Archives of Blah

Personal or off-topic rantings and ravings.

Just take a look at this image taken by HiRISE, currently orbiting Mars. Click the image for a much larger version.

This truly is stunning, and even more so once you know what caused it. The sand-dunes on Mars are mostly made up of heavy basalt particles which are the dark grey areas, over the top of which lies a fine dusting of red sand. Dust devils regularly roam the face of Mars, and when they do, they sweep up the fine red dust in their path, creating these beautifully intricate streaks, swirls and whorls of grey.
It’s well worth going through the rest of HiRISE’s images, they’ve even got a whole bunch of stunning stereoscopic images of the surface, so get your 3D glasses on if you’ve got any lying around! :D
Originally posted on Phil Plait’s blog, Bad Astronomy
I’ve recently started reading “the richness of life”, a collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould, who (before he died) was a popular science writer, and a specialist in zoology, geography and natural history.
It’s taken me a while to get into, since in a stroke of confusing genius the editor of the book decided to open it with several essays on statistics (a subject by which I’m fascinated) that used extensive baseball analogies (a sport about which I know next to nothing). After having slogged through them in constantly slight confusion, I’m now finding it an absorbing read.One particular essay, “worm for a century, and all seasons” sucked me in completely as it documented Darwin’s last book, a treatise on earthworms of all things! According to Gould’s essay, Darwin’s detractors often criticised him for the triviality of his chosen subjects, but what they failed to realise was that the choice of such a humble subject was deliberate, and demonstrated a powerful principle.Darwin shows that the leaf mold we’re used to seeing on the top of soil is almost entirely created by earthworms, (of which there were over 53,000 per acre where Darwin was gathering his evidence!). As they eat and excrete, rendering down new surface material, the previously created mold is compacted underneath, and slowly sinks, as new mold rises above it. You can follow the progress of a single stone as it sits on the surface, and then sinks into the soil over time (about an inch every 12 years), and the amazing thing is that this process is so uniformly constant, that the depth of currently un-compacted leaf mold barely changes, and the ground sinks in perfectly parallel layers.

This I assume is the reason that the time-team always found the archaeological evidence they were looking for a good way under the soil, and why they talked merrily about different bands of soil representing different eras. I always wondered what process made for such a convenient and confusing arrangement, and the answer is stunning… earthworms! It’s at once charming, absurd and a little creepy to think that vast armies of earthworms marching across time shape our hills and fields.

I’m starting to get excited about this year’s games day. It’s the first time I’ve been since I was a wee teenager, so I’m looking forward to appreciating the chance to see the creators and artists on a totally different level. Plus, the hobby has really grown since then.

So… I’m going to give Golden Demon a stab. I entered young bloods (the category for little uns) a few times and never made it past the first round. This time I’m being crazy enough to enter the open category. I’ve got no hope, but it’s a great challenge.
Here are some in-progress shots of the model I’m entering, a scratch-built inquisitor at inquisitor scale (the Cinderella mug is how I’m keeping the dust off between painting XD).