Archive for March, 2010

Dustin’s STEM Blog, v 4.0

March 1, 2010

Hello All,

It appears that I have again been a little negligent in bringing my few faithful readers some new and exciting developments in the world of STEM.  It appears that I may be developing a small following of sorts as my count for my last post showed more readers than my previous two.  Maybe some of you just like what I have to say so much that you have been checking it out more than once.  If so, I appreciate that!

Now, on to what you are here for:


It appears that an iceberg the size of Luxembourg has slammed into an Arctic glacier, and has broken a chunk the size of Rhode Island off of the glacier.  Now, I will do the hard part for you and tell you that Luxembourg is just under 1,000 square miles in size, and Rhode Island is about 1,500 square miles in size.  Those are two gigantic ice cubes floating around.

The problem with this, according to some scientists, is that “the newly formed iceberg could potentially disrupt the undersea currents that ferry oxygen throughout the oceans. With that oxygen dispersal interrupted, areas of the ocean could fail to receive the oxygen needed to support life.” 

Of course, there are other scientists that are excited about the new research opportunities that could open up due to this event.  They must not be Marine Biologists.


In light of the recent earthquakes, I decided to see how a seismograph works.  My mother currently lives in Okinawa, and felt the 6.6 that they received Friday morning, then an aftershock or two.  She was also ordered to evacuate to higher ground after the 6.8 in Chile on Saturday sent tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific.  I was amazed when I looked at a map just how far away Chile is from Japan and Kamchatka Russia, and small tsunamis generated from the Chile earthquake traveled all the way across the Pacific.  My geography is pretty good, but seeing an actual representation on a map, the distance was striking.

But I digress.  I seismograph is basically an extremely simple device.  It utilizes a large weighted mass (1,000 pounds or so) with some sort of recording device (pen or ink arm) suspended above it.  When the earth quakes, so does the seismograph and the pen makes and EKG-looking line on the paper to indicate the severity of the quake.  To record a history of events, a spool of paper is used.  The instrument is attached to bedrock to help isolate false readings from large trucks and other man-made sources.


Yes, this next link and article is also from Popular Science.  Hey, I’ve had a subscription for like 9 years now, so I know what’s in there.  Plus, if you read my last post, you know that I like aircraft.

This article covers the new unmanned aircraft that are coming into our military’s arsenal.  I, for one, am pro-UAV.  I think that they are great.  They may cost a few million dollars each, so losing one would not be cheap.  But, having worked on the F-15 fighter jet,  that is a fraction of what a real jet costs.  Plus, you don’t have to feed a UAV or give it some sleep.  These things can fly nearly indefinitely.

In fact, I read in a separate article that UAV to UAV air refueling is being developed.  This would allow these platforms to stay aloft for as long as needed, or until they run out of missiles.

Take a minute to launch the gallery at the bottom of the article, it’s way cool.


HA!  I actually have some sort of number/math related item for this one this week.  I don’t have to scrounge around, or get clever with this one.  If you’re like me, you may have wondered what the Richter scale is, and how it was conceived.  Hey, it’s number/math-based, so get off my case.  Stay with me, and it will make sense.

See, a mathematical formula determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs gives us the Richter level of an earthquake.  Hey, stop trying to solve that equation and stay with me.  This gets kind of cool.

Keeping up with the number aspect of mathematics, here are a few equivalents of the amount of power generated by earthquakes:

1.0 = Typical construction site blast.  Maybe a few bundles of TNT, 12.4 pounds according to wiki.
2.0 = Late WWII bombs, or about 392 pounds of TNT.
3.5= Chernobyl reactor disaster, about 178 metric TONS of TNT.
4.0= Small nuclear bomb, 1 kilo ton of TNT
5.0= The nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki in WWII, or about 32 kilo tons of TNT.
6.5= Around the range of the 3 earthquakes this year, 5.6 mega tons of TNT (yes, mega is MILLIONS!)

Who says that Mother Nature can’t pack a punch?

Well, that is going to close out this installment.  Once again, I thank you for indulging my ramblings.  I hope that you at least learned something that you did not know before.