Random Insight

I promise – this will be the last un-understandable post.

So you know about the theory of “survival of the fittest”?

I thought about that in the context of supercells in a strong bulk shear environment. You tip over and kill off weak, disruptive updrafts upon storm initiation. Only the strongest updraft wins, destined to become a monster.

If you look at radar loops from 5/4/07 (Greensburg) and 5/25/08 (Parkersburg) you’d see this happening. A multicellular cluster forms, but over time one updraft dominates. That then explodes and becomes a beast, feeding off unlimited inflow. In strong shear-strong forcing setups the result is even more spectacular – a string of pearls upon initiation, only to see 3 or 4 cells pull out of the rat race and rotate like crazy. See 5/4/03, 3/12/06, 5/8/03, among others.

On the other hand, if you’re given a unidirectional or small-hodograph shear profile, storms form and then either gust out or clump together in an amorphous, boring storm cluster. No supercell, just a conglomeration of underperforming crap.

(Note that this is all assuming a sufficient thermodynamic profile, but follow me here.)

So, maybe more in terms of layman logic…

The economic analogue? Capitalism. Well, not 100% rly, but the basics – the foundations of a “free market” (i.e. a capped, non-contaminated warm sector) without external intervention, emphasis on availability of capital, labor, and entrepreneurial spirit (i.e. lift to initiate storms, instability to sustain them), must be present. Competition is the icing on the cake, the driving force of ingenuity, that like shear, can separate the strong from the weak, the rich from the poor, and single out the “alpha male” that is to do many things in its reign (think about all that Google or Costco has done in the past decade – they are the corporate equivalents of the Greensburg and Parkersburg supercells).

(Another parenthetical footnote: I shouldn’t be talking in terms of what I just wrote above after reading In Search of Respect and All Our Kin, but truly, the poor are fighting a losing battle in the face of class stratification and prejudice, inadequate government policies, worker exploitation, and even their own coping mechanisms – kinship swapping and drug dealing for example. Although I guess this is just again the same observation that other updrafts are dying, but also that “alternative updrafts” – those below the poverty line – in the flanking line will always TRY to catch some inflow that the mother updraft doesn’t chew up; poverty cannot be extinguished.)

Boom/bust cycles, well they’re just normal fluctuations in the storm-scale or mesoscale environment that may temporarily weaken the supercell. An outright Collapse of a capitalist country, however, to something like communism (*cough* RUSSIA *cough*) would signal an environment more geared towards multicellular storms – no competition there, just form a “classless” cold pool!

OMG way too off-topic there, I’m not even trying to write a masterpiece here anymore. Okay…

The biological analogue, obvious. Assuming that you believe in evolution, well lets just say we wouldn’t be here today if that meteorite didn’t come in and kill the dinosaurs.

Other analogues exist, but it’s 2:19 AM and my masterpiece here fell apart.

The upshot? Big, strong, powerful, Great things only come through significant refinement, and often, deletion. I guess one other analogue would be in the arena of photographic composition – the simplest, most focused composition stands out the most and captures the eye the strongest. No, I’m not going to reject Gracepoint’s philosophy of not running the world’s rat race – because as I learned from several persistent people, it is quite silly. But what I guess then is to be seen is that the number 1 may be powerful indeed, and in many ways, the world IS a meritocracy… the rat race IS evident in every step of life from college applications to job interviews… and the whole purpose, is to find that supercell, and see it dominate and perform.

Oh, and the second conclusion is that I have WAYYY too much of SDS (Supercell Deficiency Syndrome). May is only a month away… yay.

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Chemical Thoughts

Two things that have been revealed to me tonight:

1) Emily was a valedictorian in her school! OMG! That makes her the second person I know, after Mingmei, who had been valedictorians in high school, and who I had competed with to beat the curve in Chem 4a. You know, the funny thing is, when the Prof. asked all the valedictorians back in high school to raise their hands, about 1/4 of the lecture hall did. I thought they were bluffing. I have been proven wrong tonight.

Question is, why does the CoC out of everything attract these valedictorians? I never thought I’d see such a high concentration of them in one room.

2) What your professor never told you – (and the main purpose of my post) HYPERCONJUGATION. Aha, envisioning Frechet saying this in his French accent right now. Anyway, I have always been intrigued about this phenomenon, ever since my SLC tutor, Kathy, labeled it as “bs”. Well finally tonight I decided to take a closer look, since I stumbled upon its wiki article. And I was shocked.

This part is what we already know:

An instance where hyperconjugation may be overlooked as a possible chemical explanation is in rationalizing the rotational barrier of ethane. It had been accepted as early as the 1930’s that the staggered conformations of ethane were more stable than the eclipsed. Wilson had proven that the energy barrier between any pair of eclipsed and staggered conformations was approximately 3 kcal/mol, and the generally accepted rationale for this was the unfavorable steric interactions between hydrogen atoms.

But then, the surprise:

In their 2001 paper, however, Pophristic and Goodman[3] revealed that this explanation may be too simplistic.[5] …. These results [from the study; not copied/pasted here for brevity] demonstrate that Coulombic forces [i.e. steric effects] do not explain the favored staggered conformations, despite the fact that central bond stretching decreases electrostatic interactions.[3]

I really wish I had total access to the (3) and (5) articles, but this is truly crazy that, even to this day, the basics of organic chemistry are still being refined. Upshot? Vollhardt needs to update his textbook for the 7th edition!

(Disclaimer: I may have advertised this as our professors lying, but I’m obviously being exaggerative. The hyperconjugation wiki article shows a diagram of the “accepted” view of hyperconjugation and steric effects on eclipsed vs. staggered conformations below the lines containing what I quoted above.)

May 4, 2007

Holy crap it’s been forever since I posted in this. Guess I’ve been pretty busy and out & about this semester.

Enter Shane Adam’s chase account of 5/4/07. It’s amazing. He was among the last people to see two things: 1) Greensburg as it was before the giant tornado, and 2) Officer Tim Buckman, who was killed by another tornado spawned by the same storm.

There are several things I remember from the night of 5/4/07. The setup… the beautiful 5/3/99-esque trough… the questions about the cap and yet the insistence of the NAM computer model on convection in western OK. And then, oh boy, did the Internet had problems on this night, but thankfully, I was able to to track the cell from ~30 min after initiation (about when it started to go Bonkers), to when it was still producing wedge tornadoes west of St. John. These were an incredible few hours. It was to be the most amazing couplet I had ever seen, and would see until 5/23/08. The storm featured tornadoes the size of Hallam, the significance of Udall, the debris signature of Moore, the hook from Hell, and the fertility of such storms as 5/29/04 and 5/12/04 (S. KS), 6/15/92 (N. KS), 6/3/80 (Night of the Twisters/Grand Island)… among others. Truly, this went above and beyond. In an environment of 4000 J/kg CAPE and 200-300 m2/s2 of SRH, this beast would spawn three giant, >1 mile wide tornadoes, all arguably of violent intensity, before it finally weakened below severe limits in the wee hours of the morning.

There is, however, one terrible mistake that I remember vividly. The storm, already possessing a monstrous 220 kt couplet, had passed over US 183, the road that leads to Greensburg from the south. I had posted that the storm looked like “it would miss Greensburg to the east”. And then, as if the storm had heard my call, the mesocyclone began a cycling phase that doomed the sleepy KS town. It swung left, violently left. Tense moments followed, as the following scans showed a debris ball, and then afterwards, a gigantic, monstrous hook associated with a new tornado that would later grow to over 2 miles wide. What terrible, terrible moments they were. What… breathtaking moments they were, to see such a once-in-a-decade storm to triumph over the cap, and exploit the explosive tornadic environment over southwest KS. What sad moments they were, to hear the news stories trickle in, initially somewhat optimistic, but knowing that later, the full extent of the devastation would be seen.

I’m a bit severe weather deprived, so I guess I’m just reminiscing. And possibly showcasing Shane Adams’ (somewhat funny and) somewhat chilling account of  5/4/07.

[Note: Readers probably don’t know what I’m talking about here. An EF5 tornado, the strongest on the scale, struck Greensburg, KS after dark on May 4, 2007, killing 10 people and wiping out the entire town. The supercell spawned ~10 tornadoes, 3 of which were over 1 mile in width (on average a tornado is <100 yards wide).  For more questions, comment lol]