The Environment, Our Earth’s Lost Frontier?

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(On the left horizon, hydrocarbons are being released into the air, blemishes an otherwise clear arctic day.)

Multimedia eLearning by: David A. Johanson © All Rights

All Roads Lead to Nowhere

Early in my career as a photographer I received assignments which took me above the Arctic Circle. Construction companies and architects working for oil companies in Alaska’s North Slope hired me to photograph their on going developments. At that time the Prudhoe Bay oil field’s production had peaked due to years of sustained extraction. A new oil field near the Kurparuk River, west of Prudhoe Bay was the site I was sent to. The Kuparuk oil field is the second largest oil field in North America by area, and traveling by aircraft was the way I moved from site to site.

Roads and construction sites above the arctic circle, rely on heaps of gravel placed over the tundra’s surface to prevent them from sinking into the earth when the ground thaws. Traveling less than 100 feet off the tundra, at 150 miles per hour, the pilot of the Hughes 500D helicopter races to horizon. The orange shelters at the edge of the road, is our intended destination. These metallic enclosures are used to pump hot steam down-into the wells, for recovering a thick slurry of oil, locked deep below the frozen tundra.

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Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

Alaska, the Last Frontier  

Flying above an older oil facility, it can clearly be seen — the years of oil production have left Rorschach-like-ink-blots, splattered on the surrounding tundra. I have not been to the oil fields for many years, but I was told at the time — ‘oil companies were trying to cleaning up their act, while leaving a smaller footprint.’ I pray what I heard was true, but as we know — accidents both large and small continue to happen.

On a clear day while flying above vast stretches of tundra, we viewed a small monument, which marked where Will Rogers and Wiley Post had been killed in a plane crash. I spotted dozens of randomly placed metallic cylinders near the site. My bush pilot brought the airplane down for a closer look and cynically said, those are abandoned, empty 50 gallon oil barrels… known as —“Alaska’s state flower.”

Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

An old barn in the shadow of Anacortes oil refinery.
There’s something charming about old barns as they weather over the years. This one with its organic wood earth tones, is contrasted against the metallic cylinders of an oil refinery in Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle, on the edge of Puget Sound. On April 2, 2010 five workers were killed at this oil refinery as an explosion and fire ripped through part of the refinery.

Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

 

EARTH Day seems to have more meaning as the impact of global warming, seismic and volcanic activity focuses our attention on the big picture.

Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

Our world is delicately balanced, spinning through space, with us all aboard along for the journey. At least one day, one week, out of a busy calendar year, we’re asked to give homage to our planet by being aware of its’ environment. In honor of this day, I’m sending out photographs and prose that reflect current events affecting our world’s environment.

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Earth Day 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One World, One Planet.”
A fascinating, outdoor setting, with an incredibly diverse ecosystems is the Rainforest of the Olympic National Forest. It was a late summer day when I hiked down form Lake Osset, to where the rainforest meets the Pacific Ocean. This area has never been logged, the old growth forest here stands as it has for thousands of years.

After setting up a tent I walked along a trail leading to a lush meadow. A twig snapped a few feet away from me, revealing two unusual looking deer, grassing in the tall grass. Never have I encountered wildlife, where if I desired, could reach out and touch it. The deer could plainly see me; yet they made no effort to scramble away or even conceal themselves. The reason this wildlife seems tame is that they reside within a remote National park, where no hunting is allowed.  Slowly, I raised my camera loaded with my favorite Kodachrome transparency film. As I began to take a series of photos, I noticed unusual patterned markings on the deer’s body.  Refocusing my lens, amazingly, what appeared was a map of the earth, patterned on the deer. Last year I scanned the transparency, then enhancing it with Photoshop, the world continents clearly revealed themselves in what I’ve themed
– “One Planet, One World.”

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“Paradise Lost” –
Have you ever gone back to a place and found what you had once treasured was missing? The longing for beauty, which once was, is a reoccurring theme used to select many photos in this essay.

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Earth Day 2010

 

 

 

 

 

“Paradise Lost” –
The enchanting scene with a man gazing into the pools of water is from Whatcom Falls. My college roommate sitting on the moss-covered boulders is Mark Nishimura, a fine-art photographer, originally from the state of Hawaii. Mark asked that I photograph him in a place that was reminiscent of the waterfalls back home on Ohau. I used a Hasselblad and slow speed transparency film to help capture the dynamic range of shadows and highlights. This was one of my favorite places to photograph when I attended school at Western Washington University, in Bellingham. Many students would spend summer afternoons cooling off, diving and swimming amongst the deep pools of water. A short walk into Whatcom Park, placed you in a lush environment, under a thick canopy of evergreen trees, moss-covered vegetation with sounds of cascading waterfalls running throughout it.  Environmental Photography

Some years after this photo was taken, tragedy struck, instantly incinerating this charming environment. A refinery’s 16-inch fuel-line running next to the park, ruptured, spewing nearly 300 thousand gallons of gasoline into the creek. In an instant, the fuel ignited, creating a river of fire, which killed three youths fishing in the creek and sending a toxic vapor cloud six miles into the atmosphere. The fireball and plume of smoke was visible from Anacortes to Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  Now, ten years after the catastrophe, I plan to return to the falls and photograph the site with hopes that nature’s healing process is transforming it back to the way it use to be.

Environmental Photography

 

 

 

 

Environmental Photography

 

 

 

 

Environmental Photography

Earth Day 2014

“Paradise Found” –
I remember a photography teacher I had in college took us to a beach near Chukanut Drive. When he gave out the assignment, most of the class groaned; we were to pick a spot on the beach, stay within a 25-foot diameter and shoot a series of photos to tell a story. Most of us wanted to take our cameras and explore what the entire beach had to offer. Surprisingly, it was one of the best assignments I was ever given in school; because it broke the stereotype about how you were suppose to see. Within that small domain we discovered, a whole universe was waiting to reveal itself before the camera lens. That photography lesson has stuck with me since, although world travel is a passion, I realize that I really didn’t have to go any farther than my backyard to find great images and no matter what, if resourceful, amazing subjects can be found everywhere.

My home’s back yard is like an outdoor studio full of indigenous plants, birds and amphibians. We avoid using pesticides and only use natural fertilizers on the yard and garden. One afternoon I found this charming tree frog sitting on a leaf, warming itself in the sunshine. With a macro lens on my camera, I was able to get within inches of the frog and let the background merge into soft abstract forms. The photo makes me smile whenever I see it because it reminds me, I never have to go far to reconnect with nature.

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On a moonlit night, traveling the back-roads of Washington and Oregon —
we found countless sentinels standing guard against the cold breeze of darkening skies.

 

 

 

 

Environmental Photography                  

The Future is Now…
Working tirelessly with the wind, turbines spin against the moon backdrop, producing ‘clean energy’ for the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the Americas and many other places in the world, the tide is turning as we move more towards wind and solar for a clean, renewable energy source.

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Web Links For Earth Day 

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/illinois&id=9511926

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/04/22/tri-state-area-commemorating-earth-day-with-series-of-events/

 

http://www.earthday.org

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140421-earth-day-2014-facts-environment-epa/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/04/22/earth_day_2014_a_few_fun_facts_about_our_planet.html

 

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THE MARTIAN PROPHECIES – Earth’s Conquest of the Red Planet.

 
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Early Mars terraforming site inspected by an American first-generation colonist. 

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Essay and multimedia content by: David Anthony Johanson ©All writing and photography within this program (unless indicated) was produced by the author.

If you would like to see this essay in an alternative graphic format please visit our Science Tech Tablet site at:    http://sciencetechtablet.wordpress.com/

Fu-tur-ism                                                                                                                               noun                                                                                                                          

1. Concern with events and trends of the future or which anticipate the future.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke

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How Earth Conquered Mars And Successfully Colonized The Red Planet

March 2054

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The Evolutionary Mastery Of Mars

In a forty-year period, the march towards making Mars inhabitable, astonished the most optimistic futurist. A sequence of technological events and economic opportunities (commonly known as the Third Industrial Revolution) converged seamlessly, allowing for safe and efficient journeys to the fourth planet from our Sun. Now, human life has sustained itself and is beginning to thrive on Martian soil.

On Earth, three decades into the third millennium, unstable global weather patterns caused by environmental abuse to our oceans, created extreme ripple effects with appalling famines and droughts.  Then, suddenly a horrific rain of fire appeared as a sequence of catastrophic meteorite strikes plagued Earth— hastening humanity’s efforts to reach for the red planet. Of all the planets in our solar system — Mars has proven the best hope as a lifeboat and as a refuge for life taking hold.

Collaboration from the World’s nations, aligned rapidly to expand the colonies beyond Earth’s low-orbit. These outposts are in a stable formation at Sun-Earth Lagrangian Points:  L2, L4,  L5 and beyond. The various sites are used to support manufacturing, exploration and asteroid mining operations. Once established, they became “stepping-stones” towards Mars. Distant supply and launch stations are currently expanding at Sun-Mars Lagrangian points, circulating Mars.

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Triumph Through Large Scale Asteroid Mining 

After the first three decades of daring space exploration in the late Twentieth Century, momentum was lost from lack of compelling mission. Chemical propulsion system limitations and lack of aerospace manufacturing beyond Earth’s orbit, slowed space exploration’s progress. Major superpowers lacked funding and political will to achieve great advances beyond low Earth Orbit.

As the Twenty-First Century progressed, collaboration of prime aerospace companies Boeing and Space X, developed, hybrid launch vehicles to accelerate humanity’s expanded presence in space. Private commercial ventures determined a great potential existed for mining valuable resources from near Earth asteroids and the Moon. The first company to successfully begin asteroid mining were Planetary Resources, with funding provided by wealthy technology luminaries. Mars Frontier series

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Three-D Printing In Space – A Bridge To Infinity 

Early in the Twenty-first Century, new advanced technological tools were developed for flexible and efficient manufacturing. After revolutionary 3-D printing operations took hold in space, opportunities expanded rapidly to develop massive infrastructure beyond Earth’s orbit. Three-D printing devices made prefabrication of immense living and working sites possible on the Moon and various stationary points well beyond Earth’s gravitational influence.

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Three-D printing for manufacturing space-station stepping-stones

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Beyond Earth’s Orbit — Islands In Space

As the population of human enterprises rapidly expanded into deep space, exploration of Mars became practical and irresistible.

Using a spectrum of cybernetic applications, including artificial intelligences (AI), atomically precise manufacturing (APM) and 3-D printing provided cost-effective infrastructure manufacturing  to expand beyond Earth’s low orbit. The network of space station developments offers a growing population of skilled aerospace workers — dynamic living and work environments.

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) produces an endless variety of manufactured goods for the inhabitants of interplanetary space. As the initial space stations quickly expanded and connected to one another, they became known as “Island Stations.” Adopting interplanetary codes for infrastructure support commonality is maintained for all inhabitants and guest visits by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA).

A network of stepping stone islands, which initially were used to extend the reach of asteroid mining operations from stable points beyond a low Earth orbit, is essential for colonizing Mars.Island_stations_eBPP_2054

Approximately 10 million miles from Earth, a network of station islands is positioned as a gateway point to Mars. These station networks are mutually protected from solar storms/flares by their own artificial magnetosphere. Earth (blue dot) and its moon can be seen near the upper-center part of the photo.

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Revolution — Electro Magnetic Propulsion And Magnetic Shield Protective  Fields 

Revolutionary, electromagnetic propulsion systems, using super-cooled, conducting magnets and magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) were developed for vastly superior performance over conventional chemical rockets. The time required to reach destinations such as Mars has been reduced significantly, by a factor of one year to less than two weeks. Initial funding from NASA and ESA, created a collaboration between Boeing, SpaceX and Virgin Galatic to produce these hybrid propulsion space craft. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/boeing-spacex-to-team-with-nasa-on-space-taxi/ 

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The greatest threat to human space travel and colonization is from solar winds of magnetized plasma carrying protons and alpha particles, which can break down DNA and lead to cancer. A magnetic coil shield system allows space craft protection from most harmful radiation by creating its own magnetosphere. This shielding system harnesses for universal applications to protect space station populations, inner planetary travelers and Martian colonies.

A high energy accelerator was developed on Mars using spectrums of solar energy to recreate a magnetic field to help produce a sustainable atmosphere.

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                        Mars Frontier series

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   An electromagnetic propulsion cargo ship as it begins entering a high energy state.

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Electromagnetic propulsion “asteroid lifter” encounters solar wind storm.                                    

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NASA illustration.

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Genetic Modification Through Astrobiology Provides Essential Benefits For Human Space Travelers

Evolutionary biology has provided advantages to meet the challenges of human travel into deep space.

Mars Frontier seriesThe first generation of genetically modified humans was created to limit the effects and risk from extended space travel. Microchip circuitry imbedded into tissue, gave humans expanded capabilities to assure space survivability, productivity, and flight operations. To combat muscle degradation from zero gravity-exposure, contractile protein levels were increased in muscle tissue. Mars Frontier series

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Settlements On The Red Planet And Stages Of Terraforming

To survive solar radiation effects, early Mar’s settlers lived bellow the planet’s regolith (soil).  Within less than a decade, the colonies developed their own localized magnetosphere, which became encapsulated environments within translucent domes — creating an atmospheric oasis. These aerodynamic structures offer shielding from dust storms and subzero temperatures. Now, an enriched quality of life on Mars includes ever-expanding domains of Earth like atmosphere for expanded development and life above the surface of the red planet.

Meteor showers during a Martian sunrise
Meteor showers streaming above craters and cliffs during a Martian sunrise.

Massive mirrors are fixed in orbit above Mars for reflecting warmth back onto its surface, to provide a more temperate climate. Reflected light directed at Martian polar ice caps and its Carbon dioxide atmosphere of CO2 helps to keep thermal energy near the planet’s surface. As a result, a thermal runaway greenhouse effect is created to help build a thicker atmosphere. Release of microorganisms on the red the planet dramatically accelerates production, for intensifying greenhouse gas expansion.

Directing small asteroids with rich concentrations of ammonia to impact nitrate beds on Mars, releases high volumes of oxygen and nitrogen. These highly controlled asteroid strikes are providing substantial positive results to help develop an enriched atmosphere.

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Nanotechnology is now employed on the surface of Mars and is dramatically altering landscape regions within various craters. Genetically modified plant forms are successfully taking hold and surviving some test environments. In conclusion, all of these achievements are creating a more Earth like climate, for efforts to terraform Mars.

Earth’s Sustainable Community On Mars

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Self replicating machines using APM manufacturing allow infrastructure to develop at astonishing rates on the red planet. New scientific, engineering and mining communities are establishing themselves rapidly as they descend from orbiting stations and stationary platforms above the planet. The current population on Mars has surpassed 40,000 inhabitants and is projected to double within the next five-years.

The form of governance adopted by the colonies on Mars is based on a nonpolitical and international form of cooperation.  Asteroid mining and APM manufacturing are the largest industries associated with the Mars colonies.

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 Martian colonists celebration party for “Pioneer Days.” Martian sunset seen in the background, behind a massive protective atmospheric shield.

Fossil Bed Enigma Reveals We May Never Have Been Alone

Found only days ago in the Antoniadi Crater region, is evidence of a fossil and what appears to be human like footprints. Although this discovery may revolutionize our view of the red planet — we must wait for the samples to arrive on Earth to confirm what could be one of the greatest discoveries of all time.

                                                                        Discovery at a Martian archeological dig site — “we have never been alone.”

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Mars Frontier series

Perchance, the most fascinating evidence of preexisting intelligence of life on Mars, was discovered near the Antoniadi Crater. Enclosed within a geographic site is a source, which is emitting peculiar magnetic fields. Upon further analysis revealed, distinct patterns of what appears as a mysterious complex digital codex. After extensive review and evaluation using a network of 2020 Enigma Genisus Computing systems interpreted it as audible, instrumental sounds accompanied by visual projections of humanoid syncopated movements.BoC video See Ya Later

Most perplexing is the referenced quantitative variables, suggest the site was or is a time capsule or possibly a time-portal. To see audio and visual projection click on the link below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53bCaqz0zZA 

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Music soundtrack for the Martian Prophecies — Powered by Boards of Canada (you can open another web browser if you like and have the following music play while viewing this essay)

Solar System & Planetary travel, music, dedicated to the “Shield of Achilles” – protector of the inner planets  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l_IMOweP0E

Martian pioneers’ celebratory music – video chronicle International Space Station development and logistic support leading to permanent Mars colonization  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jBzl–TN1Q  and or ⇒ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYEZueAelKc     

Music for terraforming Mars too – video chronicles Mars atmospheric enrichment and the planets terraforming stages   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qthHlLyvplg

 

Martian moonlight illuminates sculpted cliffs, as "Vesta II" (logistics platform) enters view —piercing the night sky with solar light reflecting off its West-East orbital path.

Martian moonlight illuminates sculpted cliffs, as “Vesta II” (logistics platform) enters view —piercing the night sky with solar light reflecting off its West-East orbital path.

 

Facts Concerning Mars

One day on Mars = 24 hours 37 minutes and 22 seconds.

One year on Mars = 686.98 Earth days.

Average distance from Earth to Mars = 225 million kilometers.

The minimum distance from Earth to Mars = 54. million km.

The farthest distance from Earth to Mars = 401 million km.

Warmest temperature of Mars — 70 degrees F (20 degrees C) near the equator

Origin of the name Mars = Ancient Roman god of war and agricultural guardian

The calendar Month named after Mars = March

Links to Learn More About Mars

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travelinginspace/future_propulsion.html

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2008/nov/06/magnetic-shield-could-protect-spacecraft

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/gallery-mars/

http://www.nss.org/settlement/mars/zubrin-colonize.html

http://cbhd.org/content/whose-image-remaking-humanity-through-cybernetics-and-nanotechnology

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/09/12/outer_space_can_we_make_mars_or_venus_habitable.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_private_spaceflight_companies

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2013/05/29/can-mars-be-terraformed-nasas-maven-mission-could-provide-answers/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point

http://www.applieddefense.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2001-Carrico-Sun-Mars_Libration_Points_And_Mars_Mission_Simulations.pdf

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2305/1

http://www.marssociety.org/

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2014/09/08/where-build-off-world-colonies/#.VGp-1BYexjk

http://www.nss.org/spacemovement/greason.html

http://web.mit.edu/sydneydo/Public/Mars%20One%20Feasibility%20Analysis%20IAC14.pdf

A list of over 400 essays on Mars   http://www.123helpme.com/search.asp?text=mars 

Links to Third Industrial Revolution   http://www.thethirdindustrialrevolution.com

http://www.economist.com/node/21553017

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Industrial_Revolution:_How_Lateral_Power_is_Transforming_Energy,_the_Economy,_and_the_World

 

 

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Big Picture One – Directory Of Multimedia eLearning Posts

Multimedia essays & eLearning programs by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights 

To quickly view sites of interest, just click on the white text to the right of the feature photo & above the program’s description. You also have the option to navigate to each essay by simply scrolling down past the end of this directory.

Essays are listed in chronological order from when they were first published.

You’ll find in each program essay, a spectrum of resources to help better understand & appreciate the subject matter. To enhance your experience, a variety of carefully considered dynamic content is used, including: photographs, videos, graphics, text & hyperlinks to other sites. Every effort is made to assure the information presented is factually correct by cross referencing content & giving proper credit for creative work used in the stories & essays.

You’re invited & encouraged to comment on the programs presented here, by doing so, you enrich the site by making it a more interactive experience. All constructive comments are welcome, even if you’re not in total agreement with the article’s point of view.

The author of these sites is a multimedia photographer, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer.

For an alternative graphic format of these programs, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/new-brain-based-learning-strategies-explored-using-neuroimaging/  New Brain-Based Learning Strategies Explored To Help Achieve Your Full Potential. Finding and sharing new learning strategies, that are inspired from evidence based, neuroimaging and brain-mapping studies, is a dynamic process to help assist individuals in reaching their full learning potential. Brain-based learning is a spectrum of teaching strategies, which uses neuroscience research on how the brain functions in achieving ideal development and potential. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/gone-in-30-seconds-elearning-program-on-rocket-launch-disaster/  Gone In 30 seconds… It’s estimated that an average of 8 percent of all commercial rocket launches end in failure. This eLearning program includes a compendium of 20th & 21st century rocket launches, including dramatic failures. A succinct introduction to space law is included for greater appreciation of the consequences and liabilities related to the growing number of commercial rocket launches. A detailed world map illustrates the major spaceports & launch centers using GPS coordinates and web address. 

An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning content covered: — aerospace/astronautic engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology& Space Law. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/david-a-johanson-historian/  Will The Next Jet Airliner You Fly Be Obsolete, And Ready for Early Retirement?  This multimedia essay examines the evolving financing strategies and technological developments affecting older generation commercial aircraft. An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning. Assessment tool: A quiz and answer key is located at the end of the program. Learning content covered: aerospace/airliner— aerospace engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

[ Disclaimer: David Johanson is a former Boeing scientific photographer and currently has no stock holdings or a financial interest in: Boeing, Airbus or any other companies referenced in this program. Research in this article has been cross referenced using at least three sources, however, all perspectives and opinions represent only the viewpoints of the author.]

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-environment-our-earths-lost-frontier/ The Environment, Our Earth’s Lost Frontier. A photo essay dedicated to the environment using photos from editorial and industrial photo assignments. From Alaska’s oil rich Arctic region to the tropical rain forest of Hawaii, environmental encounters and stories are visually shared. eLearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Earthday and the environment included within this program. 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/the-martian-prophecies-earths-conquest-of-the-red-planet/  The Martian Prophecies. In this futurist multimedia photo essay, a correspondent from 2054 presents a series of Astronautical engineering and Astrobiology developments enabling the remarkable colonization of Mars. ELearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Extensive photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Mars colonization included within this program.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/an-introductionary-guide-to-steampunk/ A Beginners Guide to Steampunk. — Photo essay introduction to Steampunk subculture. As a sub-genre of science fiction its practitioners feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry & a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments. Subjects include critical thinking, alternative lifestyle, 19TH Century Industrial History & Steampunk Etymology.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/how-did-romes-vitruvius-become-the-worlds-first-impact-player-in-architecture/  Multimedia photo essay introduction to Roman architect & engineer Vitruvius, who writes the first book on architecture. Vitruvius’ influence is relevant for modern architecture, STEM, Pre-Engineer & CTE related content. For Secondary & post secondary learning. ELearning, Links relating subject matter, quizzes for learning. Extensive photography of Roman architecture featured from: Rome, Ostia Antica & Herculaneum.

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Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e8v474bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/photos-of-pearl-harbor-visitor-center/  Low light architectural photography of the new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center on Oahu, Hawaii. Multicultural essay of modern Hawaiian & Pan Pacific Cultures. — multimedia photo essay, eLearning, photo tutorial on marketing & night photography, reference links

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Sky_look_ BPP_ae208Is Space Law Really That Far Over Your Head? | bigpictureone   Space Law introduction, case studies, space port launch sites, space debris, asteroid mining includes history of the modern rocket program. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, quizzes, interactive map, video links, reference links
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Reflecting on the 33rd Anniversary of Mount Saint Helens Eruption | bigpictureone    Reflections on a close encounter with one of the worlds most active stravovolcanos.  Mt. Saint Helens eruption – photo essay, eLearning, reference links

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What Chance Will America’s Youth Have In A Changing   STEM_EXPFair_ESD_BPP_E23Global Economy? | bigpictureone STEM Education & Magnet Schools – Origins of the program & its success in public education. STEM expo at Mountlake Terrace HS -Edmonds School District.–  Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, reference links

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Photo-illustration: David Johanson Vasquez © All RightsReflections From A Future Hawaii. Can A Tropical Paradise Become A Portal To Deep Space? | bigpictureone   Futuristic Hawaii in the year 2054 as it’s transformed into a space port & gateway to space. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, links

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Waikiki_Santa_BPP_E22An unusual encounter with a Waikiki Santa Clause | bigpictureone      Photo essay of a Waikiki Santa Clause using an adaptation of Clement Clare Moore’s (1799 -1863) classic poem — Twas the night before Christmas. Multimedia photo essay.  Mele Kalikimaka! — multimedia, poetry, eLearning

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Silhoute_man_ocean_BPP_E227https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/will-the-last-people-remaining-in-america-turn-the-lights-back-on/  Multimedia essay on solar flares, solar/geomagnetic storms & solar maximum of 2013-2014. Potential solar storm scenarios, which government scientist & federal agencies are warning about, including loss of world power grids. Resources & links to various publications & sites  included. — multimedia, eLearning on solar storm history & threats to current infrastructure, STEM related content, quizzes, reference links

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EPSON scanner imageA Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole | bigpictureone Family photo taken in 1941 at Havana’s Sloppy Joe’s, inspired this photo essay of events shortly before & after the start of WWII. Family chronicled as they arrive in Panama for reunion with my grandfather, evacuated & survive being stalked by German wolf-pack U-boat submarine. — multimedia essay – eLearning

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R22_Helicopt_DAJ_44The Latest Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle From the R22 Beta Helicopter – Part 2 of 2 | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography of Seattle & Boeing field, using an R22. — STEM & CTE learning, multimeida, eLearning, quizzes video essay.

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R22_helicopt_DAJ_42A Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle      From the R22 Beta II Helicopter – Part 1 of 2. | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography for Port of Seattle, from Boeing Field, using an R22, eLearning video essay. STEM & CTE learning, aerospace engineering. — mutlimedia, eLearning, quizzes, resource links

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Man_micro_chip_BPP_et169https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/who-were-the-titans-of-telecommunication-and-information-technology/ Introduction to R&D research labs through a multimedia history of Bell Laboratory, its developments inventions. Second chapter explores Xerox PARC founding in Silicon Valley &  contributions it made to personal computing & telecommunications. — eLearning, quizzes, reference links

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Star_Showr_Ref_Lk_BPP_e616https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/blinded-by-the-light-in-the-middle-of-night/  Photo essay on light pollution’s effects on night photography, astronomy, animal migrations & quality of life. Mount Rainier National Park & long exposure photographs of landscape & star constellations are featured in this essay. — multimedia, eLearning, STEM related content,  quizzes, resource links

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Aurora_Bor_BPP_il_0011_1https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-or-is-there/  Multimedia essay introduction to solar storms (including historical perspective), CME’s, effects of geomagnetic disturbances & potential threats to global electrical power grids. The connection between solar storm activity & aurora Borealis — eLearning, STEM related content, quizzes, resource links

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Orvi_Italy_BPP_E0412https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/exploring-etruscan-ruins-beneath-the-cliffs-of-medieval-orvieto-italy/ Multimedia essay on one of Europe’s best kept secrets — the medieval fortress citadel, Orvieto. Explores Etruscan ruins, grottos, medieval architecture, massive cathedrals & nearby Umbria countryside. Examines Etruscan art & its misunderstood cultural traditions under the shadow of the Roman Empire. — Critical thinking, World history & culture, travel, e-Learning, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Paint_Hills, BPP__42https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/1382/ Multimedia essay includes video interview with a National Park Service’s ranger on the unique geology & wildlife qualities of John Day National Monument’s Painted Hills. Video features exclusive walking tour, which occurs only once per year. — night photography, resource links

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Boe_ing_787_First_Flt_BPP_Bg404Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Historic First Flight From Paine Field, Everett, WA. | bigpictureone Historic first flight video of Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Everett facilities by BigPictureOne. Multimedia of Boeing Scientific photography experience related to aircraft structures & test engineering. — ELearning, STEM & CTE Ed, large photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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SeaSPNed_BP_90_MRhttps://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-world-event-which-launched-seattle-into-a-post-modern-orbit-50-years-ago-today/  Multimedia essay explores an early postmodern World’s fair — known as Seattle’s Century 21 Worlds Fair, opened in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  e-Learning, STEM related content, quizzes, extensive photos

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twinT_WTC_NYC BPP_arl_44https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/the-day-after-911-ten-years-after/ Multimedia narrative of a 1998 visit to the NYC World Trade Center Towers & the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seattle architect Minoru Yamasaki’s designs of the NYC Trade Centers are compared with his Seattle Science Center design for the Century 21 Worlds Fair —eLearning, critical thinking, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Snoqu_almie_Falls_BPP_Ae_6174Luminous Beauty of Low-light Photography | bigpictureone Photo essay tutorial on low-light photography. Strategies & techniques of using low noise sensors in digital cameras. Terms such as magic hour & HDR photography are explained. — eLearning, CTE related content, photo gallery

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Kingdome Demo_BPP_ 2KIngdome demolition March 26 2000 | bigpictureone Video multimedia essay of one of the World’s largest demolitions of Seattle Kingdome. E-learning, video tutorial (featured slow-motion & high-speed video effects), essay of event & aftermath from dust storm. Reference links included.

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Tech_abst_BPP__3ea1Will The Current Solar Storms Hitting Earth, Lead To Lights-out for us by 2013-2014? | bigpictureone A multimedia essay introduction to solar storms, history of geomagnetic effects on industrial & postmodern societies. Civil preparedness, Photos & videos of Aurora Borealis. STEM & solar physics undergraduate content, extensive photos, resource links

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Will the Last People Remaining In America, Turn the Lights Back On?

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Multimedia essay & images by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights Reserved

Series 1 of 2

For background on solar storms please view the previous essays:  Will the current solar storms hitting Earth, lead to lights-out for us all by 2013? | bigpictureone    There’s Nothing New Under the Sun, or is There? | bigpictureone    As a likely threat to ending our modern civilization —a severe solar storm is unmatched as a natural disaster and yet it is vastly underreported. An alternative graphic format of this site is at: http://sciencetechtablet.wordpress.com/

Now that we’ve moved beyond December 21, 2012 and you know, the Mayan prophecy wasn’t about the end of the world — there’s some truly sobering news about what really does threaten our civilization. A powerful, natural solar event, which affects everyone living today, is now reaching the peak of a violent cycle. Documented by history and science, this potential event could cripple our civilization by destroying the essential technology we rely on and throwing us all back into the “dark ages.” The key to avoiding this global catastrophe is within our grasp — if  we and our National leaders are prepared to be aware of the problem and act by using the correct resources for defending our National power grid.

A Shocking Glimpse of Things To Come                                                               Aurora_Bor_BPP_il_0011

To understand what we’re up against, you only have to go back a short distance of time, to March 13, 1989. A chain-reaction near the surface of the sun was triggered by a solar flare on March 9. Thousands of miles of magnetic arcs collided, causing violent high-energy explosions, which were instantly hurled into space. A plasma cloud from the event was observed heading directly towards earth at a million-miles per hour. As the sun’s radiation particle penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere, short-wave radio signals became disrupted, indicating our planet’s protective magnetic field was being overwhelmed.  And the brilliant, surreal light-shows from the“northern lights” heralded the solar storm to astonished viewers in Florida and even Cuba.

A cascading wave of technical glitches, involving electronic components suddenly occurred globally and beyond! The monitoring systems on the U.S. Space Shuttle were sending corrupt signals to mission controllers, while a host of satellites began malfunction and a Japanese satellite was damaged beyond repair.

At 2:44 a.m., after only 90 seconds of detection, the massive Hydro-Quebec power company was knocked offline by surging geomagnetic energy caused from the aggressive solar storm. Moments later, hundreds of utilities within the Eastern U.S. were all suddenly blacking out. As a result of the blackout six-million people were now without power on a winter’s day. Within 40 minutes of the geomagnetic current’s detection — the force continued to build  like a Tsunami as it surged through the entire continental U.S. power grid, nearly collapsing all the Nation’s electric utilities in its path. The event’s speed and power led some to believe we were under attack from a Soviet nuclear electromagnetic pulse “EMP.”

Particle energy shock    wave from solar storm is mostly deflected by Earth's magnetic field.

Particle energy shock wave from solar storm is mostly deflected by Earth’s magnetic field. Photo illustration: David Johanson Vasquez ©

Titanic burst of charged particles created from a solar flare. Photo-illustration: David Johanson Vasquez ©

Titanic burst of charged particles created from a solar flare. Photo-illustration: David Johanson Vasquez ©

The Achilles Heel of Our Technology          Silhoute_Bldg_BBP_et204

Teams of scientist, engineers and physicists began piecing the events together and realized it was first large-scale, solar geomagnetic storm to hit during the postmodern digital electronic era. As powerful as the solar storm was in creating a rogue like wave of geomagnetic induced current (GIC), which saturated the entire planet — it was only one-tenth the strength of the earlier 1921 “super solar storm.” Our electric infrastructure back in the 1920s was in its infancy and we didn’t have voltage sensitive microelectronics, which we now depend on to facilitate all our electronic devices. Today’s complex and overstretched power grids, with their high-power transmission lines are susceptible to geomagnetic energy created from solar storms.

The 1921 solar storm was what scientist classify as a one-in-hundred year storm. Many scientist from NOAA, NASA and the National Academy of Scientist “NAS” predicts a 10 to 12 percent probability of this super solar storm happening within the next 15 years and 100 percent likely some time beyond that time period.

The 2013 solar cycle is now entering its 11-year, peak phase known as solar maximum, this critical phase is of a grave concern as the sun begins to reverse polarity and creates the potential for a super solar storms. History reveals over the decades of time a consistent pattern in the approximate 11 year solar cycle… put the pattern together and it may reveal how little time we have to prepare. This is the pattern from three of the largest storms in recent history:  1989 Quebec-Power geomagnetic storm, the 1921 super solar storm event arrived and the greatest of them all — the 1859 Carrington Solar Storm event all taking place within the 11-year solar maxim.

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

Satellites, The Holly Grail of Telecommunications.

Solar storms and geomagnetic energy presents a spectrum of threats to satellite operations. Scientist, physicists and aerospace engineers have realized the challenges solar storms present to satellites since they were first launched into orbit. The geomagnetic energy caused from mass solar energy interacting with the Earths magnetic field, can cause satellites to lose their orientation and if not corrected… can end their lives or even send them hurling back to Earth. Geomagnetic energy is similar to the static electrify you create when walking on a carpet and then is discharge by touching a grounded object. In satellites there’s no way to discharge the electricity, so it will continue to buildup energy and can fry the tightly packed circuits or damage one of the orientation gyros within it. Another problem created from a GIC is the magnetic energy it contains, which can erase the memory in your computer or any memory storage device. The list of essential industries and services relying on archived records that are threatened by CIGs, goes well beyond the banking and financial institutions.

Telestar 1 Developed by Bell Labs and an consortium of international enterprises

Telestar 1 Developed by Bell Labs and an consortium of international enterprises

Even though this subject is well know in the satellite industry, it’s not a topic journalists will have much luck in finding someone to go on the record for in interviews. Satellite companies don’t like admitting reasons for technical problems experienced with their products. The military is even less forthcoming with satellite information. It’s understandable why the armed forces maintain a proprietary stance on its satellites, but commercial satellite companies could benefit themselves and the entire industry by sharing their experiences with solar storm related activity.

If you have cable television, you’ve probably noticed at some time, the satellite transmitting your program being disrupted by solar storm radiation. An indicator for solar interference is digital tiling, which momentarily appears like a frozen video frame, before breaking up into smaller digital tiles. The last few times I’ve noticed digital tiling on my television, I verified it was from solar interference by going to NOAA’s space weather site, which in fact, confirmed elevated solar storm activity was happening.

Was It My Question On Satellite Solar Vulnerability,  Which Brought An Abrupt End To An Interview With U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell?

Senator Cantwell  sharing her views on technology and education. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights Reserved.

Senator Maria Cantwell sharing her views on technology and education. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights Reserved.

This past July, I arranged a phone interview with Washington State, Senator Maria Cantwell.  Senator Cantwell serves on the U.S. Senate committee for Commerce, Science and Transportation, satellites are a topic this committee holds hearings on. Cantwell also is the committee Chairman on Energy, for the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources committee, which deals directly with the Nation’s electric grid.

The interview began with Senator Cantwell and her advisor as they were traveling to an event. After I gave a brief intro to the interview topics, Cantwell was asked to share what updates the Senate had in regards to hardening our satellite systems against solar storms — particularly relating to the aging GPS satellites, which are now being replaced. There was silence for a moment,  it sounded like the Senator and her advisor had covered the phone for a discussion. Senator Cantwell said she would like to get back to me on that subject — I sensed in that moment, the satellite topic should have been brought towards the end of the interview, so I quickly changed gears and followed-up with — why the Senate was taking so long in approving a Bill, which would help protect the National electric grid? Again, I didn’t get a direct answer and the Senator asked if we could finish the interview at another time.

Our latest technology in the  transmission of electric power uses GPS satellites to help regulate the flow of high voltage electricity through power lines. Also used in the control and monitoring of the electric power is shortwave radio and phone lines all of which can be seriously interrupted by severe GIC caused from a solar storm.

A full spectrum of communication modes can disrupted by a GIC.

A full spectrum of communication modes can disrupted by a GIC.

As it turned out, the Senate later that month approved 84-11 to move forward with advancing the proposal for Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which includes protecting the electric grid. As an example of taking one step forward and then taking two steps back — the Senate voted down in August and again in November the Cybersecurity Act. Part of the reason for the Bill not being approved appears because of a legislative tactic which attached unrelated or conflicting objectives to the Bill, so that opposing the side feels they can get more out of the negotiations.  It’s seems startling in this era of politics, when the Congress or Senate is able to come together quickly and pass any new law without using this protracted tactic.

In the event of a super solar storm, individual homes, neighborhoods and communities could be isolated with no electricity for months or  years.

In the event of a super solar storm, individual homes, neighborhoods and communities could be isolated with no electricity for months or years.

It has to be noted, this was a phone interview, it wasn’t face to face, it’s possible a more pressing matter came in while the interview was in progress. Also, the Senator was in the final months of her Senate election campaign and probably was advised not to comment on anything which could be perceived as politically damaging.

The interview illustrates how challenging it is to help inform the public, along with government officials on what we all are facing from an impending 100-year solar storm event. I have contacts within the electric power industry, including the Bonneville Power Administration, which have been helpful in providing their own perspective on geomagnetic storms, but they’ve all asked to speak off the record. Unfortunately there’s too much pressure to play down the GIC issue from inside the power industry. It’s not pleasant realizing how poorly prepared we are for a potential natural disaster on this scale — that’s why I believe, “mainstream corporate media” has neglected to inform us on the consequences solar storms can have on society. There is industry and government precautions which could be used to help protect the power grid — but it requires courageous political leadership to  enact these safeguards, unfortunately our current politicians are too preoccupied with partisan gridlock to enact the necessary safeguards.

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An Overstretched, Electric Power Grid Creates the Mother of All Antennas!

Government regulators, private and most public power companies have missed critical opportunities to invest in, strengthen and protect our electric power infrastructure from solar geomagnetic storms. Since the wake-up call of the 1989 Hydro-Quebec solar storm, our nation’s electrical grid has been overburdened with higher demand and added thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines. The vast network of power transmission lines stretching over the continent creates the mother of all antennas, for channeling geomagnetic energy into the electric grid.  The lack of investment in transformer security and overuse of the grid, makes it much more vulnerable than it ever was in 1989. An impending solar storm could produce the “perfect geomagnetic super storm,” which in a matter of minutes… decimates most of the nation’s ability to transmit power for several months or even years.

Recently there were comments in an open online physicist forum, regarding threats from geomagnetic storms to the National grid. One thread mentioned a possible way to stop a serious GIC event from destroying high-voltage transformers, is to physically cut the power lines to the transformers. Another physicist replied that the plan just might work, however, he wasn’t sure anyone would be willing an attempt to physically interrupt the electricity collecting behind a continent of power lines.

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Underground pipelines and rail lines are also perfect conductors for channeling GIC’s electric current and have their own issues relating to damage from electromagnetic energy.

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In the 1989 Hydro-Quebec geomagnetic storm, there were only 90 seconds to make a decision on what action to take. Today, it is assumed, power utilities are more prepared with an action plan, however deciding to shut down any section of the grid is an extreme responsibility for an individual. To give an example, last November I was Honolulu, Hawaii, meeting with a friend who works for the Core of Army Engineers. She mentioned, earlier in the year on the Island of Oahu, a serious problem occurred with the transmission of electricity. A plant operator realized something was critically wrong and made the decision to disconnect the power, which caused large sections of the Island to lose power. The initial response from the public and local media was anger and criticism towards the operator, for shutting down the power without notification to thousands of people. It turned out the utility operator actually saved the system from being severely damaged by deciding to act quickly. If the power was allowed to remain on, it could have caused severe system damage and extremely expensive to repair. So in reality this operator’s quick decision and courageous action saved the day for thousands of customers.

Image courtesy of NASA.
Image courtesy of NASA

Deregulation of the Power Industry, Combined With No Centralized Authority over the National Grid In An Emergency  — Potentially Jeopardizes the Economy and Our Safety.  

Deregulation of the power industry has been an adopted policy since the 1980s. It was supposed to encourage industry competition, for creating greater profits for the utilities, allow for steady improvements in infrastructure and lower cost for consumers. In reality deregulation has failed to deliver on its stated objectives.

Independent and comprehensive cost/benefit studies were not completed before deregulation was adopted. Joseph Swidler, former chair of the Federal Power Commission, stated in 1990 editorial of The Electricity Journal — While there is bitter disagreement over … changes, there can be little argument these are occurring haphazardly without the benefit of comprehensive analyses at a national level.” A specific example is the absence of an analysis of the decrease in benefits from coordination as mentioned above, since competition typically results in decreased coordination. [A. CasazzaAllan J. Schultz and Joseph C. Swidler A brave new world: Let’s look before we leap The Electricity Journal, 1990, vol. 3, issue 9, pages 40-43]  SubSt_BPP0709_bt73

Engineering originally defined the qualifications and standards used for policy and management in the power industry.  After deregulation took hold, the industry became beholden to marketing and finance, which de-emphasized engineering standards.

While the original standards used in the power industry were not perfect, it was more reliable and efficient than the current system — which has overstretched the National grid with higher capacity transmission lines and not sufficiently updated key infrastructure needs. Deregulation is what allowed for large-scale fraud and market manipulations to take place. This created unethical opportunities to gouge private consumers and large corporate customers by the former Enron Company in the early part of the 21st Century.

According to industrial insurance underwriters publications, deregulation has forced the majority of power utilities to survive on a slim profit margin, which does not provide adequate reinvestment for infrastructure or necessary research and development. A critical component  of major concern is high voltage transformers.

Environmental stock photography for a New Dawn.

The Issue of High Voltage Transformers

According to industrial insurer’s publications, deregulation has forced the majority of power utilities to survive on a slim profit margin, which does not provide adequate reinvestment for infrastructure or necessary research and development. Many of the high voltage transformers functions at the edge of their life expectancy. It typically takes three years to order, install and have a transformer ready for service. High voltage transformers are no longer manufactured in the U.S.. On average they weigh 100 to 200 tons and are too large for aircraft to transport.

A severe geomagnetic storm creates geomagnetic induced current (GIC), which transfers massive electric energy through the path of least resistance. This energy travels through water, earth and especially through metal such as underground pipes, rail line and electric power lines. The GIC saturates transformers, which distorts the voltage in the system and violently disrupts the entire process of transferring electric power.

Electrical power infrastructure (electrical grid) is vulnerable to major Solar storm's Coronal Mass Mass Ejections (CMEs), Geomagneticly Induced Currents (GMIs) and man made Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP's.)  Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights-

Electrical power infrastructure (electrical grid) is vulnerable to major Solar storm’s Coronal Mass Mass Ejections (CMEs), Geomagneticly Induced Currents (GMIs) and man made Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP’s.) Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights-

As a critical component in the distribution of electric power, transformers have proven vulnerable to geomagnetic energy and their survivability is a major concern to engineers and scientist.  It’s likely a majority of the high voltage transformers would be at risk from  the geomagnetic energy caused from a super solar storm. The transformers and the Nation’s electrical grid are more vulnerable on the East coast due to how overstretched the system is there. In the Western part of the U.S. the power utilities have been more proactive in protecting transformers and the grid is not as dense as it is in the East. The further south in longitude a power grid’s location is a factor in lessening the effects of a geomagnetic storm. Also a location’s geology is a factor, some rock compositions conduct geomagnetic energy more efficiently than others.

According to leading engineering experts in the power industry, a practical strategy to protect the high voltage transformers is to install a surge protector like component on each transformer. The devices are about the size of a washer machine and would cost from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion dollars to protect all of the Nation’s transformers. That’s probably the best value  of an insurance policy which would cover the Nation’s electrical grid, especially compared to the alternative of replacing  several hundred industrial size transformers.

Power

Transformers a risk to keeping the power on – 360 News – Lloyd’s

A Comprehensive Study, With Extensive Geomagnetic Storm Computer Modeling.

In 2010, The Oak Ridge National Laboratory produced an extensive report titled: Geomagnetic Storms and Their Impact on the U.S. Power Grid. The Metatech Corporation was contracted to produce extensive computer modeling on various solar and geomagnetic storm scenarios. The report has been presented to both the U.S. Senate and  House Congressional subcommittee hearings. Here’s a link for you to see for yourself how severe and extensive solar storm impact is likely to be using computer modeling.

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/ees/etsd/pes/pubs/ferc_Meta-R-319.pdf

The Prospect of 400 Chernobyl’s   400_chevnob_103

Russia’s Chernobyl and the United States’ Three Mile Island, are considered two of the greatest nuclear power plant disasters in history. Their legacy was clouds of lethal radiation, which caused mass evacuations and contaminated areas  still not safe for people to inhabit. When these nuclear accidents occurred, there were no earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes to blame. The cause was a combination of technological failure and human error, which prevented the reactor’s cooling system to function, ultimately causing the nuclear disasters.

On March 11, 2011 the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan experienced a 9.0  violent earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami. This time it was a natural disaster which caused a failure of the reactor’s cooling system. The backup electric generators to the reactor’s cooling system also unexpectedly failed, causing the reactors to begin overheating. The reactor released a  substantial radioactive cloud, which forced a 20 mile radius evacuation.

There are federal disaster relief agencies, scientists and engineers questioning if a super  geomagnetic storm would burn out the backup generators for cooling a nuclear power plant’s reactor. Another question is, will the trucks used for hauling diesel to backup generators, even work after waves of geomagnetic energy travel through a vehicles microelectronics. Any type of car transportation or truck transport  will be extremely limited, if electricity is not generated to pumping gasoline and diesel from service stations.

In Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, a number of hospital’s critical backup generators failed to operate. It’s uncertain if backup generators will survive a severe geomagnetic disturbance from a solar storm. With over 400 nuclear power plants throughout the world, a serious geomagnetic storm, could potentially lead to loss of all electrical power to reactor core cooling systems, which would release radiation contamination on a global scale.

The Tragic Events of the RMS Titanic Serves As A Cautionary Analogy

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This past April marked the 100 year anniversary of the “unsinkable” Titanic ocean liner’s maiden voyage. The once modern looking, massive ship was state of the art technology in 1912 — today it represents human arrogance and hubris towards over reliance on technology. The  captain of the Titanic,  Edward J. Smith, was quoted, of ‘not conceiving any disaster which could happen to his vessel’ — after all, no major passenger ship had been lost for nearly 50 years before the launch of the Titanic

882 feet (269. meters) long -maximum breath 92 feet (28. meters) 46, 328 gross registered tons.
882 feet (269. meters) long -maximum breath 92 feet (28. meters) 46, 328 gross registered tons.

White Star Line of Liverpool, England was the premier shipping company at the beginning of the 20th Century. White Star commissioned the construction of RMS Titanic – an Olympic class steam liner.  The passenger ship was outfitted with twin colossal, coal-fired reciprocating turbine steam engines, and the ship’s electric generator produces more power than an average city’s power-plants at that time. It also featured the latest wireless communication technology, capable of sending and receiving signals 1,000 miles away. Owned and operated by the Marconi Company, the radio room was operated 24/7 using two technicians. The radio’s functions were primarily for commercial passenger telegram services, but it also served an operations function for the Titanic as it received useful weather reports and ice warnings.

A functional forced air heating system used electric fans to push warm air through a ventilation network. The Titanic could in an emergency, produce its own fresh water from seawater using a desalination process. Many new living improvements and conveniences on this marvelous, “floating city” employed advance technology created during the late industrial era.

RMS Titanic in its final stages of construction is being outfitted before sea-trials.
RMS Titanic in its final stages of construction is being outfitted before sea-trials.

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Full Speed Ahead Into the Night and Unseen Ice Fields

On April 14, 1912, three days into its maiden voyage the Titanic with its 1,317 passengers and 885 crew members moved swiftly across the North Atlantic. The ship averaged an efficient, 21 knots per hour (24 mph; 39 km/h) through the icy cold waters and approximately 900 miles from its New York destination. As the streamliner approached the coast of Newfoundland, the skies were clearing over an unusually calm Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the day, Titanic’s radio operators received warnings from various ships in the route ahead of where they would soon enter — the captain responded by charting a 10 mile precautionary adjustment to the south for the ships heading. Throughout the day, warnings in Morse code reached Titanic’s radio operators in increase numbers and with more alarming urgency. The Captain assured the concerned operators — their ship had nothing to fear from icebergs and they should  attend to the passengers important communication needs. As the late afternoon melted into the twilight,  Titanic was cruising at full-steam ahead and virtually blind in the calm featureless night.

Comparison of Morse Code.

Comparison of Morse Code.

Two ship’s lookouts climbed the long later attached inside the steamships smoke stack to reach the crow’s nest for the last time. Unfortunately, the bridge binoculars were missing, so the men were forced to rely on their plain eyesight to see any impending danger. The Titanic cruised effortlessly through the flat calm ocean, creating a false sense of security to the crew and passengers — but with icebergs in the water, on a moonless night meant no splashing waves to help warn a watchful lookout. Just before midnight, Fred Fleet, the lookout  in the crow’s nest spotted the Titanic’ s dreadful rendezvous with destiny — a massive iceberg looming dead ahead. The bridge responded immediately by skillfully turning the ship away from the iceberg, the quick maneuver nearly was successful — but then… a horrible sound of solid ice scraping against sheets of steel plates and the profound shutter delivered to the ship — telegraphed it was mortally wounded. Five watertight compartments were breached just below the waterline by the jagged ice, if just one-less compartment would have torn open, this story wouldn’t be told. The largest ship in the world, this floating world with its community of families, workers and wealthy aristocrats, now had less than three hours before the unthinkable would happen.

The Captain and the Star Line management on board must have fallen into total shock and denial of what was happening to their Titanic, technological wonder. These individuals in charge with the responsibility for the ship’s operations and ultimately the passengers safety, were steeped in overconfidence they never conducted drills or consider necessary emergency contingencies and procedures. Fortified with hubris that the Titanic could withstand any act of nature, they lost sight of their most important duties of safe operations and procedures — after all they believed in the myth their ship was built to be unsinkable.

IND MTS Clouds BPP_E20

In the same way the Titanic’s symbolizes a mythic system of indestructible technology, which can withstand anything nature can throw at — our civilization and specifically our Nation is repeating some of the basic errors regarding — an over reliance, complacency, and trust in life supporting technologies.  We’ve been so fortunate to have built a civilization, which harnessed electrical technology to run our industry, heat our homes and provide our security.  For decades, with few exceptions, we’ve had uninterrupted, reliable electric power that is now, taken for granted. Most of us have become shortsighted, with blind-faith in assuming we’ll have reliable electric power, whenever or wherever we need it.

Recorded history has demonstrated solar storms are a real threat to our technologies and civilization. Solar cycles, flares and storm events are a regular occurrence — a super geomagnetic storm will happen again, creating potential for catastrophic effects beyond any scale humanity has ever faced. Reliable, national and international scientific institutions and governmental agencies in charge of safety and security, increasingly  warn us of these real threats to the electric grid.

Unlike RMS Titanic’s captain, whose hubris and over reliance on the technological engineering of his steam liner, lead to the tragic loss of his passengers and the world’s largest ship  — our elected officials and top power industry executives, need awareness of our technology’s fatal weakness and decisively act now to defend it! If our Nation, like the Titanic waits until the impending disaster is upon us to act… It will be too late — the  majority of our population, like those on the doomed infamous ship a 100-years ago will be scrambling for lifeboats that aren’t there. The millions of lives depending on electricity to transport food, medicine and provide security will have no safety-net for years to come. The threat from a natural continental or global catastrophic event is a known reality. It’s time for everyone to educate themselves and have an open dialogue with their families and communities regarding what precautions are necessary to minimize their effects. ~

Particle energy shock    wave from solar storm is mostly deflected by Earth's magnetic field.

Particle energy shock wave from solar storm is mostly deflected by Earth’s magnetic field.

Tech_abst_BPP__3ea1
 

Government Agencies Which Are A Warning Of Solar Storm Potential Dangers

Severe S

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olar Storms Could Disrupt Earth This Decade: NOAA

Scientists warn solar storms could be “global Hurricane Katrina” | Homeland Security News Wire

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Testimony Given to  the U.S. Congress Regarding Threats to the National Grid from Solar Storms

http://www.solarstorms.org/CongressSW.html

SHIELDAct.com / Read H.R. 668 – The SHIELD Act

Testimony Given to the  U.S. Senate Regarding Threats to the National Grid From Solar Storms

http://www.ferc.gov/eventcalendar/Files/20110505082259-Testimony%20McClelland%20(5-3-11%20Final).pdf

http://www.ferc.gov/eventcalendar/Files/20120717100957-7-17-12-FERC-Testimony.pdf

Who Is In the Lead For the Darwin Award Between the U.S. Senate or Congress

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Here Are Some Links For Your Review To Inform Your Own Decision On Who Deserves the Darwin Award.

Feds and Utilities battle over Solar EMP threat in 2014 | SpaceBattles.com

Senators debate security of electricity grid – Washington Times

Senate dumps strategy to prevent EMP damage | The Total Collapse

Murkowski Blocks Effort to Protect US Power Grid

What Can We As Citizen Do To Protect the National Grid

Please check back to view the complete story — new content is being added daily, including an interview with Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell and comments from government agencies and electric power grid representatives.

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Solar Storm  & Electrical Power Portal  [Editorial Links Government Links Industry links & Resources]

Solar Storms & Solar Weather

Space: NOAA Watch: NOAA’s All-Hazard Monitor: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: U.S. Department of Commerce

NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

Solar Storm Warning – NASA Science

SpaceWeather.com — News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids

Active Solar Regions – HAMwaves.com

Solar Satellites Research

Solar Shield–Protecting the North American Power Grid – NASA Science

Electric Power Industry Related to Solar Storm Issues

Lawrence E. Joseph: The Solar ‘Katrina’ Storm That Could Take Our Power Grid Out For Years

Emergency Preparedness & Societal Concerns Related to Solar Storms & EMPs

Are We Smart Enough to Survive … Or Will Humanity Win a Darwin Award? – Washington’s Blog

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Blinded By Light, In The Middle Of Night

 
Multimedia eLearning program by: David A. Johanson © All Rights  — Second Edition

The author is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. For an alternative formatted view of this program, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com

 

My photo wingman, Rick Wong and I headed into the heart of darkness in a quest for the Perseid meteor showers. Mount Rainier National Park, was our destination to use its iconic landmark for framing an infinite field of stars—far from the glare of city lights. Traveling at night in Rick’s new hybrid Ford Fusion, equipped with “information technology”—voice navigation, made it easy finding the park without using a map.

Arriving at our location, luminous stars lit up the night as expected, but we were surprised by some uninvited competition, which nearly stole the show.

A stunning view of Mount Rainier reflected in Reflection Lake, with the summer stars overhead. The pink and orange glow on the left side of the mountain is light pollution emitted from the City of Tacoma, approximately 65 miles northwest.

We found an ideal location above Reflection Lake to begin our photo shoot, with one of the Cascade Mountain’s most famous stratovolcano in the background. An unexpected warm light was glowing behind Mount Rainier, which I reasoned, was a faint remnant from the earlier sunset. However, the sun had set at least four hours earlier, so it couldn’t be the source of the illumination. Rick suggested “its light coming from the City of Tacoma,” located about 65 miles away. During a 20-second long exposures used to take an image of the snow-capped mountain, I began thinking about the effects caused by light pollution.
With a bright moon rising, we worked fast to keep up with the changing light, until its intensity eventually overpowered the stars.

Just now, the moon was rising higher into the night sky, it too was causing us to shift focus on what to photograph. Like a giant diffuse reflector, the moon reflected soft, filtered light onto a previously dark, formless landscape. Moonlight was beginning to compete with the canopy of stars’ brilliance, partially masking crystal clear views of the Milky Way, along with some meteor sightings. So being photo opportunist, we used the moonlight to illuminate shadow-detail on Rainier’s south face.

Like some sorcerer conjuring an intense cauldron of red light, the photographer adjusts his digital settings before Mount Rainier and her crown of stars above.

A Peaceful Paradise Lost                                                                                             There’s a tranquil feeling while in the process of taking long exposures at night; it’s normally quiet and not many visual distractions overwhelm the senses or interrupt your focus. I personally enjoy these rare opportunities of solitude, to visualize an image, using a minimal, Zen like perspective.

 

When a distraction, like a car suddenly rounding a corner occurs, it’s often an annoyance, which takes you out of the moment. My moment was taken by clusters of cars, with glaring lights as they came around a turn… just as the moon illuminated the mountain, as it was reflected onto a perfectly still lake.. Their headlights flooded the calm mirror-like water and stands of old growth trees beyond with glaring intensity— as I used my hands in an attempt to shield the lens from light flare. Finally, the cars diapered into the darkness with no more approaching vehicles until dawn.

Photo-illustration of micro light sources, which can cause light pollution by unintended spill-light.

Moving above the lake to find new angles for interesting compositions, I took notice of something not seen before. Lights of various colors were coming from photographers bellow me, created by their digital camera’s preview monitors and infrared sensors for auto focusing. With the low light-sensitive Nikon cameras I was using, these multicolored monitor lights, appeared like a bright flare on the long exposure images. Now, I had one more unwelcome light source to avoid, which required strategic timing in the photo’s exposures to minimize glare.

Again, my thoughts returned to the issues of light pollution. Recalling the time back home, when I attempted to photograph some constellations at night, only to have a neighbor’s motion sensor flood light, overwhelmed the backyard with brightness. The piercing light  forced me to find the last remaining, isolated shadowed corner of the yard.

My reminiscing was cut short by a distant, but bright, pinpoint of light from bellow Mount Rainier’s summit. Flashlights from mountain climbers near Camp Muir shined bright—like lighthouse beacons from the semi darkened rocks and glacier fields on the mountain. Even the faintest light can shine bright at night as was noted during World War II, when warships were forbidden from having any exterior lights on at night — including a lit cigarette, which posed a risk of being spotted from great distances by enemy submarines.

Lights from mountain climbers on the approach to the summit of Mount Ranier.

Encountering the Universe’s Brilliance                                                                       The improper, overuse of outdoor lighting has erased one of our basic and most powerful human experiences—encountering the universe’s brilliance with its galaxies and billions of stars shining in the night sky! Making visual contact with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of the greatest shows seen from Earth.

 

In less than a century of civilization’s reliance on electric technology: two-thirds of the U.S., half of Europe and a fifth of people in the world—now live where they cannot see the Milky Way with the unaided eye. You can appreciate how we lost our stellar view by seeing aerial photos taken from orbiting spacecraft and the International Space Station. These startling images taken of the Earth at night, reveal a man-made galaxy of artificial light, which cancels out much of the real one in the sky above.

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Some years back, I was a part-owner in a small recreational ranch, in Eastern Washington’s, Okanogan County. Brining friends over from Seattle, it was often nighttime when we arrived. The instant of exiting the cars, was a startling event as the Milky Way’s intensity of light overwhelmed your senses. The “ranch” was remotely located, at about 5,000 feet in the mountains, near the Canadian border and 30-miles from the closest town. Days would go by where we didn’t see a car or even hear a small airplane go overhead… it was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life, to perceive nothing except wind going through trees and seeing only starlight at night for hours at a time.

Image courtesy of NASA

A television interview with the director of a major observatory in Southern California recounted when Los Angeles had its last electrical blackout —people were calling 911 and his observatory, with reports of strange, bright objects in the night sky. Actually, what the callers were seeing for the first time, was the Milky Way’s canopy of shining stars.

   

Image courtesy of NASA.

Besides forfeiting a life inspiring, wondrous view of the cosmos, there’s tangible losses associated with light pollution. Conservative estimates are—30 % of U.S. outdoor lighting is pointed skyward in the wrong direction, which wastes billions of dollars of electricity. The unnecessary practice of lighting clouds, burns more than 6 million tons of coal, which adds: harmful greenhouse gas emissions, along with toxic chemicals into our atmosphere and water.

Further scientific studies indicate wildlife is suffering the ill effects of excessive urban lighting. The City of Chicago has taken measures to turn off or dim its high-rise lighting to enable migrating birds to continue normal migration patterns. An increase in species of insects attracted to light along with rodents, which are drawn towards bright city lighting, is a growing concern to many scientists.

Heavy equipment product shots never look quite this good. Scheduled improvements to the viewing area above Reflection Lake, had some equipment, taking a nap, before going to work when the sun came up.

Education Is the Solution to Light Pollution                                                                    The reason light pollution continues to expand is, we have grown accustomed to its seemingly benign presence. After all, probably no one can point to a single case of a person killed from overexposure to light pollution. However, there is a growing correlation of health risks associated with overexposure from artificial light. Some of the main symptoms include, physical fatigue and damage to eyesight. This lighting health risk was recognized in 2009, when the American Medical Association officially established a policy, which supports the control of light pollution.

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Municipal lighting codes are beginning to help define and eliminate unnecessary light pollution. Lighting enforcement can create a more pleasing environment, by reducing excessive urban lighting, which causes fatigue from glare and cuts down on unnecessary electric utility cost. Redirecting outdoor lighting away from the sky where it is needlessly wasted is a simple and easy solution.

Installing motion detector security lights are another efficient and productive mitigation strategy. For security purpose, a light, which is triggered by motion is much more effective for crime prevention than a continuous floodlight. Motion detector lights have a clear advantage of focussing our attention onto an area, which is triggered by a sudden change from darkness to bright-light.

The light intensity of the Milky Way is a breathtaking wonder to witness at night —` unrestricted light-pollution has faded this wonder from what was once a valued human experience. You can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the right 1/3 of the frame. Nikon D700 – Nikkor 28mm lens @ F3.5 @ 20 seconds August 11 11:48 p.m.

 

The encouraging news is… the key to reducing light pollution is a simple matter of basic education and action. Public awareness of over-lighting requires a minimal expenditure, which will quickly pay for itself in energy savings and perhaps return the opportunity to experience one of the greatest shows seen from earth. ~

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Light pollution glossary:

Urban Sky glow: the brightening of the night skies over municipalities and communities, caused primarily from high-volumes  of collective, reflected light and poorly directed light, which is pointed upward or not shielded properly.

Light trespass: light falling or spilling into areas where it is not intended. Also know as “spill light” – as in municipal streetlights, which go beyond the intended illumination of street signs and sidewalks, causing an unwanted exterior lighting of residential homes.

Glare: A direct, bright or harsh light, which causes discomfort or pain. The effects of glare can be reduced or eliminated with the use of a shield or filter.

Uplight: Light angled inappropriately upward towards the sky and serving no purpose. Uplight washes out the night sky and reduces opportunities for astronomers and star-gazer to enjoy the beauty of the planets, moon and stars.

Light Clutter: Poorly planned, confusing and unpleasant use of grouped lights usually associated with urban or retail lighting. Retail business often trying to outdo the competition by using overly bright, multicolored or pulsating lights.

Links to articles & information on light pollution:

http://news.discovery.com/animals/light-pollution-a-growing-problem-for-wildlife.html

www.darksky.org/assets/documents/is001.pdf

www.njaa.org/light.html

www.skymaps.com/articles/n0109.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution

ngm.nationalgeographic.com/geopedia/Light_Pollution      

The Unworldly Splendor of Oregon’s Painted Hills.

If you would like to see an alternative format in the graphic design of some of the following multimedia presentations, please see our new site at— http://ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com

Photo/video and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The sun had just set as I arrived at my friend’s condominium on Lake Washington near Seattle. Rick was loading camera equipment into his SUV, Ford Escape — a gasoline-electric hybrid, which holds the honor of being one of the first American-built hybrids.

We had a long drive ahead, which required us to drive all night before reaching our destination in the high desert of Central Oregon. It was a cool, but clear, May evening, as the SUV climbed steadily up to Snoqualmie pass. After cresting the Cascade Mountains we descended into a dryer, warmer Eastern Washington. After a few hours of driving the glow from a near full moon was illuminating the desert sagebrush outside the town of Goldendale on the Columbia River.

Wind turbines above the Columbia River are lit by the moon.

Our adventure to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, was planned to coincide with a full moon for illuminating the surreal Painted Hills. Rick and I use digital cameras, featuring full-sized image sensors and fast optical lenses, which are ideal for capturing low light environments. Taking the opportunity to harness some moonlight as it rose above the Columbia Gorge, we made a stop to photograph wind turbines. These wind gathering  monoliths, heavily populate this section of Washington and Oregon. The site is ideal for wind farms, due to the wind tunnel conditions created by compressed airstreams forcefully moving through the constricted Gorge.   

Standing next to a colossal tower is a strange experience. These massive wind catchers are the largest machines you’ll probably encounter on land. And the eerie sounds caused from wind moving massive propeller blades takes some time getting use to.

Driving on the Washington side of the Columbia River and continuing into Oregon, you see legions of wind turbine sentinels as they constantly harvest the restless winds. It takes an hour of driving south on the highway before we see fewer and then suddenly… no steel towers flanking our drive.

Now what I become aware of is not seeing any cars traveling in either direction of a deserted looking highway. Eastern Oregon’s vast size can’t be appreciated unless you spend some time touring its sprawling, unpopulated counties.

After traveling all night and encountering some falling snow as the hybrid SUV started ascending the road to the high desert—we finally entered into the realm of the primeval Painted Hills. It’s totally dark now that the moon had set hours earlier, cloaking the desert from our view in all directions. Fatigued from hours of driving, we pull into a remote area to catch a couple of hours of sleep before our video and photography expedition can begin.

The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument is organized into three Units; the Painted Hills is the third Unit, which contains 3,132 acres of wildlife, plants and some unusual geology.

Over millions of years, layers of ash from nearby volcanic eruptions mixed with clay. Through the process of erosion, intense surreal hues and patterns of color explode in every direction.

The following morning was a like waking up in some eye-candy dreamland. The colors just popped out at you like viewing a TV monitor, with the hue saturation cranked up high.  Stunned by the startling beauty, I grabbed my video camera on a tripod and began shooting panorama footage. Attempting to capture the details of the environment, an external microphone was used to record the outburst of chattering songbirds, which had woken up to announce the beginning of a new day.

My first impression was of being overwhelmed by sensory overload — it was challenging to take in all the colors, sounds and surreal shapes of the textured topography. What I was seeing, appeared to be out of this world — like viewing some futuristic post cards of a terraformed Martian landscape.

What I remembered from earlier road trips to the Southwest, was how striking the Painted Desert in Arizona was — that location now seemed pale in comparison to the Painted Hills.  What makes the geology of this site so vivid is the saturated colors, caused by a series of volcanic eruptions, taking place over millions of years. The accumulation of layers of ash, dust and clay mixed together from relentless years of erosion to form the hills of strata of colors, like some massive layered cake.

What remains buried beneath the volcanic soil is a time-capsule preserving the fossilized carcasses of mammals and plants, which lived in the region during the  Cenozoic Era —the Age of Mammals. This era began roughly 65 million years ago, so this National Monument is a target rich environment for paleontologist studying fossils from that era.

After I shot about an hour worth of video from the spot from the spot I started from, it was time to scout other dramatic locations.  Not too far into our drive we spotted a family of graceful antelopes, casually grazing in a large field. Apparently, from talking with one of the NPS Rangers, this National Monument is teeming with indigenous wildlife including: bears, cougars and eagles.

Latter in the afternoon we stopped at the side of a gravel road to take in a stunning view of  one of the larger hills at the site.  The clouds above were opening and closing like a massive shutter on a spotlight — producing lighting effects which were irresistible. We set up tripods along with our video and still cameras to begin shooting right away.

Shortly after we setup shop, a ranger pulled up close to the SUV and was intently watching us. Rick and I shrugged as we looked at each other with a shrug, thinking perhaps we had unknowingly parked in a restricted area. Eventually the ranger introduced himself, he had the impression we were part of a National Park Service video crew, which was schedule to be doing work at the Monument.  We were invited to join his walking tour with a group of  photographers into a restricted area of the Painted Hills.  As it turned out, this special photography tour only takes place one weekend out of the entire year —when the John Day chaenactus (a bright yellow wild flower) begins to bloom, then as quickly as it appears—it begins to fade away.

The photographer’s tour was visually fantastic and can only be experienced under the supervision of an NPS Ranger.  The plant life is so fragile here, you’re only allowed to  walk inside a dried out creek bed while touring this area.  The Ranger was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about the site.  Wind is common and unpredictable in this high desert area, so I came prepared with a wind guard on my microphone; but I did experience a few audio dropouts,  hopefully you’ll be able to hear the main message clearly enough.

Later that evening we photographed the landscapes using a full moon for our lighting. I’ve never seen greater clarity of the stars and moon from this high desert environment, which created a great backdrop for an unearthly landscape. We photographed throughout the night until the light of predawn appeared.

At a little over 2,000 feet in elevation, the high desert can produce cold, bone-chilling weather and as mentioned—windy conditions.  I recommend warm clothing and gloves to help keep your hands comfortable from wind-chill.  For photography, the higher altitude is a great benefit, especially for optical clarity if your focus is on night photography of stars and landscapes.

I definitely plan to go back to the Painted Hills as soon as possible… it’s a dreamlike setting I have rarely experienced, which captivates the senses, with its splendor of stunning colors contained within an unworldly environment. ~

LINKS:

Here’s a link to National Park Service’s John Day Fossil Bed National Monument:   http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm

Exploring Etruscan ruins beneath the cliffs of medieval Orvieto, Italy.

 

     

Etruscan ruins under cliffs of the citadel of Orvieto

                                               

                       

Etruscan art presented in Orvieto museum.

Woman holding an umbrella during a rainy day in Orvieto, within Umbria region of Italy.

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Please note this story is designed to be a work in progress. New text and photos may be added at anytime. You’re invited to view the photos and read the essay as is. Thank you for your interest —to enrich the interactive nature of this story you’re encouraged to contribute with suggestions, questions or comments.

 —We boarded a train in Venice with just a few days remaining of a three-week adventure in Italy.  Our coach moved steadily from its station, with the island city quickly vanishing from view.  Soon my wife and I were transported into the countryside, which gave us fleeting panoramic views of charming Italian landscapes.  My mind wandered, trying to imagine what intriguing encounters we would find waiting for us at our next destination.

While the train traveled deeper into the center of the countryside, gray sky’s hung low overhead as morning turned into afternoon.  Undecided of our next destination, we took a chance to stay in a mysterious fortress city, perched on cliffs, within the region of Umbria.

We had engaging conversations with an Italian couple, who were traveling to Naples with their young children.  The youthful husband was born in Naples; his profession was a train engineer for the Italian rail network. His charming wife was blond, with blue eyes, and Norwegian born. Both husband and wife spoke fluent English.  We exchanged information and ideas about many subjects on world culture, technology and comparing educational systems.  Time went quickly as we used most of it in dialogue with our newfound friends, but soon we had to prepare to deboard at our intended destination.  As the train slowed down to stop I caught a glimpse through the clouds, of a mysterious town perched on cliffs,  appearing as if it were floating in clouds. We had arrived below the ancient town of Orvieto, and instantly became intrigued of its mysterious  atmosphere.   

This was a location we had penciled in as possible place to spend our 5th wedding anniversary.  Before flying to Europe, we visited the office of Rick Steves, an America’s authority of European travel.  His business is in a nearby town of Edmonds, located next to the Puget Sound.  We bought one of his books and attended a seminar on Italian travel in which the medieval town of Orvieto came up.  Steves mentioned this place was a refreshing one to visit, as tourist travel had not yet overrun it.  The tip was spot-on and there were few tourist in town compared to busy Venice where we just came from.  Rick Steves is an iconic figure in the travel industry and it’s remarkable how well he’s revered throughout Italy.  Whenever I mentioned his name to hotel workers, they smiled and had positive words to say about him and his organization.

Poster promoting a performing arts event in Orvieto, Italy.

Because we were traveling off-season, we found without reservations, a wonderful hotel just outside of the medieval township of Orvieto.  The hotel had a shuttle to take us up the steep road leading to the town, which resembled a fortress citadel on top of a volcanic butte.

In ancient times this bastion had been the capital city of the Etruscan Civilization, predating the Roman Empire by centuries.  On my agenda was to explore the remaining Etruscan ruins, located at the base of the massive cliff stronghold.  To better understand the past, our plan was to do a walking tour of Orvieto, to see if there were any impressions still remaining from its ancient ancestors.

Arriving on top of a dramatic plateau, we were greeted by vast panoramas stretching in all directions. There are no shortages of striking views, which any past tribal or clan leaders would have recognized as strategic in value.  Bellow is rich fertile green valleys stretching outwards to distant foothills.  Nature would have a challenge constructing any better fortification than this volcanic butte, with its solid ring of 100′ foot sheer cliffs. From this vantage point it was clear why this site was chosen… location, location, location!

Returning to the interior of Orvieto we found a small neighborhood with an interesting subterranean museum.  Once inside, the steps descends rapidly in a winding cavern naturally formed into the porous tuff volcanic stone.  Dim light with damp smells created an environment  which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. This was ground zero of where this settlement’s roots developed. In prehistoric times this cave provided protection from the elements, attacks from aggressors–both man or beats and it provided a continuous fresh water supply.  Latter the Etruscan used the grotto for religious ceremonies and eventually carved out passages for escape routes leading outside of the walled city.

I’ve always liked the experience of exploring caves.  As a young teenager, I lived in California’s Mojave Desert, not far from Joshua Tree National Monument.  My brother Jim and I would explore natural caves and man-made gold mines; while enjoying the cool, moist air which was a relief from the scorching desert air outside.

My wife and I found this fascinating setting for our fifth wedding anniversary dinner, named Le Grotte del Funaro.  Enclosed in a natural grotto the restaurant featured windows cut through stone walls to view the valley bellow.  This place was like out of a location scout’s, central-casting dream, except it was authentically medieval.  The meals served were exceptionally fine—Italian seafood cuisine—paired with fantastic regional wines.  Any-one traveling to Italy knows how remarkably delicious and distinctive the food from each region is.  Realizing it was a special occasion for us, the restaurant staff gave us a wonderful dinning experience we will always cherish.

Italian hospitality is some of the best in the world. The people of this country are so gracious and accommodating, its no wonder celebrities such as George Clooney have chosen to live in Italy.

A large stone manor sat on a hill next to our hotel. It looked centuries old and I couldn’t tell from where we were, if it was still occupied.  Employees working at the hotel shrugged their shoulders when asked if they knew anything about the place.  It seemed as if the estate had been there so long, it just blended into the background and was ignored.

While traveling by rail or car, throughout Italy you see a landscape dotted by buildings centuries old, some are abandoned in various states of disrepair.  These orphaned stone structures intrigued me because they stood the test of time and all had stories to tell.  Finally an opportunity presented itself, to quench my curiosity of exploring one of these ancient sites.

Lounging farm animals near Orvieto, Italy.

I walked over a mile on a winding road, through rustic farm country. Following a dirt path uphill, past plowed fields, I came face to face with what was once a grand estate with a marvelous view.

The building was clearly abandoned, in disrepair with sections of walls missing, allowing for flocks of pigeons to fly out of its exposed interiors.  Cautiously walking into an entry; I considered each step taken between mounds of debris, to ascend a crumbling stairway.  At the top of the

flight of stairs a series of makeshift catwalks followed second story walls.

Carefully balancing myself with one hand holding my camera and the other holding parts of the building, I took a series of photos throughout the building.

                                                                         

Once back on terra-firma, I found a basement wall with iron bars on it.  The room appeared designed to either keep people out or possibly in.  Whether it could have been a storehouse for valuables or a jail for criminals, its dark entrance into the basement looked to foreboding for me to consider exploring  without a flashlight.  On the other side of the estate was a large kitchen with a wood oven and portions of a table still holding utensils. After taking several more photographs from various angles, I retreated back to the road and leisurely walked to the hotel for a rest from my solo adventure.

  Orvieto has an intriguing urban context with the way stone streets, buildings and neighborhoods are laid-out.  In some places the town resembles a maze, so we took advantage of this and turned it into a fun game—to just walk and explore new places in hopes of getting a little lost, then looking for visual clues to point the way back to a familiar landmark.

                                                        

Etruscan warfare depicted on ancient pottery.

Looking at preserved Etruscan artifacts, it’s apparent they adopted the Greek alphabet and most of this art appears borrowed from classic Hellenic culture.  No major surprise of a dominant cultural influence here, as Greek tribes heavily colonized the Italian peninsula, primarily with the Achaeans beginning in 800 BC.

With the recent popularity of Roman culture being portrayed in Hollywood movies such as: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and STARZ cable series Spartacus: a misunderstanding has developed of where mortal combat began as a “spectator sport.” This brutal form of entertainment certainly didn’t begin in Rome, as many would be led to believe.  The Roman historian Lily, stated it was imported from the Achaeans who colonized the Campania region of southern Italy.  However, the majority ancient historians chronicle its beginnings  as a uniquely Etruscans enterprise from northwestern Italy.

Most ancient historians credit the Etruscan with inventing the blood lust sport of gladiatorial combat.

A series of Etruscan tombs located at the base of Orvieto, Italy

Etruscan tomb used as final resting place for individuals and family members.

A view from guarding walls, which perhaps have not changed in centuries.

What I find  intriguing and especially more so, for my better-half; is the power which Etruscan women held in their culture.  Unlike their Roman and Greek sisters, who were not allowed to freely mingle with the opposite sex or to own property, these women had much more control over their destiny.  It’s surprising the Roman’s question the morality of Etruscan customs, labeling it as scandalous and more promiscuous than their own. This was primarily due to Etruscan women empowerment, who could freely chose their mate, own property and have a say in politics. This concept  equality and of liberation had to wait until the 20th century for many women in the western world.

The beautiful Gothic Duomo of Orvieto, it’s architecture dominating the background.

One of my favorite Duomos (cathedral) of Italy is the stunning Gothic one found in Orvieto.  Construction of this impressive house of worship began in 1290 and it took over three centuries to complete.  Intricate, textured forms of the facade are partly accented with brilliant gold leaf, which projects illuminated light onto viewers even during an overcast day.  A multitude of Biblical scenes are marvelously painted in relief and beautifully incorporated into the dazzling front entrance.

It’s interesting to note the sites of churches and cathedrals in Italy, were once the very same sites used for earlier pagan temples and places of worship.  This practice of building over existing sacred sites has been done since prehistoric times and was continued by the conquering Spanish in the New World — as seen in places where Central and South American indigenous people had previously settled and worshiped.

Duomo di Orvieto – Orvieto, in Umbria region of Italy

For me, Orvieto was the most intriguing of the places we visited in the charming country of Italy. This ancient citadel’s isolated location allowed it to preserve and retain much of its architectural essence and unique character. Orvieto has a sense of mystery that I’ve never experienced in any other place and because of this, I hope to return their soon to explore more of its hidden wonders.