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June 27, 2019

Spectacular eruption of Raikoke volcano off of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula

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The photo was taken last weekend from the International Space Station.

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From Gizmodo

The image shows the classic shape of a volcanic plume rising, and then ash spreading at the top.


It's surrounded by a ring of white clouds, likely either water vapor condensing out of the air or steam from magma entering the water, Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech, said in a NASA Earth Observatory post.


Aircraft and satellite data show that the ash could have reached altitudes of 8 to 10 miles.

June 27, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Washi — the world's thinnest paper — is disappearing


From the Japan Times:

Once an indispensable part of daily life in Japan, washi paper was used for everything from writing and painting to lampshades, umbrellas, and sliding doors, but demand has plunged as lifestyles have become more Westernized.

Despite its 1,300-year history and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status, washi paper is struggling to attract consumers and its market value has dropped by more than 50% in the past two decades.

At a small workshop in western Japan, Hiroyoshi Chinzei (above), a fourth-generation traditional paper maker, creates washi with a unique purpose that may help revive interest — both at home and abroad.

Chinzei's product, the world's thinnest paper, has helped save historical documents at major museums and libraries — including the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, and Washington's Library of Congress — from decay.

"Washi paper is more flexible and durable" than what Japanese refer to as "Western paper," which disintegrates into tiny pieces when it becomes very old, the 50-year-old says.

The traditional handmade paper is manufactured from plants called kōzo, or mulberry, which has fibers that are much longer than materials used for paper in the West such as wood and cotton.

"Old Japanese books from the seventh or eighth century remain in good condition… thanks to the fibers of the kōzo plants," the washi maker says at his small factory in Hidaka, a village located in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.

The paper making process begins with steaming the kōzo plants and peeling off the bark, which is then boiled until soft, while impurities are removed by hand in clear water.


[Above: steamed kōzo (mulberry) plants provide the fibers for the washi paper made at Hidaka Washi]

The fibers are then beaten and mixed with glue and water, before being placed on a wooden screen.

This screen is then dipped repeatedly in water with the fibers and shaken to spread the liquid evenly to make a sheet of paper, a technique which requires years to master.

Because washi is hard to break, damaged old documents can be reinforced by attaching a piece of washi or sandwiching them between two sheets of the paper, Chinzei explains.

For documents, transparency is key to be able to see the text, meaning the thinner the washi, the better.

Chinzei's washi, a type called tengu-jōshi paper, also known as "the wings of a mayfly," is 0.02 millimeters thick and weighs 1.6 grams per square meter.

Compare that to a standard sheet of photocopy paper, which is about 0.09 millimeters thick and weighs 70 grams per square meter.

"It's a mesh-like paper mainly made with fibers… It's as thin as human skin," Chinzei says.

Using both machines and handmade techniques passed down for generations, the firm creates its ultra-thin paper, which is also used by conservationists to restore and protect cultural objects.


Above, one such conservationist, Takao Makino, carefully applies onto golden sticks representing the halo of a Buddhist statue estimated to be around 800 years old.

Makino says he used washi for the first time in 2007 to protect the surface of one of the two main statues at Tokyo's historic Sensoji temple.

"The surface was damaged and peeled off. So we covered all of it (with washi) to contain the damage," the 68-year-old says.

"Washi naturally fits into intricately-shaped sculptures, but papers with chemical fibers or wrapping films don't," he says.

"The history proves washi is very durable… The material is pure, strong and lasting. It's reliable."

The production of the Japanese paper peaked in the Edo Period (1603-1868) but declined as paper making was mechanized.

Now, due to the Westernization of Japan, the washi market is shrinking again, Chinzei says.

"We have no tatami rooms and almost no space to display a hanging scroll in the current lifestyle," he says.

"Washi used for those things are now gone."

According to the industry ministry, the total value of handmade washi dropped to ¥1.78 billion in 2016 from ¥4.15 billion in 1998, while that of washi for calligraphy and shōji sliding screens fell to ¥5.86 billion from ¥25.1 billion.

Chinzei didn't plan on taking over his family trade and went to business school in Seattle to study finance.

"But I came back… because I felt responsible for passing the baton to the next generation," he says, hoping to find ways to expand the market.

The volume of washi used for restoration is still small, but it has been shipped to more than 40 countries and Chinzei is hopeful interest will grow.

"For restoring cultural assets and as a canvas for art… I think washi has the potential to be used more in the world of art," he says.

June 27, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Big Bear (California) Eagle Chick Webcam — Fair Warning: DO NOT APPROACH

From the Los Angeles Times:

A bald eagle chick whose birth at Big Bear Lake was captured live on a webcam has yet to take its first flight.

The chick (above), which locals call Simba, just turned 10 weeks old, and has spent its entire life in a large twiggy nest on the northern side of the lake.

Young bald eagles generally leave the nest and take their first flight when they are 10 to 12 weeks old.

But the chick hasn’t yet taken off — and the surrounding area will be off limits until it does.

The San Bernardino National Forest on Tuesday issued an order to keep parts of a trail, a few forest roads, and a campsite shut to protect the bird, a news release said.

"After an eagle's first flight, it usually uses the nest area as a home base for up to two weeks while becoming more adept at flying," wildlife biologist Robin Eliason said in the statement. "It's important to continue to protect him from disturbance until then."

The order is set to end July 31, or sooner if the eagle fledges and leaves the area.

Off-limit areas include the lower portion of the Grays Peak Trail (including the parking lot at the trailhead), the Grout Bay Picnic Area, a campsite, part of Grays Peak Road, and all of what's known as Lumpy Road.

The best place to watch the chick's progress is on the Friends of the Big Bear Valley's webcam (top).

It captures events on a live-streaming camera, perched 120 feet high in a pine tree in the community of Fawnskin.

In May, a second chick born about the same time died at age 6 weeks after enduring snow and cold temperatures in the nest.

The eaglet was known as Cookie, and had an internet following based on its webcam fame.

June 27, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The population of Africa will more than triple by the end of this century

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21st century projections by UN demographers predict that Africa's population is set to explode over the next 80 years, with the rest of the world's remaining static overall.

[via the Economist]

June 27, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: smaller than a bread box.

Another: made in the U.S.A.

A third: moving parts (I think).

June 27, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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