Mika McKinnon Profile picture
Field geophysicist, disaster researcher, scifi science consultant, science writer, public speaker, irrepressibly curious. #scicomm #womeninSTEM she/her 🇨🇦🇺🇸
Twitter author Profile picture 3 added to My Authors
30 Jul
Raise a glass to the night skies we’re losing to multiple megaconstellations in low-Earth orbit.

No amount of connectivity is worth trading our skies, but I’m not surprised the quest for profit gives no fucks about intrinsic beauty and human connection with the cosmos.
It’s not just the loss of our skies to a billionaire circlejerk that pisses me off.

It’s not just the tragedy of the commons executed unilaterally by one department of one country for the entire planet in trade for a frankly underwhelming benefit.

It’s all the cascading impacts
It’s interference with weather satellites, leading to lower-quality forecasts thus endangering lives.

It’s interference with GPS screwing up detailed mapping, geodesy, beacon positioning for Search & Rescue, & a thousand other applications.

It’s overcrowding low-Earth orbit.
Read 9 tweets
4 Jun
Q: Whoa. What’s happening?!

A: This is a quickclay landslide.

Everyone is ok, even the dog. The science is spectacular in an unnerving sort of way.
Quick clays are deposited in marine environments, which means the minerals incorporate salts to create a fragile cardhouse structure.

Add water that washes away the salt and... it all collapses.
Quickclays are part of the sensitive clays that you need to handle very, very carefully.

They’ll also collapse if you add too much weight on top of them (load them too much).

What does collapse look like? When a solid clay just kinda oozes into a goop & flows away:
Read 19 tweets
27 May
Today’s launch window looks very wet and zappy:
This is a test flight. These astronauts are test pilots.

Going into space is hard, and having rockets explode in just the right ways are hard. The first launch with humans on board adds an extra layer to goodbyes.
Bob & Doug have an adventure dragon on their Dragon:
Read 15 tweets
21 Apr
I’m a Canadian/American dual citizen currently living in Canada.

My first memory is of eucalyptus trees rattling in the wind the night we arrived to our new home in California.

My second memory is Loma Prieta earthquake, watching San Francisco burn from Marin Headlands.
I swore my first oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States when I was 13. I’ve lost track of how often I’ve renewed that vow.

I spent the next 5 years teaching youth rights & registering 18-year-olds to vote, teased I was an immigrant unable to vote myself.
My American naturalization ceremony was scheduled for 9/12.

It took a very long time to reschedule.
Read 5 tweets
11 Apr
Meanwhile in Indonesia:

Krakatau is erupting. Again.

Krakatau erupted so fiercely in 1883 that it destroyed itself while wrecking devastation. This is Anak Krakatau, “Child of Krakatau” rebuilt by subsequent eruptions

This eruption is not unusual but it is dangerous. Stay away
That embedded tweet is the most viral describing the eruption, but it’s also not accurate.

Anak Krakatau is in (exactly) the same place as it’s deadly namesake, so similar magma geochemistry, thus similar eruptive style.

But it’s been restless for years: volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn…
This isn’t the first eruption of Krakatau since the 1900s because:
1. Krakatau & Anak Krakatau are similar but not the same.
2. Anak Krakatau erupted in 2019.

It’s also unsurprising as Anak Krakatau is erupting now as it was sending up warning plumes last month.
Read 19 tweets
4 Apr
Relevant to current events:

Key US laws on national disaster preparedness, including the role of federal government in facilitating an integrated, all-country, capabilities-based approach to preparedness that optimizes use of available resources:
I am so confused (read: furious) about how the federal government is choosing to support (read: selectively decide who lives & dies based on political preference) overwhelmed states during the pandemic.

Turns out impeached Presidents keep breaking the law if yo don't remove them
Federal agencies are empowered & restricted by their mandates. If it's out of scope, they can't do it. If it's in scope, they must do it.

Sometimes we retroactively realize fuckups. Both Katrina & Sandy resulted in re-scoping FEMA's mandate to better match needs & expectations.
Read 10 tweets
1 Apr
Hi Idaho,
So you just had a significant earthquake. That's not fun.

You might get aftershocks. Please remember to Drop! (or Lock!), Cover! & Hold on! until shaking finishes.

Please fill out a Did You Feel It? report:
Earthquakes in Idaho are part of that same Basin & Range geology we talked about with Utah.

It's NOT the same faults or seismic stress field (this is too far away to be an aftershock from Utah), but the same concept of sliding blocks under tension.
Idaho can also get earthquakes related to the Yellowstone hot spot as magma shifts underground, so let's head this off right away:

Yellowstone is at activity level green. Everything is normal. It's not gearing up to kill us in the near future.

See? volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/…
Read 27 tweets
28 Mar

Are you remembering your annual disaster prep? Are you set for quakes, storms, fires, floods or whatever applies to your region?

Those disasters aren’t going to hold off while we focus on the pandemic.
Good news:
A lot of your pandemic prep can double up.

You’ve got personal supplies at home to reduce grocery trips. You’re doing social check-ins with an out-of-area contact. You’re carefully checking on neighbours, maintaining social connectivity while physically distant.
Things to do right now:

1. Find your local officials & info sources to Follow on social media.

emergency management
police, fire, public safety
utilities, transport department
local news

Do it for city up to national.
Read 23 tweets
25 Mar
The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity.

Waffle House has incredible resiliency plans including limited menus to maintain minimal operation. So for them to close? Like, actually close?

That’s a Big Deal.
I know it sounds ridiculous.

But Waffle House isn’t a normal restaurant chain. It’s one that serves Hurricane Country & practices its disaster plans at least annually. It’s a chain that has trailer-restaurants ready to roll into devestated areas to restore service ASAP.
365 Waffle House locations closed would usually mean 365 locations at Level Red on the Waffle House Index.

But the index is for storm damage, where closing down is a proxy for severe damage & flooding.

It hasn’t been calibrated to a pandemic before.
Read 16 tweets
19 Mar
Things I did not expect to teach this term:
The properly formal language for the #OverlyHonestMethods version of "a pandemic shut down the university and we don't have the hardware or software licenses to run geotechnical models at home."
I checked my #OverlyHonestMethods archive. The closest I have to "scope reduced due to pandemic" is:
Read 2 tweets
15 Mar
Q: Ok, phew, class is online & quasi-functional. But isn’t social distancing during pandemic going to destroy the integrity of exams?!

A: Congrats! Let’s talk assessment strategies.

Are you ready for applied pedagogical philosophy?
What if I add gratuitous hedgehogs? 🦔
Learning management systems (LMS) have all sorts of “security” features like IP locks.

They’re all extremely glitchy, fail more with crap internet & older hardware, and are trivial to circumvent. Let it go.
We all know m learning is remembering just enough to recognize a situation & look up the details to re-teach yourself later.

What ideas do you want sunk so deeply in your students’ souls that years from now they’ll stumble onto a situation & reference their notes?
Read 16 tweets
11 Mar
Q: Ahhh! I’m abruptly teaching an in-person class remotely with zero prep time or past experience. Help??

A: Ohno. Let’s load you up with survival tactics.

1. Lower your expectations.

Converting classes is a $2.5-$5k, 6-12 month job. It’s substantial labour to do well.
2. Deliver straight lectures? Record them.

PowerPoint > Slideshow > Record lecture to create audio synced with slides.

ProTip: Enable automatic subtitles & image descriptions for greater accessibility. Proof them!

Caution: Clean your “Notes” section.
3. Deliver lectures with frequent questions? Stream them and monitor for text questions.

Software depends on your university licenses, but you can always use YouTube or Twitch as a fallback.

ProTip: Record & upload to mitigate student software crashes.
Read 20 tweets
29 Feb
Evergreen truths:
1. Risk mitigation is expensive until you need it, then it’s retroactively the cheapest option.

2. Another disaster is always coming.

3. Community drives resilience. Survive together or die alone.
I shouldn’t be surprised how many people are learning globalized supply chains are extremely vulnerable to disruption. But... this is how we designed it?

That’s literally the whole idea behind Just-In-Time economics. It’s what happens when maximizing profit is the only criteria.
Go ahead & stockpile.

If you pick non-perishables you enjoy, your Worst Case Scenario is feeling a bit foolish but having supplies next blackout / severe storm / quake / income disruption. Oh no, the horror?

Pandemic isn’t my motivation of choice, but I’ll take what I can get.
Read 8 tweets
28 Feb
Classses I took as a physics undergrad that weren’t math or science but have subsequently been useful to my career:

Science Fiction literature
Practical science fiction (taught)
Russian language (intro)
Geography of surfing
Media theory
Drawing & Painting
Figure drawing
Ballroom dance (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
Physics Circus (performance)
Anthropology of ‘Native American Indians’ (somehow even more problematic than it sounds; useful as a cautionary tale)
A near-random mix of graded book clubs
Science or math I took as a physics undergrad that weren’t required but have subsequently been useful to my career:

Physics of California
Experimental optics
Coding literacy
Computer Science discussion sections (x4)
Geology seminar
Physical geography
Physics of War
Read 11 tweets
24 Feb
FAQ: Is @TheRock igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary?

A: It’d be rude to examine his texture, so consider his origin & path.

He’s evolved under immense pressure, dramatically changed yet never shattered, and doesn’t explode even when provoked.

Igneous rocks crystallize from magma as they cool. Their composition & texture is determined from the start; from their first moments you can predict the path they’ll take.

You can’t do that with the Rock.
Even before you debate if he’s getting more or less hot with age.
Sedimentary rocks are made from the remains of other broken rocks cemented or compressed for form new rocks.

The Rock has a juvie record, got cut from his Big Break as a football star, repeatedly got boo’d (& injured) under multiple WWF names, and did not shatter. Somehow.
Read 15 tweets
21 Feb
Oh you’re a geophysicist?

...what... is that?!
Even other geoscientists rarely know what geophysics actually is, nor what we do.

But to be fair, it’s pretty much dark magic rituals with a scientific flare. It’s all the least-intuitive bits of math applied to the parts of rocks you don’t notice, for results you rarely see.
You know some of the geophysics sub-specialities:
Seismologists who look at earthquakes & volcanologists who look at volcanoes are in disaster-news frequently.

& many geoscientists are aware they hire geophysicists for oil & gas exploration, even if they’re not quite sure why.
Read 12 tweets
11 Feb
Geo women are having way too much fun with this on #WomenInScienceDay, but I’d like to run out the consequences of it.

This isn’t just bizarroland for the poor goddess of geology, but for the geology itself.

Volcanoes can erupt of gold, but it’s rare to be more than trace amounts.

Galeras, Columbia once produced 40ppb gold, so yes, it’s... technically possible to erupt economic concentrations of gold? But way too dangerous to mine.

1994 NYT: nytimes.com/1994/10/28/wor…
But volcanoes don’t just happen anywhere.

They need melt, which is produced by water dropping melting points (subduction zones) or unusually hot spots in the mantle (plumes). Or, apparently, goddesses in miniskirts & heels arousing magma.

📷 Encyclopedia Britannica Map of volcano distribution
Read 28 tweets
7 Feb
I’m pretty sure I love geophysics because we have the strangest problems.

Problems like “Huh, this ocean is... kinda light? Like... are we sure it’s ocean...? ...all the way down? Hm. Really? For sure? ...fuck.”
The best bit? One possible solution is subducted crust & we’ve got a slab graveyard tucked under that ocean.

“Om nom nom, gonna eat the surface of the planet, yum! Oh noes, my mantle is full of floaty crust bits & now my gravity pulls less hard. 😭”
It’s weird enough our pretty little planet is smooshed into an oblate spheroid, but is downright freaky that the geoid is actually this lumpy potato. (.gif is 1000x vertical exaggeration)

Gravity is so much less constant than it feels to us oblivious clunky humans.
Read 4 tweets
19 Jan
Earth is Easy Mode.

If we can’t maintain habitability here, we’re utterly fucked trying to pull off long-term survival anywhere else.
Every few months, someone with more money and fame than knowledge spouts off a Grand Plan to leave Earth for somewhere else to escape our problems.

And everyone who has dealt with the complexity of dynamic systems heaves an enormous sigh.
We can’t even create a stable sealed biome on Earth where we’re operating within the geomagnetic field at standard temperature & pressure. It’s the simplest version of a faked environment, yet we repeatedly fail.

We don’t even bother pretending the space station is independent.
Read 9 tweets
29 Oct 19
Ready, Murph? Plush alligator in a net airplane seat back
MURPHY! While it’s very exciting they let you fly the Airbus A320, I can’t believe you landed us in the wrong city!!! Plush alligator on an aircraft control console
Murph, I say this with the greatest affection, but diverting to frolick under pumpkin skies was not on our itinerary Plush alligator gazing up at a corrugated white roof carpeted with robbed spherical paper lanterns in oranges and reds
Read 14 tweets
29 Oct 19
Dear #Vancouver,
#translink 72-hour strike notice is out. If negotiations keep going poorly by Thursday night, Friday’s commute is going to be chaotic.

“Hire more drivers & buy more buses” feels like they’re striking more for my benefit than theirs!
Ok #Vancouver,
We don’t yet know if the #translink #transitstrike will happen Thursday midnight.

We don’t know if it’ll be a full shutdown, rolling strike, or a work-to-rule slowdown as they fulfill exactly the parameters of their contract: bc.ctvnews.ca/all-options-ar…

It’s all TBD.
Our 2001 #yvr #transitstrike lasted 123 days until legislation forced unions back to work. (cbc.ca/news/canada/br…). Then, blame was placed squarely on TransLink’s chair.

We have even more people using transit now. And unions are asking for things that benefit riders. Ridership increasing since 1999
Read 5 tweets