Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fountains of the Deep, Whirlwinds from the Sky, and Stars in the Cosmos

**Updated 12:56AM 6/25/2014: See below.**

This is the surprisingly large fountain in the building at 400 Virginia Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., 2:55PM, April 29, 2011.

The Atrium Deli is housed in this building and once in a while I walk over there for lunch. I actually worked in this building for a few months back in 2002 when I was at the U.S. CLIVAR Office (another failed job with a crummy boss). Little did I know at the time, though, that this was my D.C. "social peak."

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Today is a cloudy, coolish (around 60F) Sunday afternoon with rain showers (thankfully) on the way. There is an I Love Lucy marathon on Hallmark Channel.

This episode features John Wayne while they were on their seemingly never-ending vacation to L.A. / Hollywood. They must have had on at least two dozen celebrities from the time on the show from John Wayne to Bob Hope to Richard Widmark to William Holden.

Exactly how many episodes of this show did Ricky, Lucy, Ethel and Fred spend in L.A.?

I'm going to rewrite this since I occasionally get search hits on this: In all likelihood William Frawley (Fred Mertz) was actually gay.

He was just too perfectly bitchy toward Ethel (Vivian Vance), although they apparently did not really like each other. And as I recall, he dressed up in drag on at least two occasions on the show.

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This entry is actually a compilation of two previous entries I started to write -- one I started in the wee hours of this morning and the other from last week -- but did not post. From 330AM this morning ...

**Updated 12:56AM 6/25/2014: Content removed.**

Upstairs at Nellie's on Friday night (or rather Saturday morning), 1:00AM, April 30, 2011.

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**Updated 12:56AM 6/25/2014: Content removed.**

The two lamps in the side upstairs "chill" room at Town, Washington, D.C., 2:41AM, May 1, 2011. Nation this is not.

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Tornado Outbreak Update ...

As an update to my previous entry, the death toll from last week's tornado outbreak across the Southern U.S. is now about 340 -- the second highest ever in the U.S. in a tornado outbreak -- and the toll is still rising as there remain hundreds of unaccounted people, especially in hardest hit Alabama.

Here President Obama meets two tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 29, 2011.

In all, there were at least 211 tornadoes across 8 states in the overall outbreak, considered as stretching from April 21 - April 28, 2011.

The current death toll is higher than the 1974 Super Outbreak and the 1840 Great Natchez Tornado (a single tornado), and it is now second only to the 695 killed in the legendary March 18, 1925 Tri-State Tornado.

That was THE most deadly SINGLE tornado in the U.S. In addition to the nearly 700 dead, there were another 2,000+ injured and 15,000 homes were destroyed. The tornado traveled about 219 miles across three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana).

Map showing the path of the Tri-State Tornado over its 3-1/2 hour duration.

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There have been tornadoes in Bangladesh that have killed more people (why am I not surprised?), including the current known world record hard-to-believe 1300 or so in a tornado that struck on April 26, 1989. Actually, given Bangladesh's lack of any meaningful infrastructure, maybe it isn't that hard to believe.

BTW, my previous entry garnered quite a bit of attention with its discussion and photos of the Alabama tornadoes. I had 809 hits on Friday -- see above StatCounter image.

This is about 300 more than my previous record. About 3/4 of them were Google image hits related to the tornadoes, esp. the one that hit Tuscaloosa.

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**Updated 12:56AM 6/25/2014: Substantial content removed.**

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Below what follows is the entry I started to write last week. It doesn't necessarily follow from the above content.

To adapt the famous Star Wars opening sentence ... A long time ago in two galaxies far, far away ...

Here two spiral galaxies located approximately 300 million light years away and collectively known as Arp 273 undergo extreme mutual distortion as a result of their awesome gravitational interaction. This was the April 21, 2011 APOD.

These gravitational tides pull at the billions of (individually unseen) suns in both galaxies, creating a veritable "star spray" of twisting and elongated yet graceful patterns that will ultimately distort the original spiral shapes beyond recognition. Arp 273 is in the direction of the Andromeda Galaxy, although over 100 times farther away (300 million versus about 2 million).

Here NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 -- collectively called The Antennae Galaxies -- undergo their own ghost collision about 60 million light years away in the direction of the Southern constellation Corvus. This was the April 29, 2011 APOD.

What we are seeing in the above images happened 300 million years and 60 million years ago, respectively -- which is the time it took those photons of light to traverse the unfathomable gulfs between those galaxies and ours.

This is a sort of cosmic interpretative dance that happens between galaxies of comparable size -- on scales of time and space unimaginable to human comprehension.

In 3 to 5 billion years, own our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will likely have a similar "ghost collision" that similarly distorts and may form a larger elliptical galaxy.

In the above image, NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 -- collectively also known as Arp 271, located approximately 114 million light year away in the Virgo Cluster -- are seen nearing collision.

The Andromeda Galaxy should for a long time make quite a spectacular appearance in the skies of that far future Earth -- even as the Sun will be approaching red giant phase and as the oceans boil off, life on this planet will likely be in its twilight phase, if not vanished already.

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But for the foreseeable future, unless humans really screw it up, Earth likely should remain the sunlit green, blue, and white oasis of life in the infinity of the Cosmos that it is.

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And here is a picture I never tire of (that I found years ago online) ...

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

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OK, I think that's about all for now. As for my upcoming week, I actually have three appointments tomorrow -- dental in the morning and medical in the late afternoon including blood work and dermatologist. The latter two are in Chevy Chase, Md., near Friendship Heights Metro.

--Regulus

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