Archive for June, 2012

Transit of Venus “Generates” Energy

Sharing my experience of the Transit of Venus with everyone…

"Images from photographic plates of the T...

“Images from photographic plates of the Transit of Venus” Deutsch: Venustransit am 6. Dezember 1882 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Chicago, as in many parts of the country, many people were not treated to a complete experience of the annular eclipse last month. Thus when the day came for the Venus transit event, I thought to myself, “If we have good weather and I am feeling up to it, I’ll try to get in that experience!”

Fortunately our weather cooperated perfectly and the Adler Planetarium held a viewing event… and offered free general admission, which was a pleasant perk for the day. Getting to the Adler is so easy on the #146 bus- takes you straight to the Planetarium and a stunning view of one of America’s best lakefronts. Well, on that day I took my binoculars just to catch a good view of the area, some blank paper, snacks, and the happiness of being able to see the special event.

Around 5 P.M. the transit began, and that while I was standing in a long line of people waiting to use one of the telescopes, a very nice Coronado SolarMax model fitted with one of the excellent H-alpha filters that turns the image orange-red but provides fine viewing conditions. That is when I put my binoculars to use, turned the small end toward the paper and focused in order to get a reverse image of Venus just starting to cross the sun. Now I do not have to look directly into the lenses in order to know the image is projecting properly onto the paper. The bright image comes into view when the lenses are at the correct angle, and a dot of light shows up in the lens area. All you have to do is maneuver the binoculars until the image projects on the paper, and cover one of the lenses so a single image shows up.

As I waited, Venus edged into view and then I was able to look at it through the SolarMax.

After that I and hundreds of others went inside to see the live feed from Mauna Kea observatory, courtesy of NASA, which provided views in three colors of filter: purple, white, and the orange-red.

It was very nice of the Adler team and some other observers who made telescopes available for the thousands who came to share the event. People of all ages showed up, from the elderly to the young family out to witness something unique to share with the kids. Being around all those fine people made the event even more special. Astronomy has not lost its romance, nor has it lost its magnetic attraction. Science and technology, society and the draw of the marvelous and the beautiful in nature…certainly everything came out for the best on June 5.

Sunspots were also visible (and in fact are today, with a fine cluster visible even with the reverse-binocular method of projecting the image on white paper). An observer at the transit event brought along one of the “sun-spotter” instruments which projected the white light onto the center of the instrument.

Sadly such an event will not be visible for another 105 years, so everyone there had the chance to mutually benefit from something to talk about, dream about, share around, write about, photograph, and research for decades. People in Chicago shared that event with people the world over, with folks atop a mountain and folks at sea level (or at least at lake level). We learned, we stood in silence and reverence, we shared and laughed, we witnesses, and we took home vivid memories.

Thanks again to the staff at the Adler Planetarium, the keepers of the stellar Chicago lakefront, the CTA, the drivers for that day on the #146 route who kept everyone safe and got us there in time, the Chicago Park District, and everyone who brought out their telescopes.

Venus over Witton Lakes

Venus over Witton Lakes (Photo credit: ringsofsaturnrock)

Divi Logan and ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.

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Agent Orange Corn: A Little 2,4-D in Your Sauce?

Hello Chicago and Good Day, World!

English: Image from MolInspiration's 3-D struc...

English: Image from MolInspiration’s 3-D structure of 2,4-Dichlorophenoaceric acid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Listening to local radio station NewsRadio 780 WBBM in Chicago this morning, I heard the introduction to a story that seemed curious and serious at the same time. It referred to something called “agent orange corn”, and the reality of the “super-weed“. Certainly the super – weed concept has been known for decades, if some documents are accurate, and the use of extremely toxic herbicides has also been known for decades. Also known is the excellent book, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. I am presently reading that scientific treatise, and by coincidence a page I just finished mentioned the extremely potent compound known as 2,4-D. What exactly is 2,4-D? According to a book titled The Science of 2,4,5-T and associated phenoxy herbicides, which I found in the reference section of the Harold Washington Library in the Chicago Loop, the full name of the chemical is 2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid. That’s a mouthful, and wow what it can do to you or to anything it gets into!

In fact, on page 213 of Silent Spring, is the following quote:

The herbicide 2,4-D has also produced tumorlike swellings in treated plants. Chromosomes become short, thick, clumped together. Cell division is seriously retarded. The general effect is said to parallel closely that produced by X-rays.

Other quotes or sections in Silent Spring where 2,4-D are mentioned are page 43, with a curious case of the discovery of that weed – killer compound; and pp. 75 – 79

Threaten MY soybeans and corn, will you, eh? Yecchh.

As I later learned in the news article, the substance 2,4-D is also a compound of the demon chemical used in the Vietnam War and known as Agent Orange. A rather graphic photo of a man exposed to that chemical is at the end of this article.

Think about synthesizing a strain of corn that is resistant to pests that are resisting such potent herbicides as 2,4-D. Now those researchers would have to be exposed to the compound in order to test the effectiveness of the experiment; and that also means mention of the people who must safely – and emphasize the word SAFELY- transport the hazard to the lab.

The article seemed rather confusing as it went on, seeming to imply also that the corn must also resist the potency of the 2,4-D that is meant to kill off the invading superweeds. Thus the compound might also impact the environment wherein it is being tested, getting into the air, the groundwater, the wells, and onto other plants.

Well, I’d rather have my corn without any 2,4-D sauce, thanks.

Related Vocabulary:

* Phytotoxic; hydrocarbon

* Oxidation; cell division

* Lindane, malathion, parathion, chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor

* Carbon tetrachloride, DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane), toxaphene, benzene hexachloride, methoxychlor, phenothiazine, dinitro compounds

Suggested Sources:

1. Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. The Classic that Launched the Environmental Movement. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/ Mariner, 1962.

2. Bovey, Rodney W. The Science of 2,4,5-T and associated phenoxy herbicides. New York: Wiley Interscience, 1980.

Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-conta...

Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divi Logan for ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.

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