Flooded street

Flooded Google Street View

Flooded street

This is what my street could look like according World Under Water. It is a Google Maps powered website (Chrome only) that it lets you pick any Street View location and see what it will look like after sea levels have risen. The site was created to bring awareness to World Environment Day on June 5. Unfortunately it uses the same effect for every location and the sea level doesn’t change depending on your geography. Regardless, it’s an admirable idea and the illusion is fairly believable.

Private Firefighting

Considering the United States is plagued with a privatized police force and military it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are private firefighters as well. Private firefighters were dispatched by insurance companies to protect select groups of homes in both the Boulder Fourmile Fire and the Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon Fire.

When firefighter Eric Morris shows up at wildfires across the West, locals battling the flames sometimes look at him and wonder who sent him.

The answer isn’t a public agency. It’s an insurance company.

Morris is among a group of private firefighters hired in recent years to protect homes with high-end insurance policies. In a wildfire season that is one of the busiest and most destructive ever to hit the region, authorities and residents say their help is welcome.

…For insurers, hiring them is worth the cost. They spend thousands on well-equipped, federally rated firefighters, potentially saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to replace a home and its contents.

The forest fires this summer in Colorado have been horrible. I’m happy that Private firefighters are able to benefit the insured by providing the extra manpower that lets public firefighters divert their attention elsewhere. It’s also nice to see that insurance companies are using a form of “preventative care” that benefits everyone. One can only hope this sort of thing may someday crossover into the healthcare industry.

Peak People

I love this new term I have recently run into: Peak People. It refers to a time when the world’s population reaches a maximum, after which it steadily declines due to reduced birth rates (possibly due to disease or pandemic) or global shortages of energy, food, and water. The phrase is a take on the controversial term peak oil, coined in 1956 by the geologist M. King Hubbert.

Many would correlate Peak People with Peak Oil and say that both will coincide at a time when the global rate of oil extraction reaches a maximum. The results thereafter would be both energy and population declines which would steadily lead to either a paradise of sustainability or a nightmare of barbarism (hence the controversy).

Monster Prominence

Yesterday (Feb. 24, 2011), a rather large flare (M 3.6 class coronal mass ejection) occurred near the edge of the Sun. It blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period . In the words of to the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. Using a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, the sense of motion is, by all appearances, seamless. Sit back and enjoy the jaw-dropping solar show.



Per usual, this video is also best enjoyed full screen.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill In Denver

How big is the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?

On April 20th, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon left 17 workers injured and 11 missing and presumed dead. Oil is spilling from a well 5000 feet below sea level, discharging 200,000 gallons of crude oil a day according to the official estimate. It is estimated that more than 6 million gallons of crude oil have spewed into the Gulf so far.

It is understandably difficult to imagine how large this spill actually is. The picture above shows the area the spill would cover if it had originated in Denver. It would stretch from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and as far east as Hillrose. Want to see the spill size compared to you city? Check out Paul Rademacher’s website.

UPDATE: If It Was My Home also does a great job of mapping the spill and overlaying it onto your hometown

Teecycle

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia clothing, once said, “The most responsible way for a consumer and a good citizen to buy clothes is to buy used.” So in walks Teecycle. Teecycle sells (slightly) used vintage t-shirts for dirt cheap. Each Teecycle shirt is hand-selected from rummage sales, thrift stores or donated by friends.

I bought this t-shirt from them as a gift for my Dad and he loves it (he went to UND). By buying t-shirts from Teecycle you’re not only reducing, reusing, and recycling, you are also helping Milwalkee’s (Teecycle’s home state) Rivers. For every t-shirt sold, Teecycle donates a $1 (often almost 15% of the purchase price) to the River Revitalization Foundation. Anyways, I have exchanged a few email with Tim, the companies owner, and he’s a great guy – go but t-shirts from him.

Silver Lining

The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) here in Boulder, Colorado has issued an alert. The alert states that recently there have been large solar explosions (coronal mass ejections is what the scientists call them) on the sun. These flares are creating large x-ray bursts. The SEC (Space Environment Center) issues alerts at the M5 (5x10E-5 Watts/m2) and X1 (1x10E-4 Watts/m2) levels. As you can see here, this has happened three times in the past two days. Below is a photo of one of todays flares. Here is a great video (mpeg), constantly updated, of the sun’s activity.

There have been over 18 alerts given by the SEC during the last two days for large x-ray and radio-wave bursts. Strong solar radio bursts (those M5 and greater) may cause major disruptions in satellite and other spacecraft operations, power systems (thus knocking out electric power), high frequency communications, and navigation systems. High altitude aircraft crews and passengers on polar routs are also susceptible to radiation hazards during similar events. However, there is one cool bonus effect of coronal mass ejections… the northern lights become much more spectacular and even visible from the northern US.