Things Above Us and Below

Composite image showing the global distributio...
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Once again, I have topics brewing (as if I had press deadlines looming).  One, in particular, I think if I can pull it off, I’ll submit to the op-ed page of the Roanoke Times. But that, along with most of the rest of our previously-“normal” life, will have to be postponed indefinitely until head-room presents itself in which two actual thoughts connect. Today, it’s AGAT. All Gandy, All of the Time.

So I’ll share a couple of visually interesting items, both again, worthy of quite a few hundred words on their own, but you’ll get off light this time.

I love it when you experience an AHA! while discovering the answer to a question you have held for years–decades perhaps. (Classroom teaching OTOH is too often providing answers to questions students never asked. So don’t expect so many AHA’s, poor teachers.)

Such was the case for the apparent paradox of seeing the shadows of contrails ABOVE them. There is an explanation. Go here to see and discover. AHA! Now I get it!

OPOD – Crossed Contrail Shadows

Secondly, looking down from space rather than up into it, view this swirl of phytoplankton from orbiting telescope aimed downward. The image and story fail to give a sense of dimension (I’m guessing it could be miles across) and offers no explanation for the counterclockwise vortex in which the billions of organisms are swirling.

This Spectacular Nebula Is Not In Space 

I’ve written before about both the importance of and the peril to phytoplankton, and here’s how these “plant floaters” are described at Gizmodo:

“Phytoplankton is crucial for planet Earth, as they produce more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, fix carbon and serve food for krill and other fish. They are the foundation of the sea and our planet.”

So the fact that ocean warming and acidification are killing off phytoplankton at an alarming rate ought to be something that gets equal press to the latest grotesque music video, sports figure misbehavior or wardrobe malfunction. Nah. This is America. We invented pop culture. Let’s tweet while Rome burns.

See also: 50-Day-Early Arctic Phytoplankton Blooms Could Change Marine Food Cycles : TreeHugger

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Ah Kathy, you are always on top of it–even my daydreaming and rambling. But I am, as you know, a sky watcher, and love being able to explain what I am seeing. You too!