Oceanographer on an airplane
One of the perks of my job is getting to visit cool places. Of course, Hawaii is my all time favorite (three Ocean Sciences conferences), with Copenhagen (ASLO Meeting) and Aquafredda (Italy, NATO summer institute) also meriting consideration. Worst business travel experience: Orlando (Ocean Science conference). My guess is that hell looks a lot like International Dr. in Orlando, with the Orlando-Orange County Civic Center containing the 8th and 9th circles.
Most of the time, I'm pretty busy at these conferences and don't have a lot of time to sightsee. Still, travel always presents something new and different. For example, last week, I attended the GLOBEC Open Sciences Meeting in Victoria, BC Canada. Beautiful town, nice hotel, nice conference center, and interesting meeting. The only disappointment was not getting a chance to go diving or hiking. However, just flying in the Northwest is fun, and scientifically interesting. On my flight to Seattle, we flew over the San Juan Islands (I think). There was a bit of wind, enough to give the ocean's surface some texture, but not enough to make white caps. Ideal conditions for observing physical oceanography from space. While taking off from Vancouver, I could see thin (few meters wide) bands of smooth water--almost certainly Langmuir cells. The smooth water indicates a convergence zone, with oils on the surface of the water (mostly from algae) damping out the waves at the convergence. Unfortunately, airline safety rules didn't allow for photos during takeoff. As we leveled off, I could see larger areas of smooth waters trailing off of the islands. My guess is that these are ribbons of algal-oils being swept off the shore. One thing I was fascinated by was how the surface features changed if you looked into the sun glint. For example, the picture below shows a series of vortices trailing off of the upper edge of the island at the center of the photo (the one that looks suspiciously like a sideways "X" chromosome).
Another non-oceanographic example is the propeller in the photo below. While taking a photo of the Olympic Mountains peaking above the clouds, I noticed that the iPhone screen was doing weird things to the planes propeller. When I took the picture, it looks like the propeller is falling to pieces, with the bits lining up in a regular way. Still haven't worked out the details exactly, but it is an aliasing between the scan rate the iPhone's CCD camera (exposes pixel by pixel, not all at once) and the rate at which the propeller is spinning.
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