Squirrel Point Light


I recently went out with my Mamiya medium format camera to photograph this lighthouse. It is one of several along the Kennebec River; it is an active light maintained by the Coast Guard. These river lights were designed in the late 1800s to guide commercial traffic through tight turns and treacherous areas along the river.

The late nineteenth century was a transitional time in shipping. Sailing ships were in decline as more and more steam ships powered by coal came into use. Scientists knew as early as the mid-1800s that carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas, but the prevailing thought was that the Earth was too large for people to pollute, much less warm the oceans and atmosphere. Besides, fossil fuel power meant profits, and people wanted all the things that it could make widely available. The middle class slowly grew and people saw industrialization as progressive. Fossil fuels were so compelling that most people would not see them as destructive. In fact, we still have some climate deniers, but they have dwindled over the past decade as floods, droughts, and wildfires have ravaged the planet.

People love lighthouses. They are frequently visited, photographed, and appear in many paintings. Many even have gift shops. They are also sustainable. Portland Head Light was commissioned by George Washington in 1791. Many others were built in the early 1800s. While many had to be rebuilt (or moved, due to erosion) one or two times, they are a sustainable means of coastal navigation. Today they are automated, gone is the romantic era of the lighthouse keeper. Will today’s GPS and GLONASS satellite systems (which we all use) stand the test of time?

You will find four more photos of Squirrel Light at my online gallery.

Cruise Ships: A Hazard to Public Health

The City of Portland, Maine, among others, are considering dockside power stations so these ships would not have to run their engines for power.

Originally published 11/14/2022

Update: Today’s Portland Press Herald reported on the growing container ship traffic in Portland, Maine. The conundrum is that while this is good for Maine, Portland, and the many benefiting businesses, all this is driven by fossil fuels. Green ships are in our future, but that’s a way down the sea lanes.


According to a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, a cruise ship emits the equivalent of about 12,000 autos on a typical cruise. Even while docked, their engines emit more carbon to power their systems than dozens of large trucks. The City of Portland, Maine, among others, are considering dockside power stations so these ships would not have to run their engines for power. Portland can simultaneously dock two large cruise ships, and several cargoes and tanker ships.

Cruise and cargo ships are also becoming far more prevalent in Arctic waters given the summer ice melt and open waters. Their emissions will accelerate warming in the Arctic region. In the coming micro-industrialized period, global trade will dwindle. This is yet another good reason to act now to reduce carbon emissions, lest the environment does it for us.

By the Water’s Edge

The two most favored environments for most people are mountains and water. It must be all those positive ions in the air.


Waterscapes, whether natural or altered by humans, are some of my favorite environmental scenes. The two most favored environments for most people are mountains and water. It must be all those positive ions in the air. I recently photographed the first six scenes, shown on my online gallery.

Fall

Fall is a time of decomposition leading to rebirth in the spring.

Fall is a time of decomposition leading to rebirth in the spring. Seeing it this way shows how death is necessary for life. Modern (though not all) humans try to escape death by not thinking about it, and when it does happen we do our best to protect the body of the deceased from decomposition, though this is beginning to change.

Walking through one of our local preserves enabled me to photograph some fall events. My photos are biased, I selected the more aesthetic subjects. To see a few more, go to my on-line gallery.

‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’

So said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the COP27 delegates on 7 November, reported by Forbes.


Originally published 11/7/2022

Update: I added text and the graphic, Impact of Climate Change On Human Health, to show the factors that will contribute to human population decline. These do not include decisions by young people to have fewer if any children.


Our understanding of the drivers of climate change is well-understood, but most people in developed counties nor their leaders want to give up their lifestyle of convenience, comfort, and profit. Yet, not addressing climate change will likely kill most of humanity during the next hundred years. The six charts, below, show how human population growth and industrialization created greenhouse gases that warm the planet, likely resulting in a 3oF temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2100 if left unchecked.


According to scientists, we have about seven years left to drastically curb our greenhouse gas output to avoid an irreversible tipping point. Methane is 80 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide over twenty years and 20 times more heat-trapping over a hundred years. This is because newly introduced methane molecules into the atmosphere are broken down by sunlight over 10 years, whereas carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries unless recaptured by plants.

Climate change will reduce the human population due to factors shown in the following chart. Alternatively, we can minimize our decline with aggressive climate change initiatives. There is a current cholera pandemic that is worsened by flooding, the result of climate change.

One way or another human population must decline, and people will have to go back to living much as we did in the nineteenth century (what I call micro-industrialization), though with modern versions of electric trains and trolleys. Renewable energy cannot fully replace fossil fuel energy in the foreseeable future so we will just not have a lot of stuff, and most people will again be farmers.

What might micro-industrialization look like? It is hard to say since how we will utilize diminished energy resources is as much a political question as it is an engineering one. A New York Times article gives us a glimpse of how micro-industrialization might start.

Photo From the James Webb

This image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the heart of M74, otherwise known as the Phantom Galaxy. Webb’s sharp vision has revealed delicate filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms which wind outwards from the centre of this image.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that our natural environment goes far beyond Earth. We might better understand ourselves if we look beyond our “grain of sand.” Our galaxy is but one of an estimated hundred billion galaxies, ours containing more than a hundred billion stars.

Even if only a small fraction of one percent of all stars have planets with intelligent life forms, that could perhaps be tens of billions of civilizations (see the Drake Equation). These civilizations will not likely ever communicate with each other since they are far apart in space/time. Even if we received a communication from one of them, by the time our return signal reached their planet they would likely be long extinct.

All the political rivalries, all the wars, and all the destruction of our biosphere are quite inconsequential in the scheme of things. We make ourselves out to be more than we really are. Earth and the universe will get along fine without us.


Webb Inspects the Heart of the Phantom Galaxy, as it existed 32 million years ago: (click to enlarge)

Image credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team.
Acknowledgement: J. Schmidt

Image description: Delicate gray, webby filaments form a spiral pattern winding outwards from the center of the galaxy. These spiral arms of the galaxy are traced by blue and bursts of pink; these are the regions in which stars are forming. The very heart of the galaxy is colored blue and has speckles, which are young stars, which are forming around the nucleus of the galaxy.


This image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows the heart of M74, otherwise known as the Phantom Galaxy. Webb’s sharp vision has revealed delicate filaments of gas and dust in the grandiose spiral arms which wind outwards from the centre of this image. A lack of gas in the nuclear region also provides an unobscured view of the nuclear star cluster at the galaxy’s centre.

M74 is a particular class of spiral galaxy known as a ‘grand design spiral’, meaning that its spiral arms are prominent and well-defined, unlike the patchy and ragged structure seen in some spiral galaxies. The Phantom Galaxy is around 32 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pisces, and lies almost face-on to Earth. This, coupled with its well-defined spiral arms, makes it a favorite target for astronomers studying the origin and structure of galactic spirals.

Webb gazed into M74 with its Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) in order to learn more about the earliest phases of star formation in the local Universe. These observations are part of a larger effort to chart 19 nearby star-forming galaxies in the infrared by the international PHANGS collaboration. Those galaxies have already been observed using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories. The addition of crystal-clear Webb observations at longer wavelengths will allow astronomers to pinpoint star-forming regions in the galaxies, accurately measure the masses and ages of star clusters, and gain insights into the nature of the small grains of dust drifting in interstellar space.

Hubble observations of M74 have revealed particularly bright areas of star formation known as HII regions. Hubble’s sharp vision at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths complements Webb’s unparalleled sensitivity at infrared wavelengths, as do observations from ground-based radio telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA. By combining data from telescopes operating across the electromagnetic spectrum, scientists can gain greater insight into astronomical objects than by using a single observatory — even one as powerful as Webb! MIRI was contributed by ESA and NASA, with the instrument designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European Institutes (the MIRI European Consortium) in partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona.

Curation by Rob Withey

Good-bye, Twitter, it’s been nice knowin ya

The Post obtained documents indicating that Musk will cut 75 percent of Twitter’s workforce, putting users at greater risk of hacks, and spreading porn.

As reported recently in the Washington Post, it is almost certain that Elon Musk will purchase Twitter and take it private. The Post obtained documents indicating that Musk will cut 75 percent of Twitter’s workforce, putting users at greater risk of hacks, and spreading porn. His unfettered approach to free speech will likely reinstate Donald Trump’s account and other extremists.

My blog pushes posts out to Twitter and other social media platforms. In my opinion, the continued association with Twitter would reflect poorly on my blog if some of its readers using Twitter were exposed to these risks.

Effective immediately, my site will no longer post to Twitter. Those readers might consider signing up for notifications at https://StephenFieldingImages.org.

The Waves of Jordan Point

We recently had a southeaster with heavy rain and winds of 40 MPH. After checking the charts for high tide I went to Crescent Beach State park in the early afternoon, wearing rain pants and a jacket, along with boots. The rain was blowing horizontally.

I find storm waves fascinating. They show the power of wind and water. We recently had a southeaster with heavy rain and winds of 40 MPH. After checking the charts for high tide I went to Crescent Beach State park in the early afternoon, wearing rain pants and a jacket, along with boots. The rain was blowing horizontally. When I got there I walked along a protected path to the point. Even though my camera and lens are weather sealed I had a full camera cover to minimize it getting hit with salt and sand. Once clear of the protective brush along the trail the wind and rain slammed me. To minimize these I had to figure out where to shoot in order to have a good composition while not having the lens pointed directly into the wind.

Fortunately, I found ledges at various locations enabling me to use them as shields against the wind and rain. Even so, when I brought the camera up to shoot, rain was blown down the sleeve of my right arm. Nevertheless, I persisted shooting for about half an hour before deciding I had what I wanted.

It was all worth it, as you can see in the photograph. You will find more shots of the day with the first six photos at my on-line gallery.

How Many Higgs Bosons Does It Take To Screw-in a Light Bulb?

The comedian, Jim Carey, posed this question to the world-renowned cosmologist/physicist Stephen Hawking shortly after the discovery of said particle in 2012.

Aurora Borealis Over Lake Diana on Quebec’s Tundra

The comedian, Jim Carey, posed this question to the world-renowned cosmologist/physicist Stephen Hawking shortly after the discovery of said particle in 2012. Hawking was unable to answer this question. In case you are not current on your particle physics, you will find a brief explanation of the Higgs boson, here. But it is really quite simple. Higgs is a short-lived particle that sets up a field that determines the mass and characteristics of all other sub-atomic particles.

Here is another question for you. How much scientific data documenting climate change is necessary to mount a global policy to limit greenhouse gases to meet the +1.5o C goal by 2050? This is an irrelevant question. Although governments and people love science that produces things they like, most people want governments to take care of their immediate interests and lifestyles.

By the way, regarding the above photo, Auroras are caused by magnetic storms on the Sun that pull on the Earth’s magnetic field, causing the excitation of electrons in our upper atmosphere, resulting in the emission of light. You will find this explained in more detail, here. Oh, and Carey’s question is also irrelevant because Higgs bosons do not screw-in light bulbs.

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