Schoolhouses 1916 | Plans and Comments

Seedy Bunch stopped the big yellow school bus in front of our farm house. I was excited to join five of my older siblings as they boarded. It was my first day of school.

We arrived at East Railroad School first. It was a mile east of town where some of my siblings were going to get off. I had to get off alone and join a bunch of kids I had never seen before. This school thing was not starting out the way I expected. I cried. I cried for a week.

I must have gotten over the trauma with no harm done. As it turned out, I became a school teacher myself. As a teacher, I felt those pangs associated with the start of school each of my 38 years.

East Railroad School looked very much like this fine example. We found this one on a recent hike celebrating our anniversary. It had been moved from its original location to this park site for preservation.

At Wildcat Den St. Pk. near Muscatine, IA

At Wildcat Den St. Pk. near Muscatine, IA

Show me more about old school houses.

Radon In Our House | What We Did

Update: Follow-up Test

We did another Radon test in February 2016. The result was good. It was 0.6 pCi/L. Well below the action level of 4.0 pCi/L.

The purpose of this post is to inform, not frighten. Thoughts of radon gas in the home conjure up fear in many people. Reading to learn about it can be challenging. There are very many stories, reports, publications, companies, and anecdotes. Making good sense out of them is difficult. It seemed important to document our story to help others have a clearer idea of the correct information so they can make well-informed decisions.

In the spring of 2014, I attended three Mini-Med School sessions for the public offered by the U of IA College of Medicine, about research they are doing on cancer. Presenters told of their efforts to understand the disease, decode its behavior, and how the public benefits from their research. A presenter the second week spoke about lung cancer. Because we live in Iowa, the subject of radon infiltration into homes was part of the discussion. Radon is recognized as the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Iowa has the highest levels of radon of all the states. Every county in Iowa has levels which exceed the recommended maximum.

The Environmental Protection Agency citizen guide says the maximum level should be 4 pCi/L (pico-Curies per liter of air). The pCi/L is a unit of measure of radioactive concentration in a sample of air. Readings above 4 pCi/L should have mitigation done to reduce it. The average level for the nation for outside air is 0.4 pCi/L. It might be as high as 0.75 pCi/L, depending on where you live. The problem with radon is how it seeps from the ground, infiltrates through the slab and walls of the foundation, and accumulates in dwellings to levels that might exceed current health standards.

This map predicts the likelihood that dwellings in these zones will have a particular value of radon when tested. It does not state that all dwellings will have those values. It is predictive of the potential. Red zones predict a value higher than 4 pCi/L. All of Iowa is a red zone.

Red Zone 1 (>4 pCi/L) — Orange Zone 2 (2 to 4 pCi/L) — Yellow Zone 3 (<2 pCi/L)

Following the university sessions, I felt it was important to test our house for radon level. I don’t spend a lot of time in the lower level where radon tends to be the highest amounts. But, my wife Melanie in IA does. She is a quilter. Her fabrics, sewing machines, and projects are all on the lower level. She deserves a safe environment. Plus, she was raised in a house with a lot of second-hand smoke. That raises her risk factor.

What did you do about it?

Galaxies m81 m82 | Supernova 2014 j

This composite image is made from telescopes at two observatories. The background image is by Johannes Schedler from his equipment installed next to his house in southeast Austria. His gallery of images is beautiful. This background image shows two neighboring galaxies, m81 and m82, in Ursa Major. They are 12 million light years away and 150,000 lt yr apart. Schedler combined five 30 minute images in different wavelengths each recorded with his 16″ telescope.

The two foreground images were requested by me from the Rigel telescope at the Iowa Robotic Observatory in Arizona. They are each 60 sec exposures with no specific wavelength filters. These two images are scaled to match that of the larger background image. This composite shows the increase is detail that can be obtained with long duration exposures, careful selection of wavelengths, and high quality optics as was done by J. Schedler. Click to embig.

Click to embig.

The Rigel telescope at IRO is used primarily by introductory astronomy students and researchers at the University of Iowa. The curriculum and telescope are under the direction of Professor Robert Mutel at Iowa. In the middle and late 1990s, Dr. Mutel set up an astronomy work station in my physics classroom in West High School in Iowa City. This allowed students to conduct astronomy projects, such as Supernova searches, using an earlier university telescope at that time. The high school students could follow the same course materials as the college students. Since then, I have enjoyed a professional relationship with Dr. Mutel in other educational areas of astronomy. As such, he grants me a user account on the Rigel telescope in AZ. I am very fortunate.

Supernova 2014 j

There was excitement in the astronomy community January 21, 2014, because of the discovery of Supernova 2014jIt was located in galaxy m82, the galaxy shown in the images above. The Hubble Space Telescope imaged m82 on January 31, just days after discovery as seen in this beautiful and detailed image. The images below are not positioned the same because of the different orientations of the telescopes used to obtain them.

Hubble Space Telescope – Click to embig

The top image in this post by Schedler does not contain evidence of the Supernova because it was taken in 2005. However, my less detailed image of 60 sec from the IRO was taken in early February of 2014. It should contain the Supernova. A zoomed-in close inspection reveals the Supernova clearly. Here it is highlighted by the yellow cross-hairs. It is not as good as Hubble’s. But, I am very pleased with it.

J. Ruebush – IRO


Space Music | Data Sonification

Data streams from experiments as 1 and 0 digits. It arrives at very high rates and is stored for later study. From spacecraft, it is used to make images, produce video, and make sense of the universe. Analysis of the digits simply as visual information is great for most of us. Think of the images from Hubble. But, there are other ways we humans are equipped to perceive our world. These rich data sources can also be converted into sounds. Such a process is called data sonification.

Here is an audio file example (20 sec) from U of IA researcher Don Gurnett. It is called a whistler. They result from lightning strikes which send electromagnetic waves along the magnetic field lines of Earth. This image is the spectrum of a whistler comparing frequency to time of signal. The audio adds a lot to the interpretation of this visual information.

If this sort of thing intrigues you, follow this YouTube link to see and hear more of Gurnett’s favorite examples. One of my favorites at that link is the 5th one down when Voyager I crossed the heliopause. ScienceCast at NASA published the following 4 minute video explanation of the significance of this event.

I want to see and hear more.

●●●● ●● | ‘HI Juno’ Say Ham Operators

The NASA Juno spacecraft is headed for Jupiter. Launched August 2011, it is scheduled to arrive July 4, 2016. On October 9, 2013, Juno coasted by the Earth and used gravity assist to speed it up and redirect it slightly so it will coast the rest of the way toward Jupiter. It received a boost in speed of more than 8,800 mi/hr (about 7.3 km/s). It is currently right on course. You can read about that flyby in this news release from the mission website.

During the flyby of Earth, scientists turned on Juno’s Waves instrument. This instrument will eventually measure radio and plasma waves in Jupiter’s magnetosphere. The reason for turning it on during flyby, three years before reaching Jupiter, was to record amateur ham radio signals. Ham radio operators around the world were invited to take part in a public outreach project. They were invited to say “HI” to Juno during the flyby.  They all broadcast the same low power Morse-coded “HI” message at the same time from their home antennas. Over 1400 operators from every continent, including Antarctica, participated.

That sounds interesting. What happened?