Monday, October 27, 2008

Stealing Sand from Beaches?

Back in the early 80's when I was building my house, a mason told me to get "Cowbay Sand" to make the mortar for the walls of my foundation - that it was worth the extra expense. He told me that Cowbay Sand came from Long Island, and its characteristic mix of particle sizes and shapes help make a strong mortar. The sand was described this way in a recent Port Washington News report:
The sandbanks of Port Washington are more than 20,000 years old, originating when the final glacier left behind mounds of glacial sand and gravel. Since the 1880s, it has been estimated that over 140 million yards of sand were delivered from Port Washington to New York City; enough sand to cover the Empire State Building with sand extending from the East River to the Hudson River and from 14th Street to 59th Street. The sand, known as Cow Bay sand, was of particularly fine quality and used to construct the sidewalks, skyscrapers, water tunnels and infrastructure of New York City.
There's a neat article from Newsday on the Long Island sand industry here, too.
I wondered then, and still do, is there enough sand around to support all the construction that is constantly going on around us?
It turns out that mining of sand is a big business, and apparently often done illegally, on some Caribbean islands where the demand for sand for construction is so great, and the profits so high, that huge sections of beach are literally being stolen over night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Indian Moon Mission to Launch Late Tuesday Evening

Hi all - I know it's been some time since I've posted here - it was a busy summer and fall for me! This story was simply too good not to post, though.
Late Tuesday evening (New York time), the Indian government will launch a spacecraft headed for the Moon. You can read the article here. Among other instruments, the Chandrayaan 1 is carrying an instrument called the "Mineral Mapper" developed by NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. This is of particular interest because Noah Petro, a 1997 Fox Lane grad, is one of the NASA scientists who worked on the project. You can read a report on the Mineral Mapper, prepared by Noah and others, here. After graduating from Bates College in Maine, Noah earned his PhD in planetary geology from Brown University where he concentrated on lunar geology.
Noah has stayed in touch with FL, and just recently joined Drew Patrick, me, and 2 other Fox Lane grad geoscientists for dinner at the national Geological Society of America meeting in Houston.