far into our drive we spotted a family of graceful antelope, casually grazing in a large field.  Apparently, from talking with one of the NPS Rangers, this National Monument is full of indigenous wildlife including: bears, cougars and eagles.

Latter in the afternoon we stopped at the side of a gravel road to take in a stunning view of  one of the larger hills at the site.  The clouds above were opening and closing like a massive shutter on a spotlight; producing lighting effects which were irresistible.  We set up tripods along with our video and still cameras to begin shooting right away.  Shortly after, a ranger  pulled up close to the SUV and was intently watching us. Rick and I looked at each other with a shrug, thinking perhaps we had unknowingly parked in a restricted area. Eventually the ranger introduced himself, he had the impression we were part of a National Park Service video crew, which was schedule to be doing work at the Monument.  The ranger was there to lead a group of photographers into a restricted area for a guided tour, so he invited us to join in.  As it turned out, this special photography tour only takes place one weekend out of the entire year —when the John Day chaenactus (a bright yellow wild flower) begins to bloom; then as quickly as it appears—it begins to fade away.

The photographer’s tour was visually fantastic and can only be experienced under the supervision of an NPS Ranger.  The plant life is so fragile here, you’re only allowed to  walk inside a dried out creek bed while touring this area.  The Ranger was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about the site.  Wind is common and unpredictable in this high desert area, so I came prepared with a wind guard on my microphone; but I did experience a few audio dropouts,  hopefully you’ll able to hear the main message clearly enough.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMno4hbg-ZA

Later that evening we photographed the landscapes using a full moon for our lighting. I’ve never seen greater clarity of the stars and moon from this high desert environment, which created a great backdrop for an unearthly landscape. We photographed throughout the night until the light of predawn appeared.

At a little over 2,000 feet in elevation, the high desert can produce cold, bone-chilling weather and as mentioned—windy conditions.  I recommend warm clothing and gloves to help keep your hands comfortable from wind-chill.  For photography, the higher altitude is a great benefit, especially for optical clarity if your focus is on night photography of stars and landscapes.

I definitely plan to go back to the Painted Hills as soon as possible… it’s a dreamlike setting I have rarely experienced, which captivates the senses, with its splendor of stunning colors contained within an unworldly environment. ~

LINKS:

Here’s a link to National Park Service’s John Day Fossil Bed National Monument:   http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm

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