Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Gaia Theory

By TLAJ Guest Blogger, Jaima

Jillian, being so busy lately, has asked me to contribute an entry to her blog. So for my first ever blog entry, here's what I came up with:

Have you heard about the Gaia Theory? I think Al Gore mentions it in An Inconvenient Truth. (Gaia, the Greek goddess of the earth, was the mother of all the gods.) The theory has been circulating since the 1960s. A British scientist and inventor, Dr. James Lovelock, developed the theory after working with NASA to determine that there was probably no life on Mars. As environmental concerns become more mainstream, the theory is getting more attention. The theory is not without dissenters, Richard Dawkins and Stephen J Gould among them, but it does sound a little self evident. It's all about homeostasis.

file:// describes the theory this way:
The Gaia Theory posits that the organic and inorganic components of Planet Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system. It suggests that this living system has automatically controlled global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors, that maintains its own habitability. In a phrase, “life maintains conditions suitable for its own survival.”

In this respect, the living system of Earth can be thought of analogous to the workings of any individual organism that regulates body temperature, blood salinity, etc. So, for instance, even though the luminosity of the sun – the Earth’s heat source – has increased by about 30 percent since life began almost four billion years ago, the living system has reacted as a whole to maintain temperatures at levels suitable for life.

In addition to global temperatures, the "Gaian system" could also explain how the planet self-regulates ocean salinity and atmospheric content. Consistent ocean salinity is important for the survival of many organisms - most do not tolerate values over 5%. Over the years river salts should have raised the oceans' salinity levels much higher and scientists have had a hard time explaining why the levels haven't risen - they've been consistent at about 3.4% for a long time. But according the Gaia Theory, it's possible there are organic processes at work that influence the equilibrium. Lovelock believes that the Gaia Theory could also account for the consistent atmospheric composition. The Earth's atmosphere currently consists of 79% nitrogen, 20.7% oxygen and .03% carbon dioxide. Oxygen is one of the most reactive elements and should combine with gases and minerals of the Earth's atmosphere and crust. Traces of methane should not exist, since it's combustible in an oxygen atmosphere. This composition should be unstable and it's stability can only have been maintained with removal or production by living organisms.

To demonstrate the Gaia Theory, Lovelock developed a mathematical model called Dasiyworld.

Wikipedia explains it this way:

Daisyworld examines the energy budget of a planet populated by two different types of plants, black daisies and white daisies. The colour of the daisies influences the albedo of the planet such that black daisies absorb light and warm the planet, while white daisies reflect light and cool the planet. Competition between the daisies (based on temperature-effects on growth rates) leads to a balance of populations that tends to favour a planetary temperature close to that which is optimum for the daisy growth. Lovelock … demonstrated the stability of Daisyworld by forcing the sun that it orbits to evolve along the main sequence, taking it from low to high solar constant. This perturbation of Daisyworld's receipt of solar radiation caused the balance of daisies to gradually shift from black to white but the planetary temperature was always regulated back to this optimum (except at the extreme ends of solar evolution). This situation is very different from the corresponding abiotic world, where temperature is unregulated and rises linearly with solar output. Later versions of Daisyworld introduced a range of grey daisies and populations of grazers and predators, and found that these further increased the stability of the homeostasis.

Lovelock has a book out called The Revenge of Gaia, in which he argues that the lack of respect humans have had for the planet is testing its ability to continue it's current homeostatic balance. Lovelock says our current efforts to off set our environmental impact, such as sustainable development and renewable energy, is 200 years too late. He believes more effort should go into adaptation - it's too late to repair the damage. Ever the pessimist, Lovelock believes the world population of more than 6 billion will be culled by floods, drought and famine by 2040.

I can see some connections between the Gaia Theory and Emergence Theory (see Steven Johnson's book Emergence: The Connected lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software) but we'll explore that another day.

NOTE: The theory's name was a suggestion of William Golding (him of Lord of the Flies fame) who lived in the same village as Lovelock at the time. : )

Climbing and Comparing Mountains

Today is the anniversary of the first successful Everest summit (Hillary and Tenzing), completed in 1953. Fittingly, my husband Gordon and friends Drew, Jake, and Hannah are leaving today to summit Mount Hood. Hood stands 11,239 feet to Everest's 29,029 feet and is much more accessible, requiring a pleasant drive from Portland, rather than a long trek through rural Nepal. About 10,000 people attempt to climb Mount Hood each year. There have been a total of 3,679 completed summits on Everest by 2,436 climbers (2007 figures). Over the years, there have been 210 deaths on Everest. On Hood there have been 130 deaths.

Hood is generally considered an easy summit, although some geographical changes on the mountain in the past year have made it a much more technical climb that it used to be. The Hogsback Ridge (on the popular south route) has shifted west. Also, a technical "ice chute" has formed in the Pearly Gates (a gap in the summit rock formation). Some climbers are opting to climb the "left chute" variation of the Pearly Gates route, but this has also increased the difficulty of the climb, as it is also a technical ice wall 30 feet or greater in height, and with fall exposure of 500+ feet. Everest is also changing. Current data suggests Everest has been growing a half centimeter per year, so every time someone reaches the summit, they set a new altitude record. : )

Mount Everest
Mount Hood

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lake Leo

Last weekend the Kuhlmann family braved the crazy Memorial Day crowds and rainy weather forecast to do one of our favorite things--Camping!! We picked a spot that was sort of central to our various domiciles around the state (WA), Lake Leo. Expecting to have to beat other potential campers away with big sticks, we rushed out to the lake as early as possible on Saturday morning. When we got to the was empty. Completely. We had the whole place to ourselves! The lake was just the perfect size for canoeing around and there were three beaver lodges and a dam that we had fun checking out. It did rain a bit, but we are pretty hardy folks, so it didn't ruin the trip at all. Enjoy the photos!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Iceland is the Happiest Place On Earth

Excerpts From An Article In The Observer (U.K.)
By John Carlin

Highest birth rate in Europe + highest divorce rate + highest percentage of women working outside the home = the best country in the world in which to live. There has to be something wrong with this equation. Put those three factors together - loads of children, broken homes, absent mothers - and what you have, surely, is a recipe for misery and social chaos. But no. Iceland, the block of sub-Arctic lava to which these statistics apply, tops the latest table of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index rankings, meaning that as a society and as an economy - in terms of wealth, health and education - they are champions of the world. To which one might respond: Yes, but - what with the dark winters and the far from tropical summers - are Icelanders happy? Actually, in so far as one can reliably measure such things, they are. According to a seemingly serious academic study reported in the Guardian in 2006, Icelanders are the happiest people on earth. (The study was lent some credibility by the finding that the Russians were the most


Statistics abound. It is the country with the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world; where people buy the most books; where life expectancy for men is the highest in the world, and not far behind for women; it's the only country in Nato with no armed forces (they were banned 700 years ago); the highest ratio of mobile telephones to population; the fastest-expanding banking system in the world; rocketing export business; crystal-pure air; hot water delivered to all Icelandic households straight from the earth's volcanic bowels; and so on and so forth.

But none of this happiness would be possible without the hardy self-confidence that defines individual Icelanders, which in turn derives from a society that is culturally geared - as its overwhelming priority - to bring up happy, healthy children, by however many fathers and mothers. A lot of it comes from their Viking ancestors, whose males were rampant looters and rapists, but had the moral consistency at least not to be jealous of the dalliances of their wives - tough women who kept their families fed in the semi-tundra harshness of this north Atlantic island while their husbands forayed, for years at a time, far and wide. As a grandmother I met on my first visit to Iceland, two years ago, explained it: 'The Vikings went abroad and the women ran the show, and they had children with their slaves, and when the Vikings returned they accepted it, in the spirit of the more the merrier.'

Oddny - a slim, attractive pianist who speaks fluent German, translates English books into Icelandic and works as a city councillor in the capital, Reykjavik - offers a contemporary case in point. Five years ago, when she was studying in Stuttgart, she became pregnant by a German man. During her pregnancy she broke up with the German and reconnected with an old love, a prolific Icelandic writer and painter called Hallgrimur Helgason. The two returned to Iceland where they lived together with the new baby and in due course had a child of their own. Hallgrimur is devoted to both children but Oddny considers it important for her first-born to retain a close link to her biological father. This happens on a regular basis. The German flies over and stays at Oddny and Hallgrimur's far-from-spacious home for a week, sometimes two, at a time.

'Patchwork families are a tradition here,' explained Oddny, who was off work, at home, on the Thursday morning we met, looking after her youngest child. It is common for women to have kids with more than one man. But all are family together.'

I found this time and again with people I met in Iceland. Oddny's case was not atypical. When a child's birthday comes around, not only do the various sets of parents turn up for the party, the various sets of grandparents - and whole longboats of uncles and aunts - come too. Iceland, lodged in the middle of the North Atlantic with Greenland as its nearest neighbour, was too far from the remit of any but the more zealously obstinate of the medieval Christian missionaries. It is a largely pagan country, as the natives like to see it, unburdened by the taboos that generate so much distress elsewhere. That means they are practical people. Which, in turn, means lots of divorces.

'That is not something to be proud of,' said Oddny, with a brisk smile, 'but the fact is that Icelanders don't stay in lousy relationships. They just leave.' And the reason they can do so is that society, starting with the parents and grandparents, does not stigmatise them for making that choice. Icelanders are the least hung-up people in the world. Thus the incentive, for example, 'to stay together for the sake of the kids' does not exist. The kids will be just fine, because the family will rally round them and, likely as not, the parents will continue to have a civilised relationship, based on the usually automatic understanding that custody for the children will be shared.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Please Excuse Me While I Indulge In A Bit of Blogger Silliness

As you may have noticed, I was tagged by The Imaginary Reviewer this morning to continue a viral story started by Splotchy. It's a bit of blogger silliness, really, but you'll have to indulge me. For a detailed account of how this works, click here. The short explanation, however, is that Splotchy started a story and anyone who gets tagged is supposed to add a bit to it and pass it on. So, here's the story:

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words.
"Interesting", I thought to myself, "I don't know anybody named Ted Kaczynski." Unless it's going to clear this damn sinus infection in my head, I'll have to open it later.I set it on the kitchen table, and prepared my tincture of herbal tea remedies.
As I watched the lengthy glossop of honey slather into my tea I heard a rustling noise behind me. Having spent my childhood in a rotating house (due to some awkward foundations) I am quite adept at craning my neck and utilised this skill in the current situation, looking behind myself like a six-foot-tall owl.
The envelope - so stationary seconds before - had started to move, an event that I found somewhat odd, given that I was four days away from celebrating a year of sobriety. I picked up the nearest implement of swatting size without thinking, and slowly approached the bubble-wrapped delivery.The envelope continued to shuffle and shake as I stood poised with the potato masher held in readiness over my head. A small bead of sweat edged down my temple, hitting the floor at the same time as a lump of congealed potato from my weapon. There was a tearing sound, and I froze, unable to move, as a disembodied hand broke through my mysterious delivery. I blinked, and the thumb and forefinger of the hand formed a mouth.
"Hey, dude, what's up?" The Hand/Mouth said. I just stared, perplexed and terrified. "You got any grub? I'm starving!"
At this point, my fear got the better of me and I swung the potato masher down feircely, knocking the hand/mouth (still partially in the packaging) off the counter and onto the floor. Screaming at the top of my lungs, I ran to the kitchen stool and stood on top of it, still grasping the potato masher with white-knuckled terror.
"Not cool, man," said the thing.

I tag Sean Benson and Herbal Amanda to (hopefully) continue the story.

Okay, now we can get back to the serious business of Think(ing) Like A Jillian : )

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Self-Repairing Cars and Airplanes

A research group out of Bristol University has developed an amazing new technique that may revolutionize the aerospace and automotive industries by making it possible for planes, spacecraft and even cars to mend themselves automatically. It works like this: When a tiny crack or hole appears in the side of an airplane (from regular wear and tear), an epoxy resin stored in tiny embedded vessels is released. The resin "bleeds" out and fills the cracks then hardens, restoring structural integrity. The resin can be dyed so that the weak spots are easily seen by the safety crew once the plane reaches its destination. The technique was modeled after natural processes such as bruising and the bleeding and healing process that occurs when you cut yourself. Besides the obvious safety benefits, the new technology will make it possible to build much lighter airplanes, which in turn will reduce the amount of fuel needed to fly one. Products using the new technology should be on the market within three or four years and can be utilized in any industry that uses fibre-reinforced polymer composites. These lightweight, high-performance materials are becoming increasingly popular not only in aircraft but also in car, wind turbine and even spacecraft designs.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dear TLaJ Regulars...

Sorry, apparently working nine and ten hour days is not conducive to regular blog posts. I'll do better next week. Stay tuned....

Friday, May 9, 2008

Just A Quick Note From Your Mother

There is a Newsweek article in the upcoming issue (I am so addicted to Newsweek, I have to go online to read the newest articles before they are even printed, pathetic) about a new blog that lets people post emails and other missives that they get from their mothers. It is called Postcards From Yo Momma and was started by two young journalists in New York. They were sending each other copies of emails that their mothers had sent them and were having so much fun sharing that they decided to open it up to the public. A few months later they had over 2000 submissions. Some are really funny, most are very sweet. Here are a few from the article:

"Call me. I suffer."

"tell me about face book. do you have a page on it? can anyone look at your page? I am worried about this type of thing."

"Have fun in Houston . Keep in touch with your strawberry."

"good news!Our insurance covers : THE HPV VACCINATION.but, this is NOT a license to have wild, unprotected sex, y'know!! hehehhehehee.xox,mom"

"I love you. I will pray for you. Be sure and take some kind of i.d. so if your plane crashes and burns they will know who to call. Hope you do that on all your trips anyway. That way if I don't get a dreadful call, I will know you are just fine and happy."

"I was in the car listening to the radio, and who is this "shorty" they keep talking about in rap songs?"

"Me: Do you read my blog? I can track who is reading it and I think you may be. Me no likey mother.
Mom: What's a blag?
Me: It is a sin to lie. Don't play coy with me!! Are you reading my "online journal"?
Mom: I barely have time to call you! I don't know how to do my space or whatever it is. You may recall that when I asked you about how it worked, you never showed me."

"std's are on the rise. love, mom."

"Dad and I deposited some money into your bank account since it looks like you blew your last paycheck at H&M."

"If you are ever thinking about giving up your (beautiful custom handmade) dresser unit, (that Tom made for YOU), please let me know before you throw it out. I really do know that you and Charles are not into wood, and you'd like to get something new, sleek and chrome, silver, or whatever. I've discussed this with Tom. It won't hurt any body's feelings, at this point in time. I can't imagine that you would hold onto something as a keepsake. Please let me know. asap. It's really OK."

For more, see the link above.
Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Imaginary Reviewer

I know I've had his link here for awhile, but today's entry is so funny I thought I should direct a little more attention his way. The Imaginary Reviewer (IR) is a blogger whose dearest ambition is to be a professional reviewer. However, since no one has offered him free stuff to review and he hasn't found a job with an actual entertainment, news, or literary publication, he's taken to reviewing imaginary things, and thank goodness!


Sunday, May 4, 2008

The River and the Race

Quite the exciting weekend here at Think Like A Jillian. On Friday, Gordon took me kayaking on the river for the first time. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced, ever. Ever. The water was flowing really fast and I felt like I didn’t have a lot of control over my boat and its direction on the river. Some of the waves seemed really big (though they were probably just level 1). I spent the whole time going “ohmygodohmygodohmygod” and just trying to stay upright. The funny thing is, I made it through the rapids just fine, but then had some unexpected trouble in calmer water and ended up flipping over. I could feel my helmet scraping (lightly) against the rocks on the bottom, so I wet-exited and swam to shore. It was a bit of a mess. I didn’t catch my boat, so Gordon had to go downstream after it. He eventually found it, but we were still a paddle short, so that pretty much put an end to our little adventure. Gordon and I were able to laugh about it almost immediately and it made a great story to tell over beer and pizza with friends that night. I’ll even try it again, albeit on calmer, slower water.

Then on Sunday, my sisters and I ran Bloomsday, the largest timed road race in the world. The course winds through the prettier parts of Spokane for 12 kilometers and usually draws upwards of 45,000 participants. It was my fourth year doing it and I had a great time. Jaima and I managed to knock a whole hour off of our time from last year--we’ve really been training for it this time. The day was sunny and beautiful and it was the best race yet, I think.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Kayaking 101: For My Readers Who Are Not (Yet) Obsessed with the Sport

(In honor of my first day kayaking on the river!)

First of all, when it comes to whitewater kayaking, there are basically two schools, the river-runners and the playboaters. The purpose of river-running is to get from point A to a lower point B on the river, through whatever flatwater and whitewater is along the way. Playboating is for those with more of an addiction to whitewater. Instead of traveling down the river, playboaters often park & play at a particular spot on the river that has a good wave, hole, or rapid. They then perform "tricks" in the waves, much in the way that snowboarders and surfers do. A great playboater can actually get their boat airborne. Of course, many river-runners do tricks too, on whatever exciting river features they encounter along the way. It's not uncommon for river-runners to eddy-out near a hole then hang out in the same area and play for awhile before continuing on down the river.

Some of the basic tricks:

A front surf involves remaining on a feature of the river (such as a wave or a hole) without being washed downstream. From this position, many moves can be initiated. A back surf is identical to the front surf, but with the boat facing downstream, making it slightly harder than front surfing. A side surf is done with the boat oriented perpendicularly to the current. Carving involves moving back and forth across the face of a feature.

The basic spin involves rotating the boat parallel to the surface of the water while surfing a feature. The rotation must be greater than 180 degrees to count as a spin. Performing a 180 degree spin is similar to beginning an aggressive carve, transitioning through a side surf, and ending in a back surf. A clean spin involves using a single stroke to spin through multiple ends. A flatspin involves lifting the upstream edge of the boat from the water during the spin.

A double pump is the basic move to sink one end of the boat. The boater begins by simultaneously putting the boat on edge, making a quick back stroke, and leaning backwards. Immediately after this stroke, the boater leans forward and pushes down hard on the same paddle blade. The boat should now be perpendicular to the surface of the water, with the bow down in the water and the stern up toward the sky. A cartwheel is a move performed while surfing a hole or on flat water, in which the boat rotates perpendicular to the surface of the water. The move is initiated with a double pump. The paddler's torso functions as the axis. Once vertical, the paddler continues the rotation, alternating ends. The paddle is used to press down on the water on the downstream side of the boat, alternating hands as the boat changes direction.

In a loop, the boater does a complete flip, landing in the same direction that the move was initiated. The move is begun like a popup, with the paddler driving straight and flat into the most powerful part of the current on a feature. The boater leans forward, and the bow is swept down and the stern up. Once vertical, the paddler quickly leans backward to pop up out of the water, then powerfully drives forward to intentionally cause the boat to become over-vertical. If done properly, the stern should catch in the current and the boat will return to its starting position. A back loop is identical to a front loop, but is performed backwards, both starting and ending in a back surf.

These are then combined into combo tricks, many of which have funny names like phoenix monkey or space godzilla. Many kayakers design and name their own combo tricks.

Disclaimer (for Mom): None of these tricks involve waterfalls of any kind : )
2nd Disclaimer: Portions of this post were shamelessly lifted from the "playboaters" link above.