Wild Wind Farms

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I’ve been going with my husband to visit his parents in their small town in north-central Iowa for about 18 years. In most of that time, few things have changed there, except for maybe the name of the town restaurant. But in the last few years, the landscape surrounding Wellsburg, Iowa has been transformed.

What was once flat farm land stretching to the horizon has turned into a series of giant wind farms. Sprouting from the fields like gargantuan corn stalks, the turbines stand hundreds of feet high, their propellers spinning with the constancy of a metronome. From a distance, it’s hard to gauge how high they really are or how fast they’re spinning. They seem to me all at once terrifying (what if one of those blades breaks off) and beautiful, especially at sunset. But then it doesn’t matter what I think. I’m not living next to one.

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My in-laws aren’t living right next to one either, although they now have many turbines within two miles of their house. Because I’m insatiably curious, I did some research and found out some stuff you might not know:

  • Windmills have been in use since 2000 B.C. and were first developed in Persia and China
  • Modern wind turbines have 3 blades which can reach speeds at the tip of over 200 miles per hour
  • The largest wind turbine in the world is located in Hawaii and stands 20 stories tall with blades the length of a football field
  • A single wind turbine can power 500 homes
  • Wind power does not use any water, so by the year 2030 wind energy will save about 30 trillion bottles of water in the U.S.
  • As many as 1,300 eagles, falcons and hawks are killed each year due to wind turbines
  • By 2014, more than 46,000 wind turbines were in operation
  • There’s enough on-shore wind in America to power the country 10 times over

The magnificent wind is created by processes that God set up on our dynamic planet. He gave us the breeze for our enjoyment—to feel it blow through our hair on a hot day—but also for our use. We can be better stewards of our God given planet by investing in wind power.

What do you think? Do the benefits outweigh the costs (like dead birds, bats, noise, risk of airplanes hitting them) for developing wind energy?

 

References: http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-wind-energy-facts.php, http://www.windenergyfoundation.org/interesting-wind-energy-facts

Photos taken by me in Grundy County, Iowa.

Ice Quakes

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Ice Crystals

Anybody heard any sonic booms in the middle of this deep freeze? Maybe if you live in Florida or California or someplace outside the U.S., you don’t really care about those of us trapped in the swirling snow of the polar vortex, but much of the rest of this country has seen freezing temperatures on a record scale. And with those crazy temps comes a phenomenon that many have never heard of—ice quakes.

Called a cryoseism, it’s a cracking of the ground that comes from a sudden deep freezing of the water in the ground. Many times these quakes are heard as loud booms accompanied by a short-lived shaking. People have described them as sounding like a blown transformer, a sonic boom, a car accident and even a plane crash.

Ice quakes occur near the surface, so there’s no danger of prolonged shaking and little risk of property damage. If you want to hear one, they usually occur between midnight and dawn during the coldest part of the night. This explains why I’ve never heard one since I’m dead asleep at that time.

The explanation for ice quakes lies in the properties God gave to water. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the water molecule. If rain seeps down into cracks during warmer periods and then rapidly freezes when the temperature plummets, the ice expands and pushes on the surrounding material. Stress builds up until the pressure is released by the ground cracking.

Thanks to this frigid winter, ice quakes have been reported in the Midwest, Canada, the Northeast, and even parts of the south, like North Carolina and Tennessee. Ice quakes are nothing to be afraid of, but if a loud boom wakes you up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the police.

What about you? Have you actually heard one? What do you think it sounds like?

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-residents-mistake-frost-quakes-airplane-crash-explosions/story?id=29101755, http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/icequakes-cause-earth-to-crack/21985456

Photo Credit: ID 7623341 © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

Blue Fire Volcano

Kawah Ijen

I’m constantly amazed at how God has created the world. There’s always something amazing to discover.

Like a blue fire volcano!

The volcano Kawah Ijen lies along a subduction zone in Indonesia. If you think of the earth as a baseball, the leather in the baseball represent the techtonic plates and the seams are where the plates meet. In a subduction zone, one plate slides under the other causing the rock on the lower plate to melt. This melted rock is more buoyant and rises to the surface, sometimes coming out in volcanic eruptions of lava and gas.

But Kawah Ijen has a special kind of volcanic display—blue fire. This blue phenomenon cascades down the volcano like lava, but it’s not blue lava. It’s actually rivers of sulfur. The sulfur gas escapes from cracks called fumeroles, hits the cooler air and some of it condenses into liquid sulfur.

When this sulfur ignites, it burns with blue fire (at up to 1,112°F) and appears to flow down the volcano like lava. Some of the flames reach as high as 16 feet.

This volcano generates so much sulfur that the local people mine it. They use spring water to condense the sulfur around ceramic pipes, which hardens it. Then these sulfur miners carry their rock load (usually 100 to 200 lbs of sulfur) down the volcano on their backs. What a way to make a living.

Check out the National Geographic link here for more amazing pictures of this blue volcano!

 

References: Skelton, Renee. “Blue Volcano.” National Geographic Kids, March 2015, p. 22.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140130-kawah-ijen-blue-flame-volcanoes-sulfur-indonesia-pictures/

Photo Credit: ID 38085143 © Anekoho | Dreamstime.com

Diamonds of the Ocean Deep

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 Anyone remember that scripture that says God opened the fountains of the deep when He initiated Noah’s flood? I know, I didn’t either. I had to look it up. Here it is:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 7:11

The reason I bring this up is because scientists have long suspected water exists deep in the molten core of our planet. And now they have evidence of it. Recently, geochemists have found a large quantity of molecular water hidden in of all things diamonds.

Diamonds have long been thought to originate from deep in the mantle and what we see today seems to confirm this. Minute specks of diamonds can be found coming out of currently active volcanoes.

In early 2014, Canadian geochemist Graham Pearson and his graduate student John McNeill found something unexpected in diamonds discovered at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. While shining a laser into the diamond, McNeill saw a rare mineral: ringwoodite (a variety of olivine formed after the mineral is put under great pressure). Previously seen only in meteorites, ringwoodite is thought to form in the dense interior of the earth, but until now no one could prove it.

As if that astounding discovery wasn’t enough, then McNeill noticed something even more unusual inside the ringwoodite structure—water. The water was trapped in the microscopic pore space of the mineral during formation, present not as liquid water but as hydroxide ions.

Although the amount of water in each ringwoodite mineral is small (1.5%), the mantle is vast—adding up to a huge amount of water held at high-pressure deep in the earth. The amount of trapped water is potentially close to all the water in Earth’s oceans.

When God said he released the springs of the great deep, perhaps He meant that He brought the hydroxide ions out of the chemical bonds of minerals stored in the mantle.

What do you think? Do you believe in Noah’s flood? Is it a surprise to know the mantle is full of water, even if only on a microscopic level?

 

 

References: Palus, Shannon. “Diamonds Reveal Hidden ‘Oceans’ in Earth’s Mantle,” Discover, January/February 2015, p.35.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rare-diamond-confirms-that-earths-mantle-holds-an-oceans-worth-of-water/

Photo Credit:ID 32784603 © Ingemar Magnusson | Dreamstime.com

WWII Fighter Jet Buried in Ice

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In 1942, a squadron of American fighter jets (six P-38s and two B-17s) took off from a secret base in Greenland. They were headed to England to join the fight against Hitler, but on the way over the polar ice cap, they ran into a blizzard. The whole squadron was forced to turn back.

By the time they reached Greenland again, the planes were low on fuel and had to make desperate crash landings on the icy east coast. All of the pilots survived and were rescued by dog sled nine days later. The planes, however, were abandoned for more than 45 years.

In 1988, U.S. airplane dealer Patrick Epps convinced his friend, architect Richard Taylor, to join an expedition to retrieve the planes. Epps thought they’d have to brush off a bit of snow and the aircrafts would be like new.

How wrong he was.

After several failed attempts at locating the aircrafts, Epps and Taylor hired a geophysicist to search beneath the ice. The radar indicated massive shapes more than 250 feet down.

Using a heated coil mechanism to melt the ice, they discovered all the missing planes. The fighters were found in the same orientation as when they crashed, but three miles from their original location (due to glacial flow).

Epps and Taylor had it in their mind that glacial ice builds up slowly because that’s what a gradual, slow-process view of the earth would expect. That was certainly not the case here. In 45 years, a mere blip of geologic time, 250 feet of ice had accumulated.

Without the WWII airplanes stuck in it, scientists would have claimed that same ice took thousands of years to form. Who says your world view doesn’t make a difference in your work as a scientist?

 
Reference: http://creation.com/the-lost-squadron

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/natematias/200496951/”>natematias</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Fun Science Fact

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In honor of my current town of residence, Bettendorf, Iowa—which happens to be right on the Mississippi River—here are some fun facts about the Mighty Mississippi.

  • The second longest river in the USA, the Mississippi stretches around 2,340 miles (3,770 km) in length. It’s only slightly shorter than the Missouri River, which reaches around 3,902 miles in length (6,275 km). The two combine to form the longest river system in North America,
  • It is also the fourth longest river in the world and has the third largest watershed in the world,
  • “Mississippi” is an Indian word, generally accepted to mean “the Father of Waters,”
  • At its widest point, the Mississippi River stretches out over 7 miles (11 km) in width,
  • The first bridge built across the Mississippi River was in 1855 with the first railroad bridge finished a year later in 1856,
  • Martin Strel, a Slovenian swimmer who is famous for swimming the length of entire rivers conquered the Mississippi over 68 days in 2002,
  • It takes 90 days for a drop of water to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River,
  • From its source in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet in elevation,
  • The deepest place on the Mississippi River is 200-feet deep and is located near Algiers Point in New Orleans.

References: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/mississippiriver.html and http://experiencemississippiriver.com/interactive-tools/fun-facts/and http://digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/v006/v006p529.html

Photo Credit: © Tornado98 | Dreamstime.comBridge Photo©

How Old is Oil?

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Creation geologists believe oil formed as a result of the massive burial of animal and plant matter at the time of Noah’s Flood. Tar or bitumen is mentioned in the Bible about 100 years after the Flood. So, within 100 years, some underground oil had formed and migrated to the surface.

Other geologists believe oil deposits were formed by burial of plants and animals in repeated smaller floods occurring over millions of years. But does it take millions or even a hundred thousand years to generate an oil deposit?

Nope. In 2013, engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory transformed harvested algae into crude oil in less than one hour. Although this occurred in perfect laboratory conditions, there’s no reason to think oil couldn’t have developed much faster than millions or even thousands of years.

But do we have reason to question why geologists think our oil reserves are millions of years old? Yes. Oil is an organic compound which quickly degrades due to bacterial action. In fact, biodegraded oils are common, such as oil from the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the tar sands in Alberta. How could these oil fields have survived the constant assault of bacteria for a million years?

To address this issue, some scientists hypothesize that a process, called paleosterilization, can stop biodegradation in oil reserves at temperatures over 176 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this seems unlikely since bacteria thrive all over the earth in temperatures as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to mention the fact that groundwater would continually bring in new sources of bacteria.

So, how long would it take for the oil to form and migrate through the rock to the oil reservoirs we find it in today? Unfortunately, little is known about hydrocarbon migration. Oil is a large molecule and migrates slower than water (which moves through the pore space in rock on average 50 feet per year). But even at a slower rate, the evidence suggests oil could have easily migrated to reservoirs within a few centuries.

What do you think? Are our oil reserves relatively young? Do you remain unconvinced?

References: Clarey, Tim. “Rapidly Forming Oil Supports Flood Timeframe.” Acts & Facts. March 2014, 43 (3), p. 14.; and http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=1029

Photo Credit: © Bulus | Dreamstime.comOil Pump Photo