Rallye of Light

- Van Warren


After it was pointed out that we had built a portable observatory, I decided to take a journey - a virtual rallye of sorts. It all started with a question, "Where is the least light pollution?". It ended with unexpected insights and more questions. Maps turn out to be the stars of this show.

In the light pollution map below many US cities are visible. Dallas is a good start. One can navigate along the interstate corridors west or east. Notice how unsettled the region west of the Mississippi river remains.

Why? Its about water. The next map below shows the vasculature, the lymphatic system, of the US, as a network of rivers.
I wanted to know the highest elevation the telescope could be placed so that it was free from atmospheric distortion.  


Can you hear frogs and the crickets out there? Maybe not.

The first two maps were combined to produce the next map. Colorful places are best. This registration isn't perfect, but it's a start. El Paso TX, Santa Fe NM, & northern Nevada look like possibilities. Curiously no locations east of the Mississippi remain with low light and high elevation.

While looking at the US Maps a US Radiation map appeared. Radiation is always interesting to think about. It relates to origins, the periodic table and lots of interesting physics.

The purple zones flag high background levels of gamma rays from Uranium, Thorium, Potassium-40 and other natural sources. This made me wonder about cancer caused by natural background radiation. Florida has little of that. Another good reason to go there.The blacked out data dropouts are interesting. Mel Gibson and the CIA could check those out. The radiation map raises the question, "What is the cancer incidence in the high rad purple areas, compared to the rest of the country?" So this takes us in a bit of a scary direction.

Here is a map of death by cancer, scaled by population for a 44 year period. There is some correlation with radioactivity, but it isn't huge. The Mississippi delta appears to be a worse source of cancer than naturally occurring radiation. Could some of the areas in the west where radiation abounds confer a protective effect on the population, providing "free" therapy? Maybe not. A region that refutes this is the south east corner of Nevada extending towards Southern California. Was there atomic testing there? Are there different isotopes present in the Las Vegas/Lake Mead/Kingman area? What is in Lake Mead? What is going on in the Mississippi delta? What about the Red River going through Louisiana and creating the bottom border of Oklahoma. The Red River and the Mississippi form a deadly 'V', terminating near Tulsa.

Pretend the United States is a piece of tissue being invaded by cancer. Where is it coming from. Where is the cancer most concentrated?. If Craig Venter can treat the oceans as a gene pool can we treat the US like a piece of meat? What is the distribution of cancer in that tissue? Slightly blurring a more recent map yields another view shown above. Coastal and river basin areas have high cancer rates. Does it have something to do with the water. Does it just correlate with urbanization, with pollution?

The next map shows how land cover varies across the US from AVHRR data. Reds are vegetation. Notice the distinct correlation of landform with cancer incidence. But the last cancer incidence image does not correlate so directly with urbanization, shown in the light pollution.
Besides radiation, there are three other categories of mutagenesis that leads to cancer. They are environmental chemical toxins, microorganisms, and aging. Aging affects everyone, depending on their genes and the length of their telomeres.. So there must be something about the landform below that correlates with either toxins, say industrial pollution, or distributions of oncogenic viruses. Are the people who live there special in some way? Or is it some combination of factors? The delta floodplain of the Mississippi and the Red River are bad places to live with respect to these results.Cancer rates differ by gender, by nationality and by age. The Mississippi delta is known for specific concentrations of poverty, race and agriculture. Perhaps these distressed areas are not getting good health care. Perhaps industrial pollution, environmental, biological, social, or some combination of the above give rise to this. This suggests that considerate thinking and careful follow-up are in order.

One can choose many factors and search for maps that confirm or refute those hypothesis.
Come to your own conclusions. My deepest appreciation for the work that made our journey possible.