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Posts from: March 2011

Tsunami – 10 surges in 4 hours at Morro Bay

March 17, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

 Tidal chart shows tsunami surges at Morro Bay, 3-11-2011

‘Had it been a few hours later…’

About 10 hours after the Honshu earthquake initiated a tsunami in Japan March 11, the first surges began to reach California’s coastline, including Morro Bay at 8 a.m.

Oceanographers at the San Luis Obispo Science and Ecosystem Alliance (SLOSEA) took heed and measurements.  This report comes from its executive director, Dean Wendt, who is a biology professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which coordinates SLOSEA from its Center for  Coastal Marine Sciences. Read more »

How does a dual-isotope rubidium magnetometer work?

March 16, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

Magnetometer for studying affect of gravity on spinning atoms at CSU East Bay

Let’s hear from CSU East Bay physics professor Derek Kimball.

After all, the machine is in his lab, where he uses it to try to see how gravity alone might alter the axis of a spinning atom.  (His work is mentioned in “Trying to Catch Gravitational Waves,” the latest  feature in “A Closer Look.” )

So, Dr. Kimball, how does a dual-isotope rubidium magnetometer work?

“The rubidium atoms are contained in a glass cell with special anti-relaxation coating on the inner surface that enables atomic spins to remain polarized (oriented in a particular direction) for up to one million bounces off the cell walls. Read more »

Trying to catch gravitational waves

Tags: A Closer Look

Not waiting for a supernova, CSU researchers focus on mirrors

Theoretically, Albert Einstein is a physics icon. So… It doesn’t matter.  His theories still get double- and triple-checked.

LIGO researcher and CSU Fullerton physics professor Joshua Smith with students in lab.For example, to confirm Einstein’s general theory of relativity, astrophysicists by the score, including some in the CSU, keep trying to spot – if only for a millisecond – gravitational waves.  As yet, none has.

Among those contributing to the effort are CSU Fullerton’s Joshua Smith and his students. Along with several others in the CSU, they have been part of an international search party of physicists – called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). Read more »

Tsunami – Operations suspended, vessels survive at Moss Landing Marine Labs

March 12, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

Heeding an official tsunami warning, the California State University’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) suspended diving and boating operations Friday. Research Vessel Point Sur –  the largest in the MLML fleet, at 500 tons and 135 feet long – was already out of the water, in an Alameda  drydock for annual service and painting.

Aerial view of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories along coast between Monterey and Santa Cruz.Lab officials, including its captain, discussed taking the 56-foot R/V John Martin out to sea. They decided to leave it moored in Moss Landing Harbor with the rest of the lab’s fleet, which includes a 30-foot aluminum R/V Sheila B., four 24-foot Boston whalers and a 25-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat.

“We just loosened the spring lines to allow it to move,” said MLML Director Kenneth Coale. Read more »

Tsunamis – from north to south, some CSU insights

March 11, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

When a great earthquake struck Japan earlier today, it triggered a tsunami that devastated many areas along Japan’s coast. Meanwhile, across the ocean, residents along more than 500 miles of coastal California began to prepare for the prospect of a tsunami arriving about 10 hours later.

The news also generated this reminder for coastal Californians: If you are at the beach and a major earthquake strikes, do not wait for an official warning: Move to higher ground or inland as soon as possible.

Tsunami warning signAccording to Humboldt State geology professor and tsunami expert Lori Dengler, California’s north coast is the most tsunami-prone area of the continental United States.  Thanks to efforts by Dengler, her colleagues and students, the region’s residents have developed heightened levels of awareness, preparedness and response. Read more »

STAR photos surface, show budding teachers at major research outposts

Tags: A Closer Look

As reported in a recent CSU news release, Kaitlyn Fiechtner and Helida Haro embarked on a STAR trek last summer, going where no pre-service teachers had gone before: NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Kaitlyn Fiechtner, a Fresno State math major, at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. Photos newly provided to Science & the CSU offer some clues to their adventures – and to others who worked in other pioneering facilities as participants in STAR – the California State University’s pioneering Science Teacher and Researcher program

After orienting them, STAR dispatches its fellows for summer sojourns to national laboratories and other research centers to conduct research with the labs’ engineers and scientists. (See the release for details.)

Here are glances at some recent STAR participants (click on photos to enlarge them): Read more »

A force to attract physics teachers, PhysTEC open house at CSULB April 9

March 10, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

Guests at CSULB's 2010 PhysTEC open houseLooking for educators with electromagnetic personalities, the PhysTEC program at California State University, Long Beach will  host an open house for high school physics teachers and their students Saturday, April 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

PhysTEC, the National Physics Teacher Education Coalition, promotes the recruitment and development of undergraduate and graduate students looking to teach high-school physics or physical sciences. Read more »

Where Research Waters Flow

March 9, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

Reflections on Suisun Marsh in California's Delta (DWR photo)

From floods to droughts, from ag to  urban,

WRPI links CSU expertise to hydro issues

By Sean Kearns, CSU Public Affairs

Ask David Zoldoske, “What’s the biggest misconception Californians have about water?”

Before taking half a breath, he’ll tell you: “That we have enough of it. Absolutely. That’s it.”

Zoldoske is executive director of the California State University’s Water Resources Policy Inititatives, a systemwide multidisciplinary network that brings CSU expertise and resources to bear upon key issues of water management, policy and quality. Read more »

Spring Fashion Tip: What goes with La Niña?

March 3, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

A NOAA satellite image from Jan. 3, 2011, shows below normal sea-surface temperatures near the equator. (Red-warmest; dark blue-coolest.)

Cool waters in eastern Pacific usually portend drier (but not in north), chillier weather for California, CSU scientists report

By Sean Kearns, CSU Public Affairs

Before updating my spring wardrobe to go with this year’s La Niña weather cycle, I asked a meteorologist, “Do I go for sweaters or shorts?

“Definitely sweaters,” Steve LaDochy told me. A geography professor at California State University, Los Angeles, he bases his advice on what he calls “one of the best predictors of California temperatures”: the temperature of the surface waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Read more »

When tornados touch down – in California?

March 2, 2011

Tags: A Closer Look

With sights on supercell thunderstorms,

SFSU’s Monteverdi tracks twisters

Supercell storm near Limon, Colo., 2005 (photo by J. Monteverdi)

By Sean Kearns, CSU Public Affairs

John Monteverdi enjoys his whirlwind schedule.John Monteverdi, SFSU meteorology professor

Every year, as soon as spring term ends at San Francisco State, he packs up and heads out on his annual tornado safari – which has taken him throughout Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and beyond in search of supercell thunderstorms.

(About 10 percent of supercells will trigger the sequence of cascading events that spawns a tornado.)

Sometimes, Monteverdi heads out in a major hurry, trying to catch up to a sudden supercell sighting in California.

Wait a minute. Tornados in California? Read more »


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