Friday, October 28, 2011

More From "The Day the Sun Rose Twice"

More from Ferenc Morton Szasz's "The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945":
Mrs. H. E. Wieselman had just crossed the Arizona-New Mexico line en route from California when she saw it. She remembered:

We had just left Safford, and it was still dark. Suddenly the tops of high mountains by which we were passing were lighted up by a reddish, orange light.

The surrounding countryside was illuminated like daylight for about three seconds.

Then it was dark again.

The experience scared me. It was just like the sun had come up and suddenly gone down again.
William Hartshorn was piloting one of the two B-29's that had been sent aloft from Kirtland Air Base to track the cloud. "We didn't know exactly what to expect," he recalled, "but we didn't have to be told that huge mushroom cloud boiling up was what we had been waiting for.

Yet perhaps the most powerful statement about the blast came from Georgia Green of Socorro. A University of New Mexico music student, she was being driven up to Albuquerque for her nine o'clock class by her brother-in-law. "What was that?" she asked. This might not be unusual except that Georgia Green was blind.
The two searchlight stations, L-7 and L-8, both on Highway 380 east of Bingham, also had to be evacuated. Based on Hubbard's twelve-hour weather forecast, which proved accurate, these portable units were set there to help track and illuminate the cloud. Since the shot occurred at dawn, there was little need for illumination, but the searchlights did provide brief azimuth and elevation data before the cloud became obscured by the other clouds in the sky. It was not long, however, before roving monitor Arthur Breslow urged the L-7 crew to depart. As Breslow drove east on Highway 380, he discovered, to his dismay, that he had left his respirator back at the L-7 position. Ahead of him lay a valley covered with a stratum of sandlike radioactive dust through which he had to drive. Closing the windows, he drove into it while breathing through a slice of bread. As the smoke pots had indicated, the radioactive cloud sank into the nearby valleys.


Via Kathleen, on Facebook.

Kelsey B - Boy If You Only Knew (Behind The Scenes at Video Shoot)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reading Ferenc Szasz's "The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945"

Last year, one of my favorite college professors, Ferenc Morton Szasz, passed away:
An "enthusiastic," "prolific" writer, his works such as "The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945" were not only absorbed by academics but proved popular in the public realm. That and other publications, including the 2008 book "Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends," left him with international scholarly standing.

..."His training was in social and intellectual history, which is almost a nonexistent field now," Connell-Szasz said. "Because of that, it meant that he was interested in everything in American history - in society, culture, the intellectual world; just common, ordinary, everyday things that included folk history, philosophy, religion, science - you name it."
Dr. Szasz had the most amazing facility to connect storytelling with history. History WAS storytelling, and no one told better stories than he did! His classes were among the most-popular at the University of New Mexico.

Ferenc Szasz was particularly interested in the role of religion in American life, and how it affects everything we do. So, I was very curious what his take on the world's first atomic detonation would be. Visiting the Albuquerque Museum on October 9th, I saw the book for sale and purchased it immediately.

I haven't finished the book yet, but already I'm rather surprised by it. Portions of the Manhattan Project story are quite familiar by now, of course - the basic story has been told many times in a number of ways, including John Adams' fabulous opera "Doctor Atomic" - but Szasz found new angles.

First, how did Trinity site get its name? Szasz sees Hinduism at work.

Second, the unusually prominent role that meteorologists had in the timing of the detonation. This I would not have suspected, since global events, such as President Truman's attendance at the Potsdam summit, were clearly the most-important immediate drivers of the timing, but just behind those global imperatives, meteorologists were hard at work trying to work out the local imperatives; specifically, how the intrusion of a tropical air mass into New Mexico in mid-July altered the forecast for radioactive fallout.

Third, the deleterious effects of radioactive fallout were more a concern than I would have expected, given people's inexperience with it at the time. They knew enough to be quite frightened. They created 'Jumbo', a large iron vessel to capture flying plutonium in the event of a misfire, but which would have vaporized (and added immensely to the radioactive fallout) had it been used (which, fortunately, it wasn't).

Over the next week, I will post a few selections from the book. Two selections for today:
Why all this activity should have been labeled Trinity is a bit of a puzzle. Indeed, Trinity still seems a strange, almost blasphemous, term for such a spot. There is, moreover, no agreement on how the site received its name.

In 1982, Robert W. Henderson maintained that Colonel Lex Stevens named it. According to Henderson, he and Stevens were at the site surveying the best way to haul Jumbo from the railway siding to Ground Zero. A devout Roman Catholic, Stevens observed that the siding was "Pope's Siding." He remarked that the Pope had a special access to the Trinity, and that the scientists would need all the help they could get to move Jumbo to its proper spot. From this, the name Trinity gradually became common parlance.

A more common version suggests that J. Robert Oppenheimer selected the name, but there is no agreement as to what he had in mind when he chose it. He, himself, never said. Physicist Robert Jungk thought that Trinity was taken from an old abandoned turquoise mine located in the region. Others have suggested it was connected with the fact that three bombs - the "unholy trinity" - were under construction at the same time. Reporter Lansing Lamont has argued that just before Oppenheimer was asked for a name, he had been relaxing by reading a John Donne poem: "Batter my heart, three person'd God; for you/ As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend..." Lamont claimed that Oppenheimer chose the name from this.

Assuming that Oppenheimer did choose the name, these theories are still unlikely. In 1974, historian Marjorie Bell Chambers offered the most probable explanation. She suggested that Oppenheimer's choice of Trinity referred not to the Christian understanding of the term but to the Hindu connotation of it. Oppenheimer's religious background, of course, was Jewish, and his early schooling came from Felix Adler's Ethical Culture School in New York City. Since he had taught himself Sanskrit for pleasure, Oppenheimer was well conversant with Hindu culture. The Hindu concept of Trinity consists of Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver; and Shiva, the Destroyer. For Hindus, whatever exists in the universe is never destroyed. It is simply transformed. The cycle of life is such that if one part dies, another is created from it. It was in this sense, Chambers noted, that Oppenheimer chose the word Trinity.
At one time, eight different site locations were under consideration: the Tularosa, New Mexico basin; the Jornada del Muerto region of central New Mexico; a desert training area near Rice, California; an island off the coast of southern California; the desert region south of Grants, New Mexico, near the malpais; the area southwest of Cuba, New Mexico and north of Thoreaux; the barrier sand reef off the coast of south Texas; and the San Luis Valley region of southern Colorado.

The choice soon narrowed down to three: the malpais region near Grants, New Mexico; the desert training area north of Rice, California; and the Jornada. The first two, however, presented problems. The malpais lay close to Los Alamos, but the region was difficult to cross. Engineers feared they would have to blast out large sections of the ancient lava beds to provide enough roads. They were also concerned about potential difficulties in hauling Jumbo over the lava. The California desert area could accomodate Jumbo without difficulty, but it lay too far from Los Alamos for easy travel. Moreover, it was soon discovered that General Gorge Patton had been using it as a training ground for his Africa Corps troops. Groves once termed Patton "the most disagreeable man I ever met" and absolutely refused even to talk to him about the area. This left the Jornada.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quake Near Portola

I read something from Erik Daniells on Facebook about a quake near Sacramento. Sure enough, a 4.8 to 5.2 quake, near Portola, north of Truckee, CA. I was driving at the time, so didn't feel anything.

Saturday Night With Underbelly

On Saturday night, after returning from Lydia's cabaret, I sat down in front of the TV and started channel surfing. If you patiently channel surf enough, you'll eventually see everything.

I stumbled across an excellent Australian made-for-TV movie: "Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer Was Here". Apparently "Underbelly" is a popular, successful, and long-running TV series Down Under.

Dark doings in Melbourne! But what caught my attention was how "Underbelly" seemed to borrow from "Breaking Bad". Or perhaps "Breaking Bad" borrows from "Underbelly". Or perhaps all crime TV shows worldwide these days freely borrow and steal from each other. (How would I know, since I don't watch much TV?) Wherever they come from, good ideas spread like wildfires.

In any event, I particularly liked seeing the time lapse segments of Melbourne that mirrored Albuquerque time lapse segments in "Breaking Bad".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

EOS Article Regarding Recent Quakes Near Christchurch, NZ

I noticed a recent article describing the NZ quakes (available with AGU membership):
Strong Shaking in Recent New Zealand Earthquakes. By B. Fry, R. Benites, M. Reyners, C. Holden, A. Kaiser, S. Bannister, M. Gerstenberger, C. Williams, J. Ristau, and J. Beavan.
There was strike-slip movement along the Greendale fault in the September 2010 quake, but with the Port Hills fault in the February 2011 quake, vertical movement may have been more notable: 2.5 meters of vertical movement under the Port Hills. It’s almost as if continental drift is working to wedge a corner of the eastward-moving Canterbury Plains under a corner of the westward-moving Banks Peninsula, and peel the Banks Peninsula off the South Island; like removing a scab. Continental drift had previously worked to bring the volcanoes of the Banks Peninsula, formerly islands, into contact with the South Island. Perhaps the Banks Peninsula will start rotating clockwise, given the resistance it’s now experiencing on its NW side.

There was also the “trampoline effect” under the city of Christchurch, which literally tossed buildings (like the Cathedral) into the air.

One of the most striking immediate effects of the February quake was the large amount of dust thrown in the air. Most people attributed this dust to collapsing masonry, and certainly much came from this source, but I’d bet a portion of the dust was simply tossed in the air from the surface by the “trampoline effect”: almost as if the dust was sitting on a drumhead.

Here are some quotes:
…The large amount of energy radiated during the earthquakes suggests that the faults that failed in both the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes were very rigid, with high amounts of friction holding the two sides together. This, in turn, resulted in a large amount of stress being released during the two events [Fry and Gerstenberger, 2011].

…Geophysical mapping shows that pervasive high-angle east-west trending fault zones that are hundreds of kilometers long and of Cretaceous age (~100 million years old) are present offshore of Christchurch [Wood and Herzer, 1993]. These faults exist in greywacke and schists that cap strong oceanic plateau rocks. It is likely that these faults continue in the crust beneath Canterbury Plains and are capable of being reactivated as strike-slip faults. Specifically for the February 2011 event, another possible fault origin is reactivation of faults generated during volcanism that formed Banks Peninsula to the south of the city roughly 6–12 million years ago. It is uncertain whether faulted basement near the peninsula is greywacke and schist or even more rigid uplifted basalts from an oceanic plateau.

Precise locations of aftershocks from the 2011 event fall along the northern and western flanks of the volcanic complex [Bannister et al., 2011]. This likely resulted from both the presence of easily reactivated existing faults and a concentration of regional stresses around the volcano.

Static Coulomb failure stress (CFS) is a measure of a fault’s stress state, or “nearness” to failure. ... CFS on the fault that ruptured in the February 2011 earthquake increased by a modest amount, less than 0.1 megapascal, following the September 2010 event. This amount is much smaller than CFS changes elsewhere in the region, suggesting that the fault that failed in the February event was already highly stressed and close to failure prior to the September event.

…Geodetic modeling by Beavan et al. [2011] based on GPS and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data suggests that the February 2011 Mw 6.2 earthquake resulted from a maximum of about 2.5 meters of oblique-reverse slip (where the hanging wall moves up) on a south dipping fault beneath the northern edge of the volcanic complex southeast of Christchurch. Scientists were also able to model the strong-motion data for displacement and bulk rupture velocity. This kinematic model [Holden, 2011] suggests that the rupture began about 9 kilometers under the surface and propagated up the plane of the fault.

While the earthquake did not rupture the surface, the kinematic strong-motion inversion suggests that the maximum displacement was shallow, 2–4 kilometers below the surface, consistent with the roughly 4-kilometer depth from geodetic modeling.

Kinematic modeling indicates that most of the energy in the February 2011 earthquake was directed northwestward, toward the city. Seismological inversions and numerical wave simulations suggest that the rupture velocity was close to the shear wave velocity in the region (~3.1 kilometers per second). As rupture speed and the shear wave velocity are similar, shear wave energy was effectively “stacked” during the approximately 3 seconds of upward rupture, increasing the amplitude of the arriving waves by compressing the time over which they arrived [Fry et al., 2011].

…Many accelerograms recorded in Christchurch also exhibit positive vertical spikes in peak ground acceleration (PGA). Most of the high-acceleration vertical records are asymmetric, with maximum accelerations in the upward direction (>1 g) exceeding accelerations in the downward direction (<1 g) [Fry et al., 2011]. Similar asymmetric recordings from Japan’s Mw 6.9 Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku earthquake of 2008 have been attributed to a “trampoline” effect [Aoi et al., 2008; Yamada et al., 2009]. Aoi et al. [2008] attribute the asymmetry to the decoupling of near-surface materials during high-amplitude downward acceleration. This occurs when the tensile forces that arise on an interface or within a granular material from downgoing particle oscillation are larger than its tensile strength. The result is an approximate free fall of the material. In this model the high upward accelerations are caused by the compressional response of the granular media to the stress of the upgoing particle oscillation. Yamada et al. [2009] suggest that the large positive accelerations are further enhanced by “slapdown” as free-falling upper soil layers interact with deeper layers that are returning upward during the following earthquake wave phases.

Ongoing numerical simulations and back-projection studies suggest that Banks Peninsula acted as a reflector in the Mw 7.1 event and an oscillator during the Mw 6.2 event. In the former case, it is likely that energy reflected from the peninsula interfered with direct arrivals, increasing the amplitude of the waves in Christchurch. In the latter case, modeling suggests that the peninsula received direct body wave energy from the rupture and released it as longer-period surface waves, thus extending the duration of the shaking in Christchurch.

CORE Gave Me A Tube!

Yesterday, after hopping around in aerobics class over at Pepper's, Maggie Knipe from CORE sidled beside me and handed me a cardboard tube. "For the nice support you offer the company," she said. "It's a poster signed by the members of the company!" I was thrilled!

Leaving the class, I showed the tube to Pepper. He looked a little dubious. "So, you don't know who or what it's a poster of, exactly."

I said: "No, but I'll find out! It's like Christmas in October!"

Nice poster!

Be sure to catch their last weekend of shows:
"The Doorway"
October 27, 28, 29, 2011
7:30 pm

Benvenuti Performing Arts Center
4600 Blackrock Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95835
Apparently CORE will not have a Spring Show next year; at least, not here in Sacramento. The group will go On Tour. One performance location is likely to be Logan, UT, where Kelli Leighton hails from. But for Sacramento folk who love dance, it will mean a year-long CORE drought. So be sure to catch the shows this weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Incremental Fence-Building Sunday With Joe The Plumber

J.: I'm telling you, that guy ripped me off! Wouldn't even pay me for my work! I'm going to mess him up!

M.: Instead, let's go get something from Wendy's, come back, and finish this portion of the fence. Then I can trim the oak tree and clean the gutters and you can do whatever.

J.: I'll get a Santa Fe Combo.

M.: I'll have the chicken soft tacos.

J.: I should introduce you to my friends.

M.: Sounds interesting!


Two failed CPR exams in a week for E. Third's the charm?

Lydia Smith's Dessert Cabaret In Clarksburg

On Saturday night, numerous folks from Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC) went down to Clarksburg to support Lydia Smith (most-recently seen as Princess Tuptim in DMTC's "The King And I") in her efforts to raise money for a church mission to Scotland (starting in December). Desserts were provided for donations, and many people from both DMTC and the Clarksburg Community sang and entertained for Lydia's generous supporters.

It had been awhile since I had been down Clarksburg way: eight years, to be exact (since the 2003 gubernatorial race). Even though it's just a short distance from Sacramento, I get down there so infrequently that they might as well have labeled the map 'Here There Be Dragons'. But Saturday night, Clarksburg was a warm and inviting place!

Most of my pictures didn't turn out well, but a few did....

Clarksburg Community Church.

Alec Henderson.

Laura Wardrip.

Lydia Smth (as Sally, from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown").

DMTC kids perform 'It's a Hard Knock Life' from "Annie" (Ashley Hickman, x, x, Elena Lipman, Lydia Smith (obscured), Julia Smith, Hannah Wallace).

Storyteller from Canada (?) whose story with an ocarina amusingly never quite took flight.

Lydia Smith.

Lydia Smith and Laura Wardrip.


Overheard while walking past a small boy seated in an outdoor cafe:
I don't care! When I grow up I'm going to be a sword fighter!