More Really Big Numbers

I’m sitting here having my yearly battle with I assume, bronchitis. Something about this time of year I just get an upper respiratory issue that requires a trip to the Dr. and I get my standard issue blister pack of steroids to minimize the inflammation. My appointment is at 1:30. So if you hear me hacking and wheezing anytime through this post you now know why.

I happened across this story recently where astronomers have the determined mass of our galaxy the Milky Way. They used observations of a common target of my personal telescopes, globular clusters, in their determination of the values. Only they were using slightly better telescopes! They have the luxury of using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. Yep, slightly better than mine.

So of what use is it to know the mass of our galaxy anyway? Well they can use this information to better understand how galaxies orbit each other and how this mass and it’s direct correlation to gravity, determines the interplay of galactic interactions and mergers. I’m not going to go into great detail on the specifics here, others have done that job quite well for me. My goal is the numbers and I’ll get there in a minute. Here is the story from NASA:

And here is a great write up in easy to understand English from a fantastic astronomy science writer Phil Plait. It is worth a visit if nothing else to see the most recent galactic map of the Milky Way and our place in it:

Now the the numbers. They determined the mass of our galaxy to be 1.5 trillion solar masses. A Google search shows a solar mass is a standard astronomical measurement equal to 4,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lbs. Or a simpler representation of 4.4 nonillion lbs. Yeah, I’ve never heard of a nonillion either 🙂

Or for you US measurement deficient chaps (Mak) 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. Or 2 nonillion kg.

That is some big damn numbers!

Now to multiply that by 1.5 trillion, we get 6,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lbs. Or 6.6 Tredecillion lbs. The measurement of the mass of our galaxy. And no, I’ve never heard of a Tredecillion either!

Or again for US measurement deficient folks, 3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg. Or 3 Tredecillion kg.

I have to admit my eyes glaze over and my mind seeks refuge in a pleasant daydream anytime I see that many zeroes in one place. It is just so difficult to imagine the enormity of numbers like these. I only wish all of our bank accounts had half as many zeroes and a 10 in front of them!

My thanks to this site for having the calculator to represent all of those zeroes:



Old Diver Tales

Over on PT’s  (Professor Taboo) blog, he has a post about a guy who had amassed an enormous collection of artifacts from all over the world. Including a lot of human skeletal remains. The guy was busted by the FBI, and it is a pretty huge local story. Here’s the link to PT’s post:

I made a comment there, which I will repeat here:

“Well I must admit, I have found a LOT of stone artifacts in my time as a diver out on the river. I also walked creeks and riverbanks finding artifacts. What I NEVER did is dig for them. The few times I ran across what is known as a stonebox grave from the Mississipian time period, I did not disturb them.

There were times I found burials diving, you can easily tell what was a burial and what wasn’t. The burials I ran into, the body was folded over, knees to chest, into a small as possible mass, I presume to make it an easier hole to dig. I found them interesting, but dared not disturb them. As much as I enjoy finding an “arrowhead” I am not that desperate to do so, my conscience would not allow it.

Thousands of stone tools are washing out of riverbanks or creeks everywhere, or popping up in a freshly plowed field. Those that do are no longer in situ and have little scientific value. I also know the stuff I did find, which were common stone tools from most every time period, would be of little importance to any tribe. These artifacts are historical, they are meaningful in that they exist, but anyone who knows anything about them understands that these artifacts had little value to the people who made them, as they were worn out and discarded tools that no longer served a purpose to the user.

I have seen ceremonial stone artifacts that were supposedly burial items in museums. I also know a guy who found a ceremonial blade in a stonebox that I know the wherabouts of. Not everyone feels as I do.

What this guy was doing is obscene.

Ask me about the time I found a skeleton that I’m pretty damn sure didn’t belong to an Indian.”  END QUOTE

Well the “that time I found a skeleton I’m sure was not an Indian” story, I guess it should be told, and I knew it was going to be a bit too long for a comment at your blog PT…

This was way back early in my diving career, as a harvester of freshwater mussels. At this time the buyers were paying a higher price for what are known as bay quality shells. Shells back in the bays, grow large and thick, but they aren’t in as high numbers to be found. However every once in a while you could hit a spot and make a really good day. I was in an area on Kentucky Lake known as Paris Landing. There is a hotel there at the waterfront, way far back from the river channel and backwater enough to produce that quality bay shell I was looking for. It is in front of this hotel where I was working. There is a ridge there maybe 100 yards off from the bank in front of the hotel. I worked this ridge on a dive, and managed to come down off the ridge and work my way towards the bank in front of the hotel. You don’t always know where you are at or where you will end up on a dive, you just do it and wind up where you wind up. There is an area there by the hotel where the bank swings around a corner. I had crawled out of the rocks I was working and hit sand.

This is where I found the first vertebrae. Things just jump into your hand when you are moving your hands back and forth feeling for the telltale signs of shells. Well a vertebrae found its way into my hands. I had been doing this job for a few years at this time, and I have found Indian bones out there as there are places where they just wash out of the underwater ridges, which are numerous in Kentucky Lake. In every case I found an ancient bone or bones, they were very smooth, with a high level of patina. A dark glossy look to them. The vertebrae I was holding in my hands looked nothing like this at all. It was nowhere near as old. It had some blackening, though lacking any noticeable patina, and I could tell it was of a more recent timeline than any Indian bones I had ever seen.

To my knowledge there are no artifacts here in the Tennessee River valley, or the bones of those who manufactured them, except as far back as around 1500 years ago and beyond. The first era beyond historic* Indians is known as the Mississipian Period. Before that was the Woodland Period (1500-4000 YA.) Older yet the Archaic Period (4-8000 YA.) And predating that the Paleo Period (8-12000 YA.) The youngest artifacts and the bones of those who made them found around here are from the Mississipian Period, as I mentioned, 1500 years ago.

Well as I sat there making bubbles, and pondering all of this I decided right then and there something wasn’t right here. I put the vertebrae down and decided to get back to work. I immediately popped up some more vertebrae. Then I found what was left of a boot. Well I felt around some more and found quite a few more vertebrae all in one spot. At that point I quit looking. Granted I did not find a skull, or anything that would be an absolute positive ID for human remains, but the boot being there I felt like was sure pointing in that direction.

It should be noted that there is a small road that winds around in front of the hotel near the waters edge, and where I came up from the dive, was near what looked like a seldom used small boat ramp. Easily accessible by car… Suggesting a possilbility of a dumped body.

I aborted the dive, and went to the boat. Well I sat there for a while, assessed my take for the day and I wasn’t doing very well at all here. I knew I needed to pull anchor and find a better spot. But I also had a dilemma on my hands. This was back before everybody and their dog had a cell phone, I knew my day was done if I decided to call the cops. I reluctantly made the decision to get back to work and show something for the day, rather than call it all off and spend the rest of my day and probably half the night talking to the police. Unfortunately a great many of my diver counterparts were far from law abiding citizens, and many of them were rough, tough, ornery as bear, beer swilling, womanizing, bar fighting, cop hating, blackguards, with less than honorable reputations. I figured the cops would probably lump me straight in with that bunch. And I’ll admit, at least a couple of those descrptions would have fit me at the time and might still be true today 😉

So I figured I’d be a suspect before I might be considered some unlucky bastard who just happened upon a crime scene. To this day I have yet to report this incident. Though it does weigh in on my conscience from time to time.

* Modern identifiable tribes.

Really Big Numbers

We have had a lot of rain of recent. Day after day after day, more rain. We had more rain yesterday, and were under the threat of a possible tornado, which thankfully did not develop for us, but folks in Miss. and Ala. got hit. Unfortunately at least 1 reported dead.

I have been too close to three tornadoes in my lifetime and I can speak of the terror of an F3 (at that time, with the revised Fujita scale it would have been an F4) on the ground, tearing shit up, only an eighth of a mile away. They speak of the roar of an angry freight train, that’s what I heard, but what you feel is the vibration permeating your body, and the winds pummeling your surroundings. We were lucky. Didn’t take me long to get sidetracked did it?

The big numbers I want to throw at you is a result of the rain. Not in inches, but the volume of water forecast to be released through the dam on the Tn. River near us. The forecast for 2/27/19 is 430,000 cfs (cubic feet per second.) That’s a pretty big number but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

There is roughly 7.5 gallons of water in a cubic foot. Which according to my trusty calculator equals the sum of 3,225,000 gallons of water, Per Second! Try to wrap your head around that for a moment.

Now I don’t know how Olympic swimming pools became a standard for water measurements, but an Olympic pool holds 660,253 gallons of water. Again using my trusty calculator, 3,225,000 gallons per second would be filling 4.9 ( I rounded up from 4.88,) which is almost 5 Olympic swimming pools, Per Second!

More big numbers incoming! With 60 seconds in a minute that would add up to 193,500,000 gallons per minute. Or roughly 300 Olympic pools per minute.

With 60 minutes in an hour, we get, 11,610,000,000 gallons of water per hour. Or 17,500 Olympic pools per hour.

With 24 hours in a day, we get 278,640,000,000 gallons per day. Or 422,020 Olympic pools per day.


I use this website linked below a lot, even now that I’m officially retired from diving out there, just because I used this information so often, it is a part of my lifestyle now. It shows me water temps, and current flows for both the Tn. and Cumberland rivers, (or Ky. Lake and Lake Barkley respectively) both of which I worked extensively. This is my source 🙂



Religion, Essential Oils, Home Schooling, Anti Vax, and Crank Magnetism

Having some custom home finish skills from what seems now like a previous lifetime ago, a glorified painter, a master of a caulk gun, a glazer of windows, and an airless paint sprayer gunslinger, is an old skillset that has managed to stay with me. I get a phone call every once in a while for a job. I don’t advertise, I have plenty to keep up with already at home, but I will take a job now and then just to earn a little extra dough.

I had a job some time back, a huge house that the couple had saved up to build. It was their dream home, and it was massive. I was thrilled to be a part of helping someone achieve their dreams and I poured my soul into the work I did there. But… it should be known they are devout x-ians. Which isn’t so unusual in these parts, but that affliction often avails itself to other oddities.

The lower level of this house is 3000 sq ft, by itself. The upper level another 2000 sq ft or so, plus a large basement. When I got there the walls/ceilings had been painted, there was a coat of paint on the trim, but it was thin, so my job was to caulk it all up and put the finishing pizzaz to it. Well, I was there for a while. This is a big house and I’m working solo, they had 9 ft ceilings, 2 large staircases, a window transom over every major doorway, and more doors to do than I can remember, it took a while. So as it worked out I was there through the Thanksgiving holiday. They have a lot of family, who all came to visit, and I was privvy to some hair raising conversations.

I already knew they were hyper religious, which isn’t that unusal here, but I soon became aware the grandkids were all homeschooled. I was like “wow!” I didn’t know they were that religious. Now I know that home schooling isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but far too often it is because people want their kids to believe that the Flinstones was a documentary. They use materials from the likes of AIG to teach the kiddies that man coexisted with dinosaurs, and other nonsense such as a 6000 year old earth and how everything in the bible is 100% factual. How this B.S. is legal at all is beyond me, but it is a fine example of people living in some sort of an alternate reality.

Enter Essential Oils. The lady there was big into the essential oil thing, she is apparently one of the higher up distributors, as she goes to out of state meetings a lot, and seems well versed in essentail oil quackery. Quackery? I’m afraid so. The claims made by those distributing essential oils read like any other quack category as they claim to cure almost every malady known to science and they also rely on bashing modern medicine and appealing to the new age types by hyping it all as natural healing techniques long forgotten, and they do bemoan how they are unfairly dismissed by modern medicine. I won’t go into every claim made by the essential oil scam, it would be a long post on its own. I will leave a link or two though, and Google is your friend. There are some good links to follow from this fist link liste here:

A convesation I overheard at this residence, involved one of the family members talking about the prospect of putting their kids in a public school and they would have to present shot records or they would have to sign some waiver that excluded them from such a satanic activity. So we can add anti vaxxers to the list.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. Crank Magnetism. Crank Magnetism is a term, and I quote from Wiki:  “coined by physiologist and blogger Mark Hoofnagle on the Denialism Blog in 2007 to describe the propensity of cranks to hold multiple irrational, unsupported or ludicrous beliefs that are often unrelated to one another…”

Essentially once you open yourself up to to believeing in one nonsensical claim, the reality is you may be predisposed to let other crank ideas reside in your head. Add to that the alternate reality propped up by the far right and its propaganda arm Fox News, and the sort of total morons who espouse their idiocies on the radio or youtube, such as Alex Jones/Rush Limbaugh, plus the fact we now have a president that totally believes in these alternate realities AND makes up his own, we are left facing, with a growing concern about a wholesale attack on fact based reality itself.

It seems to me that the idea is to promote so much of this kind of shit that it blurs the line between evidence based reality and the alternative reality they want to create. The problem is there are more than enough mouth breathing morons out there to support this nonsense. It is the zombie that never dies.

I’m going to go one step further and lay the blame of Crank Magnetism right at the feet of religion. Nothing, and I mean nothing, opens up the door to believing in complete nonsense as religion. It is the gateway drug to Crank Magnetism.

I saw it all in one house…

The only thing I can think of to combat this issue is ensuring a proper education for every child coming through the education system, and some sort of pushback from holders of a fact based reality. Which is pretty much the blogging community I know here, and the multitude of others like us out there in internet land. In other words, keep up the good work 🙂 We need it. Fact based reality needs it.





Fish Who Pass The Self Aware Test?

I finally had some time to browse one of my old haunts, Science Daily, and this story caught my eye. It appears that a species of a cleaner fish, and I quote: “cleaner wrasse fish (Labroides dimidiatus), responds to its reflection and attempts to remove marks on its body during the mirror test — a method considered the gold standard for determining self-awareness in animals.”

Which for anyone who might be aware of the self aware test, or MSR (Mirror Self Recognition,) you may find this intriguing.

For those not familiar with the self aware test referred to, basically you use a mirror that the subject can see themselves with and let them get accustomed to it being there. Then you put a mark on the subject. If they respond with curiosity, or attempt to remove the mark in some manner, or show some signs of stress concerning the mark, or a combination of these behaviors, this would count as a positive result.

Now as with any scientific study, there are always counterpoints to be made, and they had a good writeup here outlining the potential issues with this certain test. As far as I can tell, and no one will mistake me for the smartypants who would know better, I’d call the outcome of this test at the very least, very interesting.

I have read about dolphins who responded to the self aware test in a fairly convincing manner. But they are known to be highly intelligent. The cleaner wrasse fish I’m farily certain isn’t as brainy as the bottlenose dolphin, but then again who knows? The biggest issues from that last link amounts pretty much to “we need to tweak the test for better results, and eliminate any false positives by subjects conditioned to these tests.” But it is a solid read, if you are into that sort of thing 🙂


Edit: I just saw a writeup at this link that adds another perspective to the mix.

Old Diver Tales

I was commenting on Jims blog here:

…and the topic of fog came up. So I commented about a situation I got caught in once. Thought I’d reproduce it here as a post. Just in case there is someone who might find it interesting, and who perhaps may have missed Jims great post. This is pretty much the comment I made at Jims blog, but have modified it a bit for clarity/punctuation and added another lost in the fog entry:

I was working on an overcast, rainy-ish day once. There was some decent current running that morning, I came up from a dive and the rain had stopped but I could see a bit of fog forming. I didn’t think much of it, I was fairly close to an island chain, and the riverbank true wasn’t far behind the islands. I supposed even if a light fog moved in I would still be able to see the islands and from there get back to my truck using the treeline along the river bank. So I made another dive. I came up and was completely socked in with heavy fog. I mean I could barely make out the bow of the boat from the stern. I was like “oh shit.”

I decided I’d try to find the islands, but I needed a waypoint to start, I figured I’d toss out the anchor and let the current pull the boat tight and I’d have S as my starting point. (The Tn. river flows S->N) Welp, they had killed the current at the dam and the anchor did not pull tight after 10 mintues, the dreaded dead friggin water. (As a diver on the bottom, the current is a handy way to know your direction, and most of us learned pretty quick if you pull your boat in the direction of the current, the current pushes most of the silt you stir up, behind you, making for at least some visibility dependent on the depth you were working. Sometimes on a really calm day with little to no wind, and you get a dead current situation, you can get pretty lost on the bottom, an irritating situation to work in.) Anyway… So much for a starting point, the current or lack of it was no help. So I headed off in the direction I thought, might, get me to the islands, and they weren’t more than 250 yards from my location. Let me tell you something, no matter how straight you hold the steering, you will soon be hitting your own wakes, as you are going in a damn circle. There is nothing so disconcerting as being lost in the fog. I should mention the creepy factor is pretty high too 😉

Well I realized this wasn’t going to work, motoring around in circles is a quick way to get nowhere. So I tossed out the anchor and killed the engine. And I pondered my situation, I still had one bottle of water left, and a couple of snacks I hadn’t eaten at lunch. It looked like this could be supper lol. Well as I sat there I began to hear what sounded like a towboat moving slow in the river channel. I waited till it got closer, used the sound of the engines as a waypoint, and I’d crank my engine, run a little way in the direction I thought I remembered hearing the towboat, then I’d stop, kill the engine, get a new waypoint in my head and try again. I worked as a deckhand on towboats in my days prior to becoming a commercial diver, so I knew 2 things. 1: The towboat has radar and he can navigate via the river bouys. And 2: He can tell I’m coming.

By the time the towboat emerged from the fog I was basically right alongside, and the captain apparently had a man there to see what was up, I raised my yelling voice loud enough to be heard over the idling diesels in the towboat, and asked the guy one simple question “which way are you headed?” He replied “South.”

Which was good for me, my truck was in that direction, So I told the guy I was going to follow along for a while. So I followed along with the towboat till we reached a bend in the river that brought us closer to the river bank true, and lo and behold I could make out the trees along the bank through the fog. From there I followed the the treeline, which conveniently rolled right around inside the bay I had launched from, and took me straight to my truck. I ate a hot supper that night after all.

Next day I had a compass in my boat, and have not been without one since. I should mention I had an old diving compass with me for many years, the damn thing got waterlogged, and I never got around to fixing my lack of a compass problem. It’s fixed now 🙂

Fog is a strange animal indeed. It takes away all of your reckoning abilities and leaves you, well, lost in the damn fog. I was lucky that day, more often than not a towboat will tie off and wait out the sort of fog we were in… I know that because there was a time I was the deckhand who had to drag a ladder out to the head of the tow, climb down the ladder to a muddy riverbank, dragging a huge ass lock line (a 2″ rope) or a steel wire rope to a sturdy tree, or group of trees, and tie off the tow. Every once in a while there were man made tie offs out there, but usually not when you need them. But as a deckhand, being tied off in the fog generally was enjoyable, it meant you were getting paid to do diddley 🙂

There was another time I was lost in the fog on the river. This was very early in my diving carreer. I was working for a guy then (George), he had the boat, all of the necessary gear, and all I had to do was show up and go to work. We worked on a 50/50 basis. I could generally average around $200 to $250 a day then (split between us), so it was a convenient arrangement. It should be noted that after almost 2 years of working for this guy, I had saved up enough $ to get my own boat/gear. Anyway…

We set out one morning, I had met up with George at the crack of dawn, his house was just down the road from mine, and we set off to town to gas up and get some breakfast. Our typical daily routine. We got to the river by 7 AM and launched the boat despite the fact that the river was entirely socked in with fog. The decision to head out fell to George, I had seen heavy fog on the water as a deckhand, and knew it wasn’t exactly cupcakes and tea out there in the fog. George was confident he could navigate our way to a place we had been working that was pretty productive with shell, so we set off. Georges plan was to follow the tree line till we got there. Well, after several hours of being completely lost out there in the fog, an eerie, hair on the back of your neck raising eerie, the sort of feeling that makes you wonder if you are even still on the same damn planet, the fog began to lift. We found ourselves deep in the back of a bay we couldn’t even recognize at first, nowhere near where either of us had a notion we might be. We finally got to our spot but had missed most of the morning due to being lost. So it was a slow day for the wallet, and a lesson learned. Well not completely learned because this happened way before the I got lost in the fog, old diver tale above this one.

So, keep a compass in your boats folks, you never know when you will need one. A compass is your only hope in the fog. Otherwise it is a Stephen King -ish kind of freaky out there lost in the mists of the fog. Although I suppose a GPS might still be able to work in fog, for the cost of a compass, I wouldn’t count on it.


Picture Day!

Probably could have called this one “Dog Catcher.” As there are a lot of sun dogs I have caught recently. Well three of recent, but several pics because I caught the 22 degree halo and an upper tangent arc in two of the sun dog events.

It has been a fairly mild winter to this point, though we are having a bit of a cold snap at the moment, but we barely dodged a disaster with an icing issue we had recently. Back in 1993 we had a huge ice storm here, power was out for 2 weeks because power lines were down everywhere, it was frigid cold, and the lansdcape looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off because of the many trees felled, or just stripped of branches and what was left of just broken in two trees left standing. It was pretty crazy. These first two pics show the kind of icing that caused the mayhem of ’93. It wasn’t much more ice than this that did the damage. We were lucky this time.



Being a bit of a cloud fanatic I had to get this shot.


Another installment of “Tennessee Customs.” The stop sign seems appropriate somehow.


The first of the sun dog pics. I caught this one on the way home from dropping the wife off at work. I stayed at this location taking several pics as it progressed. Note the slight flare at the 12 o-clock position, above the sun, nearly the top of the photo. This is the beginning of the faint but detectable upper tangent arc. The 22 degree halo is also starting to show. Interesting side note, I did not notice these at all when I was taking the pics, I noticed them later while browsing the pictures 🙂


You might notice a picture perspective change from here on out. As I was capturing this sun dog, I must have accidentally swiped over to the square picture icon instead of the photo one on my phone. I only caught that little detail this morning. My dumb ass might be slow, but it catches up to me…

Notice the halo is brightening. The upper tangent arc is almost out of the shot. (Remember I didn’t know it was there when taking the pics)


The halo is getting washed out now, but the upper tangent arc is still trying to hang in there. These phenomena are ever evolving apparitions and when you get a chance to take pics, take several over several minutes. Several minutes is all you will get 🙂


At this point the spectacle began to dissipate. I decided to head on home. By the time I got home, five minutes later maybe, I took another look, and damn if the sun dog hadn’t rebrightened. The halo and upper tangent arc are gone, but here is the same sun dog event from just down the road a bit from my place.


How about a Tennessee sunrise to break up the sun dog monotony?


Woof! Another sun dog event. Again on the way home from dropping off the wife, and I caught it from the same exact spot as before.


Quite often when you catch one sun dog, one is all you will get. Sometimes though, you will catch the opposing dog on the other side of the sun. I always look, but seldom get both. This is the left side, a sun dog is barely trying to be perceptible. Follow the tree line from the left, to where it takes a sharp dip down toward the field, then the next rise, a small point in that tree line, look just above it. Hardly worth mentioning it is so faint, but it is there.


Ok, let’s take a sun dog break for a minute. I know the holiday season is past us, but when you are shopping for that special someone come next December, you know this will be on their wish list 😉 Wait $40?!! Nevermind…


Church signs, always one of my favorites, We don’t travel as widely as we used to, so I’m not catching as many. This one, maybe it’s just me? But this message seems to clash a bit with the name of the church. Ray of Despair seems more appropriate.


We had a good dusting of snow a couple of weeks ago, nothing serious, but it is interesting you can sure tell which way the wind was blowing. I’m weird like that…


Woof! Another sun dog, this one was a lefty. Was on my way to town and lo and behold. I stopped in the middle of the road, turned on the emergency flashers like any good motorist (no one was coming), and got the pic. This one, the 22 degree halo is pretty obvious when you look at it for a minute. This was the pic that got me looking at the sun dog pictures a little more closely.


I will leave you with another sunrise. May we all get plenty more of these.


Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Oh, wiki has a good write up on sun dogs and other phenomena. What would we do without Wikipedia?