Posts Tagged ‘Payson Roundup’
Strange theory reveals secrets of the universe, the logic of sycamore leaves and why even smart people struggle with new ideas.
A guest post from Pete Aleshire, Editor, Payson Roundup.
The Payson Roundup is our local newspaper here in Payson, AZ. I first saw this article by Pete a couple of weeks ago and was just utterly engrossed by it. Not just the tantalising peek into a physics I know so little about but the beautiful prose. The latter is not surprising because as well as being editor of the paper, Pete also teaches the creative writing course at our local college. Jean and I had the benefit of attending the course, I guess about a year ago, and therefore can speak from experience.
So settle down and enjoy.
I finally got Drake Larson together with both sycamore leaves and Payson Mayor Kenny Evans. Moreover, I have been entrusted with a formula that may win me an invitation to Oslo if Drake gets a Nobel Prize.
But even if that don’t work out, I did get to eavesdrop on Drake and Evans. Quite the event, from my bemused point of view, since it shed light on dangerous delights of outside-the-box thinking and the Nature of the Universe.
But wait. You look confused.
Let me back up — and start somewhere closer to the beginning. Be patient with me — by the time we’re done, you’ll realize why God’s a math nerd, one surprising secret of Dark Energy, why farmers become original thinkers and what sycamore leaves tell us about the universe.
But first, I have to explain about Drake.
We grew up together, getting into (and mostly out of) various varieties of trouble. Very early on, I realized that he was much (much) smarter than me. This initially really irritated me, as I was previously inclined to vanity about my intelligence. Turns out, I love learning stuff other people have discovered, but Drake only gets truly excited when he has hold of a completely new idea that no one else can quite grasp. This prepared me, as it turns out, for meeting Kenny Evans — but that’s getting ahead of the story.
Drake and I grew up doing math homework together, before I wandered off into a career in newspapers. He got his degree in mathematics, turned down a job with the RAND Corporation and took up growing table grapes.
But he never quit picking at the lock of the universe.
Years ago when I was the science writer for the Oakland Tribune, he came to me all excited about a set of formulas he had. I did my best to follow the two pages of calculations, but all I can tell you is that they described instabilities of any sphere with uniform density. He predicted that when the Voyager spacecraft reached Jupiter, it would report inexplicable turbulence at a certain depth in the atmosphere. I ran his numbers past various top-level physicists and mathematicians who couldn’t find a flaw in his formulas — but concluded that it had to be wrong since it led to a violation of the keystone laws of conservation of mass and energy.
But I took note some months later when the Voyager spacecraft reported mysterious levels of turbulence deep within the atmosphere of Jupiter.
The years passed. Drake kept growing grapes, flowers, dates and vegetables — and working on his calculations. He wrote a book, “The Cults of Relativity,” in which he described a few of his theories, delighted in the conundrums of mathematics and pondered the curious resistance of even smart people to unconventional ideas.
We got together again recently. I took him down to Fossil Creek, all overhung with sycamores with the rustle of floppy, five-pointed leaves. Drake was his old self on our Fossil Creek tour as he tried to show me math’s beauty around us, although I was but a blind man clutching the tail of his mathematical elephant.
He had now connected his formulas to dark energy, a still hypothetical form of energy invoked by desperate cosmologists to explain the startling observation that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating. To explain this seeming impossibility, they invented “dark energy” — which they figure pervades the universe and at certain densities creates a repulsive force stronger than the attractive force of gravity.
Anyhow, here’s the point: Drake was in awe that his mathematical wanderings offered a way to calculate dark energy’s cap within earth — it happened to be an “inside is now outside” inversion of Isaac Newton’s simplest integral. No. Please. Don’t ask me to explain that. But earth’s dark energy cannot exceed 17 pounds per square inch at a depth of about 1,500 miles. He’s been working with University of Southern California computer crunching guru professor Barry Boehm, and the University of California at Riverside geophysics professor Shawn Biehler on its implications. Among other things, it could explain the perplexing observation that major earthquakes increase the earth’s rotation rate.
No one knows how to measure such a quantity at present. Someday they will. If it turns out that 17 pounds per square inch is a relevant benchmark for earth’s dark energy, then this column will maybe win Drake the Nobel — and I’ll get to dress up and attend the ceremony.
So Drake and I spent the day wandering along the banks of Fossil Creek as he kept trying to come up with metaphors so I could grasp math’s secret within the beauty of Fossil Creek’s sycamore leaves. The well-designed sycamore leaves adhere to the Fibonacci sequence, a mysterious progression of numbers that crops up throughout nature — from the spiral of a nautilus shell to the layout of the ruins of Chaco Canyon.
So I figured I’d just write this — and get earth’s 17 PSI cap for dark energy out there in the time/date/ stamped world.
Oh, yeah: And about Kenny Evans.
So that night, I took Drake to the Payson council meeting. Turns out, Drake’s family was growing grapes in the Coachella Valley at the same time Evans was farming 10,000 acres in Yuma. They both managed to survive that tempestuous time when the United Farm Workers union organized agriculture workers.
I introduced them and listened as they recalled events and figured out whom they knew in common.
It was then that I decided to blame Drake for my faith in Evans’ ridiculous conviction that a university will build a campus here in this itty bitty tourist town — complete with a research center and convention hotel. No sensible small-town mayor would risk public ridicule while spending thousands of hours on such an outside-the-box notion … unless he’d learned to gamble on dreams and hard work during all those years as a farmer.
Evans’ notion is almost as silly as a farmer who calculates the amount of dark energy emanating from earth, while credentialed experts scratch their collective heads.
Still, I’m thinking maybe I’ll get a nice suit jacket — something I can wear to both the university’s groundbreaking and the ceremonies in Oslo.
Hey, never hurts to be prepared.
A big thank-you for the permission to republish this on Learning from Dogs. I have no doubt that many LfD readers enjoyed it as much as I did! Stay with me for tomorrow when the theme of thinking, innovation and craziness is explored a touch more.
Kaycee joins the fold taking us back up to ten dogs.
Many of you read and commented on the loss of Phoebe that I wrote about on the 17th February.
Phoebe used to be one of a group of three dogs that lived in our large basement room, the other two being Loopy and Ruby. Well, it wasn’t long after Phoebe’s death that we noticed Loopy was, how can I say it, just a bit off. She had previously suffered from Valley Fever that had affected her when we were living in Mexico, (useful website on Valley Fever is here) and Jean thought that the fever had returned. In order to keep a closer eye on Loopy, she came up from the basement and joined the three dogs that made up the ‘kitchen’ group. Those three dogs being Lilly, Paloma and Chester. It made sense any way as Phoebe was a great play friend for Ruby and it was clear that Ruby was both missing Phoebe and not finding Loopy as an effective substitute play friend.
So on Tuesday, Jean and I, together with Ruby and little Sweeny, who also came from the local Humane Society, went back to the Society to find a companion for Ruby.
Jean had had her eye on a male dog, Kaycee, that had appeared in the list of available dogs that is featured each week in the local Payson Roundup newspaper. Indeed, here is the list of dogs for February that has Kaycee’s details, from which I reproduce below,
My name is Kaysee and I’m a 5-year-old Heeler/Pit mix. I have been with HSCAZ since 23rd March, 2011. I’m a flirty boy, who loves to have his butt scratched. I’m super smart too and I know all sorts of basic commands. Did I mention I like to play ball? My song choice is Brian Adams’ “Everything I Do,” because I will do it for you.
Anyway, Ruby and Kaycee took to each other without any issues and he came home with us later on the morning of the 28th. Now over 24 hours later, as I write this, it’s clear that he is a bright, loving dog with no obvious personality challenges and already Ruby is relishing his company; they slept curled up together last night. So that’s wonderful for all concerned.
What follows are some photographs of Kaycee’s arrival. To be honest, when Jean and I walked around the dogs at the Humane Society, it was very hard to fight back the tears – I wanted to take them all!
People will think us mad but so what!
Powerful prose, stunning pictures and an insight into the last 1.8 billion years of our planet.
The Payson Roundup is the local newspaper for Payson. To be frank, most weeks it’s a fairly quick read. That’s not a reflection of the quality of the newspaper, just an acknowledgement that Payson is a small American city some 80 miles NE of Phoenix up in the high desert. Indeed, the Roundup has a good record of winning awards.
However on the 6th January, there was a stunning article about the Grand Canyon, less than 4 hours driving from Payson. It was written by Pete Aleshire, a Staff Reporter with the Roundup. I can vouch for Pete’s literary skills as he teaches the creative writing course at the local college that Jean and I attended last term (semester) and will be restarting tomorrow.
I am very grateful to the Payson Roundup for their permission to republish this wonderful work. So here it is.
Woe and beauty on an ancient edge
by Pete Aleshire
I took a step — a long step — a million years step. Then I stopped, turned and faced north. Perched on the jagged edge of my life, I looked down deep into the shadowed layers of lost worlds — terrible deaths, fractured continents, vanished seas, mass extinctions.
Taking a breath, I took another step — a long step — another million years.
Curiously, I felt better — my troubles for the moment shrunk to no more than a ledge of Tapeats Sandstone in the wall of the Grand Canyon opposite. A layer of fossilized beach sand laid down 570 million years ago, the Tapeats Sandstone lies atop a mystery of missing stone — dubbed the “Great Unconformity.”
I studied that light, crumbling layer of sandstone in the canyon wall just across the way, knowing that all the great, riotous thrust of life that took us from pond scum to troubled writers has taken place since the lapping waves of a vanished sea left that layer of crumbling gray stone on a barren beach.
Perched on the wind-tormented branch of a twisted juniper nearby, a glossy black raven croaked at me.
“Nevermore,” he gurgled in my mind’s ear.
“You raise a good point,” I said to the raven and the wind that rose up out of the canyon’s 1.8-billion-year gash of time. I let loose a breath, a sigh, a puff of steam — frail and fleeting as life in the shadow of so much time. It should have depressed me, to stand so mite-like on the edge of such immensity. All I had dreamed or hoped or failed to do would not amount to a swirl of dust on this crumbling edge. I ought to have felt insignificant. Instead, I felt obscurely better.
So I took another step. A long step — a million years.
They had not built the Trail Through Time along the edge of the Grand Canyon between the El Tovar and Yaqui Point the last time I lingered on this edge. Now, it offers the most exciting crash course in geology I’ve ever encountered, although I’ve sought after rocks and unconformities all my life — and have even written geology books for confused people.
The 1.2-mile-long trail presents sliced and polished rocks representing almost all of the 24 major rock layers laid bare in the canyon wall from the 240-million-year-old limestone, siltstone, gypsum and chert layers of the Kaibab Formation to the 1.8-billion-year-old Vishnu Schist in the canyon bottom, among the oldest exposed rock’s on the planet’s surface.
Each step along the 1.2-mile path represents a million years, starting in the present and ending up at the 1.8-billion-year-old start of everything.
The Grand Canyon represents the most vividly revealed slice of Earth’s history anywhere on the planet. That makes the canyon one of the few places a person can grasp both the astonishing violence and the tormented timescale of the planet that sustains us all. This unique cross-section of time comes as a result of the relatively level uplift of the Colorado Plateau in the past 5 million to 8 million years. In most places, such a vast uplift would jumble the buried rock layers. But much of the 130,000 square miles of the Colorado Plateau rose at the rate your fingernails grow without deforming the miles-deep layers of sandstones, limestones and shales laid down on the bottoms of long-vanished seas and deserts.
As the Colorado Plateau rose, the northern edge crumpled into the Rocky Mountains. The southern edge dropped away along a 200-mile-long chain of 1,500-foot cliffs — which north of Payson forms the Mogollon Rim. Oak Creek cut back into that rising edge of the plateau to uncover the striking red rock formations of Sedona.
The Colorado River did the same thing, but on a grand scale. Many geologists believe the Colorado River originally ran north into a vast, interior sea. But as the Colorado Plateau rose, another river that ran south cut backward until it captured the north-flowing ancestral Colorado River, reversing the flow so that it now ran south into the Gulf of California.
This capture some 6 million years ago began the process of carving out the Grand Canyon. As the plateau rose, the flood-prone Colorado River cut down through it, like pressing a log up against a chain saw. Meanwhile, the steep tributaries widened the canyon by carrying those soft layers of sedimentary rock down to the main stem of the Colorado.
That process started at about the time the genetic evidence suggests humans, chimps and gorillas last shared a common ancestor and continues to this day.
As a result of this vast uplift, the relatively young Colorado River has revealed in the walls of the Grand Canyon the long buried history of the Earth going back nearly halfway to its creation. That encompassed the entire period in which life progressed from single celled organisms in the ocean to its present, dazzling complexity.
The meander down that Trail Through Time reveals much of that history, preserved in the rock layers and the fossils they contain. Of course, erosion has already removed more than 200 million years of that history, so that the youngest rocks on the rim of the canyon are older than the dinosaurs.
A few dominant layers stand out.
Near the top, the fossilized desert sand dunes of the light Coconino Sandstone bear witness to a vast desert that covered the Southwest some 260 million years ago. At that time, what would become North America was part of a “supercontinent” that gathered almost all the dry land on the planet into a single mass.
In the middle of the canyon, lies the great, blood-red wall of Redwall Limestone, formed on the bottom of a shallow sea between 300 million and 400 million years ago. Today, the fused layers of microscopic skeletons of ancient sea creatures forms a sheer 500-foot-tall band of cliffs that pose the greatest single barrier to reaching the canyon bottom from the rim. All of the trails to the bottom must pass through fault lines in the Redwall Limestone, stained red by iron oxides leaching out of the layers above.
Farther down, the easily eroded Bright Angel Shale forms the shelf above the 1,800-foot-deep inner gorge. Shales form on shallow sea bottoms, compared to the deeper marine environments that create limestones. Most of the trails in the canyon run along its wide shelf. Formed 530 million years ago, the Bright Angel Shale represents the era when trilobites ruled the world.
Just below the Bright Angel Shale lies the Great Unconformity, where erosion in the inconceivably distant past removed 1.2 billion years worth of rock. This records another period of uplift, when erosion carried off layers of rock many times higher than Mt. Everest.
Below that unconformity, the story continues — down through a dozen more layers in the inner gorge, each one mounted alongside the trail and polished smooth. The Grand Canyon Supergroup spans the period between 570 million and 1.2 billion years ago, again recording the meanderings of the continents and the ebb and flow of oceans, as the planet breathes in, breathes out.
After another, smaller unconformity, the river finally reveals the inconceivably ancient Vishnu Schist and Zoraster Granite. The schists started as sandstone, limestone and shale, before they were buried, reheated and fused into this dense, primordial rock. The Zoraster Granite ooze up from the molten depths of the Earth, forming veins revealed finally by the relentlessly downcutting river.
I could not see the metamorphosed Vishnu Schist from my perch atop the rim, but I have seen it on raft trips in the dark heart of the canyon where it has been fluted and carved and sandblasted by eons of floods.
Finally I stood stock still, my breath coming still in moist, warm, puffs as the planet spun so that the dust of the atmosphere gave the sun’s long light a warm red glow, reflected off the ancient worlds across the way.
My raven friend — or one of his kin — flew past with an audible whoosh of his wings, then banked to consider the possibilities. He croaked, that guttural warble that only ravens dare.
Odds are, he noted my proximity to the edge and so paused to ponder my potential as carrion.
But I prefer to think that he felt our shared pulse of life and caught the updraft of my yearning.
In either case, he settled on the branch of a weirdly stunted ponderosa pine nearby and we shared the sunset.
The shadows rose up out of the canyon, swallowing continents and oceans.
I kept my gaze on the glow of the Redwall Limestone until the shadow took it, then shifted to the luminous yellow of the Coconino Sandstone.
For I came to the canyon full of woe holding my life in my fingernails, my heart in the shadows. But now my troubles seemed fleeting, the world full of marvels, my life aglow like that desert turned to sandstone in the last light of day.
My breath came in a puff, transparent but warm in the still, cold air.
“Nevermore,” quoth the raven, “nevermore.”
Such beautiful words. Any additional thoughts from yours truly are utterly superfluous.
Looking for sustainability? Try this!
Sustainable is an overused word these days. All for the right reasons, of course! But how often is the word used in the context of relationships? Of the relationships between the domesticated dog and man? I suspect rarely.
In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at theUniversity of Tokyo took in Hachikō as a pet. During his owner’s life Hachikō saw him out from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting. Hachikō was loyal and every day for the next nine years he waited sitting there amongst the town’s folk.
“…. every day for the next nine years he waited sitting there amongst the town’s folk” Truly a sustainable relationship.
Now to something closer to home; literally.
The Payson Roundup is our local newspaper. Last Tuesday’s edition had the following story which Tom Brossart, Editor, has kindly given me written permission to reproduce here on Learning from Dogs. Thank you, Tom.
Best friends help save man’s life
August 30, 2011
Logger is Harold Green’s best friend. Logger isn’t a flannel-wearing, tattooed burly woodsman; he is a sweet-tempered chocolate Labrador retriever. And this best friend saved Green’s life.
Green makes his home up in Happy Jack. Recently he and Logger drove into the woods and went for a walk, and then Green had a heart attack. He didn’t have a history of heart disease, but all of a sudden his chest became tight. He collapsed and on his way to the ground, he hit a fallen log and wound up hitting his forehead and nose, tearing his bottom lip away from his gums, cutting his chin and breaking a rib.
“Right before I had the heart attack I had a page there was a fire, and that’s the last thing I remember,” he said. Green is an emergency medical technician with the Blue Ridge Fire Department.
He said the next thing he remembers was waking up and trying to call 911. “There was so much blood in my eyes I couldn’t see at first, but Logger licked the blood away.”
Green was conscious long enough to dial 911 and try to explain where he was. He heard the sirens go past him and with that information; the emergency responders had a place to start looking for him.
At that point, Logger left Green’s side to go to the rescue personnel.
“From what they told me, he was like Lassie. He came running to them, barking, and started running back to me, stopped and made sure they were following,” Green said.
The first person on the scene with him was a law enforcement officer with the Forest Service. Green said he told him his nose was bleeding so much he thought it was broken.
Next to arrive was a deputy sheriff. Green said he later learned the guy was off duty, but came to help anyway.
The Blue Ridge ambulance crew arrived next.
“Logger did the same with all of them as he had with the first one on the scene. They told me, without Logger’s help they would have had to search for me a lot longer.”
Green said when they first reached him his heart rate was in the mid-40s and he had no blood pressure. The rescue team stabilized him and carried him out to the ambulance to take him to the fire station where a helicopter could land.
“They said Logger tried to get into the ambulance with me,” Green said.
He said he has little or no memory of everything that took place, when he woke up he was in the hospital in Flagstaff.
Logger couldn’t ride in the ambulance with Green and couldn’t come see him in the hospital, but since he has been out, the dog has not been more than three feet from him for three weeks.
“It is really humbling to have so many friends there to help you out,” Green said.
The people who came to his rescue were all friends and, just like Logger, they did what best friends do, except it was something they do every day, for friends and strangers alike.
Logger has been part of Green’s family for seven years, joining it when he was just a puppy.
Green is the son of longtime Rim Country Realtor Bea Baxter, who has been in the community for around 40 years.
So dear, lovely Logger also demonstrated the same, deep sustainability of relationship that Hachikō did back in 1925. There is so much that we can learn from dogs. Think about sustainability, as it relates to the relationship between dogs and man. It goes back at least 30,000 years. It’s an unimaginable length of time.
In this context, sustainability is an underused word!
An amazing and powerfully positive story from here in Payson, AZ
Big thanks to friends John and Janet Z. here in Payson for passing me a copy of the Payson Roundup from Tuesday, May 24th. Because I want to include much of this news story I have left it a few days so as not seen too directly as a copyright infringement.
This is how the story unfolds,
Homeless teens triumph against odds
Graduation nears for students who persevered despite chaos and carnage
May 24, 2011
In the summer after fifth-grade, Payson Herring found himself on the streets, living behind dingy car washes and eating stale food out of dumpsters. With both of his parents in jail and no one to look after him, he barely survived.
When he did show up to school, he was dirty, smelly and his attitude stunk worse than his clothes. Herring didn’t worry about high school graduation, he just wanted to make it through another night.
Yes, young Mr. Herring’s first name is Payson, presumably named after the town. The article continues,
Meanwhile, for Emerald “Emi” Stacklie, after living through three of her mother’s failed suicide attempts and two of her own, life remains chaotic as a homeless student. She continues to bounce from one friend’s couch to another, and often spends the night in her truck.
The only stability she found in life came when she met her fiancé a year ago, but like her childhood, that was also ripped away. Five months ago, her fiancé died in a car crash that left Stacklie two weeks in the hospital for her own injuries.
Both Herring and Stacklie continue to face circumstances most teens will never dream of, but despite hardships — that include incarcerated or addicted parents, homelessness, medical conditions and tragedy — both have so far beaten the odds.
From the outside, both teens look normal, with designer-laced clothing and beautiful smiles, but what they have gone through is unbelievable.
Both teens agreed to an interview, hoping other homeless teens will come forward sooner for help. Payson High School has resources, including housing for homeless teens through the Payson Assisting Displaced Students (PADS) program launched last year.
The rest of the story may be read here. I’m going to cut straight to the closing paragraphs.
With the support of friends and his teammates, Herring has developed a new perspective.
No longer angry with his past, Herring began focusing on the future. He worked hard at football, put more effort into schoolwork and stayed away from drugs and alcohol.
Herring used his past to help shape what he was becoming.
“I am not even mad at my parents,” he said. “There is nothing they can do now about the past. What matters now is what happens in the future and what I do. I am making my future brighter.”
Herring has plans to adopt “at least three kids.” Using his own experiences, Herring said he could handle just about any child. “I want kids to grow up realizing alcohol does bad things,” he said.
Recently, Herring even reconciled with his father.
While Herring and Stacklie still struggle, both are graduating May 26 along with 163 Payson High classmates. Both have plans for their futures — Herring to serve in the military and eventually become a police officer and Stacklie will start work at a hospital as an LPN.
“I am very, very proud,” Oakland said. “We will miss them.”
Herring and Stacklie defied the odds and “bottom-line beat the system,” she added.
These are very tough young people who will see in time that combating these sorts of major hurdles will give them a self-confidence and self-pride that is beyond measure. Well done to you, Payson and Stacklie.