A Recent Increase in Earth Activity? The Data Provides Little Support.

The internet is buzzing with claims that there has been a significant recent increase in seismic, volcanic, and atmospheric activity on our planet, and there seems to be a specific emphasis on the years 2012 and beyond. Suggested causes for such an increase include global warming having an effect on these earth activities, deliberate geo-engineering, changes in solar activity and/or cosmic radiation, and an as yet unknown or undisclosed disturbance within our solar system. However, a simple analysis of relevant and publicly available data provides surprisingly little support for such claims.  [Last update: 29 Dec 2015]

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Sunset in Santiago

I’m in Santiago, Chile, for two weeks to provide some computing support for a colleague. Unfortunately this city is often covered in a blanket of smog (especially during the summer). As a consequence the Andes mountains, which are pretty much right next to the city, are rarely visible in their full glory. But occasionally the smog lifts, revealing beautiful mountain views, especially during sunset. Here are some impressions (click on any pic for a full-sized view).

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Using a Raspberry Pi w/o Monitor & Keyboard

I recently decided to (finally) buy a Raspberry Pi. I’d been curious about it for a while, and thought it might be a useful addition to my laptop for running some compute intensive simulations. So I went ahead and ordered one, and so far I have no regrets. Partly for my own records, and partly by request, here is a quick overview of how I got it up and running and connect to it from my (Linux) laptop, thus avoiding the need for a separate monitor and keyboard.

raspberry-pi-small

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Running Google Earth on Linux

For many years now, dedicated Linux users (including myself) have been complaining that Google Earth does not run properly on Linux. In fact, it crashes almost immediately after the program is started. Searching the web on this topic, it seems that the problem is common and long-standing, but somehow Google has not (yet) come up with a fix. However, it seems to be related to a network connectivity issue, and here is a (crude) way to avoid the program from crashing at start-up. Read more

Watching the Perseid Meteor Shower

On the night of 12-13 August, I took some friends up to the top of a small mountain to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year was predicted to be particularly good, largely due to the peak of the shower being just a few days before a new moon, making for optimal (i.e., dark) viewing conditions. The weather forecast called for a clear night sky, so we were all excited to watch this show (with an expected 50-100 meteors per hour) from a high and dry vantage point away from the city lights. Read more

Incredible Croatia

I just spent six weeks (6 May – 16 June) traveling and hiking around in Croatia, and also a little bit in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. An absolutely amazing trip! Stunning scenery, wonderful weather, and friendly folks. Below is a brief impression. For more pictures, follow the link at the bottom of this post. Read more

The Living Set

Life is a self-sustaining network of chemical reactions. A living system produces its own components from basic food sources in such a way that these components maintain and regulate the very chemical network that produced them. Based on this notion of life, several models of minimal living systems were developed during the 1970s. While these models captured an essential aspect of the organization of living things, however, they could not directly explain how such systems emerged from a primordial soup of basic chemicals.

Read the full story in The Scientist

Suspicious Preparedness?

Being prepared for disasters, whether natural or man-made, is of course a good thing.  But it seems that the global efforts for preparedness are suddenly getting to an extreme this year. From terror attacks to asteroid impacts and, yes, alien invasions, several large scale training exercises have been or are being held this year. Sounds suspicious? Judge for yourself…

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A Tale of Täufer and Thönen

In 1711, a man by the name of Hans Thönen left the small village of Frutigen in Switzerland, and traveled by boat along the Rhine river to The Netherlands, where he settled in the town of Kampen. He was not the only one though, as he was part of a large enforced migration. However, the reason this particular person is worth mentioning is that he turns out to be one of my ancestors.

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