Spaceward Bound - Australia Bound
Posted on Jul 09, 2011 08:24:30 AM | Matthew Reyes
Spaceward Bound could be renamed JetLag bound!
Spaceward Bound Australia: San Francisco to Sydney was 15+ hours. Then 5 more hours from Sydney to Perth.
Spaceward Bound UAE: San Francisco to Dubai was 15+ directly over the North Pole. We saw the sunrise and sunset twice on that single flight!
Spaceward Bound Namibia: San Francisco to New York was 5 hours, and New York to Johannesburg was 15+, then another 3 hours to Walvish Bay.
Just counting my Spaceward Bound miles in the air, we certainly have enough equal to several orbits around the earth..and that doesn't even count DRIVING! All of the scientifically interesting sites are also very far away from humanity, and so we have to drive heavy duty vehicles to haul ourselves and equipment.
During Spaceward Bound Mojave we drive hundreds of miles across the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Parks to show school teachers how NASA does field work on earth to study places like Mars and Titan. For UAE and Namibia, we drove thousands of miles across those deserts in search for specific planetary analog sites.
Spaceward Bound Australia will be no different. Click here to see our anticipated driving route, clocking in at 2200 miles on 5 vehicles!
More to come!
Though We Walk Thru the Valley of Death We Fear No Ubehebe's
Posted on Mar 30, 2011 05:18:27 PM | liza coe
Many people who have not been to Death
Valley think of it as an inhospitable patch of sand in the middle of a desert. Although it
is one of the driest areas on the planet, the land supports so much life.
Interdisciplinary studies are an important way to bring together
many concepts. Much of education today is very segregated, especially in high
school: history, math, biology, earth science, and everything else is learned
separately. However, it has been demonstrated that interdisciplinary studies
can grab and maintain students’ interests as well as helping them retain
All of the places that we visited today can be used as an
interdisciplinary site. We started off at Scotty’s Castle and along the ride we
noticed many significant geological formations. The history of Scotty’s Castle
can be tied into the time period, with a lesson about the other economic and
historical events that happened in the 1930s and 1940s. Also, along the ride, the
types minerals that are abundant in the desert area can be discussed, and
students can learn how to identify geological features, such as alluvial fans
and fault lines.
We then headed to the Ubehebe craters, which are a great
analog to formations to look for on Mars. These craters are Maar craters, where
magma meets groundwater. The water table boils and released pressure in a
volcanic eruption. The craters are what are left over after such eruptions.
Many students may believe a crater is only from an asteroid or from a
mountainous volcano, so this site affords an opportunity to learn about all
sorts of volcanic features.We
ended our long day at Badwater Basin, which is one of the lowest places in the
world, at -282 feet. This used to be a sea, and this place could be used to
talk about watersheds and how desertification occurs over time. We can
incorporate math into this by looking at negative numbers, and students can
compare the sea levels of the lowest places in the world. This was a very long
but rewarding day as we got to take in all the beauty of Death Valley.
Desert Desideratum Mathematica
Posted on Mar 30, 2011 05:00:08 PM | liza coe
I was able to spend time with Jane Curnutt and Ernesto Gomez and Keith Schubert
from the Computer Science and Engineering program at San Bernardino working on
the Cellular Automata. We started talking about the radius and the
neighborhoods that surrounding each cell, which is represented by a square.
Each square has a radius of either 1, 2 or 3, each having a different
neighborhood size. A radius one has a length of a side of a neighborhood square
of 3 squares surrounding it, counting itself and diagonals. A radius of 2 has a
length of a side of a square of 5, and a radius of 3 has a length of a side of
the neighborhood of 7. The cell looks around in the neighborhood and if they
find a square within their radius neighborhood, then they follow the rules set.
For example we set the rules for the neighborhood of 0 to be unchanging. The
rule for the neighborhood of 1 for life and the neighborhood of 2 for death.
There are more neighborhoods to be set, but for the sake of the example we just
set those different. We put one center square in the sea of brown, and clicked
the button for an iteration, and watched the square grow. The space around the
square grew, all the surrounding squares filled in with green, including the
diagonals, creating a 3x3 square. We continued pushing the iteration button to
see what would happen and the patterns that were created were symmetrical. Jane
pointed out that the square started out with a 1, would create the same pattern
as a 3x3 starting square as long as the rules for the neighborhoods were the
order to understand the working of the program, we talked about how to bring
the program into a classroom. We created an activity involving chairs and
people acting like the cells. We talked about how to teach a student to think
about the radius and the neighborhoods. The activity would have a set of chairs
set up like a square and have a person sit in the middle or somewhere in the
square of chairs, acting like a cell. They would sit down and reach around to
figure out how big the length of the neighborhood side is based on the rule of
radius. We set it like a radius 1 and had one person sit in the square and look
to see if they can reach out to the chairs that is 1 away. Since all of the
chairs can be reached, they count themselves and say that has 1 which means
that cell grew. We put in people where the squares that were empty. And
continued the activity according to the rules we set up.
really enjoyed working with these people. I learned a lot about working in a
classroom and trying to make the program that was designed to mimic patterns of
bacteria or any form of growth pattern, can be taught to first graders in
relation to patterns and counting. The activity we created for the classroom
helped me understand how the program works. I was able to continue playing with
the program itself and figure out some more patterns just by playing around
with the neighborhood rules.
Cassandra Guido, California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo
Because It Was There - The Conquest of Mt. Doom
Posted on Mar 23, 2011 11:08:40 PM | liza coe
in the Mojave
The first day of our adventure in the Mojave took us from
the plains of the desert to the highest peaks of the sand dunes to the depths
of the underground volcanic caves.
Driving over the day before, we were greeted by Soda Lake, a lake that instead
of water has a film of bicarbonate salt covering a bed of sulfuric mud. Following the path to our home for the
week, we drove by a man-made pond with a fountain in the middle inhabited by an
endangered species of fish called a Chub.
The backdrop of our new home was the endless plains of the Mojave
The rise of the sun over the desert heralded the first day
of our five day journey to find the key to the possibility of alien life. We piled into five cars and
caravanned, leaving civilization behind us in our search for biological soil
crusts, referred to as BSC, in the vast plains of the desert. Though its appearance resembles that of
black, squishy mold; BSCs are a complex community of cyanobacteria, moss and
lichen that represent how life can survive in extreme environments. The objective was to find a large
enough population that would allow us to take samples without decimating the
population since they take about fifty years to resurface. The samples were retrieved and
will be analyzed in a lab in order to discover the mechanisms by which life can
survive in such an extreme environment. Our next task was to find a section of desert that would
allow us to take a sample of barren land and compare this to the life element
found in the BSC samples that we collected.
We continued our journey through the desert to the seaming
oasis of Kelso, a World War II boomtown, for lunch and stumbled upon a gem in
the form of an educational video.
We learned a lot about our next stop, the Cima Sand Dunes. These dunes were beautiful but
deceitful. Despite their seemingly
serene exterior they soon proved to be our greatest challenge. Our mission was to reach the highest
point of the dunes in order to survey the landscape. After about an hour of treacherous trekking, we reached the
base of the highest peak. We
thought the most difficult part was over, but the adventure had just begun. As we started trudging up the steep hill,
soon to be nicknamed “Mt. Doom”, we discovered that the sandy texture of the
soil made it difficult to progress…for every step we took up, we slid down 0.75
steps. Although the environment
proved to be too extreme for some, the majority persevered. After a strenuous combination of hiking
and crawling, we conquered Mt. Doom and in doing so superseded our own
perceived mental and physical limitations. After we recovered, we embraced the view and enjoyed our
feelings of accomplishment. In
surveying the land, we noticed that there was a distinct border of plants and
shrubs along the base of the dunes.
On our climb down, we encountered individual blades of grass-like plants
growing in the middle of the sand.
The roots appeared to be endless so we hope to return in order to
further investigate the mechanism of their survival.
Our expedition continued through a rocky road to the Lava
Tubes. We observed gaps in the
Earth formed by geologically ‘young’ (approximately 10,000-15,000 years old)
magma. We then climbed down into
the caves and observed the geological formation of the caves. It is possible that life could have
existed at one point but due to constant human traffic, none can be observed
Upon returning, we enjoyed a hot shower and a delicious and hearty
meal followed by a very stimulating presentation and discussion about
microbialites. Then it was
straight to bed to prepare for the next day. Thus ended the first day of our adventures in the
Cal Poly Pomona
Down and Dirty in the Desert
Posted on Mar 23, 2011 11:00:35 PM | liza coe
Today’s experiments consisted of
testing for life in soil crusts, extraction of chlorophyll from soil, and
creation of a mud battery.
In testing for life in soil crusts we
prepared three sets of solutions as follows:
Crust+ Indigo Carmine Blue (Dye)+ LB
Pavement+ Dye+ LB media
Sand+ Dye+ LB media
Crust + Dye
Pavement + Dye
AND one Control of: Dye+
Crust refers to the soil samples we
collected that contained biological crusts, pavement refers to soil samples
collected in the same area that did not contain any visible life, and sand
refers to a sample collected from the Kelso sand dunes.
The experiment was set up in nine test
tubes. Every two hours we are measuring
absorption using a spectrophotometer.
The test for life uses a color changing redox reaction between the dye
and sugars found in the solution. No color change has been noticed yet, but the
solutions will continue to incubate over night and more accurate observations
will be made later.
Chlorophyll extraction posed the
question: “What type of chlorophyll do biological soil crusts contain?” The process of extraction used 3mL
ethanol with 1.5g crust. It was
placed in the oven at 70 Celsius for 5 minutes. It was then placed in mixing until cool for 45 minutes. UV/Vis scan measured between
240-800nm. The resulting spectrum
results suggested the presence of mixture of chlorophyll A, chlorophyll B and possibly
The mud battery will be used in the
oasis lake on the Zzyzx property.
Its components include a mat of 3000 micro threads bulks of carbon
fibers. Each bulk of thread was
then weaved with copper wire. One
long piece will be put in the water under the ground of the lake in order for
cyanobacteria to grow. Another piece
of carbon fibers weaved with copper wire will be put above the ground which
will be a conductor of energy.
Four long thick pieces of graphite are then partially insulated with
copper. This will serve as another
conductor out of the water and into the battery. There is also a switch which we fabricated in order to
control amount of resistance and to turn circuits on and off. The battery will act as a prototype for a possible battery
source deep in the ocean to power deep ocean probes where there are no other
possible energy sources (i.e. geothermal vents, currents, or sunlight)
available to run the probes on.
presentation was titled, Scotch on the
Rocks, by Keith Evan Schubert, Jane and Ernesto. Biological soil crusts are
colonies of different organisms cooperating together to survive in their
environment. In order for these
organisms to survive successfully in their environment, they often grow in
distinct patterns. These patterns are often the same linear or circular
patterns; a pattern of life as it forms groups in an environment. The formation of these patterned designs
can be very intricate. The shape
of these microbial communities can potentially reveal information about what
environmental factors are most important to life in their ecosystem.
mathematical models have been developed in the attempts to explain the patterns
of growth given certain biological parameters. The limitation of these models
is that they are impractical for field use since the parameters are difficult
to alter. A simpler, binary system of analyzing pattern growth. Using a program of General Cellular
Automation, a set of rules can be inputted to determine which patches of growth
would stay alive or die after the next time interval. This simple interface
would allow scientists to simulate how growth patterns would look given a
certain set of parameters. Another technique would be to take a series of
photos and look at the photos in a time lapsed manner to observe the growth
using the rules above. These ideas
converge to all propose real life simulation of growing patterns and the
interesting part of this foundation is that it could be configured vice versa. Depending
on the complexity of the parameters, it might be possible to determine the
original configuration of the growth based on what it looks like now. General
Cellular Automation presents exiting possibilities for applications in areas of
study as varied as tsunami damage prediction to identifying possible sites for
-There could be a
presence of chlorophyll in deep, inaccessible soil crusts of other planets.
causes for patterns in microbial growth could help scientists determine good
places to look for extraterrestrial life.
The Mathematical Perspective
a mathematics major participating in this program, this entire experience has
been a whirlwind. It seems as if I am introduced into a new topic every hour.
Though this is overwhelming at times, it is possible to introduce these topics
into a math classroom. From the brainstorming that has taken place among the
math majors here, it seems the best integration of these concepts would be
through word problems. Students could be directed to find volumes, growth
rates, and heights. We could also work to integrate the group based learning
that was taking place in the lab. By redirecting the classic lecture based math
class into small group work, it’s easy to see how students could facilitate
their own learning successfully.
-Give power point
that is an understanding of concepts, but with pictures not notes! This would be best to execute an
understandable presentation where you talk and students listen and look, not
read. This would be an
introduction to patterning of organisms. .
-Use of General Cellular Automation in the classroom allows students to
explore the, “why does doing this make that?” question. Students are given the chance to set their own rules that
determine patterns of growth.
Spaceward Bound Mojave!
Posted on Mar 21, 2011 05:16:45 AM | Matthew Reyes
Back in the field for Spaceward Bound....this time a little closer to home at the CSU Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, California!
This year's Spaceward Bound: Mojave will again be split up into two, non-consecutive weeks: 21-25 March and 18-22 April. For this first week, we'll be exploring Mojave National Monument, Death Valley National Park, and the surrouding regions including Amboy Crater and the Kelso Dunes.
During these trips teachers and education majors from California Polytechnic State University, California State University, San Bernardino, and San Francisco State University will be learning how to evaluate microbes in the desert soil crusts; make batteries out of 'dry' lake bed muds, launch earth observing balloons, remotely control rovers, in addition to other geology and soil experiments.
There are several ways you can follow along with Spaceward Bound Mojave:
Follow our GPS tracks on Everytrail:
Search Twitter for the hashtag #SBM1 (meaning Spaceward Bound Mojave week 1)
Look for photos on Flickr:
Stay tuned here for more!
Finally On my way
Posted on Feb 22, 2011 09:23:55 PM | Matthew Reyes
(Attention: these blog posts may be hours to days behind schedule as our access to internet is not consistent)
Alas, today's the day to fly. Much sunnier and more pleasant here in the San Francisco bay area, I am surprised to learn that the weather in Dubai is very similiar this time of year. Okay, maybe a bit drier, but 70-80 degrees F isn't bad for the Arabian Desert on the Persian Gulf!
Because Emirates Airlines decided to bump me off their overbooked flight, I was given a free seat upgrade to Business Class! These seats are dramatically more expensive than regular economy class in the back, but fortunately this upgrade was free! It will be nice to be able to relax before this action packed week overseas.
Since I like to share everything through social media, I have decided track my flight plan so you can follow along this route. Visit my Everytrail Map to see where I flew and any photos I've taken along the way!