Friday, November 28, 2008

Tragedy at Point Mugu

According to Wikipedia, Point Mugu , California is a geographical promontory on the Pacific coast in Ventura County, near the town of Port Hueneme and the city of Oxnard. This famous promontory, Point Mugu Rock, has been featured in many many film shots. Here are two breath taking ones from Flickr by mcdeez and driko respectively:
Unfortunately this latest tragic news from Point Mugu is making rounds this morning with headlines like "Three drown at Mugu Rock" from Contra Costa Times among many others:

POINT MUGU - Three people were killed this afternoon when they were swept away by a wave at Mugu Rock in Ventura County, authorities said.

Five people were standing on a rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean about 2:30 p.m. when a wave crashed into them, knocking all five into the water, said Ventura County sheriff's Capt. Bruce Norris.

Three of the people - ages 17, 19 and 21, all males - drowned, Norris said. The other two -- a 17-year-old boy and a 27-year-old man, survived.

Associated Press also characterized the wave, expectedly, with this title "Rogue wave drowns 3 along Calif. coast; 2 survive" with no more details about the the wave.

LATimes's Jack Leonard added this description of the area and other details:
The area, a popular destination for fishing, climbing and sightseeing, has long been known for its danger as well as for its beauty. Earlier this year, high waves swept a 16-year-old boy off the rock as he was fishing with relatives.
Senior Sheriff's Deputy Julie Novak said strong currents make it very difficult for people to swim to safety if they fall on the treacherous rocks.

"It is just very dangerous," she said. "It's very deceiving. It looks like it's very calm, but if you do get knocked in, it's very difficult to get out of the water."

A storm had moved through the area a day earlier, but ocean conditions were fairly normal Thursday afternoon, said David Gomberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

He said waves along the Central Coast were about 3 to 4 feet -- hardly dangerous conditions.

"This time of year, we can get a lot worse conditions in terms of winds and waves," he said.

Novak said the wave that hit the men was about 3 feet high but that the area's surf can be deceivingly powerful.
So at any rate, it is not clear whether or not that was really caused by a freaque wave. Nevertheless, it was a tragedy and our hearts and deep sympathy are with the family of the three young victims. How can we improve safety for these places?

Oh yes, before I conclude, I must mention this story reported in LATimes:
Kathryn Barrona said she took off her shoes and jumped into the chilly water when she saw one of the men floating face down. She managed to swim out and haul him back against the current and crashing waves, but he was already dead.
Miss Barrona deserves our ultmost respect and appreciation. The world is a better place no matter what -- it's because of people like her!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An 8 year old surfer

We see surfing pictures all the time. I guess taking surfing pictures belong to the professional surfing photographers. I come across the above picture by Kenny Morris from this news item in Global Surf News. It captured an amazing moment and a wonder that the surfer can still holding on. But it is even more amazing was that the surfer, Tyler Gunter, is only 8 years old! As the article describes:
8 year old Tyler Gunter put on an amazing performance, making his first final . . .

The Juniors final the hit the water like a pack of enraged steroid induced freaks. It was a flurry of airs, hacks and all around shredding that was about to go down.

I am really intrigued by the writing of the second paragraph. Only professional surf writers can come up wit that kind of description -- ". . . a flurry of airs, hacks and all around shredding that was about to go down." I wonder my esteemed academic friends can ever think of wave breaking processes in those dynamic terms! (On the other hand, aren't they just clich├ęs in the surfing world?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rock fishing tragedy at Bondi

Another tragedy reported by the Wentworth Courier of Australia:
An elderly fisherman died this morning after plunging from rocks into rough seas near the Bondi Golf Club. Photographer Daniel Shaw was on the scene and captured these dramatic shots.
Witnesses saw the elderly man - believed to be in his 70s - hanging on to a rock at North Bondi before he fell.
Here's a good comment from Lynne Zahra of Sydney at
I have all sympathy for this man but really and truly, why in Heaven's name do people take such risks - standing on a high cliff fishing, a freak wave taking hold or a person just losing their footing - it makes for tragedy!!!!
As a spokeswoman of the ambulance indicated:
“He may not have necessarily drowned. He may have hit his head on the rocks, he may have had a heart attack ... there could be a multitude of reasons as to why he’s dead.’’
The danger is there and should be obvious, but this kind of tragedy just seems to happen ever so often, at different places and different times, unnecessarily!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Nikola Tesla said

I came across a quote by Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943):

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality."

That was made in 1934, in an article entitled "Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World" published in Modern Mechanics and Inventions (July 1934).

Although the quote was made nearly 3 quarters of a century ago, it is still eminently applicable to the world we are in today! The "Today" Tesla referred to in 1934 is practically the same thing we are facing today! I am not certain if they have any notion about the computer in 1934. Nevertheless the leading "scientists" then and now, I believe, are equally capable of working out of their self-indulged elite cocoons -- "which has no relation to reality"! People call Tesla "The genius who lit the world." I think he is more than just a genius. He is a timeless genius! His quote aptly described the essence of today's scientific world so much so that I doubt anyone can ever come up with a better description.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shame -- The audacity of attempted deceit!

What a shameful world it would be, when her scientist put politics over true science -- conscience any one?

It is a shame that we have to go all the way across the Atlantic to read news like this one: The world has never seen such freezing heat, by Christopher Booker, in
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs - run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious "hockey stick" graph - GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.

So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs - run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious "hockey stick" graph - GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.
I am not a climate scientist, but as a data analyst I know the importance of data integrity. Trying to deliberately deceive in science with data manipulation is sheer madness. I feel sorry for NASA and James Hansen, Algore's leading scientist. What makes them think they can ever fool all of the people all of the time? Let's give all of our appreciation and applauds to Watts Up With That and Climate Audit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Endeavour blasts into night sky!

Space shuttle Endeavour safely blasted off from Kennedy Space Center this evening. This is an unusual and fascinating shot showing that Endeavour "blasts into night sky" as Drudge Report headlines it. That was not quite the full moon though, but a couple of nights after the full moon -- a waning gibbous moon.


As Christina indicated in her comment below, she shot the video of Endeavour lunch while watching the lunch with her family in their backyard. Here's the video:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 Veterans' Day remembered

Happy Vaterans' Day!

From Foxnews, members of the New York City Fire Department carry flags during the 2008 Veterans Day parade in New York.

Here's a copied page from the War Poetry Web Site:

H.T. John Derbyshire of National Review Online. Picture by David Roberts, Saxon Books Picture Library

Bracing for winter storms

Winter has not officially started yet. But winter storms have nevertheless started making news. Here John Ingham of U.K. Daily Express reports massive waves hit the Portsmouth Naval Memorial yesterday as Britain took a battering from rain and storm-force winds as shown by this picture:
along with these depressing stories of travel chaos:
For some drivers caught in the chaos, it was a day of miracle escapes.
Two men were killed as gale-force winds and torrential rain battered the country.
A construction worker was crushed to death when a freak gust of wind sent a crane spinning out of control.
It is believed a block of masonry was sent flying by the crane and landed on the man at a building site at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.
Elsewhere, a 39-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a crash with a car on rain-soaked roads.
His female passenger was seriously hurt after the collision on the A396 near Exeter, Devon.
On the other hand on this side of the Atlantic in Canada, Hans Tammemagi reports in The Province entitled "A new wave of storm watchers" with the subtitle "The ocean's fearsome power floods people's senses -- and they love it" as:

When storms lash the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island -- which they do with regularity during the wiinter -- they unleash an awesome power. Towering waves roll in from the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean and crash onto rocky headlands, fling huge logs far up the beaches and send spray high into the air.

Being humbled by nature must appeal to a primitive part of our psyche. Perhaps the chaotic power of a storm makes the worries in our own lives seem comfortingly smaller. Or perhaps a storm is a metaphor for our troubled world. Whatever the reasons, more and more people are visiting the Tofino area with one sole purpose: to watch storms.

You can enjoy the drama of a thundering Pacific storm while sitting snug inside a comfortable resort. Only a thin glass window will separate your pleasant tranquility from the intense fury and mayhem on the other side. And you won't spill a single drop of your hot toddy while seated beside a roaring fireplace.

Or -- if you are more daring -- you can suit up in rain gear from head to toe, slip on some rubber boots and venture into the teeth of the storm.

You will be immersed in nature in all its fierce majesty. You can explore on foot, buffeted by wind, lashed by rain and enshrouded in sheets of ocean mist.

Your senses will be overpowered by the howling wind, crashing waves and torrents of rain.

Once in a while, a low-pitched rumble will echo through the wind as a big log rams into a rock and is set vibrating like a tuning fork.

But be careful. Powerful wind gusts can knock you down, unpredictable rogue waves can carry you out to sea, and rolling -- even flying -- logs can crush limbs with ease. A good guideline is to keep a minimum of 15 metres above the tide line.

The last sentence is certainly a sound advice. For me, however, I am bracing myself to prepare for "hibernation." Being retired, at least I no longer worry about fighting the morning traffic during ice and snow. Global warming is never around when we need it. Algore is useless!

The Fitz's story -- 33years on!

I did not really expect to see an inspirational Fitz-remembering stuff after 33 years. But I was wrong. In Tolido Blade yesterday, their retired editor, Tom Walton, published a truly moving and personal article entitled "33 years on, the Fitzgerald story still haunts." Mr. Walton once worked on Fitzgerald as a young man and he lost his uncle and may family friends in Fitzgerald. Here's how he starts:
THIS IS a sad and special day for my brothers and me. Tonight, at a few minutes past 7 o'clock, 33 years will have passed since the great ship went down.

Thirty-three years since we lost our uncle. Thirty-three years since Ruth Hudson lost her 21-year-old son Bruce. Thirty-three years since a ship that meant so much to me personally was claimed by a force far greater than anything built by the hand of man.

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a ferocious storm on Lake Superior, vanishing without so much as an SOS, taking its crew of 29 to the bottom in Canadian waters, just 17 miles from safe harbor in Whitefish Bay. The date: Nov. 10, 1975.

Today she lies where she foundered: 46 degrees, 59 minutes north latitude, 85 degrees, 6 minutes west longitude, in 530 feet of water. Nobody survived, and no remains were ever recovered. The families consider the wreckage a gravesite.

The men died, but the legend lives.
Now the personal part:
Here we are 33 years later, and nobody knows for sure exactly what happened in those final moments. How could the fastest, strongest ship out there sink?

When the end came, it was swift and brutal - the Fitzgerald was no match for nature's fury. But she had weathered November storms before. Because the exact cause of the sinking has never been established beyond all doubt, the tragedy remains the greatest mystery in the history of the Great Lakes.

Among the 29 who were lost were my father's brother, Ralph G. Walton - known to us as Uncle Grant - and several other sailors I knew through my dad, a lifer himself on Great Lakes freighters; Ernie McSorley, the captain. Ed Bindon, the first assistant engineer. Bob Rafferty, the cook. Russ Haskell, the second assistant engineer.

I can still see their faces.
And his personal involvement with the Fitz:
My personal involvement with the Fitzgerald began in 1963, 12 years before she sank. I took time off from college to make pretty good money working seven days a week on a lake freighter for Columbia Transportation division of Oglebay-Norton out of Cleveland. I had no idea which ship I'd get. Imagine my excitement: a 19-year-old's first real job and I'm assigned to the flagship of the fleet, the queen of the lakes, as a galley porter.
A fact: there is still no one knows what really had happened:
Theories still abound about the sinking. She must have scraped a gash in her hull on a shoal in shallow water near the Canadian shoreline. No, she took on water because the hatch covers had not been properly secured. No, she was overtaken by two monster waves driven by near-hurricane force winds and lost buoyancy, the bow submerged, and she could not recover. What sank the Fitz could be any of them or none of them. Whatever it was, it happened with such ferocity and suddenness that Captain McSorley had no chance to radio his plight.
And finally :
In 2006 I visited the Maritime Museum at Whitefish Point and saw something I hadn't seen in 43 years: the Fitzgerald's original bell, retrieved from the wreckage, its brilliant shine restored. A new bell bearing the names of those who died now rests on the ship as a grave marker.

I also visited the SS Valley Camp, a former lake freighter and now a museum ship in nearby Sault Ste. Marie.

The Valley Camp displays the Fitz's two mangled lifeboats, one of which had once sat lashed right outside my cabin door. A sign at the exhibit warned against touching the lifeboat. I ignored it. I put my hand on the rail and quietly reconnected with the ship that was once my home.

When I look at photos of the wreckage, I see ladders I climbed and doors I walked through. My hope is that there will be no more photos. No more dives to the wreck. The Fitz and the men who perished on her final voyage deserve to be left alone now.
Yes, indeed "The Fitz and the men who perished on her final voyage deserve to be left alone" now and always!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The skies of November turn gloomy

It's that time again. Today is the 33rd anniversary of the loss of SS Edmund Fitzgerald. We can always remember the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot (and you can hear him sing here.):
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
. . .
Well, the skies of November 2008 have been gloomy. This site, by Richards-Creations, provided a long list of ship wrecks in the Great Lakes in the last last century. Here are just the November cases:

November 10 ,1975 - Edmund Fitzgerald - 29 lost
Nov 29, 1966 - Daniel J Morrill - 33 lost
Nov 17, 1958 - Carl D Bradley - 25 lost
Nov 11, 1940 - Anna C Minch - 24 lost
Nov 11, 1940 - William C Davvock - 22 lost
Nov 11, 1919 - John Owen - 22 lost
Nov 24, 1918 - Inkerman - 34 lost
Nov 24, 1918 - Cerisoles - 38 lost
Nov 18, 1914 - CF Curtis - 26 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Leafield - 18 lost
Nov 25, 1913 - Rouse Simmons - 17 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Leafield - 18 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Regina - 25 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Isaac M Scott - 28 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Charles B Price - 28 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Henry B Smith - 23 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Argus - 24 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Wexford - 22 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - John A McGean - 23 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - James B Carruthers - 30 lost
Nov 13, 1913 - Hydrus - 23 lost

While the list is daunting to read, it is by no means complete. Note the number of ships lost in November 1913 during the so called the Great Lakes Storm of 1913. According to Wikipedia the storm was formed "as the convergence of two major storm fronts, fueled by the lakes' relatively warm waters—a seasonal process called a "November gale". It produced 90 mph (145 km/h) winds, waves over 35 feet (11 m) high, and whiteout snowsqualls."

It was the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the lakes, the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 lasted from November 7 through November 10, killed more than 250 people, destroyed 19 ships and stranded 19 other ships. Here's a headline page of the Detroit News at that time:

And here's a fantastic breaking wave picture at a Lake Michigan shore published in Chicago Daily News, November 10, 1913.

Look at the person watching the waves at the top of the stairs, why was he seemed not worried? Anyway, those are the memories of November on the Great Lakes!

Let me conclude today's post with Mr. Lightfoot's lyric again:
Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

P.S. My sincere thanks to Mr. Lightfoot, Richards-Creations, and most of all, Wikipedia for generously making these information available.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Russian submarine tragedy

This news has been widely reported, but the report by the Australian ABC News provides a more thorough summary than others:

Recently Russia has been showing it's not afraid to flex its military muscle once more, from the August conflict with Georgia to far-ranging naval exercises.

Yet the building of that image has received a tragic blow, with a nuclear submarine accident off Russia's far east coast that has left 20 dead.

While President Dmitry Medvedev has quickly ordered an investigation into the incident, at least one military expert says this submarine accident is yet another indication that the Russian defence industry is in dire need of modernisation.

The nuclear submarine, known as the Nerpa, had not even begun service when it was undergoing trials in the Sea of Japan, with a reported 208 people on board.

About 80 were servicemen, the rest were specialists and workers from the shipyard where the submarine was built.

Naval officials say that for some reason, the fire extinguishing system was activated, releasing a lethal gas into the front of the craft.

Vladimir Markin from the investigation committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's office, has told Russian television that the deaths were caused by freon gas filling the lungs of the victims.

More than 20 injured were transferred to another navy ship and brought to shore near the city of Vladivostok, while the submarine returned to its temporary base on the far eastern coast.

Here's an AP file photo of one similar to Nerpa seen in Atlantic as shown by Yahoo News:

UPI reports that the 20 victims includes 6 sailors and 14 civilians and that
Officials described the incident as Russia's worst submarine accident since the sinking of the Kursk in 2000, which killed 118 sailors.
Oh well, may be it's time for Russia to get out of nuclear submarine business now! They can certainly make good use of their resources and talents for more useful endeavors.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The week that was!

Now that 2008 Presidential election is over, all kinds of aftermath, all kins of postmortem have been written by all kinds of pundits. I think the best is the one by the U.K. Reuters today:
NEW YORK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks broke out of theirpost-election funk on Friday, but on balance, the market hardlydelivered a ringing endorsement of Barack Obama's defeat of John
McCain to be elected 44th president of the United States.

Whatever the reason, since Election Day, major U.S. indexes are down more than 7 percent. For the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI and Standard & Poor's 500 .SPX, that represents the worst ever conclusion to the week of a presidential election.
Here's the table shows the percentage, since 1896, rise or decline in the major indexes in the last three days of the week after the winner is determined:
Year Dow S&P Nasdaq President elect
2008 -7.08 -7.43 -7.46 Barack Obama
2004 +3.51 +3.15 +2.73 George W. Bush
2000 -3.19 -4.60 -11.32 No decision: G.W. Bush v Al Gore*
1996 +2.28 +2.34 +2.31 William Clinton
1992 -0.38 -0.56 +2.02 William Clinton
1988 -2.84 -2.63 -1.34 George H. W. Bush
1984 -2.02 -1.65 -0.42 Ronald Reagan
1980 -0.51 +0.11 +0.19 Ronald Reagan
1976 -2.38 -2.21 -1.02 James Carter
1972 +1.06 -0.22 -0.34 Richard Nixon
1968 +1.35 +0.82 --- Richard Nixon
1964 +0.16 +0.06 --- Lyndon Johnson
1960 +1.84 +1.38 --- John Kennedy
1956 -2.02 -2.65 --- Dwight Eisenhower
1952 +1.20 +0.73 --- Dwight Eisenhower
1948 -6.00 -7.16 --- Harry Truman
1944 +0.11 +0.31 --- Franklin Roosevelt
1940 +1.06 +0.81 --- Franklin Roosevelt
1936 +2.79 +1.40 --- Franklin Roosevelt
1932 +5.34 +8.02 --- Franklin Roosevelt
1928 +2.13 +1.99 --- Herbert Hoover
1924 +0.93 --- --- Calvin Coolidge
1920 -2.34 --- --- Warren Harding
1916 +0.41 --- --- Woodrow Wilson
1912 +1.13 --- --- Woodrow Wilson
1908 +5.28 --- --- William Taft
1904 +2.75 --- --- Theodore Roosevelt
1900 +7.03 --- --- William McKinley
1896 +5.86 --- --- William McKinley
American people have made the decision for this election. For better or worse, it's 1456 days until the next presidential election.


Here's Michael Ramirez's editorial Cartoon for the Investors Business Daily on November 3, 2008:

"You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time,
but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."
-- Abraham Lincoln (1808 - 1865),
16th President of the U.S.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Surfing monstrous 41 feet waves

There's an interesting article by Wil Longbottom in the Daily Mail online of UK today with three fantastic surfing pictures by Reuters. (ht: Drudge report.)

Here's the brief description:

A daredevil surfer is pictured tackling a giant 41 foot wave in a bid to win himself a prestigious award.

Kerby Brown took on the monster during a session at a top secret reef, and nearly didn't live to tell the tale.

Moments after these pictures were taken, he suffered a devastating wipeout which nearly killed him.

The wipeout left Mr. Brown with torn shoulder muscles but otherwise he's fine and can proudly telling us the story behind these pictures. What intrigues me is that this has to be at a "top secret" location. (So that no one else should suffer that wipeout!)


This November 6, 2008 article of provided more details, identified the photographer as Andrew Buckley, and these words by Kerby Brown himself of the experience:
“I was lucky to get to where I got, I went straight over in the lip and did about 10 backflips and then pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

"It felt like I ripped my arm out of it’s socket, my leggie snapped and then I felt like I was the deepest I’d ever been (underwater).

"I took about 10 huge big strokes to get up and I was seriously struggling. I finally got to the surface and I was ready to pass out, luckily my brother was there on the ski.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Michael Crichton (1942 - 2008), RIP

It was an expected news, amidst the election day hoopla, that depressed me more than the election results. I am just an admirer of him for his academic achievements as an accomplished writer and a rare sane science voice -- all started as a result of reading his book "State of Fear". Yes, the famous author Michael Crichton is no longer with us. Here's the official announcement from his site:
Best-selling author Michael Crichton died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, November 4, 2008 after a courageous and private battle against cancer.

While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us -- and entertained us all while doing so -- his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes. He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget.

Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand.

He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world.
Michael Crichton is gone, but in the age of internet he left plenty of marks online. Among the things that are readily available online:

Here's his lecture at Smithonoan Institute, November 6, 2005, "Fear Complexity and Environmental Mgmt in the 21st Century" about Chaos theory.

Here's "Michael Crichton at AEI", April 20, 2007, in which Crichton debunks global warming alarmists and other Chicken Littles.

Here's his lecture "State of Fear: Science or Politics?" at the Independent Institute, May 6, 2007.

Among the short Youtube videos I particularly like the followings when he talks to high school students on March 16, 2005:
Environmentalism as a religion
Unproven dangers of second-hand smoking
People who don't mind their own bussiness
These are only some of my personal favorites. There are many more out there if you wish to search. It is sad to think such a prosperously rich intellectual life just shortened. He may have a lot of things unfinished, but I don't think that he'll have too many regrets.

A ferry sinking tragedy in the Phillippines

This tragic ferry sinking case has been in the news for a couple of days now. Perhaps the article in the Standard of Hong Kong yesterday had provided a good summary on what has happened:
An inter-island ferry packed with commuters capsized yesterday as it was buffeted by sudden winds and waves southeast of Manila, killing at least 40 people.

The ferry, with 119 people listed on board, keeled over after being struck by a freak wind off the island of Masbate, said Senior Superintendent Ruben Sindac.

"The Don Dexter Kathleen capsized due to a freak accident. It was hit by a high wind despite fair weather and calm waters," he said. Rescue services recovered 40 bodies and 76 survivors were pulled from the water.

Other reports put the casualty numbers at 42. Here are some further details:

The navy, coast guard and local authorities were continuing to search the area between Masbate and Sorsogon port in southern Luzon.

The coastguard described the vessel as a large wooden-hulled outrigger.

Police officer Roy Almine, who helped in the rescue, said huge waves and strong winds suddenly hit the boat, causing it to overturn and toss passengers into the sea.

"There was some kind of whirlwind," Sindac said. "There was no rain, no typhoon; the waters were calm when it happened. There were high railings and tarpaulin on the side so when the vessel overturned, these may have helped to trap the passengers."

The ferry had just left the town of Dimasalang on the northeast coast of Masbate for Sorsogon port 80 kilometers away.

Lieutenant Jeffrey Collado, the local coast guard chief, said four people were still missing and there may be more still unaccounted for.

The accident comes four months after the 23,000-tonne inter-island ferry Princess of the Stars capsized in a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan carrying 850 passengers and crew.

Only 57 passengers and crew survived the accident, which was the worst maritime disaster in the Philippines for 20 years.

Here are the location and a view at the scene from BBC:

While "huge waves and strong winds suddenly hit the boat" appears to be the culprit, boat overloading is also indicated in the BBC report. From the academic point of view, however, a sudden happening of huge waves and strong winds seems to be always happening and the happening is clearly difficult to confirm or dispute. There is just not enough tangible knowledge base to cover this part of the nature phenomena. Sadly there is no remedy in sight either.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted -- God Bless America!

God Bless America!

A sort of mini tsunami

This news in Boston Globe today by Megan Woolhouse is intriguing:
Dockworker Marcy Ingall saw a giant wave in the distance last Tuesday afternoon and stopped in her tracks. It was an hour before low tide in Maine's Boothbay Harbor, yet without warning, the muddy harbor floor suddenly filled with rushing, swirling water.

In 15 minutes, the water rose 12 feet, then receded. And then it happened again. It occurred three times, she said, each time ripping apart docks and splitting wooden pilings.

"It was bizarre," said Ingall, a lifelong resident of the area. "Everybody was like, 'Oh my God, is this the end?' " It was not the apocalypse, but it was a rare phenomenon, one that has baffled researchers. The National Weather Service said ocean levels rapidly rose in Boothbay, Southport, and Bristol in a matter of minutes around 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 to the surprise of ocean watchers. Exactly what caused the rogue waves remains unknown.

Here they call it the "rogue waves" again, which is certainly different from the kind of freaque waves commonly visualized in the open ocean.

"The cause of it is a mystery," said National Weather Service meteorologist John Jensenius, who first reported the waves from a field office in Gray, Maine. "But it's not mysterious that it happened."

Specialists have posed a variety of possible explanations, saying the waves could have been caused by a powerful storm squall or the slumping of mountains of sediment from a steep canyon in the ocean - a sort of mini tsunami. The last time such rogue waves appeared in Maine was at Bass Harbor in 1926.

Oh yes, "a sort of mini tsunami" would be a reasonably good descriptive expression.
Jeff List, an oceanographer at the US Geological Survey at Woods Hole said he and other researchers studied the occurrence, but no one has been able to pinpoint the cause. And he said similarly enormous waves appeared once on the Great Lakes.
Too bad he did not give any details about that enormous waves appeared once on the Great Lakes. As typical of modern day reporters, this one does not seem interested in asking about the details either. But the following by List is plausible:
A squall line surge, which occurs when fast-moving storm winds sweep over water that is traveling the same speed, can create such a wave. (The speed of waves is directly related to wind speed and the depth of the ocean at any given point.)
At any rate, every time something strange in the ocean happens, our academic world usually don't have an answer or explanation beyond pure speculation. But for a world that only go goo-goo gaga on empty non-issues like global warming, it will be a long time before the research world would spare any interest to pay attention to what's really happening in the world wide ocean, and that even includes the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

So help us God!

I found this famous historical picture from here with the following telling story:

The upset win of Harry Truman over Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 election came after leading publications had confidently predicted Dewey's victory (e.g. New York Times headine: “Thomas E. Dewey’s Election as President is a Foregone Conclusion.”; Life Magazine: cover with Dewey's picture and caption reading, “The Next President of the United States"). Even on election night, the media still had difficulty accepting the fact that Truman could win. (see above photo). Shortly before his inaguration at a dinner of the Presidential Electors Association, the President also gleefully parodied the radio reports of the prominent broadcaster H..V. Kaltenborn, who on election night commented that the President's apparent lead in the early returns would be unlikely to hold.

The Truman victory was also an embarrassment for the emerging public opinion polling community. Truman's 4.4 percentage point election margin contrasted with the pre-election polls predicting a Dewey victory ranging between 5 to 15 percentage points.
However the following history may not be as well-known as it should be to everyone:
The election also was marked by Truman's withstanding splits in the Democratic Party over civil rights and the Administration's policy directed at containing Communism. After Truman supported passage of stronger civil rights legislation, the entire Mississippi and half of the Alabama delegates walked out of the Democratic National Convention, and the disaffected southerners then nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond to run on the States Rights' Democratic Party, or so-called "Dixiecrat" ticket. Another split was led by more liberal Democrats, who objected to the President's confrontational policies toward Communism and organized the Progressive Party, with its presidential choice Henry Wallace, a former vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt and cabinet member for both Roosevelt and Truman until being asked to resign by Truman in 1946. Thurmond carried four states--Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina--with 39 electoral votes, but Wallace, despite nearly matching Thurmond's popular vote share with 2.4%, failed to win any electoral votes (see 1948 Electoral College).
Well, half a century in the making, an African American candidate in 2008 must be the fruitful outcome that can trace back to President Truman's far sight in supporting the civil rights legislation. But this candidate's Marcist-Socialist-Communist mindset, which he and his followers had try hard to conceal them from American people, is certainly totally at odds with President Truman's basically anti-communist wisdom that eventually led to the demise of Communism and the Soviet Union. U.S. must stand strong!

On the eve of the 2008 U. S. Presidential election, I pray for the unequivocal preserve, protect, and defend of our Constitution of the United States. So please help us God!