Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

That's not what the scientists (and the data) said!

When I heard this press release and the subsequent news coverage, I knew something went terribly awry.  I didn't have time or energy to blog about it, but I am glad that Boulder Weekly decided to run Fact to Fiction, an in depth look at how this happened.
So how did a study designed to analyze traceable components of fracking fluid so potential contamination in groundwater could be identified get transformed into a headline that declared fracking fluid safe?

The answer is poor communication and bad journalism.

It started with an unclear press release from the University of Colorado with a title that declared “Major class of fracking chemicals no more toxic than common household substances.”
For starters, I believe that Laura Snider, University of Colorado media relations staff member and author of the original press release, should be fired.

How she could have been so clueless that her wording would be paraphrased into sound bites declaring fracking safe is beyond belief.  It's right up there with #shirtgate for cluelessness and irresponsibility.

I would flip the question around and ask, why are household cleaners so full of substances that are not safe and not listed on labels?  (Thank Reagan-era deregulation that allows manufacturers to declare their product ingredients proprietary and secret.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

3 Pillows

Actually, that was a slight exaggeration because I haven't sewn the square pillow yet.  But, the two bolsters are done. Finito.
I started with swatches of simple motifs like the braided and honeycomb cables from Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting, Fishermen's Wool and 6"x12" polyester neckrolls from Wawak.  I washed and blocked the swatch and then calculated how many stitches to cast on from the swatch gauge.
For the second pillow, I repeated the braided cable motif as a frame to fill out the central motif from Jess' Birthday Sweater.
Now the couch doesn't look so smooth and shiny.
I wet-blocked and pinned the cable rectangles to open up the fabric.  Then I stitched the ends together for about 1" on both ends.

The ends were surprisingly easy.  I picked up 100 stitches, divided into 10 sections of 10 stitches, and then performed a k2tog decrease every other row.  When I had 10 stitches remaining, I threaded the yarn tail through the 10 loops twice and gave a gentle tug until the hole closed up.  The ends were steam-blocked with a steam iron (above the surface) and then patted into shape.

Each end took about an hour to knit and finish.  Each rectangle took about 20-25 hours.  Sewing the zippered muslin cases and hand-stitching them to the knitted cover took another 1-2 hours.

To the friend who asked why I don't sell these: A physicist ought to earn as much as a plumber, right?  Would you pay a plumber 50 hours for these two bolsters?
I made pillow cases out of unbleached muslin and used zips left over from the days when I sewed dresses for a little girl that wore only pink and purple.  (She wears mainly black, gray and olive drab now.)

Then I hand back-stitched the rib opening to the zipper.  If you have ever hand prick-stitched a dress zipper, you can do this.  Well, your effort might be neater than this.
You can tell the cast on edge from the bound off edge on the honeycomb pillow.  I forgot that cables shrink the width of the knit fabric so much, you need to cast on fewer stitches for the ribbed edge and increase stitches on your set-up row for the cables.  By the time I figured that out, I wasn't going to rip back and redo it.  There's also one place where the stitches were moved the wrong direction.  Oh, well.
The purple zipper tape peeking out of the wavy edge reminds me of the wavy lips of a southern giant clam (Tridacna derasa).
Raveled here.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the flooring samples for my new place.  Yes, I will be moving yet again--hopefully to a longer-term place.  Which sample do you like better?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

On the needles

I am OBE and unable to muster the mojo to say more than this is one of two bolster covers.  I just need to sew the liners, insert zippers, and knit three more ends.  Well, a final block for the round ends would be good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Petulant Mode Reset

[I meant to post this last week, but never got around to finishing the post. As they say in the satellite world, OBE, Overcome By Events. Anyhoo, this makes a good Technology Tuesday post.]

I'm dealing with some intermittent data dropouts in this satellite dataset.  Data drops are common, but the amount and frequency of data drops lately has been alarming (to me).  I've seen little credible information in the media (except this) about the issue and the NOAA/NCEP bulletins have been (as usual) terse and sticks only to facts that have already happened.

Anyway, there are myriad problems.  First, there is a network problem on the ground, which they are working hard to troubleshoot and fix.  Then there are issues with the individual satellites themselves that can stem from myriad causes, both scheduled and "anomalies".

A short data drop looks like this:
NPP_VMAE_L1 global browse
RGB (Bands:M5, M4, M3)
Data Day 2014.269
The explanation:
Case #:PM_NPP_L1B_14269 Opening date: 09/29/14 Last update: 09/29/14
Status: Note
VIIRS went to 'Petulant' Mode on 09/29/2014 (2014.269) at 16:20:00 GMT. As a result, VIIRS science data output was impacted from 16:20:00 GMT to 18:35:00 GMT. The data regions impacted by this event are nighttime orbits over Asia including India, China and Southeast Asia and Australia. Additionally, Daytime orbits over North and South America are impacted. The images below show the impact of the event on the daytime surface reflectant and night time cloud mask data streams. Both the IDPS and LPEATE data archives will be impacted by this event.
I try not to anthropomorphize satellites, but they really do have unique indiosynchrasies.
VIIRS sensor being prepared for launch.

Satellite sensors can have a "petulant mode"?  Does that mean that they talk only when they want to talk, and sometimes don't reply when spoken to?   This results in loss of data products as explained here.  (Not a permalink and may point to a different alert msg if another one is added.)
000
NOUS71 KNES 051248
ADANES
SUBJECT: PRODUCT/OUTAGE ANOMALY, NCEP ANCILLARY DATA DELAY,
*TOPIC: *NCEP ANCILLARY DATA DELAY. *

DATE/TIME ISSUED**:*NOVEMBER 05, 2014 1240 UTC*
*

*PRODUCT(S) OR DATA IMPACTED:*ANCILLARY DATA

*DATE/TIME OF INITIAL IMPACT:*NOVEMBER 5, 2014 1000 UTC **

*DATE/TIME OF EXPECTED END:***TBD

*LENGTH OF EVENT:*TBD*

**DETAILS/SPECIFICS OF CHANGE:*NESDISIDPS ONLY RECEIVED 61 FILES OF 66
FILESFOR THE 0600 SYNOPTIC TIME ON 11-05-2014 (JDAY 309). NCEP FILES 4
- 8 WERE MISSING OR NOT PRODUCED. SOME PRODUCTS MAY BE DEGRADED.
INVESTIGATION CONTINUING.

*CONTACT INFORMATION FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:* ESPC OPERATIONS AT
ESPCOPERATIONS@NOAA.GOV AND
301-817-3880

*WEB SITE(S) FOR APPLICABLE INFORMATION:*N/A **
As a data curator, I can do nothing but put a note on the data access page specifying the extent of the missing data.

The proposed solution had me in stitches:
000
NOUS71 KNES 062148
ADANES
SUBJECT: PRODUCT/OUTAGE ANOMALY, IDPS DATA DELIVERY SYSTEM DELIVERY
*TOPIC:* IDPS**DATA DELIVERY SYSTEM (DDS) DELIVERY DELAY*

DATE/TIME ISSUED**:*NOVEMBER 06, 2014 2137 UTC*
*

*PRODUCT(S) OR DATA IMPACTED:*ALL DATA

*DATE/TIME OF INITIAL IMPACT:*NOVEMBER 6, 2014 1900 UTC **

*DATE/TIME OF EXPECTED END:***NOVEMBER 6, 2014 0000 UTC

*LENGTH OF EVENT:*5 HOURS*

**DETAILS/SPECIFICS OF CHANGE:*IN THE BACK ORBIT OF CONTACT 15683, THE
DATA DELIVERY SYSTEM WAS NOT WORKING PROPERLY. WE HAVE SHUT IT OFF FOR
THE TIME BEING AND WILL BE RECYCLING THE SYSTEM DURING THE BACK
ORBIT OF
CONTACT 15684. THIS SHOULD ALLOW THE SYSTEM TO START ANEW AND RESUME
DELIVERIES.

*CONTACT INFORMATION FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:* ESPC OPERATIONS AT
ESPCOPERATIONS@NOAA.GOV AND
301-817-3880

*WEB SITE(S) FOR APPLICABLE INFORMATION:*N/A **
Would it be possible to recycle/perform a system reset when my teenager goes into "petulant mode"?  As they say in the space business, "Space is hard."  And teenagers are even harder.  ;-)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Super Science Saturday November 8, 2014

Boulder once had more PhDs per capita than any other city larger than Los Alamos.  I don't know if that is currently true.  Both towns have become so expensive, younger scientists are priced out of their housing markets.

Anyhoo, Boulder is the place to be for science enthusiasts of all ages tomorrow, November 8, 2014.
NCAR is hosting Super Science Saturday between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM at the Mesa Lab.  People have been practicing demos all week.  Come at 2:00 PM to see a ping pong ball get dropped into liquid nitrogen or to help launch a weather balloon.

The University of Colorado hosts a Mr/Ms Wizard demonstration one Saturday a month (timed to avoid home football games).  Go to Duane Physics Rm. G1B30 at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2014 to watch Eric Cornell demonstrate "SPEED!"

I have past experience as a science demo performer and launching weather balloons, but I will be sitting in the audience tomorrow.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday


Technology Tuesday, Flabrats

This is really about statistics, but this is such a fundamental idea, I wanted to write about it and link to these fantastic videos.  It can be used to test the effectiveness of a technology, so I'm posting it to Technology Tuesday (TT).

My daughter's high school honors Chemistry class also started with this lesson, but using pennies.  My Berkeley honors Chemistry class's laboratory portion also started with this lesson and pennies.  Remember when I took PH207x and wrote about the experience?  You can now take the archived course and watch these videos in context.

Iris said that she wasn't good at Chemistry because she had difficulty with this lab.  Her teacher says that this is a very difficult concept and Iris understood it better than any other kid in the class.  Still, it takes a few times for this lesson to sink in and it helps to revisit it periodically and to see different applications of the concept.

I'm also hoping that my daughter reads these posts and watches them.  The flabrats are sooo cute--internet meme cute.  Perhaps we can start an internet meme using flabrats?

The first video introduces flabrats, lab rats fed a diet that makes them much heavier than your average labrat.


What happens when a lab rat gets loose in the building?  Is it a flabrat or a labrat from another lab?  How do you classify when you don't know the true answer?  With statistics!