Unexpected sun

On my way out the door this morning I walked into our garage and was instantly startled. It was light in there! There’s normally light coming through the windows but this morning there was a bona fide sunbeam!

The front of our home faces almost due north. It turns out this is the time of year when the rising sun actually shines on the the front of our home. I hope to leave a little time tomorrow morning for snapping a few pictures during the rare moments the front of our home is illuminated in sunlight.

Bike lanes or parking places?

The family and I had a very active day yesterday, taking advantage of the balmy (if cloudy) 75 degree weather. First I met my brother for a run around Shelley Lake. After that, the family and I did some biking along the Crabtree Creek Greenway. After a quick lunch, we took some of the kids’ friends with us to Buffalo Road Aquatic Center for a swim. I call it a triathlon, though Kelly insists that it’s not.

There is a sewer line replacement project taking place along the greenway and, as a result, we had to detour onto Anderson Drive to get around the construction. Upon reaching Anderson Drive, I was dismayed to see there were no sidewalks but a bike lane instead. That would’ve been fine but there were a number of cars parked along the street, sending my family and me out into traffic to get around them.
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Off the grid and on the lake

We spent the weekend off the grid, so to speak, as we stayed at a friend’s lakehouse on Lake Gaston. Most of our time was spent on the water in some boat or another, though we did visit a bit with our good friends the Naylors (and their friends Bill and Sue) at their lakehouse.

We’re glad to be back home and settled in on a rainy “school night.” We’re glad to have gotten in a trip to the lake and look forward to our next visit.

Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical Storm Isaac

I’ve been keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Isaac as it progresses across the Atlantic. Though it’s still a week out, there appears to be at least some chance that Isaac will reach North Carolina. Whether we have severe weather from this storm or not, we most likely will get a good soaking from Isaac next week.

Stay tuned (and for a look at the latest models, go here).

Lightning and nuclear reactions

We had a few close bolts of lightning during last evening’s thunderstorm. One of the bolts caught fire to a neighbor’s backyard shed. It was one of the scarier lightning storms I’ve experienced.

I decided to look up some info on lightning today and came across this PBS page written by a lighting expert. Dr. David Dwyer, Associate Professor of Physics and Space Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, answers questions about lightning. I found this Q&A particularly intriguging.

Q: Within the NOVA Web site I read that lightning heats the surrounding air of a lightning bolt to ~50,000°F, or hotter than the sun. The sun, as I understand it, generates heat through fusion reactions. So why don’t we see fusion reactions taking place within the surrounding air of a bolt of lightning? Casey, La Jolla, California

The surface of the sun is about 10,000°F, which is much cooler than the hottest part of lightning. However, the nuclear fusion that powers the sun occurs only near the center where the temperatures are much higher (30 million°F) and the pressures are very large. In comparison, lightning is downright chilly. As a result, no nuclear reactions are expected to take place during lightning. Having said all this, several independent research groups have recently measured nuclear by-products associated with lightning, which according to our standard picture doesn’t seem possible. If these results are correct, then something very unusual is happening with lightning—so stay tuned.

I did more poking around and found some articles of studies that seem to show that lightning can produce gamma rays. Those bolts may also be hurling antimatter into space! Fascinating!

via NOVA | Lightning: Expert Q&A.

Worlds apart

I was pondering how this weekend’s freak storm knocked power out for over a million people, leaving them temporarily without the comforts of the modern world. I thought about how it’s now 100° outside yet I’m comfortable in my air-conditioned home. I’ve got a refrigerator full of fresh fruit, a comfortable bed, and more fresh water than I know what to do with.

The I thought about Liberia and how less than 1% has electricity. Water is also scarce. Compared to those poor souls, I live like an absolute king. So do 99.9% of Americans.

We are extraordinarily blessed to live in this country. In the grand scheme of things, the things Americans complain about are really insignificant by comparison.

Record heat wave spawns derecho

Derecho, 29 June 2012

This is day two of a record heat wave in Raleigh and elsewhere in the US. Yesterday, the thermometer here at MT.Net topped out 107.8 degrees, though the real temperature was probably closer to 105 degrees. It was surreal walking onto the porch and feeling this heavy air that didn’t cool you when you moved.
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Cheap thoughts: the nose knows

Photo by David Selby

While watching my pooch sniff his way around the neighborhood this week, I pondered how he always seemed to know when a storm is coming – often much sooner than we do. Is it the vibration of the thunder? The sound of thunder? Could it be that he is more sensitive to the electrical charges, being that he wears more fur than we do?

Then I remembered the NOVA program on dogs and how a dog’s senses are inferior or equal to humans in all aspects except one: the sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is its meal ticket and is a bazillion times more powerful than a human’s. What if a dog can smell an approaching storm? Of course, rain has a distinctive smell and definitely changes the way the environment smells.

But what if it went further than that? What if dogs can smell lightning? Lightning and other high-energy electric discharges ionize air, creating ozone. What if dogs can smell this ozone?

And … if my dog is at his most compliant in the midst of a storm (or the threat of a storm), could a small ozone generator attached to his collar make him safely and painlessly stop in his tracks should he decide to escape on an unauthorized jaunt through the neighborhood?

The tornadoes, one year after

Raleigh Tornado, 16 April 2011

It was a year ago this past Saturday, 16 April 2011, when the deadly EF3 tornadoes roared through Raleigh, damaging over a thousand homes and killing three people. While the lives lost can never be replaced, the homes are returning to normal. The East Raleigh neighborhood of Lockwood held a celebration of the anniversary on North King Charles St this past weekend.

I never posted all of my photos from that devastating day last year, so here’s a link to my Picasa album documenting the damage only minutes after it occurred.

Also, check out the Google Maps satellite imagery of the neighborhood, showing before and after photos. It will be a long while until these neighborhoods regain their leafy shelter.

Nighttime bad weather and accidents

The commute has been a challenge the past few mornings, with several accidents making a mess of the roads. I can’t help but think that perhaps the many nights of slow-moving thunderstorms have been disturbing people’s sleep and making them more prone to accidents. The weather at the time of many of these wrecks is fine, so you can’t say it’s due to road conditions.

Of course, there are a million distractions confronting today’s driver, so it’s hard to say for sure if there’s one cause. Certainly a restless night caused by thunderstorms can’t be good for one’s concentration the next day!