Saturday, October 19, 2013

Diabatic and Adiabatic



By Julie Rahm

There has been a lot of fog in the county this week. Fog is the suspension of liquid water droplets in the air near the earth’s surface that reduces visibility to less than one kilometer. Also important is the dew point temperature. Dew point is the temperature of the air if it is cooled to saturation. If the outside air temperature and the dew point temperature are within three degrees, fog will develop. Of course, cooling of air is the most common mechanism by which fog is produced. Cooling of air may occur as a result of diabatic processes in which heat is removed from the air or adiabatic processes in which no heat is removed. Diabatic processes include radiation and conduction. Adiabatic cooling occurs when air expands as it is lifted and pressure decreases. Fog produced by diabatic cooling is most common near the ground. Conductive diabatic cooling occurs when moist air comes in contact with a colder surface such as snow, cold water or cooler ground.

The marine fogs of the west coast are caused by the cooling of low level air by cold water. San Francisco is perhaps the most famous for its fogs. These great summer fog banks pour inward under the Golden Gate Bridge riding the sea breeze. These fogs do not survive more than a few kilometers inland during the day because the surface heating erodes them from below. These fogs are beneficial near the coast because they contribute moisture to vegetation during dry seasons. For example, the needles of redwood trees strain the tiny water droplets from the air. The droplets drip off the trees providing necessary water. These redwoods grow only on the coast. Thirty miles inland, where fogs rarely reach, redwoods cannot survive. However, not all fog is beneficial.

The Italian ship Andrea Doria was a luxury liner. On 25 July 1956, while approaching the coast of Massachusetts, the eastbound freighter Stockholm collided with the Andrea Doria. Struck in the side, the top-heavy Andrea Doria immediately started to list to starboard, which left half of its lifeboats unusable. The shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but the efficiency of the ship's technical design allowed it to stay afloat for over 11 hours after the ramming. (The pictures are remarkable.) The professionalism of the crew, improvements in communications and the rapid response of other ships averted a disaster similar to the 1912 Titanic. 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived. Sadly, 46 people died. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. This accident remains the worst maritime disaster in United States waters. Fog was a contributing factor.

However, the worst fog in the world is the fog produced by those seeking elected office. So this week, I warn you about the upcoming elections and the candidate-generated political fog. This political fog obscures good vision, judgment and decision-making. Keep your vision keen and unencumbered!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sugar Coated



By Julie Rahm

Around 8,000 BC, the people of New Guinea first domesticated sugarcane. After domestication, cultivation spread rapidly to Southeast Asia, southern China, and India. There juice was refined into granulated crystals. By the sixth century AD, sugar cultivation and processing had reached Persia. Sugar was then carried throughout the Mediterranean by the Arab expansion. The Arabs spread sugar and its production technology across the region. Then came the Crusades.

Crusaders brought sugar home with them to Europe after their campaigns in the Holy Land. The Crusaders encountered caravans carrying "sweet salt". Early in the 12th century, Venice acquired some villages near Tyre and set up estates to produce sugar for export to Europe. Sugar supplemented honey as the only other available sweetener. Crusade chronicler William of Tyre, writing in the late 12th century, described sugar as "a most precious product, very necessary for the use and health of mankind".

Spanish and Portuguese exploration and conquest in the fifteenth century carried sugar south and west. Henry the Navigator introduced sugarcane to Madeira in 1425. The Spanish eventually subdued the Canary Islands and introduced sugar cane there. In 1493, on his second voyage, Christopher Columbus carried cane seedlings to the New World, in particular Hispaniola. So, that is the short version of the history of sugar and its journey to the “New World”.

The crucial problem with sugar production was that it was highly labor-intensive in both growing and processing. Because of the huge weight and bulk of the raw cane, it was very costly to transport, especially by land. Therefore, each estate had to have its own factory. There the cane had to be crushed to extract the juices, which were boiled for concentration. It is a backbreaking and intensive operation lasting many hours. However, once sugar had been processed and concentrated, it had a very high value for its bulk and could be traded over long distances by ship at a considerable profit.

With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. These islands could supply sugarcane using slave labor and produce sugar at prices vastly lower than those of cane sugar imported from the East. Thus the economies of entire islands such as Guadaloupe and Barbados became based on sugar production. By 1750, the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) became the largest sugar producer in the world. Jamaica also became a major producer in the 18th century. Sugar plantations fueled a demand for manpower; between 1701 and 1810 ships brought nearly one million slaves to work in Jamaica and in Barbados. All this leads to one of my favorite Stanistaw Jerzy Lec quotes.

“I give you bitter pills, in a sugar coating. The pills are harmless - the poison's in the sugar.” Often in life, bitter pills come sugar coated. The bitter pill could be an acquaintance, business deal or family member. With these pills, once the sweetness is tasted, turmoil ensues. Think about it and have awareness when tempted with things too sweet!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sharp Stick in Your Eye



By Julie Rahm
          A few days ago, I caught my husband at his laptop; unusual because he is poor typist. He was quiet and very focused. In our house, this could mean a storm is brewing! I was right. He was pounding out a “Letter to the Editor”. And, I do mean pounding. John was angry and someone was going to get a sharp stick in their eye. Not literally, but figuratively. Letting someone “have it” in a public forum can provide a satisfying release for one’s frustration. And, John was going to have his satisfaction with harsh, sharp words. Of course, John was absolutely correct. Are you curious? Read on.
          When Bob Dales passed on, the firehouse flew their U.S. flag at half-mast. My former Marine husband goes berserk when the town’s people of Oriental do this. United States Code; Title 4; Chapter 1; grants authority to only the President of the United States or the Governor to fly the U.S. Flag at half-mast. (I will not mention the authorities granted to the mayor of the District of Colombia and other U.S. territories.) So, the firehouse, town council or mayor (etc.) have no half-mast authority. John was going set the record straight and prevent this from happening by plunging a sharp letter into people’s eye sockets.
          After the letter was completed, John’s blood pressure backed down to a slow boil. Clarity of thought returned. I intervened by reminding him that we have to live in this town. Bob Dales is a shining example of what a person should be. People might misconstrue his objection for insensitivity. Furthermore, the people at the firehouse could not be any better human beings. And, what harm has been done?  At least the U.S. flag is at the firehouse! One day at half-mast is no big deal. I reminded John, these are the people that are coming to extinguish our house fire. (God please forbid.)  Did he really want to burn these bridges? Ultimately, John did not send the letter. He let it go. So this week, my point is not about the authority to fly the flag at half-mast. Any questions can be answered by reading the U.S. Code. My message this week is to choose your battles carefully. Perhaps you may want to let a few things “go”. Don’t fight the small wars.
The Duke of Wellington, who lived from 1769 to 1852, is credited with the quote, “Great countries don’t fight small wars.” As you may know, the Duke of Wellington was actually Arthur Wellesley. He was a leading military and political figure of the 19th century. As a Field Marshall, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Anyway…
Life is short. Don’t waste time sharpening sticks intended for people’s eyes. When faced with the choice between right or happy, perhaps happy is the better choice! Let the small things “go”. Still, a little more adherence to flag etiquette would keep my husband from going temporarily berserk!
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