Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blog Crawl Gems

This Week's Treasures

If you’ve recovered sufficiently from the New Year’s carousing, you might enjoy the Botany and Spirits series that finished up last week at Botany Photo of the Day, including juniper (gin), sugar cane (rum), agave (tequila), hawthorne (a vodka flavoring) and especially interesting:  Baudoinia compniacensis, the angels' share fungus, which lives on the “angels’ share” of whiskey and other distilled products -- the part that is lost to evaporation during aging in wooden barrels.  Though common and widespread, angels’ share fungus was properly named only recently, following detective work to explain the black mold that was coating neighborhoods near Hiram Walker warehouses.  The story is told in detail in The Mystery of the Canadian Whiskey Fungus.

Thanks to Ron Schott of Geology Home Companion for pointing me to What are the roots of geobotany? and the Utah Geological Survey blog.  He correctly guessed that a post on plants and rocks would interest me :)

Next, an article from Scientific American on some of the neat things to watch for in the sky in the year to come.  Joe Rao presents “The top 12 "skylights" for this coming year including a "double planet" in May and a Venus transit of the sun in June.”  This is a handy list for someone who loves to see cool astronomy things but is never able to keep track of what’s happening on a regular basis.  But I already slept through the first one -- Quadrantid meteor shower Wednesday morning before dawn.

Another great Earth Picture of the DayBrocken Spectre and Glory from Northern Italy.  Brocken is where the phenomenon supposedly was first reported -- the high point of the Harz Mountains in northern Germany.  This peak seems to have lots of mystical properties and phenomena associated with it, so it's not surprising that spectres were found there.  As Goethe wrote in 1808:

Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
Click to see witches flying around the Brocken in this illustration
by draftsman L. S. von Bestehorn (1732; public domain).
There are more EPODs of Brocken Spectre and Glory here and here.  Many different optical effects are explained at Atmospheric Optics, a pretty neat web site that I stumbled upon.  Maybe one day I will encounter my shadow as a Brocken Spectre with a halo of Glory, that would be so cool!

Finally another tip for aging baby boomers to stay ahead of the grim reaper -- get up from that computer, sitting is killing you! followed by No Really - Sitting is Killing You (some readers were skeptical).
GR courtesy FBNY.

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