Janice Boekhoff
 

Vacation Science

During my blog break in July, my family and I took an amazing trip to the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, so I thought I’d share some cool stuff about it. Here is a somewhat sciency (I love to make up words) run down of our vacation:

  • It’s possible to fall on Pikes Peak without falling off of it (my chiropractor was happy for the extra income). I fell at the top while walking around on some slippery boulders. It might have had something to do with me holding hot chocolate while climbing, but it’s really cold up at 14,115 feet.
This is close to where I fell on Pikes Peak, although it looks scarier than it was.

This is close to where I fell on Pikes Peak, although it looks scarier than it really was.

  • Rafting during a thunderstorm is still not a good idea, but nobody told the Colorado rafting guides this. It was sunny when we got on the bus to go to the river and pouring down rain with lightning when we got off the bus. Even so, our guides put the boats in the river and said get in. We did and thankfully, no one got electrocuted, although my son tried to drown himself, but that’s another story. (Sorry, no rafting pictures because frankly, rafting and my camera are just not a good mix).

 

  • Royal Gorge Bridge survived a wild-fire a couple of years ago with only some singed planks. This bridge is a suspension bridge with wooden planks that don’t fit together completely perfect, so you end up with enough space between the boards to look down 1,200 feet to the Arkansas River. It’s enough to scare the pants off this Acrophobe (fear of heights).
This is Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River.

This is Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River.

 

This is a view from the bridge looking down 1,200 feet at the Arkansas River.

This is a view from the bridge looking down 1,200 feet at the Arkansas River. The colored things you see in the water are kayaks.

  • Garden of the Gods is full of amazing sandstone spires, some rising up 300 feet. It’s constantly changing because it’s constantly weathering. I was shocked by how many people were attempting to climb in areas that were clearly not stable. But maybe that’s just the cautious geologist in me.
Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

  • The decrease in humidity makes such a difference on a person’s comfort level. Really, 85 degrees with 85% humidity in Iowa is totally different than 85 degrees with 30% humidity in Colorado (and it makes a huge difference in my hair).
  • Last, but not least, the mountains affected me psychologically. I miss the mountains so much that I wonder if there’s a Pining-For-Mountains syndrome. And if I’m diagnosed with it, will my husband move us to Colorado? (seriously, if anybody knows if this is a real syndrome, please let me know).

Someday, I plan to live in Colorado so I can indulge my mountain obsession every day. Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to contribute to the Janice-moving-to-Colorado-fund, feel free to e-mail me to let me know your desired contribution (this is just a joke, people, please don’t send me money).

Bonus Picture:

The only double rainbow I've ever seen (Colorado Springs)

The only double rainbow I’ve ever seen (Colorado Springs)

Ice Quakes

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Ice Crystals

Anybody heard any sonic booms in the middle of this deep freeze? Maybe if you live in Florida or California or someplace outside the U.S., you don’t really care about those of us trapped in the swirling snow of the polar vortex, but much of the rest of this country has seen freezing temperatures on a record scale. And with those crazy temps comes a phenomenon that many have never heard of—ice quakes.

Called a cryoseism, it’s a cracking of the ground that comes from a sudden deep freezing of the water in the ground. Many times these quakes are heard as loud booms accompanied by a short-lived shaking. People have described them as sounding like a blown transformer, a sonic boom, a car accident and even a plane crash.

Ice quakes occur near the surface, so there’s no danger of prolonged shaking and little risk of property damage. If you want to hear one, they usually occur between midnight and dawn during the coldest part of the night. This explains why I’ve never heard one since I’m dead asleep at that time.

The explanation for ice quakes lies in the properties God gave to water. Unlike most liquids, water expands when it freezes because of the shape of the water molecule. If rain seeps down into cracks during warmer periods and then rapidly freezes when the temperature plummets, the ice expands and pushes on the surrounding material. Stress builds up until the pressure is released by the ground cracking.

Thanks to this frigid winter, ice quakes have been reported in the Midwest, Canada, the Northeast, and even parts of the south, like North Carolina and Tennessee. Ice quakes are nothing to be afraid of, but if a loud boom wakes you up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t blame you if you called the police.

What about you? Have you actually heard one? What do you think it sounds like?

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-residents-mistake-frost-quakes-airplane-crash-explosions/story?id=29101755, http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/icequakes-cause-earth-to-crack/21985456

Photo Credit: ID 7623341 © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

Blue Fire Volcano

Kawah Ijen

I’m constantly amazed at how God has created the world. There’s always something amazing to discover.

Like a blue fire volcano!

The volcano Kawah Ijen lies along a subduction zone in Indonesia. If you think of the earth as a baseball, the leather in the baseball represent the techtonic plates and the seams are where the plates meet. In a subduction zone, one plate slides under the other causing the rock on the lower plate to melt. This melted rock is more buoyant and rises to the surface, sometimes coming out in volcanic eruptions of lava and gas.

But Kawah Ijen has a special kind of volcanic display—blue fire. This blue phenomenon cascades down the volcano like lava, but it’s not blue lava. It’s actually rivers of sulfur. The sulfur gas escapes from cracks called fumeroles, hits the cooler air and some of it condenses into liquid sulfur.

When this sulfur ignites, it burns with blue fire (at up to 1,112°F) and appears to flow down the volcano like lava. Some of the flames reach as high as 16 feet.

This volcano generates so much sulfur that the local people mine it. They use spring water to condense the sulfur around ceramic pipes, which hardens it. Then these sulfur miners carry their rock load (usually 100 to 200 lbs of sulfur) down the volcano on their backs. What a way to make a living.

Check out the National Geographic link here for more amazing pictures of this blue volcano!

 

References: Skelton, Renee. “Blue Volcano.” National Geographic Kids, March 2015, p. 22.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140130-kawah-ijen-blue-flame-volcanoes-sulfur-indonesia-pictures/

Photo Credit: ID 38085143 © Anekoho | Dreamstime.com

Diamonds of the Ocean Deep

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 Anyone remember that scripture that says God opened the fountains of the deep when He initiated Noah’s flood? I know, I didn’t either. I had to look it up. Here it is:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 7:11

The reason I bring this up is because scientists have long suspected water exists deep in the molten core of our planet. And now they have evidence of it. Recently, geochemists have found a large quantity of molecular water hidden in of all things diamonds.

Diamonds have long been thought to originate from deep in the mantle and what we see today seems to confirm this. Minute specks of diamonds can be found coming out of currently active volcanoes.

In early 2014, Canadian geochemist Graham Pearson and his graduate student John McNeill found something unexpected in diamonds discovered at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. While shining a laser into the diamond, McNeill saw a rare mineral: ringwoodite (a variety of olivine formed after the mineral is put under great pressure). Previously seen only in meteorites, ringwoodite is thought to form in the dense interior of the earth, but until now no one could prove it.

As if that astounding discovery wasn’t enough, then McNeill noticed something even more unusual inside the ringwoodite structure—water. The water was trapped in the microscopic pore space of the mineral during formation, present not as liquid water but as hydroxide ions.

Although the amount of water in each ringwoodite mineral is small (1.5%), the mantle is vast—adding up to a huge amount of water held at high-pressure deep in the earth. The amount of trapped water is potentially close to all the water in Earth’s oceans.

When God said he released the springs of the great deep, perhaps He meant that He brought the hydroxide ions out of the chemical bonds of minerals stored in the mantle.

What do you think? Do you believe in Noah’s flood? Is it a surprise to know the mantle is full of water, even if only on a microscopic level?

 

 

References: Palus, Shannon. “Diamonds Reveal Hidden ‘Oceans’ in Earth’s Mantle,” Discover, January/February 2015, p.35.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rare-diamond-confirms-that-earths-mantle-holds-an-oceans-worth-of-water/

Photo Credit:ID 32784603 © Ingemar Magnusson | Dreamstime.com

As Young as a Fossil?

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Most of us over forty would love to look younger than we are. Although being called a fossil certainly wouldn’t make me feel young, more and more studies are coming out with evidence that fossils are younger than we think. Dead creatures are being found that are still soft and still contain organic molecules, after supposedly millions of years have passed. These discoveries are hard to explain using a long-age view of earth’s history.

The most recent line of evidence for young fossils comes from worms. At Uppsala University in Sweden, researchers have found that the tube casings of the seabed worm Sabellidites cambriensis were still soft and flexible in rock which had been dated to 550 million years ago. The scientists say the organic compounds are original and the fossils show no evidence of mineralization. They further examined the worms and concluded the structure of the fossil worm tube is consistent with the tubes of modern seabed worms, like beard worms.

So, the worms are still soft and flexible and they look exactly like worms today, but we’re supposed to believe they are 550 million years old? Why? Because that’s how old they must be to get the long time scale needed for evolution to have happened.

Could even one million years go by without complete deterioration of these organic compounds? Much less 550 million years?

I find it hard to believe. How do the scientists themselves explain this supposedly incredible preservation?

They don’t. To them, it remains a mystery.

But if the rocks are much younger than millions of years, then there is no mystery. So, why not go with the simplest explanation?

At this point, you might be asking, why are researchers finding this stuff now and not thirty years ago?

The answer is two-fold: 1) researchers today have better equipment to test for these organic molecules, and 2) they are just now looking for them. To some extent, these discoveries could have been made thirty years ago, but scientists didn’t think this type of preservation was possible.

The sad truth is that you won’t find what you don’t seek.

What do you think? Is this unexplainable? How far would this kind of evidence go to convince you of the young age of fossils?

 

 

References: Catchpoole, David. “Seabed worm fossils still soft after 500 million years?” Creation 36(4), 2014, p. 22-23.

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/15114114118/”>jsj1771</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

Fossil layers like layers of a cake?

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               Different layers of rock                               Layers of yummy chocolate cake

I love to bake, not regular food, but anything sweet, especially when it’s chocolate. Have you seen the cake that looks like the death star from Star Wars? I haven’t tried to make that one yet, but it looks amazing. Recently, I was thinking how the earth is like a gigantic death star cake (no, I don’t have too much time on my hands, but this weird stuff just floats through my head all the time). Anyway, go with me on this, you’ve all made mud pies before, right? Same thing.

So the layers in the cake are the different rock formations (sandstone, shale, limestone, etc.). Although the cake above isn’t the death star, I hope you can see the similarities? And if you bake a cake one layer at a time, you know the bottom layers were created first, followed by the next layer and then the layer on top and it’s the same with rocks. What we see on the surface of the earth are the last layers laid down, or the youngest layers. We know they are the youngest, but does anything about the layers tell us how long it took to bake the cake? Nope. And neither does the existence of rock layers tell us how long they took to form. Rocks don’t come with a year stamped on them and the supposed dates obtained from radiometric age dating have serious problems (more on this in future posts). Which leaves us with more questions than answers. Questions like:

Why do we find rocks stratified by fossil animals? Evolutionists will tell you that we find more primitive animals at the bottom of the strata (rock layers) because they are the ancestors of those higher in the strata. Seems to make sense, right? Unless there’s a different explanation.

If a global flood happened today, on the scale of Noah’s flood, we’d likely see the same fossils in the same rock layers after it was over. Not because the animals are related, but because they live in different habitats. The sea bottom dwelling creatures live at lower elevations and during a flood, they would be overwhelmed and smothered by mud. Amphibians live at a slightly higher elevation, but must stay close to water in order to breed, so they would be in layers just above the lower sea life. Reptiles and mammals would likely run to higher ground and then float after death, causing them to be found in higher rock layers. The only humans who would survive a violent flood like this today would be those on an aircraft carrier or maybe a submarine. In Noah’s time, no other humans, besides him, had seen the need to build a huge boat like the ark.

So, we would see much the same sequence of rocks with the same fossils of animals that weren’t related, just buried in sequence based on habitat.

Marine creatures—Amphibians—Reptiles—Mammals

Are there any fossils that cross over? Yes, but when geologists find a fossil which doesn’t belong, they typically call it in-fill from the layers above or they might say the whole sequence has been re-worked (meaning eroded and stirred up). Why do they believe the sequence was re-worked? Because the fossils are out of order. They are forced into this type of circular reasoning because there is no way to explain how those fossils got there without invalidating the theory of evolution.

What do you think? Which explanation for the distribution of fossils makes sense to you? One or both of them?

 

Photo Credits: Rock formation: ID 25013280 © Rixie | Dreamstime.com, Cake: ID 11609930 © Adina Chiriliuc | Dreamstime.com

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