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You know, there is something about darkness and I. We are the best of friends and we are the worst of enemies. I have long stopped trying to outrun darkness, but I can’t embrace it yet. It feels depleted, if I stand in the light; but in darkness, I feel hollow too. Dark clouds feel warm, and yet the cold hard rain it threatens is always welcome. I guess, you could say, it’s a complicated relationship.
It is interesting that my earliest memories of dealing with darkness involve you. Remember how I feared darkness as a kid? It was all the more terrifying when I had to use the outhouse restroom at night by walking under those gloomy trees. One of those days, you told me how you too were scared of walking in the dark, but did it nonetheless, because I had to use the outhouse. You taught me that being brave is not being not afraid; instead, you said, being brave is the ability to do what needs getting done despite being terrified. That message sank deep and I have been brave ever since.
But every now and then, I don’t want to be brave anymore. There are times, when people who get to know my relationship with darkness end up gifting me a little bit more of the same. Keeping the darkness safe is easy; keeping hope from submerging in it is hard. And it is during moments as such, I don’t care to be brave anymore.
I wish you were here to tell me something comforting. Boy, I miss our conversations; I miss you! Five years have done nothing to make that void any easier. As I often tell Rishabh, I hope you are watching over us from some place above those dark clouds. No doubts, I will see you again, when these painful clouds disperse.
I love you… As always, more than you know, more than you feel.
Tags: Hawaiʻi Waipio Bay Waipi'oBay HamakuaCoast RamenSaha Wailoa WailoaStream Ocean WaipioBlackSandBeach Cloud
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"Let me tell you something. It's too late to be pessimistic -- really too late. We all have a part of the solutions."
~Yann Arthus-Bertrand, environmentalist and photographer.
Harbor seals are a key component of local Alaskan culture and diet, but are now listed as an Alaska Species of Special Concern. This status reflects the long-term decline in their abundance, restricted distribution, reliance on limited habitat resources, and sensitivity to environmental perturbations. Despite several conservation measures in past two decades to promote their population, their numbers have consistently plummeted in the Glacier Bay area, where the above photo was created. This significant decline (a 65% attenuation since early 1990s) within protected areas of a national park is in contrast with their numbers in other parts of the world, that have been resilient to man-made disturbances and shown signs of recovery. While the exact cause of such decline is not established, it is nonetheless considered a sensitive indicator of future changes in the area, such as ocean warming. Because oceans are not just warming up in Alaska, the decline in Glacier Bay harbor seal numbers could be a harbinger of concerning global phenomenon.
Talking about concerning global phenomenon, this year has been extraordinary in the course of recorded history. The North American winter lingered on heavily into summer and then summer came and blew all records through the roof. Anchorage – whose average summer temperatures are in low 60s – experienced temperatures in 90s this summer. Greenland ice is melting by billions of tons half a century before they were estimated to do so. Amazon forests – the lungs of this planet – are on fire. The Australian great barrier reef has been under constant deterioration and this year, it was officially cited to be in a ‘poor state’, a polite way of stating the loss of hope. Believe it or not, we are now beginning to reap, in heaps, what we have sowed for decades.
Now what? New York city is building a five-mile long wall in Staten Island to hold the surging ocean back during hurricanes and the inevitable higher seas of the future. Indonesia is abandoning its sinking capital Jakarta and building a new one (although this one has thick layers of political incentives tied in along with climate change). But are these our solutions? Will our children and grandchildren build flood walls around their homes or will they evacuate the increasingly hostile planet en mass in spaceships to nowhere? The answer is obvious.
What’s not obvious is how do we undo all the mess we have created for ourselves. First things first, we must remain optimistic. The job on hand is enormous, but not undoable. Concerted conservation efforts have already yielded a few bright sparks of hope: many threatened species – humpback whales for example – have sprung back from the brink. To reduce carbon emission, Science has given us electric vehicles, solar panels and is now working on 'supercharged plants' that are supposed to store more carbon-di-oxide away from the atmosphere than regular plants. While scientists are doing their jobs on front lines, we could all do our tiny bit to help: skip the car as often as possible, choose appropriately and then use and reuse day-to-day material instead of recycling them (which arguably leaves a bigger carbon footprint), elect office bearers who have appreciation for our planet as a whole, and take only what we need when our turn comes at the table. As Gandhi said, mother earth has plenty for everyone’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed. The seals – and rest of the living species including us – still have a chance if we remain hopeful and encourage each other to make environmentally-conscious choices, so that one day human carbon-di-oxide emissions are limited only to our noses and nothing else.
Tags: GlacierBayNationalPark GlacierBay Seal HarborSeal JohnsHopkinsInlet PhocaVitulina Alaska CommonSeal TrueSeal Ramen Saha NationalPark ClimateChange
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If you are not a mathematician, you are unlikely to know of a gentleman named August Ferdinand Möbius, who was a professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Leipzig. Despite being outlandishly talented, the good professor didn’t exactly blaze through academic ranks because he was unable to attract paying students to take his class and would advertise his lectures as ‘free’ to get adequate enrollment. However, the absentminded professor considered mathematics to be poetic, and ended up defining and lending his name to one of the most enigmatic two-dimensional structures: the Möbius band (or, Möbius strip).
Yes, all of us have seen a Möbius band: the recycling sign on plastic or the infinity sign are great examples of Möbius band. To make a Möbius strip of your own, find yourself a rectangular strip of paper and glue the two ends of the strip together after half-twisting the paper (by 180 degrees). Many things are extremely remarkable about this structure. Most uniquely, this two-dimensional structure has one surface. Don’t believe? Find yourself a ink pen and mark your initials anywhere on the surface. Now, with your finger tip, travel away from your initials along the central line of the strip surface. Keep going without lifting your finger from the paper. When you will have traveled the whole strip twice, you will find your fingers back on your initials –– convinced, that’s only one surface?
This 'one surface' property leads to another unintuitive – almost tantalizing – nature of this unique structure where the laterally inverted (mirror image) form of any physical point exists on the same surface! In a regular piece of paper, your initials and its mirror image (bleed-through the paper) would be on two different surfaces; To travel between them, you will have to switch surfaces. But in your personal paper Möbius strip, it is now possible to start from your initials, and without altering surfaces, reach their bleed-through mirror image, which is apparently on the other side of the surface from your initials! Also, one could keep walking on the only surface of the strip forever without ever needing to turn around – if you didn’t already, now you know why the infinity sign looks as it does!
Finally, the most unintuitive signature of Mobius structures is that they are unorientable. What’s that, right? Points on orientable things, like a ball or a bat, can be ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ or ‘upward’ and ‘downward’. No matter how you rotate the ball, an ‘outward’ point will always remain outward. But on a Möbius band, a point can slide from an ‘outward’ to an ‘inward’ orientation by rotating the strip. Simply put, the Möbius band has no ‘sidedness’. Here, every point and its mirror-image have collapsed on the same surface. It is as if, all dichotomies have disappeared and dimensions have warped-up somewhere!
Do Möbius bands exist in nature? Yes, they do. Despite the illusory visual of being so, the famous namesake arch in Alabama hills, CA is geometrically not a Möbius band. But, non-fictitious Möbius bands exist in nature elsewhere. Crystals of certain chemical compounds (e.g., niobium and selenium, NbSe3) display Möbius structures. In quantum physics, waveforms for fermions (not bosons) curiously reminds one of the Möbius pattern. Now, imagine how nice would it be if we had Möbius roller coasters or freeways in our perceivable world? We could then hop in them to simultaneously be ourselves and our mirror image – our alter ago – thereby drawing a closure to all our dichotomies. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened?
Let me close with a crazy thought. What if, Möbius bands come into existence somewhere in those ten dimensions (M-theory) around us somewhen during magical times of the day, but due to limitations of our perceptual faculties, we are unable to acknowledge their presence?
Tags: Möbius BartlettCove GlacierBay GlacierBayNationalPark Bay SunsetReflections Sunset Clouds HalibutPoint Alaska Ramen Saha Water Reflection
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John Muir believed that his beloved Yosemite valley was formed by glaciers of the past. This theory met with stiff opposition from his peers and contemporaries. But unlike his distractors, Muir spent hours and days lying on valley rocks with ‘patient brooding’ to ask questions, whose answers could be his riposte: ‘Where did all that ice come from and where did it go?’ To find answers, Muir invested many summers in Alaska, where he visited and ‘discovered’ the Glacier Bay in ‘the end of October, 1879’.
“If my son comes not back, on you will be his blood.” ~ Mother of Kadechan, a Muir expedition crew-member
To discover the glaciers of Glacier Bay, Muir had an outdated chart (created by the HMS Discovery captain Vancouver in 1794), a crew of four that included an evangelist and three Sitka Indians, and a canoe that had room for very little after seating these five men. Local Indians didn’t approve of this trip. With winter right around the corner and limited provisions available to the party further up the bay, this trip sure seemed destined for the doom. Crew members’ mothers and wives didn’t held their angst back. It took the evangelist’s assurance for people to calm down and the journey to begin.
“Muir must be a witch to seek knowledge in such a place as this, and in such miserable weather” ~Toyatte, the expedition captain (by virtue of being the canoe-owner).
Within a few days, the tour faced substantial challenges that discouraged Indian crew members severely. They were shocked by Muir’s adventurous spirit that ventured out into icy mountains and waters even when thunders rolled over. Dreading the ‘treeless, forlorn appearance' of the area, they considered heading back. With every passing storm, the dissent grew. Then, Muir made a speech to his crew that was laced with deep Muir-ish sentiments that we all have come to admire today. That speech, which called for trusting the ‘heaven’ and putting fear away, galvanized the crew and made them sentimental. They decided not to care even if the 'canoe were to get crushed by icebergs' because on their way to the next world they would have excellent companions. Thus reinvigorated, the crew moved further north towards mighty glaciers that no human eyes from the developed world had ever seen before.
“It presents… many shades of blue, from pale, shimmering, limpid tones in the crevasses and hollows, to the most startling, chilling, almost shrieking vitriol blue on the plain mural spaces from where bergs had just been discharged.” ~John Muir (The discovery of Glacier Bay)
The party reached the head of the bay, where mighty glaciers blocked their view and path forward. While others set up camp, the ecstatic Mr. Muir ran out to climb a mountain in the sleety rain to get a ‘broader outlook’ of that icy empire. From his vantage point, he saw and sketched ‘ineffably chaste and spiritual heights’ of the Fairweather Range, and several great glaciers that flow from those mountains. That night, the happy crew sat by a large fire celebrating their success amidst ‘thunder of the icebergs, rolling, swelling, reverberating through solemn stillness’. They were tired, but too happy to sleep.
PS: Glacier Bay, as we know it today, didn’t exist when Vancouver charted the area in 1794. A century later, Muir found glacier-lines had receded by 18-25 miles from lines in Vancouver’s chart and called Glacier bay ‘undoubtedly young’. Today, most glaciers in the bay have receded and rest behind Vancouver's lines by scores of miles. If not impaired by global warming, these glaciers may return because it is their nature to cyclically recede and burgeon in geological time. Above, you may see two glaciers: Johns Hopkins–the wide one, and Gilman–the petite glacier underneath Mt. Abbe. Muir didn't see them; these are 30-40 miles north of the glacier line during Muir’s expedition. Exceptionally, the handsome Johns Hopkins glacier – whose mile-long face you see above but can’t see it wearing many stripes of medial moraines like a fashion conscious urbanite – is currently advancing every year. While there, I was absolutely enthralled by those thunderous claps of glaciers calving, but was saddened at not being able to witness Muir’s ‘crowds of bergs packed against the ice-wall’. Today, due to much warmer water temperature in this area, icebergs have disappeared. What was once an icy and spiky outer curtain wall of several thousand icebergs that defended the snow-white Fairweather Range, is today a dilapidated garden of growlers (smaller fragments of ice).
Tags: Glacier GlacierBay GlacierBayNationalPark NationalPark JohnMuir JohnsHopkinsGlacier GilmanGlacier JohnsHopkinsInlet MtAbbe MtOrville Alaska Ramen Saha Fjord Water Growler StitchedPanorama
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Alpine lakes are nature’s dimples — a whimsical depression in its flesh that invariably spark adoration in the viewer’s heart. When nature put on her fleeting smile after a gloomy afternoon the other day, the viewer — enthralled by the dimple’s beauty — was compelled to smile back in return.
Tags: BlueLake NorthCascades NorthCascadesNationalPark #314 Okanogan-WenatcheeNationalForest Ramen Saha Washington AlpineLake Lake Water Mountain Moraine
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