Winter Holiday Puzzles

I.  The squirrels here love to eat the many fallen walnuts (as well as the roots of my freshly planted native plants!) even though the meat inside is protected by a very hard shell.


But the squirrel has sharp teeth and manages, with great effort, to chew right through.

Gnawed Nuts_5064The puzzler is the many perfectly split walnuts which were lying on the ground near the end of April.  The inside meat has all been eaten without a trace of tooth marks on the shell:

Split Nut 5063I’d never noticed these hemispheres before.  The plane of the north-south split is fairly flat, smooth and almost polished.  How it happens I have no idea.  I took some whole walnuts, soaked them and froze them, and hit them with a hammer –  all to no avail, they refused to be smoothly split.  There is some secret cleaving process at work, and I’m certain the squirrels would love to take advantage of it if they could?
II.  The younger looking of a pair of bald eagles
2Eagles_8602has been putting sticks against this tree on Garden Island out back for a year now without getting one of them to stay in place.  This clip (click the white triangle in the middle of the picture below to play the video)
YouTube Preview Image
shows the bird hard at work, but at the very end the stick sadly drops to the ground once again, wasting all the effort.

It would be so beautiful to have an eagle’s aerie right here but the problem for now is how do I get the process to start?  It is not an easy tree for climbing!

III.  This winter’s weather has been so mild that my bees were actually gathering pollen on December 23, when the temperature was 50 F (10 C), who knows where this one found the bright yellow food packed onto her legs?
Pollen_8702I’ve found nothing in bloom anywhere nearby.  Ever tried following the “bee line” as they leave the hive on their way to their hidden food source?  I could not make it work.

It was so unseasonably warm that the Sandhill Cranes, who we haven’t seen for 10 years since Inez was last here from Spain, stopped by for the week of Xmas on their very late migration south.
Cranes 8746This photo was taken through a closed back window yet we could still here their unique chattering, clacking bills: sounded like humans squabbling about climate change.

IV.  Einstein very neatly showed that something with enough mass can visibly bend a ray of light. (Without any math, he simply stated that we could not tell the difference between the force of gravitational attraction and the force of accelerating a mass with inertia. So when a nearly horizontal beam of light from one wall to the other of your room seems to droop, it means either the room is accelerating upwards, or the room is being pulled down by a gravity field, which is also pulling the light beam down).

The sun at a distance of about 550 AU (Astronomical Units – 1 AU is the distance from earth to the sun) is massive enough to act as a “Solar Telescope” to form an image, of what might lie far, far behind it.   The enlarged image of a bright spot behind the sun becomes an arc or a circle.  A Black Hole would have a similar effect as the sun. (Radio waves are similarly bent.  A good receiver at the focus spot could listen to the radio programs from another galaxy, if any planets there happened to be broadcasting!)

APOD (Nasa’s Astronomy Picture of the Day) often shows images magnified by gravitational lenses.

Einstein Rings:  In the image below the gravity of a close luminous red galaxy (LRG) has gravitationally distorted, into a ring, the light from a much more distant blue galaxy which was directly behind the red one.
Einstein RingsMy Puzzle is that I can’t understand how this works, in even the simplest terms:

An ordinary glass imaging lens (convex) works by bending light rays to come together to form a convergent image.
Convex LensMy problem with the gravitational lens is that the light rays are more deflected the closer they pass to the massive gravitational object.  This results in a fanning out or diverging series of light rays and not the convergence of the rays needed to make a visible image.  The rays shown below, from a star, apart from the red one which is swallowed by the BH, have an increasing bend or deflection the closer they pass to the BH.
Black Hole LensThus the massive object acts as a rather strange concave lens.  I know a regular concave lens looks like this:
Concave Lensbut its effect on a bundle of light rays should show a similar, non-imaging, divergence!

A simple point of light, in this case one quasar far beyond the focusing mass of a faint spiral galaxy, is often shown forming an “Einstein Cross” as 4 spots, rather than an arc or a circle.
Einstein CrossThat too I fail to understand!

Perhaps a clue lies in the gravitational images formed, not by a point mass, but by a cluster of galaxies:
Gallactic Cluster LensThe cluster CL2244-02 above is composed of many yellow galaxies and is lensing the image of a very distant blue-white background galaxy into a huge arc.
Here the rays of light from a bright spot far behind the cluster mass might come almost straight through the gravitational center of the cluster with little or no deflection.  The next adjacent rays would be somewhat deflected, and the next ones a little more so.   Thus the central area of the galaxy cluster could conceivably act as a converging lens, but further away from the center and outside the cluster, the rays will be deflected away from each other resulting in the concave lens effect sketched above.  So could there possibly be an imaging process, but only in the center of the cluster?


Any solutions to any of these puzzles will be gratefully acknowledged.


Happy Solstice, Winter Holiday, Xmas and New Year 2016 to all.

What a Difference a Month Makes

By March 14 this year I’d had 30 individual days of superb cross-country skiing in Perrysburg, the bees had survived a very cold winter and had reappeared from both hives, and the ice on the Maumee as well as this ice carved winged creature on Louisiana Avenue had both started to melt (She really belonged in my previous blog on Winter Fliers)

Ice Carving Flying Lady

I’ve no idea what this mallard thought she was doing in the snowflakes one of my bee hives?


This year the spring thaw coincided with high wind and water.  Garden Island was soon covered, like last year,

Garden Isl Ice jam r

though the water did not reach the high water marker stake from last year.

Ice Garden Isl W 2015_r

And the ice piles at the Boat Club easily exceeded the previous year’s accumulation.

2014 PBYC ice_3401

But the West wind jammed ice in front of the turnpike bridge and then drove the ice, piling floe upon floe ever higher to make the greatest mountains anyone could remember. Ryan Bannister took this photo.

Ryan Bannister Ice Jam

Further upstream icebergs knocked over the railing and most of the tombstones at Maumee Sidecut cemetery.  The bergs stripped off enough bark from many, many riverside trees to essentially kill them by slicing their supply lines of water and sap.  (All tree nutrients run at the skin of the trunk.  The heart wood in the middle of a tree’s trunk is lifeless).

Tree damage 5113

Some riverside trees also have a tough time from what looks the return of the beaver.  (I’ve not seen it yet but this looks like its work).

Beaver damage_5108 r

The last of the skittish winter ducks (not so many this year) began to leave as it got warmer.


The bees came out of my West hive to pack the yellow pollen of the crocus

Crocus 4717

and blue of Siberian squill on their hairy legs.

Squill n Bee

The East hive fooled me by not showing a single bee though it had been full only a month previously.  I waited 5 minutes and not  one came out.  In desperation I lifted the lid and was immediately jumped on by hundreds of them who’d being lying in wait to play just such a trick!  As I dropped the lid and ran I could almost hear them laughing (sorry, no photo of that).

The daffodils also look great now, but this non-native flower seems to do very little in the way of supporting the local pollinators.   I’ve only seen a single bumblebee once that looked to be big enough to tackle the task.

Bumblebee in Daffodil_r

Hal’s magnificent Bloodroot came up for their brief glorious week, as seen in this picture by Rick Barricklow:

Bloodroot front yard - Rick B

Our summer task is a weekly ‘monitoring’ of the first blooming of native flowers along two walking trails in two local parks.  Easier said than done: the first two bloomers we’ve seen have been so small it’s been hard to i.d. them. Each was barely 25 mm (an inch) tall.

Draba Verna r

Persian Speedwell_4924 r

There are banks of yellow  and white Trout Lily.

Yellow Trout Lily 5939


White Trout Lily 5047 r

They come out so early in the  spring and last such a short time that it is often too cold for the pollinating insects. So these flowers often don’t have nectar. They can self-pollinate but the resulting seeds are not as vigorous as when insects which  perform the cross pollination while gathering pollen for their brood.

We are already back to digging up aliens and planting  native flora to support the native fauna, here represented this month by a magnificent 280 mm (11 inch) long Map Turtle.

Map Turtle_r

It climbed up on a riverside rock at the bottom of the garden and sunned itself for 3 days.  It ignored offered wriggling worms. I think it might have needed crayfish which are unavailable right now.

I doubt if any of the summer months to come will offer such a contrast as these last two.