The Science Of Sunrises

Why does the sun rise in the east? For some people this may be the “duh” question of the article but perhaps not. I think people clearly know that the sun rises in the east but may not actually think about why. It is simply related to the rotation of the Earth. The Earth is spinning on its axis, and it spins toward the east. At the equator, the earth is spinning at a rate of roughly 1037 mph. Because, the Earth’s equatorial bulging, it is really more of an oblate spheriod than a sphere. This also affects the rotation rate, which decreases by the cosine of latitude. For example, if you live at a latitude of 45 degrees, the cosine of that value is .707. If you multiply .707 x 1037 mph, someone at a latitude of 45 degrees is spinning at 733 mph.

Changes in Earth's spin axis.

Why does a sunrise sky have its orange-reddish color? To answer this question, we have to define “scattering.” Small particles, droplets or molecules in our atmosphere can cause light to change directions. This is called scattering. There are different types of scattering including Mie, Rayleigh, Tyndall, Brillouin, and Raman. The two most common to meteorological processes are Rayleigh (scattering particle is small relative to the wavelength of light) and Mie (scattering spherical particle is about the same size as the wavelenth) scattering.

When the sun is low on the horizon during sunrises and sunsets, the sunlight travels through more of the atmosphere. Shorter wavelength colors (blues and violets) get scattered out. This leaves more of the longer wavelength colors like yellow, orange, and red. This is why sunrises often take on such colors. When the sun is higher in the sky, smaller particles Rayleigh scatter much of the blue wavelength, which is why the sky appears blue. The human eye is more sensitive to blue than violet otherwise our characteristic blue sky might be violet.

Sun at low horizon. Source: S. Corfidi and NOAA.

Doesn’t dust or pollution brighten the colors? The notion that dust and air pollution brighten sunrises and sunsets is a myth. In fact, they have the opposite effect. As Dr. Stephen Corfidi writes in an excellent essay on this topic,

Typical pollution droplets such as those found in urban smog or summertime haze are on the order of .5 to 1 um in diameter. Particles this large are not good Rayleigh scatterers as they are comparable in size to the wavelength of visible light (Mie scatterers if spherical). If the particles are of uniform size, they might impart a reddish or bluish cast to the sky, or result in an odd-colored sun or moon (it is this effect that accounts for the infrequent observation of “blue suns” or “blue moons” near erupting volcanoes). Because pollution aerosols normally exist in a wide range of sizes, however, the overall scattering they produce is not strongly wavelength-dependent. As a result, hazy daytime skies, instead of being bright blue, appear grayish or even white. Similarly, the vibrant oranges and reds of “clean” sunsets give way to pale yellows and pinks when dust and haze fill the air.

Corfidi also points out that pollutants also enhance light modification at low sun angles. This causes a reduction in the total light reaching our eyes and the overall brilliance of the sunrise.

Do clouds hurt sunrise or sunset views? According to Corfidi’s essay, some clouds are preferable for the best views.

Clouds catch the last red-orange rays of the setting sun and the first light of the dawn like a theatre screen, and reflect this light to the ground.

The best sunrises and sunsets seem to be associated with middle to high clouds rather than lower level clouds. Higher clouds receive sunlight that has not been altered by attenuation at lower levels. If you have a satellite dish for TV service as I do, attenuation is what happens when you lose the signal during rain.

OOP Vs. Non OOP

The difference between object-oriented languages is that instead of saying

f(a,b,c,d)

You say

a.f(b,c,d)

The syntactic difference is trivial, but it provides a tool for following good software engineering practice. You want to decrease the former, and increase the latter. It says that f “belongs to” a, along with the other features of a. And by isolating other details about a, you’ve reduced coupling to b, c, and d.

That’s what object-orientation “really” is. You shift focus from the function f to the object a.

That doesn’t necessarily require classes. Many OO languages use classes as a way of describing the features of a, but they’re not required. You can simply promise, “a is the thing that does f”, and that’s all. ActionScript 3.0 is the most prominent example of a non-class-based support for object orientation.

Adobe Flash Player 26.00.137

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Facts About the Dangers of Dog Poop

Dog poop is a problem we deal with on a daily basis. But is it dangerous? How much do you know? Is pet waste a health hazard?

Here are the dangerous facts:

1. Dog poop is NOT good fertilizer. It’s toxic to your lawn! The high nutrient concentration in dog poop will burn and discolor the grass, creating “hot spots”.

2. Nearly two decades ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant in the same category as toxic chemicals and oil.

3. You may not live near water, but unscooped poop from your yard is carried by overland water flow or is washed into storm drains, ending up in far away streams, rivers and ground water.

4. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms pet waste can spread parasites including hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and Salmonella. When infected dog poop comes into contact with your lawn, the poop will eventually “disappear”, but the parasite eggs can linger for years! When a human or animal comes into contact with that soil through everyday activities like walking barefoot, gardening or playing, they risk infection from those eggs … even years after the poop is gone.

5. Pet waste is teaming with E. Coli and other harmful bacteria including fecal coliform bacteria, which causes serious kidney disorders, intestinal illness, cramps and diarrhea in humans. (There are 23 million fecal coliform bacteria in a single gram of pet waste!)

6. Dog poop often contains roundworm larvae, which cause blindness. If a human ingests a roundworm larva, it can migrate through the body causing disease to the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart or eyes. So when people (especially children) touch soil, dog toys or anything that has been in contact with dog feces and then touch their mouths, they can become infected.

Dog poop doesn’t just “wash away” or disappear. So if you’re not disposing of your dog’s waste, you’re putting yourself, your family, your dog and your water supply at risk.

Why do ocean waves create foam while breaking?

It is due to the presence of dissolved organic matter in ocean water, which comes from the remnants of algal blooms. When breaking waves churn the water, intense turbulence and mixing makes this dissolved matter to act like foaming agents, trapping the atmospheric air. This creates air bubbles on the water surface, which stick to each other due to surface tension, giving rise to foam.