The Perzog of Mayhem, Or Not

The gringa sees that the conspiracy theorists are at it again and now they are dragging our wonderful little Moon into their tales of mayhem and destruction. So, dear readers, mark your calendars for November 14. It will either be the greatest Moon-viewing experience of your life or the moment you decide to run for your lives and head for the hills.

Conspiracy theorist gong clanging should reach epic decibel levels the closer we get to what scientists commonly call a “supermoon” event. Conspiracy theorists are making sure their innertubes are patched and lifejackets are in order as they are expecting horrific tidal waves and earth-splitting earthquakes. The gringa says, “Are you guys out of your minds or is there some real science to back up your fears?” I mean, living near the Gulf of Mexico the gringa is well-stocked with innertubes and lifejackets but considering the season, they have been relegated to the bottom storage tub with boxes of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations stacked on top in the most convenient order of when I will need them. I would much rather not go to the trouble of rearranging my convenient storage closet system unless the prospect of danger and possible death is real.

Gringa question number one: What the heck is a supermoon? It is technically called a perigee-syzygy. Perigee means: the point in the moon’s orbit when it is nearest to the earth. Syzygy means: when two connected things line up in perfect opposition. The gringa is torn whether to refer to the super-cool term “supermoon” or to come up with my own version of the scientific moniker such as “perzog”. I’m sticking with perzog cuz that’s how I roll. The term supermoon was coined in 1979 by astronomer Richard Nolle. The gringa is the first, however, to use perzog.

So, back to the question of what a perzog is. Every now and then the time is right for a full moon to occur at the exact time it reaches its closest approach to Earth. Remember, orbits are not perfect circles but, rather, elliptical, or egg-shaped or oval. At some point a planetary object will be closer to its neighbor than at other times. The last time perzog happened on the scale expected in November was in 1948. It won’t happen again until 2034. Astronomers have our current perzog showing up next month.

Since worldwide destruction didn’t happen in 1948, the gringa feels pretty confident we should all be just fine. But, just to be on the safe side, I did a little checking on any reports of weather related catastrophes immediately following the perzog of January 26, 1948, paying particular attention to coastal cities and regions.

Seeing as how the 5th Winter Olympic games opened in Switzerland without a hiccup on January 30, 1948 and the 36th annual Men & Women’s Australian Championships in tennis went off without a hitch, the gringa’s convinced that the perzog of 1948 was no big deal, other than being able to view a spectacular Moon.

If there was any imminent disaster it was of political consequence and not weather related. Four days after the 1948 perzog, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Now, the gringa is more likely to believe that mess and mayhem would come from human created disasters rather than massive tidal waves if the Moon is involved.

Is there any increased emergency room activity during full moon events or is this simply an urban legend? The human body is 75% water. If the Moon is powerful enough to push and pull the waters of the ocean, might a similar affect agitate the heck out of a human who is really nothing more than a bag of water? The most interesting medical tidbit to the gringa is that studies produced in 2004 conclude that there is no correlation to the full moon and seizures. The gringa has no excuse for bad behavior on a monthly basis. Despite anecdotal affirmations by ER doctors and nurses that full moons mean a busy night, the data simply doesn’t support their beliefs.

As the perzog shines 30% brighter than ever (at least since 1948), reaching its full glory around midnight between November 13 & 14, coastal dwelling conspiracy theorists will be strapping themselves into their rescue rafts and those living near fault lines will be donning their helmets and hunkering down in doorways awaiting catastrophic earthquakes. They expect tidal forces to reach a zenith that will put an extreme strain on low and high tides worldwide, possibly causing deadly tsunamis. As the Earth’s oceans are trapped in a massive tug of war between the gravitational pulls of the Earth and the Moon, conspiracy theorists propose that the Earth’s crust could very well snap at the strain. California could be lopped off at the San Andreas fault-line with its westernmost extremity falling into the Pacific. Right?

Conspiracy theorists point to the lesser supermoon event of March 19, 2011 as the cause for a Japanese earthquake, resulting tsunami and 5 ships that ran aground in the Solent strait between the U.K.’s mainland and the Isle of Wight. Interestingly enough, the gringa did find two British news reports attributing the groundings to lower than normal water conditions due to the lunar event’s affect on tidal conditions. Maybe there could be some truth to this after all. The British Coastguard, after all, expected extremely low tide conditions because of the lesser supermoon. They were courageous enough to admit that they fell down on the job of managing shipping lane traffic on a new temporary schedule that would account for a change in expected tidal conditions.

But what about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami? Astronomy experts said that it was just silly to blame those terrible events on the Moon. Seeing as how those tragedies happened a week earlier than the lunar event, the perzog of 2011 had nothing to do with the preceding disasters in Japan. The tsunami was caused not by lunar activity but by the largest fault slip ever recorded in modern history.

Clay was to blame, not the moon. The Japanese tectonic plates are lined with clay. The plates are always moving. As they move small portions of clay smear along the area of movement. Natural ground water seepage will moisten the clay. The event of Japan’s massive earthquake was a recipe of water and clay and timing. The plates slipped an historic 5 feet, a massive distance for a tectonic plate. This was the trigger for the tsunami.

So, after a close look at real science and statistics, the gringa is going to enjoy the pleasure of an amazing Moon. While conspiracy theorists miss out on all the fun, cowering in fear, the gringa will be moon-gazing without a backache from rearranging the storage closet or tell-tale distractions wondering if an axe murderer may attack me on my front stoop at midnight, inspired by the super-full-supermoon. I hope my dear readers will enjoy the coming perzog as well. If you do, just imagine, we will all be doing the same thing at the same time if we happen to be in the same time zone! Cool.



National Geographic

Live Science

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The Eastward Wobble, The Dance of the Earth

In April of this year NASA released findings related to the Earth’s melting ice sheets. Often when the gringa things about climate change, warming temperatures and melting ice sheets, the only thing I consider is how sea levels will rise. It never occurred to me that ice sheet disintegration may result in a more wobbly world.

Think about the traditional children’s toy, the spinning top. It’s a bit like our world. As it slows its spin it begins to wobble. As ice sheets melt and the balance of Earth begins to shift, we will, indeed, experience a global wobble. Scientists officially define this as a “periodic wobble and drift of the poles”. All the gringa wants to know is, “What exactly does this mean for me? Am I going to fall on my patootie trying to walk to my car?”

NASA asserts that over the past sixteen years Antarctica and Greenland, combined, have averaged about 400 billion tons of ice loss annually. Before the year 2000, as Earth spun on its axis it had a gentle drift toward Canada (westward). Because of ice loss, now the drift is about 75 degrees in the opposite direction, eastward. This happens because as ice converts to water and moves elsewhere, the distribution of Earth’s mass changes. What this means exactly is that the location of the North and South poles will change. In other words, Earth’s axis is relocating.

Now, the traditional location of Earth’s North Pole may have to be renamed to the Northeastern Pole. Earth’s axis is like an invisible pin stuck through the Earth from North to South. The Earth spins on the tip of the pin, rotating with a slight wobble that is normal. However, if the geographic location of the Poles change, complete topographical and satellite telemetry systems have to be adjusted to accommodate this change. For the average person, this means that your GPS is going to deliver you to the wrong place!

Scientists have long known that the Poles shift by a few centimeters from time to time as a part of Earth’s natural climate adjustment cycles. But what we are dealing with now is much more dramatic. Experts estimate that the shift is averaging about ten centimeters Eastward annually. Our great-great-grandchildren may have to adjust Christmas stories to have Santa Claus living in Russia or Norway.

Although scientists understand that as ice continues to melt the Earth will adjust by shifting its axis to the place where it has lost mass, even their best predictions are really just a guess. This is an extremely complex problem. It’s not just melting ice sheets that affect the process but also loss of groundwater in above ground reservoirs and underground aquifers (which underground aquifers cannot be accurately measured) as well as glacier melt and glacier movement. Many glaciers float about the ocean as they please.

The Earth’s ice and water storage formula affects polar drift. Yet many of the variables in the formula cannot be measured or can change their individual affect. So, scientists are left scratching their heads, doing the best with what they’ve got, and hazarding their best guess on what humanity can expect.

Ice melt is not the only thing that can bump the North Pole to a different location. Enormous earthquakes and devastating tsunamis can do the job as well. Indonesia’s great earthquake moved the North Pole eastward by about 2.5 centimeters and also lengthened Earth’s day cycle by 2.68 microseconds. No wonder I’ve been so tired lately! The gringa is filled with wonder at how humans remain at the mercy of nature despite all of our technological advances.


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Japan’s Underwater City of the Sea Gods

The gringa’s dear readers may find musings of the lost city of Atlantis as fascinating as the gringa. What if it has actually been discovered off the coast of Japan? Hey, stranger things have happened! Although it is more likely that it is a lost city from Japan’s ancient Jomon civilization, sunk into the ocean thousands of years ago after a cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami or climate upheaval after the last ice age, it is still fun to entertain fantastical theories as well as explore the real science behind this archaeological mystery.

Originally discovered by dive instructor Kihachiro Aratake in 1986, these amazing formations have come to be known as the Yonaguni Monument. This massive underwater complex, dated to have hailed around 8000BC, can be found off the coastline of the island Yonaguni which is part of Japan’s Ryukyu island chain. Extending over an area of almost 1000 feet x 500 feet, the complex consists of ten structures, some appearing to be in the shape of animals as well as to contain glyphs of human characters and animals. Roads and retaining walls can be seen connecting the structure in the pattern of a well designed city.

For decades scuba diving tourists, as well as scuba diving archaeologists, have explored ancient ruins of a castle, majestic archway, five temples, a step pyramid and a massive arena. As the gringa only gets to explore pictures of the ruins, it is still pretty obvious even to my untrained eye that these are man-made. Yet there are still scientists who prefer to believe these are natural formations that were enhanced by ancient people into functional structures. This really aggravates the gringa when scientists wave aside the obvious because they just don’t want to admit that ancient civilizations may have been far more advanced than modern “experts” have traditionally been taught to believe.

Just as the west has Aesop’s fables, Japanese culture has their own popular fables, myths and legends. The Mu civilization is a fabled Pacific people. The ancient tale explains that they disappeared under the waves of the sea. In 1996 Masaaki Kimura, professor of marine geology from Japan’s University of the Ryukyus, began his own research to see if this is the long lost home of the Mu. He, too, was of the belief that Yonaguni was most likely a man-manipulated complex of natural formations. However, he was completely converted after his first dive.

Kimura identified quarry marks on many of the megalithic stones. And, since nature does not normally lay out large stones in symmetrical patterns and create many stones with right angles, the gringa tends to agree with Kimura’s conclusion. He studied carvings that were distinctly human faces and animals. The style was clearly indicative of Asian art. He refers to Egypt’s famous sphinx as he described one underwater sculpture of what seems to be a king. A glyph resembling a horse and a painted relief resembling a cow are still discernible making it apparent that this was not a city of mermaids and mermen living under the sea but was actually a thriving, above-ground metropolis at one time.

This area of the Pacific is famous for earthquakes and tsunamis. In the spring of 1771 the largest tsunami ever recorded struck Yonaguni. With a height of well over 130 feet, a catastrophic oceanic wave such as this would have been powerful enough to blast this ancient city well below the surface of the Pacific. Also, 10,000 years ago the sea level would have been more than 100 feet lower than it is today. The geographical area that the Yonaguni complex sits on would, at the time of its existence, have been well above the sea and on dry ground, a coastal city. A land bridge would have also existed connecting the chain of islands with the mainland making it entirely possible for humans to settle there with their domesticated animals.

Although some experts date the ruins to be about 10,000 years old, Kimura’s estimate gives the complex a much younger age. He suspects it may be a 5,000 year old civilization. Either way, this still places the city’s existence during the time of the Jomon civilization. Evidence to be more specific about the age of the structures is hard to come by. Existing beneath the ocean means that things like pottery or wooden objects have long since decayed and disappeared forever. There is, however, the chance of analysis of the paint used on the cow to get a bit more specific at pinning down a particular century.

Jomon culture during the timeframe considered for these structures can be divided into two separate eras:

  • Incipient Jomon (10,500-8000BC)
  • Initial Jomon (8000-5000BC)

Incipient Jomon civilization has left behind archaeological remains that indicate that the Jomon people were primarily hunter gatherers who produced pottery identified by their pointed bottoms and corded markings.  The following period, Initial Jomon, was noted by rising sea levels and global temperatures. The land bridge between the islands and the mainland would have disappeared. Diet would have transitioned to primarily sea based fare and the development of agriculture and farm production animals since natural resources were limited on the island. Large refuse mounds consisting of large amounts of shells discovered on archeological digs on the islands  attests to this. Remains of stone religious figurines and tools such as knives and axes have also been discovered in island digs and dated to the same period as the underwater city.

Historians describe the culture of the Jomon era to be very complex and in the early stages of organized agricultural develpment. Similarities with Asia’s ancient northeastern cultures as well as the ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas can be detected in many of the artifacts discovered. The Jomon preferred to live in coastal or river communities in homes that were sunken into the earth. Ironic, then, that one of their greatest cities eventually sunk into the ocean.

Although the gringa is unable to scuba dive because of epilepsy, I am certain that at least a few dear readers could join the many tourist divers and send me pictures and a recount of your adventure. During winter months, shark enthusiasts sink beneath the waves to observe the hammerheads that frequent the area.  However, if sharks aren’t your thing, and you prefer the mystery of history, you can always take a detour to the ruins and share your thrills here on the gringa’s blog.

Since the late 90s the underwater city has become increasingly popular among tourists. Famous writers and photographers have braved the waves to record their own bit of history. The Discovery Channel and National Geographic have performed their own expeditions. So, if any dear reader does get the opportunity for a dive of their own, you must drop the gringa a line here and share your own exciting story.


National Geographic

Hidden Archaeology


Image source: Source: Hidden Archeology




Singing Space Soup

On February 24 the gringa posted “Moon Music – It’s Classified” with an interesting audio recording from the Apollo 10 mission in 1969. Today I would like to share a great video posted by NASA entitled “NASA Space Sounds”. Although there is an eeriness to the multi-planet ensemble, the gringa finds the sounds to have a meditative quality.

Now, the gringa wants to know how music and sound is produced in outer space. Sound is a vibration that travels through air. In order for vibrations to travel through outer space molecules have to exist in outer space. It is the vibrating air molecules that produce the sound. Outer space is a vacuum, meaning that in the area between planets and stars, there are no molecules. So how is this space music produced?

These symphonies are, indeed, vibrating wave patterns. Planets and moons emit electromagnetic pulses that bounce back and forth between surrounding rings and atmospheric barriers that are not visible to the naked eye. The charged particles within these atmospheres, plasma, are the “carriers” of the sound.

To capture these sounds NASA uses space probes equipped with plasma wave antennae. One particular NASA spacecraft featuring a plasma wave antenna is Voyager. This craft also has on board “The Golden Record” which shares images and sounds from Earth. So, Voyager is on an interactive sound mission, capturing and sharing.

Other things Voyager has captured are “tsunami solar waves”. When there is a burst of energy from the sun, a solar flare, a plasma shockwave is created. It takes about one year for the shockwave to reach Voyager and have the sound recorded. NASA has three recordings thus far.

Shock waves from the sun, as well as cosmic rays from other nearby stars within our Milky Way galaxy, are filled with plasma particles. Plasma is dense and creates very rapid oscillations when something causes the particles to vibrate. A plasma “bubble”, also called a “bell”, surrounds stars like our sun. When a solar flare occurs it’s like ringing a bell. A plasma shockwave resonates. March, 2014 was the third recording by Voyager 1 of our singing Sun.

Plasma is very interesting. It is filled with charged particles. It’s kind of like space soup that has the potential to sing. So the Voyager spacecrafts are basically recording singing space soup. Space soup is also called interstellar space. This is the area of space that exists between stars and contains plasma.

The Voyager mission launched in 1977 with two Voyager spacecraft. Voyager 2 launched about two weeks earlier than Voyager 1 and is still on the job making it the longest operating spacecraft in history. Both Voyagers have visited Jupiter and Saturn. #2 did a fly-by of Uranus and Neptune. One thing they have taught us in their travels is that space is a noisy and musical place thanks to plasma.


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