Sunday, January 30, 2011

When the ocean talks to the sea

Scientific Flâneurie at the beach

Part of the fun when I'm outside is about walking in a complex and theoretical labyrinth. I like to think fast and deep, and I love to ask questions and what-ifs.

This particular phenomenon kept me really busy thinking: In a warm an nice summer day, why do we have a refreshing breeze coming from the sea and reverses at night? I immediately thought that this had to do something with heat in the water and in the land, and how it escaped to the air.

Reading about it later, I learned that the absorption of heat is remarkably faster across the land that it is across the sea... Then the air above the ground is heated rapidly and becomes lighter, so it rises! (If its colder, it's "heavier" then it sinks. If it's hot, then it's "lighter" so it goes up like a balloon (this is also why we should have our air conditioners up on our walls and not down, because cold air needs to sink and circulate).

So far so good. now, in this train of thought the question is about air movement... What happens when the hot packet of air rises above the soil? Something needs to replace this hole! well... the air that is over the sea is, as you know, colder... so it spreads like butter towards the beach to fill the hole the rising air left.

This is awesome for the inquisitive mind, but are we done yet? Nope. Turns out that the air that went up is now cold and heavy, so it's not surprising if it needs to go down again... the thing is that it's not going to do it right above the place it came from, because this air aloft also spreads like butter, but way up high towards the sea! Above the sea it goes down. As you can see now, we do have a cycle: air heats up and rises over the land while cool air crawls over the beach (this is why it's so refreshing and people like it).

So when I eventually go to the beach with company, this is when the nerd comment comes from: "Did you know that we're experiencing the thermally-induced air displacement due to a natural thermal machine?" Some people prefer not to think too much about it and some won't even consider it (and this is completely fine!). On the other hand, for the people who prefer depth of knowledge instead of breadth of knowledge it is absurd to avoid thinking a little further because of some irrational fear of becoming crazy or being looked at as a nerd. "There's an occasion for everything!" some reply to me, but hey: This is the occasion because I'm witnessing it, I'm living it, and I'm enjoying thinking about it! "You should rest your mind a bit"

Very well, here's my rest:

After analyzing the cycle, I remembered that the idea of air moving, rising and sinking is in other words a force caused by a gradient in pressure. I'm naming x the axis perpendicular to the shoreline, then the force that experiences the air block that forms the sea breeze is:


Here I multiplied the specific volume of air with the change of pressure between the land and the sea. We said this is a cycle and that air circulates in a closed path, so I'll use the definition of circulation from Kelvin-Bjerknes theorem from Vector Calculus:


Line integrals are very elegant indeed! Here I named u the horizontal flow (the breeze that we feel) and w is the air that sinks or rises. Now let's compute how the horizontal and vertical winds moves in time. What are the obstacles for horizontal flow relevant for this case? friction of course, so let's include it via Newton's second law:


The vertical is the same thing, but gravity is important here:


The problem now is that I have partial derivatives and not the expressions for each velocity component. It's easier to calculate the derivative of circulation and then plug the last two equations in:


Then plug in the equation of ideal gas and Eureka! We have an expression for sea breeze acceleration over time:


Who knew we'd have a natural log in the beach? This is my share of what I call the excitement of discovery!
This is very nice! I can say that the beach can also be a wonderful laboratory of all the sciences!

Thanks for reading!



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The City of Solitudes and Isle of Revenants

The following texts are not of my authorship but I really want to share them here.

What about them?

The famous singer Enya and her lyricist Roma Ryan have been working on a project of a new Language: Loxian.

One of the first songs written in this language is called "Water shows the hidden heart" in which she tells the story of a man in his quest for love and his restless nature. The song depicts a lot of places, including The City of Solitudes and the Isle of Revenants. These beautiful excerpts are absolutely worth reading, I hope you enjoy them.
Thanks for reading!
The City of Solitudes 

What can be said of the City of Solitudes other than that each man is alone in his heart. That each man, though he stands in the midst of a million other men, is a solitude unto himself. And in this solitude there are those who put out their hands. They build bridges. They make roads. They carve pathways into even the most difficult terrains. All of these bridges and roads and pathways lead away from themselves. Yet they lead to other solitudes. All needing somewhere to go, someone to go to. There are those who raise their voice so that the wind will carry their words into the aloneness of another heart, and that heart will hear them and come searching, calling to them, answering. There are those who spell their hearts into existence, who write the deeper desire of their being, so that all will know their solitude. There are those who do not know their aloneness, who are not fully aware, and yet hear the faint echo of voices, or glance at the shapes indigo makes on a page, or sing when others sing, so there is no sound of aloneness. 

And there are those who know their own solitude, and know each man’s solitude, and know that even the wind loses itself and the mountains come and go as every other in this span of time. One always enters this city alone, even though there may be others to greet them. One always leaves this city alone. Within its walls, all life happens. Yet it is as if the one-who-is-looking-for-whom-he-loves has always been in this city, has never left it, even though he has travelled mile upon mile, has put his foot in the places love fell, has existed in another’s heart. As if through years of distance all those miles pull themselves back into this one inch of earth, back to this place. He, too, had built bridges. Not with his hands, not with brick or mortar or steel, but with his eyes open and his heart stretched out until it could go no further.
He, too, had made roads, not with sweat falling from his brow, but with his understanding. He, too, had forged pathways through many difficult terrains, not with axe or saw, but with his hope. And these roads and bridges and pathways had followed routes he did not know of, had not dreamt of, never knew existed. Until he had arrived. For all roads lead somewhere, to someone. And his roads lead to her. How often they had let go their words into the winds, not understanding life, not understanding death. How often they had taken the flow of indigo into their hands and told each other of their deeper desires. 

Echo of voices, shapes on pages. Singing. And those moments of knowing: the epiphanies of mountain, wind, cloud, ocean. The song of the sands sung by a million, million different voices, their hearts broken and broken again, until the one heart had become many and their wanderings that of each man in this city of solitudes. This is truly the City of Cities. It is a place alone, yet it covers the atlas of the world and further.

The Isle of Revenants 

The waves are getting ready for everywhere and all at the same time. They do not know what gives them their restless nature, but they cannot stop themselves in their endless quest. They do not know what they are looking for, only that it has not yet been found. Sometimes they feel as if they have grasped the reason for their anxious departures, only to have it wash through their fingers and lose itself. They feel as if they are nowhere, and must keep going, until they are somewhere they do not know, but they know they will recognise it when they have arrived. But they never arrive. They just keep going to and fro, to and fro, back and forth, back and forth, much like those who find themselves on the Isle of Revenants. 

They too travel back and forth, to and fro, east and west, west and east, east and west. When those on the island stand at its eastern shore looking out over the sea, over the restless waves, waves as restless as their own souls, they see the beauty of the sun as it lies down on the hillside and as it brightens the grass. They see green as they have never seen it before. They hear the barking of dogs in the distance and the laughter of children ripple the air. They hear the echo of a bell, which echoes against itself until it sounds like a host of bells ringing. They remember when the berries brought forth their beautiful colours and became jewels in the sun. They remember the scent of the purple hyacinth, the flower of sorrow, seeking to be forgiven. They remember the white hyacinth, the flower of beauty. 

The blue hyacinth, which embodies constancy. They remember both sadness and joy but their hearts are unsettled. And they say to themselves: "What I seek must be in the west". When those on the island stand on its western shore looking out over the sea, over the restless waves, waves as restless as their own souls, they see a canvas of ever changing colour. They see the reflection of the sky looking down into blue eyes, the warm chaos of gold and yellow and orange as the sun falls into the sea, the gray tones of sadness that covers the waves. They see the stars mesmerized by the sea which is mesmerized by the stars. They see the moon looking for love and, in its madness, letting the ocean pull its heart apart, until it dawns upon the moon, and the moon pulls its heart back from the ocean. They see the immensity of night as it tries to find itself. In all of these episodes there is no sound other than the sea. And those on the island who stand looking out, see and hear these wonders, but their hearts are unsettled. And they say to themselves: "What I seek must be on the eastern shore"

This is the way it always was; that which was distant was worthy and desirable because it was distant, that which they have here, which they hold in their hands, is nothing, because it is here, in their hands. Without the great journey to seek what is not known, they cannot be fulfilled. The leaf of a tree with an exotic name must surely be more prized than this one green leaf that falls before them as the autumn approaches. Besides, where the sun lies down on the hill is much more beautiful than this shore they now stand on. They search for what cannot be, and they cannot stop searching. To be at peace they must give themselves up to what is, the way the waves must let themselves be at peace with the sea. But it does not happen.

For further information about Enya's work click here.
To listen the original song "Water shows the hidden heart" in Loxian, click here


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flâneurie 101: Saint Petersburg


This was an academic thing. I went to present my research about cyclone physics in a university located on the Baltic Sea. I have a remarkable grasp on bureaucracy and paperwork, but this endeavor was particularly exhausting! Deadlines, signatures and flight booking were real nightmares, but hey, I got away with it! At the end of the day I was extremely lucky that the university covered the whole thing via New York City, so I could take some little vacations before and after Russia!

I traveled alone (literally) with no knowledge of Russian language whatsoever... I took a suitcase, laptop, backpack and that's it. Take off!

Traveling to Moscow-Saint Petersburg last summer made me feel like singing a Poliushko Polie, which is a traditional song dedicated to the soldiers that left home to fight in the fields. This was one of the best flâneurie experiences in my life because I was not only able to know about a completely different culture, but I felt the joy of being really incognito.

I love traveling overseas! The trip was very long and with several stops, the longest flight was from JFK Airport in New York City (via Aeroflot) to Moscow's International Airport (Sheremetyevo - SVO). Once in Moscow I literally faced a linguistic challenge to change from Terminal F to Terminal D, and take the next plane to the Venice of the North, or the former Leningrad: Saint Petersburg.

I was petrified when I got there! Once we landed on Pulkova-1 (LED) I thought: Where the heck am I? I don't even know Russian, and I don't even have the name or the phone number of anybody... plus my laptop has no battery. I must admit that within my angst, the excitement was enthralling! I felt at the end of the world and I had a strong desire to go back, but I was already far from my tropical side home... I was close to Siberia.

You're right if you think that I walked way too much in the city, I just learned to be careful with the metro system because we were in the White Nights (i.e no dark nights because it's summer and it's very far north).

A couple of blocks away from Gostiny D'vor metro station, there was this beautiful building, it's called Khram Spasa Na Krovi and reflects the unique Russian architecture. I love the tops that look like ice creams, in fact the whole thing looks as if you could eat it, very beautiful! 

Walking more toward the bridges (мост) I discovered the extremely beautiful Hermitage Palace (Winter Palace). I wish I knew more about Russian History by the way, so that I could tell you more about this. I promise I'll research more and I'll talk to a friend that knows a lot about this. I like this picture a lot, Leidy is indeed a good photographer!

There's always a time for relaxation so after a very long long walk, three bridges and a castle, I fell asleep on the grass! My friends know that I have no trouble at all when it comes to just crawl and sit down wherever. Music is always a must, and a backpack.... (I don't do the big backpack thing though). I leave a lot of things at home, but almost always I bring a compass, thermometer, whistle, Advil, bottle of water, snacks and two books (minimum two): One about physical sciences and the other about literature or art because my reading mood changes during the day.

So basically, my days in Russia were just like this. Some University in the morning, and in the afternoon, either some flâneurie or going out with friends to know the city a little more (plus they're the ones that speak Russian and can ask for my meal in McDonald's and Subway) -which was basically my nutrition over there haha!

We did have an awesome experience on the university's ship in the Gulf of Finland. I learned about pollution problems after World War II, the poor water exchange in the strait of Kattegat in Denmark and more issues regarding Meteorology and Oceanography.

I do recommend the experience, very nice friends and professors, but I'm not sure about living there for a long time... probably I did not get used to how things work over there, or the culture and of course, the language! I could not make a phone call home, all I did was going to MacDac (Russian abbreviation for McDonald's) to get some free WiFi!

Thanks for reading,


Intellectually Curious

Yet another test, the Global 5... It seems popular though...

Well, to be honest, I'm not that bad! But some things are accurate. Well, in the long run tests must not be taken seriously, they're fun, and they make us think sometimes.

I have yet to post the MBTI!

Thanks for reading,


Big Five Test Results
Extroversion (24%) low which suggests you are very reclusive, quiet, unassertive, and private.
Accommodation (44%) moderately low which suggests you are, at times, overly selfish, uncooperative, and difficult at the expense of the well being of others.
Orderliness (72%) high which suggests you are overly organized, neat, structured and restrained at the expense too often of flexibility, variety, spontaneity, and fun.
Emotional Stability (26%) low which suggests you are very worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious.
Inquisitiveness (84%) very high which suggests you are extremely intellectual, curious, imaginative but possibly not very practical.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm a Generous Visionary

This is my Personal DNA Result! The last time I did it, I was a "Concerned Artist" and now I'm a "Generous visionary". You can roll your mouse over the squares to see my strong and weak points.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Flâneurie 101: Sailing on the Bay

On an island in the sun
we'll be playing and having fun
and it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain

Island in the Sun. Weezer

Anchors aweigh! This time I had the opportunity to with a group of friends to a vacation island (I needed it already after long exams and essays -ugh). Don't get me wrong, I am very excited about the sea! It's just about abandoning the dock and we were sailing in the coastal ocean!

I was quite happy to know that in the island there was the perfect setting for a wonderful, quiet and peaceful retreat. On the go, I was talking with friends (I don't get to see them too often) about what were the plans once we arrive. As the motorboat increased it speed, I moved towards the back to appreciate waves (Environmental Fluid Dynamics!). My inquisitive mind was nurtured by local rainbows on the sides (by the way, they form when light strikes at 42° in the water droplet), as well as geometrically intricate waves and eddies. This is part of my scientific flâneurie, to analytically explore my surroundings.

Aren't engines the best? The excitement of abandoning the city in order to arrive to an incognito place is unparalleled, people need to literally take a boat to reach me!. Buildings, lighthouses, industries, small islands are just small parts of a collage I loved.

I cannot believe we passed over the submarine wall... it was built as a trap for pirate ships in the past (and may I add another nerdy factoid, it's the clearest application of the continuity equation).

With the next picture we were out of sight of the city, and we passed the wall strait. Actually if we navigate nonstop in that direction we'd reach some place in Central America (very far, but not impossible).

As pirates would say, We're in sea o' no return! (well, not that dramatically), but we were already very far from home. Absolutely worth it! Meaningful interaction with breaks for my retreats (I asked for them -this makes me proud) surfing, food, sunset watching, late night games, pool, dinner, geology, oceanography, math talk, looking for coral fossils and rocks! Unforgettable holidays in the sun.

Leaving and staying both sound appealing and terrifying.

To my standards this is not written properly, I am writing what I am thinking at the moment.

I feel like I'm walking a long walk on a short pier.

I wake up in the morning with sun on my face and a gentle breeze blowing to my bedroom. I feel awesome and lucky, but one minute later my mind starts drifting away in a foreign land. Where? I wish I knew, the only thing I know is that it's a feeling I can't classify yet. It arises from the awareness of liberty and maturity of mind, yet it brings the uneasy sensation of walking towards a cliff, as if I was not able to feel completely the peace of the moment. Whether it is a natural feature of my personality or something I should pay attention to, the answer is a riddle I am not even close of solving.

The little grasp I have on this is related to raw ideas that have been in my mind for quite a while, but now I am able to talk about them in a more elaborate way. The first problem is based on a huge fear that consists of challenging deep rooted clichés: school, high school, university (if so), work, marriage, reproduce and repeat. If this is the backbone of society, then I am glad to be a knee bone. For me, there's nothing worse to life than pigeonholes and the presence of apparent empty spaces that people must fill at their own whim. Then what about  people that love to wander, or the ones that have found in roaming the world the purpose of their lives?

I'm not going to say now that this is my case, but in the last couple of years I have experienced this. I have been living out of a suitcase and traveling every two months so I am starting to lose the sense of "steady state". From one place to the other, I got used to the fact that what I want is scattered in a lot of far away places that I just can't hold together. Leaving sounds both appealing and terrifying, staying sounds both appealing and terrifying. I feel like everything happens so fast that I can't even see!