Monday, May 23, 2011

Dragon Storm: Ammonia Snow

There is a giant storm raging on Saturn, one of the largest storms ever witnessed by human beings.

I posted about the storm before, in The Dragons Of Saturn.

This is a false color photograph taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. The colors were selected to highlight the chemical composition of the storm.

The storm system is so large and the winds so intense that liquid ammonia from deep within the planet’s atmosphere is dredged up and lifted into the stratosphere where the cold temperatures create crystals of ammonia ice.

It seems like an obscure topic, but I’ve talked about exotic snows once before, in Pluto In Magic And Alchemy. Pluto is moving away from the Sun and much of that little planet’s atmosphere will be turning to snow and settling to the planet’s surface.

But the storm on Saturn is getting larger.

And amateur equipment is so good these days that amateur astronomers are getting extraordinary images of Saturn. Christopher Go in the Philippines captured this image. The storm on Saturn is so large and has been raging for so long that the disturbance in the clouds has now completely encircled the giant planet. Christopher Go observes: “Note that the head of the NED is interacting with material on the old tail! The region around the NED has become very complex.

This amazing image brings up an interesting point. This example of fluid dynamics, a storm so large that its effects create a circle around a planet and continue, creating chaos that then starts to engulf chaos, looks very much like one of the most ancient mystical symbols on earth—the image of a snake eating its own tail — Ouroboros.

There are some folklorists who believe this is not a coincidence.

Some folklorists believe that very ancient man either 1) had access to advanced technologies that allowed people to see events like this, and then pass along what they witnessed as powerful images; or 2) had access to a solar system that was very dynamic, with planets in a different arrangement than they are today, and just by looking up in the sky people were able to see events like this, and then pass along what they witnessed as powerful images.

There is almost no “hardcore” evidence for such a past. There is almost no “nuts and bolts” archeology which supports a belief that our ancient ancestors lived among such sights, or even that astrophysics makes such a past possible.

But many people today who engage with astronomy, who engage with plasma physics, see these images and the images kind of resonate at an emotional level.

This view of the past, for many people, feels real.

Not many people will look up at the night sky. That’s just the way the world is. Even fewer people know the sky well enough to point to Saturn. Again, that’s just the way the world is. But for the people who do look, and see, they see amazing things.

And I wonder: Are the things we see, today, the same things, the same kind of things, people saw, say, fifty thousand years ago, or a hundred thousand years ago?

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Robot Above The Clouds Of Saturn

No Doubts About The Party

All The Sunlight Is For Laughing

There’s a storm coming. I’m going to sleep.

Before meeting Pam for lunch, I spent time
talking about music technology
with a recording studio owner.

He told me he’d be willing to sell me
his Yamaha Motif synthesizer.

“It’s in perfect shape,” he said. “Nobody
ever uses it. All of my clients
either just play real instruments and hate
the technology stuff, or they’re experts
at the virtual studio programs
running on computers so they don’t need
the fancy keyboard workstations at all.”

I’m reasonably good with computers
myself and I’m trying to get better
at playing what he called ‘real’ instruments.

So I didn’t buy his fancy keyboard.

When Pam got out of her car a strong wind
blew a visible cloud of dust at her
from off the asphalt of the parking lot.

Pam closed her eyes. She turned away briefly,
then opened her eyes, looked at me and smiled.

“Fucking wind,” she said. “Is a storm coming?”

“On radar,” I said, “it looks hours away.”

“Well,” Pam said, “the fucking wind is here now.”

It’s later and the storm is much closer.

In my room, there’s a guitar over there
and my keyboard doesn’t give me access
to oscillator-level sound shaping.

But I can still play songs, still sing to Pam.

There’s a storm coming and lightning will flash
like exciting waveforms against the sky.

I’m going to sleep. Somehow tomorrow
I’ll find a way to make music for Pam.

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