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Suvrat and Richard - many thanks for your comments! And I'll be back to blogging shortly after an involuntary hiatus... Michael
I see it has now changed its name to Sporosarcina pasteurii! Incredibly if you google either name plus "buy" there are places that have it available, presumably for bona fide research. What is your interest?
"Panta rhei" reminded me of the news from earlier this year that "the world's longest-running experiment" had recorded the fall of another drop of pitch (see And "waves running through each other" reminded me of the mysteries of barchan dunes merging and emerging. Then there are physical models of stress in architecture - see Gaudi's catenary models for the Sagrad Familia.... It's all too fascinating - thanks, Richard!
Yes indeed, Richard - another important issue. One of the problems is the significant variation in the rules and regulations from state to state, whether they be financial or operating engineering requirements, public disclosure obligations or regulatory enforcement processes.
Thanks for the link! I read the New Scientist bu had missed this completely - fascinating!
Thanks! And yes, Abbey appears first in the preface and then periodically throughout - a compelling character and writer. And then there's Mary Austin.....
Toggle Commented Jan 25, 2014 on The next book at Through The Sandglass
Thanks Suvrat - I'm looking forward to reading it too!
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2014 on The next book at Through The Sandglass
Richard - thanks for this, and particularly for the link to the poem. I hadn't come across it before, and it's wonderful - "The ocean, cumbered by no business more urgent than keeping open old accounts that never balanced . . ." That says it all.
A number of different robotics labs are already working on this - see the linked posts.
Toggle Commented May 15, 2013 on Swimming in the sand at Through The Sandglass
Sorry, but I'm not sure what is meant by "abrasive toronto"?!
Toggle Commented Apr 18, 2013 on Abrasive Sunday Sand at Through The Sandglass
Yes, indeed, gorgeous photographs of spectacular landscapes! I'll take some of the descriptions from the book: the top image is of salt caravans passing each other "in the enormous Tenere are of the Sahara. The caravan in the foreground is on its way out of the deaert, each camel loaded with 450 pounds of salt, while the one in the background is on its way to the salt mines at Bilma." The cover image is of the "Karnasai Valley, Chad. Pinnacles of sandstone rise through orange dunes a few miles from Chad's border with Libya. During the conflict between the two countries in the 1980s, the entrance to this valley was planted with landmines, which keeps people out of this remote part of the Central Sahara." The third photo is of dunes in Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter, the great sand seas of the Rub' al Khali. Dunes come in many shapes and sizes, and these are "star" dunes,shaped by more than one dominant wind direction. The last is of the Adjder Oasis, 100 km NW of Timimoun in the Grand Erg (sand sea) of Algeria. "Each of these sand pits, surrounded by dunes, contains a family farm or garden in its hollow. Barriers of palm fronds stop blowing sand from burying these plots.. The recent introduction of electric pumps is rapidly lowering the water level by three feet per year and is endangering this centuries-old system of agriculture." Hope this helps! Go to Steinmetz's website to find many more wonderful images.
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2013 on George Steinmetz at Through The Sandglass
Liam - thanks for the comment and the question. However, I fear that my personal expertise in abrasives is very much limited to amateur DIY projects and the occasional rock grinding. I had a look at the site you linked to, and they certainly seem to offer a wide range of high-tech professional products; perhaps worth contacting them directly with your specific needs(although it seems that French is the default language)? I guess one of the challenges is finding a specialist company that deals with individuals versus businesses. What kind of projects are you working on?
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2012 on Abrasive Sunday Sand at Through The Sandglass
Probably not!?
Richard - that link to the article on the CIA and Abstract Expressionism is fascinating, and something I was completely unaware of. It led me to hallucinate a traveling exhibition of NASA's Earth as Art images that would emphasize their complete lack of competition from the legacy of the USSR - an antidote to competitive barbarism. But the idea is, of course, pure fantasy - the likes of Rockefeller and his "Mummy's museum" seem to be in short supply these days.
Richard - the phase diagram approaches that I have come across address the phenomenon of jamming, a behaviour that bizarrely overlaps granular materials, glasses, and foams. I wish that my comprehension of physics was at a level that allowed me to attempt to apply my "explanatory gifts" (thank you for your generosity) to this work. However, once I am faced with "Super-Arrhenius increase of the viscosity" or "data for the colloidal glass transition that can be fit to the Vogel-Fulcher form," then to say that I am out of my depth is a gross understatement. For a resource that at least begins with an accessible introduction to the issues before becoming, at least to me, quite opaque, try Also, by the same group headed by Liu at Penn, see I would be most interested if you would share your level of penetration of this fascinating (but challenging - even to the researchers) topic!
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2012 on Perfecting your sandcastle at Through The Sandglass
Fethi - thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, being a geologist, I know more about the materials than the methods - architecture and building are not my specialty. I did, however, come across this comment on the famous underground buildings elsewhere in Tunisia, at Bulla Regia: "Particularly interesting is the Bulla Regia unique site where Romans built underground rooms to protect them from the summer heat and cold of the winter. They employed hollow tubes In order to create light-weight overhead vaults (the same technique can be seen in Rome, where amphorae were often embedded into upper walls to make the load much lighter)." A little research along these lines might provide more information on the answer to your question. Michael
1. I agree - don't we have enough golf courses already? Why do we always need more???? 2. Please go ahead. 3. Oops! and many thanks for pointing this out - it's just that old habit of "finish a sentence, put in the period." Now corrected, I hope (.)
Yes, we need a real humdinger of a North Sea storm to illustrate to DT where the true megalomania lies! And I suspect that Scotland's environment laws are perfectly adequate (the proposal was originally turned down) - it's simply that good old human nature and vested interests entered the equation. And on your "unrelated" link, no, I hadn't seen this remarkable news. Another illustration of how sand can help with all kinds of clever stuff - the University of Toronto press release is at Thanks for the link!
I suspect that you're right, Howard - it's just that I had never seen a blue one before, nor one that has broken this perfectly!
Toggle Commented Aug 27, 2012 on Sunday Sand: Unawatuna at Through The Sandglass
Me too, Suvrat! A long time ago now, first of all working on Landsat images of the Basin and Range of Nevada; then comparing the Ouachita Mountains and the Makran accretionary wedge to come up with some outrageous analogue hypothesis.... We obviously feel the same way about the contributions of this program - and thanks for putting in the primary link.
Drinking beer? Surely not - geologists are a sober bunch.... Thanks for the link, which I hadn't seen (although I, too, can access only the abstract right now). Interestingly dramatic seasonality to these things. What I also wonder at is the calligraphy created by the dust devils - see also, from many examples,, and, of course,
Hi R and F - thanks for the comments and the ideas - and the research. I suspect that the relationship between vegetation growth and sand mobility is a complex one, a variety of the chicken and egg thing. Vegetation certainly reduces mobility, but the opposite is also true - mobile sand prevents vegetation gaining a hold. My guess is that the initial vegetation got going during a time of climate and aridity change, with perhaps sufficient rainfall during the transition to stabilise the sand and allow seeds to get a grip. If this has been a cyclical phenomenon from more to less to more arid, then the totally unvegetated periods when the sand was on the move may have been relatively short, and the grains did not have time to become appreciably rounded (it's a slow process). I can get pretty windy out there today - there were a couple of occasions on my trip that watched grains on the move, and I can verify that saltation is a global phenomenon. But I would also suggest that the total distance any individual grain travels is short, before it gets buried in a sand drift against a bush. And distance travelled is an important factor in grain rounding.
Cristy - many thanks, I'm honoured!
Toggle Commented Jul 14, 2012 on Little fellah bums at Through The Sandglass
Mohsen - you're absolutely right, they are "miracle beasts" and have been responsible for saving countless lives around the world over the centuries. Would it be correct to say that his camels are a Bedouin's most precious possessions?
Toggle Commented Jul 14, 2012 on Little fellah bums at Through The Sandglass
Hmm - "flirting" with camels..... Thanks for the correction - there was an original typo that I corrected - but incorrectly!
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2012 on Little fellah bums at Through The Sandglass