Wednesday, June 23, 2010

update on earthquake

Both the USGS and the GSC are now reporting that this was a magnitude 5.0 event. That's a moment magnitude, so that's as accurate a number as can be reported.

Canadians in southern Ontario and western Québec should report what they felt (or didn't feel) here. Americans anywhere nearby (particularly New York state, Vermont, NH, Massachusetts and northern Pennsylvania) can report what they felt or didn't fell to the USGS.

The Ottawa Valley has non-trivial earthquake hazard.

These are historic earthquakes in Southern Ontario.
Below are historic earthquakes for Canada:

As you can see, you are most likely to experience an earthquake in BC or the Yukon, but it isn't unusual to have smaller event in Québec or Ontario (or Nunavut or the maritimes). Earthquakes on the west coast are usually due to the Pacific plate subducting under the North American plate. The east coast of Canada and the US is a passive margin. That means that there isn't this sort of plate interaction. Also, the Ottawa valley is a fair distance from any plate boundary but it has a history of earthquakes. An event like this is to be expeceted every three years or so. The earth's crust is being compressed and this causes the stress, which was just released today. There's a good explanation for non-earth scientists here. The interesting question (to me) is whether this is post-glacial rebound? You see, we are currently coming out of an ice age, and recently (in geological terms) North America was covered in ice. When you take that weight away, the earth bounces back up, but because it is visco-elastic, it doesn't do so immediately, just like silly putty.

My mother called to ask me if there was really an earthquake. She was driving. There are two different scales which are important. The Richter scale is about the magnitude of ground motion and energy released. When we talk about 'magnitude' we are talking about this type of scale, but frankly, it's rare to still be using the Richter scale - what you really want is a moment magnitude (here it was 5.0). The magnitude is the size at the epicentre and can be calculated with remote measurements. The other scale that is useful is the intensity scale. The instensity scale is more qualitative and measures what was felt. Unless you were in Buckingham, Québec, you probably only felt light shaking. People outside likely did not notice.

There is only one dot on that map of Canada which really concerns me. It's that magnitude 9 dot near Vancouver Island. That's a megathrust earthquake which happened 310 year ago. It caused a tsunami in Japan. It will happen again. It is estimated that this type of earthquake will happen in northern Cascadia (BC, Washinton State, Oregon) every 500 years (plus or minus 100 years).


So I'm working from home today because the University is closing at 6 pm. They are going to lock everyone out, so I figured why fight traffic only to get kicked out at 6 pm? It figures though... there's hardly ever noticeable earthquakes in Toronto and on the random Wednesday I'm not actually in the office the entire house shook for a good portion of a minute with a tangible coda. The closet door opened and a few things even fell off the shelf. I was not seeing anything on the USGS page (until just now) and the Earthquakes Canada page was down altogether (possibly because they run everything from Ottawa in typical government fashion).

It's now up:
a magnitude 5.5 event near the Ontario-Québec border, 61 km north of Ottawa
* Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 17:41:41 UTC
* Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 01:41:41 PM at epicenter
* Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 45.866°N, 75.457°W

That's a fairly large event and early felt reports came from Ottawa, Toronto and as far as Buffalo.

If you felt the event, you should fill in a felt report. By doing so you can help with earthquake safety and building codes. It is a straightforward thing to record ground shaking, but the specific effects in different areas can be greatly effected by local ground conditions. The Ottawa Valley, believe it or not, has some of the highest earthquake hazard in Canada.

You can fill in a felt repot with the USGS. Canadians should fill in felt reports with the GSC... I'll post a link as soon the Earthquakes Canada site is back up.

Edit: Earthquakes Canada felt report here

Interestingly, Minouette did not freak out like she did when she experienced a magnitude 3.9 event within 10 km of the epicenter.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

cold seep

The New York Times has a really good slide show of a cold seep community in the Gulf of Mexico. I spend a lot of my time thinking about cold seeps. Sometimes it occurs to me that the people in my life are a little vague on 'what it is I do'. One of the things I do is study cold seeps. People don't realize that in many places in the world, gas just seeps up from the seafloor quite naturally, without any instigation. When you get gases at, or near, the seafloor a few things happen. If the pressure and temperature conditions are right (and they are in the GoM), you get gas hydrate. Also, gases, like methane are food to someone, so an entire ecosystem can build up. Actually, the cold seep where I've worked with a submersible (it's strange to me that people now hear terms like ROV on TV, and comedians remark on underwater robots as if these are something new) is sadly, remarkably dull and rather barren. And yet, even in a relatively barren patch of Pacific, the things one sees on the seafloor are so captivating that one literally has to order the scientists to leave the lab now and again to get some sleep. The funny things is, that physical scientists like me have no training to identify much of this flora and fauna. We keep a log of what we observe. We learn certain things - even a geophysicist can be expected to log obvious things like 'octopus', 'sea-pen', 'bacteria mat' (as these are far more common than you ever expected) - but often we are flummoxed and end up writing 'critter' or 'life'. The image is a screencapture I grabbed from a streaming video feed from an ROV when working offshore Canada's west coast. I don't know what it is, but there were a pair of them and they changed colours, and looked for all the world like deep purple mushrooms with multiple stalks. Anyway, go look at the pretty critters.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

spectacularly ugly

anglerfish 060
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The Mad Scientists of Etsy theme for June is Ichthyology. I can't even spell Ichthyology, as will come as no surprise to Reynardin. I look it up every time. Anglerfish are spectacularly ugly fish of the order Lophiiformes who use a fleshy growth from their heads (ummm... doesn't that sound appetizing?) as a lure to fish their prey. This one is a bottom-dwelling (benthic) predator with a bioluminescent lure (the esca or illicium). It's like Nature decided, well it's too dark down there to see much, let's make it as ugly as possible. If any little fishies think they see a big gaping jaw full of sharp, pointy teeth, by the eerie blue glow of the bioluminscent lure, they'll assume they must be imagining things. Nothing could be that ugly.

This is a lino block print of an anglerfish in white and blue ink on Japanese teal unryu paper, 7.35 inches by 15.5 inches (18.4 cm by 39.4 cm). It is one of a hand-pulled edition of 6.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Front Page Fractal Geometry

Fractal Geometry II on the Front Page

'Fractal Geometry II' on the front page

One of the leaf prints + lino prints of a fern leaf and Sierpiński Triangle just made it to the Etsy Front Page (in the bottom right corner) - much to my surprise.

I made that for an MSOE challenge on fractal geometry last September. I debated relisting it, and thought I should do something with the Sierpiński Triangle block. When I visited Etsy the funny thing is that with the new aspect ratio, at first I only saw the top row or so, and thought to myself, 'oh, are triangles still the thing?' and then I scrolled down and actually clapped my hands when pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reading is sexy XXXVII

{image by Adrian Tomine}
20. Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks is a long graphic novel, about comics, authorship, friendship, the history of New Zealand and turangawaewae - finding a place to stand. It weaves different elements together, and follows more than one protagonist. Hicksville is a small, remote town in New Zealand, where each and every inhabitant harbours a great love and knowledge of even obscure comics. It's the home town of Dick Burger, the world's most financially successful man in the comics industry, who rose rapidly to fame with his Captain Tomorrow series, now being made into films. Biographer Leonard Batts travels to Hicksville to learn more about him, only to discover that for some reason unsaid, Burger is much despised. Also, pages recounting a story of early navigators, both English and Maori, keep strangely blowing his way. Burger meanwhile coerces his childhood friend and fellow (struggling) cartoonist to leave Auckland for LA, though he thinks he might have just met the woman he's been looking for.

It's really quite beautiful.

21. Seeing by Jose Saramago This is the sequel to Blindness so I should have known exactly what I was getting myself into. I made the mistake of reading The Cave first, which in hindsight, would have had extra layers of meaning if I had read it after Blindness and Seeing. The premise of Seeing is that four years after the country was hit with an epidemic of 'white blindness' (which affected all people, but the wife of an ophthalmologist, unbeknownst to all but a tiny group), an election is marred by an abnormal number of blank votes from the capital (where the epidemic originated). A re-vote makes the situation worse: 85% of votes in the capital are blank. The government calls a state of emergency, and ultimately a siege. The story is about the decent into totalitarianism. It, like Saramago's other novels, reads like another fable by a wise old man. However, I found this novel more distancing. It is a good 200 pages before we re-encounter some characters from Blindness, and 250 before we reach the scene included as a preview in my copy of Blindness. The story does unfold in a manner which seem inescapable. I would be being flippant were I to say the message is that humans are dishonourable, power hungry, paranoid and vengeful, and that those heroic individuals of honour make ideal scapegoats. However, that is nonetheless what makes these novels a challenge to read.
{Series so far: books read, more books read, books read, books read continues, more books read, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII,XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI}

Monday, June 7, 2010


Minouette  by Reynardin

While I was gone, Reynardin spent some quality time with Minouette. Apparently she wanted to watch a movie with my favorite feline, but kept forgetting to bring the DVD. So, (luckily for me) she helped herself to some art supplies and painted Miss M's portrait. So, I got one of my vintage frames, and some Japanese paper as a mat and framed it.

Meanwhile I had a small circular Italian vintage frame with a print of a Renaissance woman and felt somehow she needed to be updated as an Arsinoitherium (a Paleocene & Pliocene mammal, an Uranothere) - pencil and acrylic ink on water colour paper, with Japanese washi background.

Arsinoitherium portrait

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mr. Sammy Samuelson, Cat, Esq.

Sammy wants blueberries If people other than Lady & Mr. Redjeep would like a portrait of the handsome, blue-grey cat with a fruit-fetish, Mr. Sammy Samuelson, I have added the rest of the first edition linocuts to my shop.

Sammy is printed in blue-grey on Japanese kozo paper with chine collé eyes in black on yellow and the text in blue. Each sheet in 8.5 inches by 12 inches (21.6 cm by 30.5 cm). The first edition consists of 9 prints.

This print was inspired by a photo portrait of Mr. Samuelson, by Mr. Redjeep and made as a gift for Lady and Mr. Redjeep (& Sammy, of course). Some people bring wine, I bring lino block prints.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Supreme Court I had an hour to kill yesterday, in Ottawa, so I did the obvious. After all, I've been to Ottawa several times, but I hadn't really gone to see Parliament since I was 12. But first, the Supreme Court, a building I really like. It's got great, and somehow unexpected proportions.

I didn't even know why the flag was at half-mast.

the hero
I like the real heroes we choose to place across from Parliament.

groundhog in front of Parliament In the bushes, right before the Parliament steps, there was a semi-stealthy groundhog. It would have been too funny if it were a beaver. I took several photos until the RCMP drove up slowly and then I decided perhaps I was behaving suspiciously and should move along.
stealthy groundhog
guess whogroundhog at Parliament

As soon as I got to the gate at Pearson, I noticed that the proportion of spoken French I heard went up. I was lucky on the way there. They had me seated next to a francophone woman with a infant and toddler, with an anglophone family with infant behind me - but the stewardess offered me the emergency exit row instead. I took a shuttle to the hotel where the meeting was held. Saw a few people I knew, but it was dominated by atmospheric physicists and oceanographers. Had lunch with N, who complained about the smokers. I told him it was the proximity to la belle province. I wandered off to the B&B in the afternoon - good thing too. It had a) moved across the street and b) did not consider my request for a reservation and their confirmation enough. Apparently I was supposed to confirm the confirmation, which seems redundant to me - but I got a room. Walked the 2 km back to the conference. Then headed to the Hill*, before the banquet (which was a great success**). Flew back home this morning. Security addressed me in French, which I always take as a compliment and an assumption based on my clothes, because it can't be my preternaturally pale-Irish complexion. When he saw my boarding pass, he switched to English. The Indo-Canadian cabbie from Pearson asked where I had been. Then he asked if I spoke French. Turns out he's trying to learn and wanted to practice. He told me how his Canadian-born cousins didn't know much French even though they got it in school. He thought they were missing out, were wrong to consider French unimportant and that the country as a whole should be more bilingual. I agree of course, but was pleasantly surprised.

*As a small child I assumed The Fool on the Hill was about Parliament. This is only semi-precocious, because while I knew 'the Hill' could be a synonym for Parliament Hill, I wrongly inferred this would be true of all Parliaments, including London.

**Though his medal went missing temporarily between the morning at the Mint and the afternoon at the hotel, less than 1 km away. Apparently there was some behind-the-scenes drama.

Downtown & Magnificent Mile

Scale model Chicago
Starting with the Architectural society, where they had a great scale model, and I began out day downtown. As someone into the visual display of data, I was really impressed. They did a amazing job of dealing with three dimensions and annotating their 3D map. Somehow it made it easier to intepret, being grey, and little 2D signs highlighted buildings were always easy to spot on the the 3D model.

I find it an unpretentious city. People are extremely friendly.

Chicago Willougby Tower
This tower shares a name with me.

Chicago Willougby TowerChicago bean
graffiti, way up
Chicago 021Chicago 022

We had a picnic in a courtyard by the Art Institute, and then walked the Magnificent Mile. It is touristy, and I have done it before, but you have to do it. It's worth seeing. It was funny what I did and didn't remember. I remembered the Wrigley building from when I was 16, but I had forgot the Tribute is embedded with stones from sites around the world (including a few random ones I have since visited like Trondheim cathedral or Parliament in London).

Chicago buildingChicago downtownChicago fire monument
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Chicago TribuneChicago 030Chicago 032
Chicago crosswalk robot
Look! I found another crosswalk robot, like the one on College St, here in Toronto.
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We went up the Hancock tower.
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Even Tiffany's Atlas sculpture is apparent now a Blackhawks fan.

Then we went to a free classical concert in Millennium Park, featuring the Northwestern orchestra playing the music from The Red Violin.
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