Friday, June 16, 2006

An Intro To O-Chem

Scientists love to name things, classify them, so that there can be a greater order of knowledge. There are many examples of this. One such is in the field of chemistry. Each different type of atom has a different name to it. If there is one proton and one electron it is hydrodgen. If it has two protons, two electrons and two neutrons, it is helium. This goes on and on for each element. When you put several atom together you get a molecule. These are also named. Water has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. It is called dihydrogen monoxide. Di- meaning two, mono- meaning one and an -ide is placed at the end to classify it as a compound. Organic chemistry is the same way. One carbon with four hydrogens around it is methane. Two carbons with hydrogens surrounding it is ethane. Three carbons - propane, and four carbons - butane, etc. If you have a double bond in the chain, the ending of -ane goes to -ene. If there is a triple bond, the ending goes to -yne. Chains of carbons that come of the longest chain are also names. This is all done to keep science in an order of understanding.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Landsliding vs Earthquakes

I find it funny that are not as protected as we should be against landslides. Landslides, slumps, debris flows, mudflows are just some names to describe mass movements of land on a hill, mountain or valley slope. Landslides actually cause 4 times more damage in dollars than earthquakes do, yet earthquake research is 10 times more funded. Like I said, funny. Even though earthquakes cause more damage per event, they are much less frequent than landslides. Mass movement can occur in many ways. One of the more popular ways is to increase the pore pressure in the sediment. You see, in soil, water can easily permeate through the soil in between the sand crystals. If large amounts of rain fall, that can increase the pressure of the water in the pores of the soil and make it unstable. You can think of it as a large chunk of land hydroplaning on the slope. When building a home, be careful where you build. Not too close to the top of a hill, not too close to the bottom where sliding may occur, not too close to a river or flood plain, unless you like to build houses. Take a look at the picture of La Conchita, California. It slid twice.

Monday, June 12, 2006

V-shaped, U-shaped Valleys

Have you ever been out hiking or driving and seen a V-shaped valley? They're pretty much every where. Have you seen a U-shaped valley? They are not rare, but not so common. The difference is that the V-shaped valleys are created by rivers or streams. The water erodes down a surface and slowly forms a V. U-shaped valleys are also made by water but it is solid. That's right, ice. It is in a form of a glacier; as the glacier creeps down the mountain side from where they formed it slowly also erodes a valley. Since they are wide, they tend to make more U-shaped landscape as apposed to the V-shape. Slow as they may be, they have tremendous force cutting it's way down and moving debris. Glaciers form hills of debris around it that it plows through. These are called moraines; there are lateral moraines on the sides and a terminal moraine at the bottom end of the glacier where it progresses or regresses. Yosemite National Park is a great example of many glacial valleys. But be careful, don't confuse a river valley that is filled with sediment that appears to be a U with a glacial valley.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Rocks are made from mineral. Some minerals can grow in large beautiful crystals. Gemstones are an example of this. Take the diamond for example. One large crystal of just carbon. Graphite is also made of just carbon, so why are they different? It all depends on the crystal structure, how the atoms are bonded. Some times you'll get replacements for diamonds, like the cubic zirconium, or a white sapphire. A more recent replacement is moissanite. It was found in the meteroite that landed in what is now know as Meteor Crater, Arizona. Fragments found in Diablo Canyon by Henry Moissan in 1893 were studied and determined to be made of silicon carbide, earned him the name of the new mineral. The company Charles and Coalvard began processing the mineral for sale in the late 20th century. It's fire and brilliance out wits the diamonds glow. Want to see it for yourself? The moissanite also wins at heat resistance. When put in to a furnace at 1100 degrees celcius, the diamond will vaporize and the moissanite will keep it's true brilliance. It is also much more rare to get than diamond and is 10 times cheaper. This is the kind of jewel that I would recommend.