Friday, 29 January 2010

On disability and caring

Philip Patson writes in a guest post on Public Address:

"A wise society would accept the potential inevitability that through birth, accident, illness or aging we're all functionally incompetent or incapacitated at some point in our lives. We would design environments, systems and structures that accommodate functional diversity."

Read the whole post here. And Patson's own website, Diversity New Zealand, is here.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Hard times for honeybees

The BBC's Richard Black compares the plight of frogs with that of honeybees:

"While the chytrid fungus has blown whole [frog] populations away single-handedly in a season's shooting spree, many species undergo a slow, inexorable decline more akin to starvation or an ancient torture; squeezed into corners by the expanding human habitat, poisoned by farmland chemicals, eaten by bigger invasive neighbours, hunted for meat, stressed by temperature rise and stalked by viruses - or any combination of the above."

"As the plot of that detective story becomes clear, it seems that scientists are beginning to write another with a very similar narrative, but this time with bees cast as the victims."

"Bee populations - wild and cultivated - have always had their ups and downs, their years of plenty and years of absence. But about five years ago, commercial beekeepers in the US began reporting total wipe-outs of hives on a scale not documented before, leading to the term colony collapse disorder (CCD)."

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Martian sand art

Does anyone remember those sand pictures that looked a bit like landscapes and the landscape changed when you tipped them up the other way? Well does this look at all familiar?

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Larks and owls

The Guardian has a nice piece on variation in circadian rhythms, which makes some of us bright early in the day and others bright in the evening:

"Shiftwork is endemic (involving more than a quarter of workers) and keeps increasing with the demands of our 24/7 consumer society. People with a natural rhythm of getting up late and going to sleep late ("owls" as opposed to "larks") are discriminated against. Adolescents, who have a biological tendency to follow an owlish rhythm, are forced to attend school at early hours when they are still half asleep. Managers and other presumably important people are shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic as if jet lag was just a fairytale."

"There is always going to be a certain amount of night-time work that is essential. A big part of it could be covered by intelligent use of the natural variation between peoples' biorhythms. The larks among us will be happy to start work at 6am, while the owls don't really mind being out until 2am. For the most unpopular hours in the middle of the night, science can help workers adapt."

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, 22 January 2010


Thanks to Matthew for pointing me to this incredible stop-motion animation of cutouts from the pages of a novel. This story sure does leap off the page :-)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Warning: Total Perspective Vortex!

Douglas Adams thought up the Total Perspective Vortex, a fictional device which shows you exactly how tiny and insignificant you really are. This isn't quite so extreme (it only shows the bits of the universe we know about), but it's hard not to feel humbled by this video.

Fairy cake, anyone?

Monday, 18 January 2010

A riot of flavours

From the BBC comes this hilarious report of a trip to an ice-cream parlour in Venezuela where 860 different flavours of icecream are made. The selection caters for all tastes, many of them non-traditional.

The selection includes chilli, tomato, gherkin, onion, mushrooms in wine, garlic, and cream of crab."

"To put out the fire on my tongue, I go for the plantain flavour which is incredibly realistic. As is the cheese, which I would not at all recommend."

"Perhaps some things, like cheddar, should not be made into ice cream." observes the reporter.

Read the whole thing here.

Photosynthesising sea slug

Usually only plants can make food directly from sunlight, but a sea slug has been discovered which incorporates algal chloroplasts into its own cells and is performing photosynthesis:

"Some related slugs also engulf chloroplasts but
E. chlorotica alone preserves the organelles in working order for a whole slug lifetime of nearly a year. The slug readily sucks the innards out of algal filaments whenever they’re available, but in good light, multiple meals aren’t essential. Scientists have shown that once a young slug has slurped its first chloroplast meal from one of its few favored species of Vaucheria algae, the slug does not have to eat again for the rest of its life. All it has to do is sunbathe."

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Giant crystals

National Geographic has a photo feature of the cave of giant gypsum crystals at Naica, near Chihuahua, Mexico. Click through for more images and information. Thanks Matthew for the link.

Update: there is a BBC video clip of the cave here which is quite mindblowing.

PS National Geographic is selling complete DVD-ROM sets of every National Geographic issue since 1888! That also does my head in. When I was a child my family had a shelf with about 6 feet of National Geographics, but that was only a few years' worth....

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I hate scrabble, but....

I like Clockwords! Found on

(No-one's paying me to say this. I am not a spambot.)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Falling in love with great poetry

from Falling in love on the way home by Fiona Farrell

"a hill stretched
out its brown arm and
drew me close I could
smell the sweat of its
crevices at every turn

then a harbour licked
my ear whispering the
things harbours say
to all the girls about
other places they have
touched but you’re the
one babe hey you’re
the one"

read the whole thing online here (click the tab that says, "from Fugacity 05 Online Poetry Anthology")

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Bicycle with extras

Made in Christchurch, this hybrid vehicle runs on a combination of pedal and solar power, and seats 2 adults and 1 dog. Read all about it here.