Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Music Monday (belated)

It's Music Monday, the Wednesday edition!

Day 11—A song from your favorite band.

I already talked about my undying love for Oasis AND included a song of theirs. That said, I'm going to move on to another favorite band, simply for variety's sake (and because really, truly, I can't pick JUST ONE favorite).

Ben Folds is among the list of musicians i my library whose music I can almost never bring myself to skip, no matter what kind of mood I'm in.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Science Saturday: Virtual Planetarium

There is nothing so disorienting as not being able to see your childhood's night sky—or any stars at all. And the light pollution in Seoul is going to make stargazing difficult when I start teaching there next month.

Fortunately, Neave's virtual planetarium will fix just that. Not only can you look around at any place in the world (and at any time!), but you can also click on the stars to find their name, their magnitude, and how far away they are! My childhood fascination with stars and constellations need not fall by the wayside. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Music Monday

Day 10—A song that makes you fall asleep.

Not in a disparaging way at all, though. I love Donora. This song is so mellow and comforting, it's like being wrapped up in a cloud.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Science Saturday: Fluorescence

Fluorescence is one of the more dazzling properties of minerals. I mean, how can you not be wowed by this?

fluorescent minerals

How does that even work?

First, you need three ingredients: a mineral, darkness, and an ultraviolet light. A moment to go over that last one.

light spectrum

Light comes in different wavelengths, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet (or UV). Fluorescent minerals "glow" under the high-frequency, short wavelength ultraviolet light. But even within ultraviolet there's a range.

The kind you probably have at home—the kind you can buy in Spencer's or Halloween stores—is a "long wave" black light, with emits ultraviolet light at a wavelength of about 380-385 nanometers.

The other kind is, predictably enough, a "short wave" black light. They aren't sold in regular retail outfits; you need to go to an online specialist or a rock and mineral shop to find one. The wavelength on a short wave back light can be as little as 254 nanometers.

What does this mean for minerals? It means that the fluorescence of a mineral will change depending on the black light you use. Some minerals will only fluoresce within a very specific range, others will change colors.

But anyway: you have your rocks, you have your black light, and you've turned out the other lights. Enjoy the fireworks for a moment.

Ooooh. Pretty.

But where do those colors come from?

When such a high frequency light hits the atoms inside, they get excited. And then, soon after, un-excited. It's the movement from excitement to boredom (for lack of better term) that causes the colors we see (in the movement "down," so to speak, the atoms will emit a photon—light, basically).

Not every specimen of every possibly fluorescent mineral will necessarily fluoresce. Plenty of fluorite fluoresces, but plenty of it doesn't. For that reason, all you rockhounds, it's best to buy your fluorescent rocks in person.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Tomorrow I leave for a road trip to Greensboro, NC; then on to Chapel Hill and then back home.

Between me and Greensboro is the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.

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Coincidentally, the Shenandoah Valley also houses all of the caves of Virginia (or pretty much all):

Since I'm a member of the National Cave Association anyway (this means: free admittance to member caves), I figured why not make it a nice leisurely drive through the caves and caverns of Virginia? The only one I've been to out of all of them is Luray, which was years ago. Unfortunately, I don't have time for all of them, so I'm just visiting the NCA member caves I haven't seen yet:

(And for good measure: Copper Fox Distillery!)

Pictures and tales from the road forthcoming!

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Monday

Day 9—A song that you can dance to.

I'm well aware it's a terrible song, BUT I REGRET NOTHING.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music Monday

Day 8—A song you know all the words to.

Oh, was this not what you meant? Very well.