The Wing-Friends and Other Books

In Blogger's slideshows images are greatly reduced, so lose much of their impact. And captions added to them in Picasa Albums vanish, so the images shown above are: the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, Earth, Earth with New Zealand circled, New Zealand, Auckland & the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island, some native NZ forest, a Fantail and chicks, various doves, etc.

(If you want to see the first ten images in their original size, they are in a posting made on the 24th of November 2011.)

My book The Wing-Friends is an imaginative tale of a small brave boy, a magical adventure, a magnificent Pegasus and the wonderful Kingdom of the Pegasi. It has been given very good reviews, and virtually every reader on Goodreads has so far awarded it five stars. It is available here. Some of my other writings are available as e-books, such as The Lower Deck, which is an over-the-top take on Waiheke happenings--sort of.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


There is language and langwedge. Language is talking to people or with them. Talking to them is good; talking with them is best. Making wedges between them is bad. Driving foul wedges into them is worst.

Talking with people not only strives to communicate--to be heard and listened to and understood--it also strives to please. It strives to use language in a way that gives pleasure, and therefore uses it with care, and
thus shows that the speaker cares about the listener.

That is the heights. The worst depths are what Tolkien called Black Speech. English is the greatest language that has ever existed on Earth. It has hundreds of thousands of good words. Filling one's mouth and other people's ears with constant repetitions of a few foul ones says to the hearers, 'I care nothing for you, you are only a toilet, I want to fill you with verbal sewage. You are only worth being psychologically abused, I am the one to do it, and I shall do it. For I am superior to you, I am worth more than you, I have the right to make a toilet of you, I have the right to violate you with my excrement, and you have no right to deny me.'

It is regrettable that although using such language in or within hearing of a public place has long been illegal in New Zealand, it is a law hardly ever invoked, and that the abuse remains rampant. Most of it is psychological sexual abuse, because the words are black words for the parts of our bodies that make us male and female and and mark us such. Denigrating them in the most vile way is the same under the heading of gender as calling an African a nigger under the heading of race. 'Nigger' is psychological racial abuse; four-letter words are psychological sexual abuse.

Unfortunately most of that abuse is hurled at men. Even the word that on the surface applies only to women is usually used of men by men; for it is the ultimate abuse: it says that a man does not have the mark of manhood. When used of a woman it says that that is all she is, that it is has only the value of abuse, and that she should be treated accordingly.

'Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.' Small wonder that there is so much retaliatory abuse in visual and physical forms.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


In these days when marriage is under constant attack from evil it is refreshing to see a bride celebrating hers by wearing her wedding-gown across nineteen countries over five years.

Jennifer Salvage has worn it riding through the surf, kissing dolphins, paragliding, playing ice hockey....


There is no replay button in life. We live each second, each minute, each hour, each day, each week, each month, each year only once. Once. Therefore the people who 'design' systems that waste people's time are stealing part of their lives. I am weary of systems designed by bureaucratic prats who cannot design their way out a wet paper bag, even with the help of nuclear weapons, and a squadron of bulldozers. Their bad systems waste time. They are thieves of life.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Although in New Zealand we are still in the last weeks of winter two dove chicks have already appeared. One came down to the ground two days ago, the second today, so they must have emerged from the egg round about the turn of the month. The parents must have had their work cut out to keep them warm this weather.

They are pretty well fledged, so can keep themselves warm now, but cannot fly up into the trees to roost at night so are staying on the ground nestled together in forest leaves under the building. As you can see they like being close together, so they may well be siblings. I have yet to see who their parents are

As dusk fell on the 17th of June I saw a dove huddled on the ground by the little water-jars looking very unhappy. I picked her up and brought her inside because she obviously could not fly up into the trees. She was not eating, but did take water. She was still alive the next morning, but still not well. Late in the afternoon I picked her up and prayed over her and by the grace of God when I put her down she brought up three lumps of food that had stuck somewhere. After that she looked a lot happier, but she made no move to go outside so I kept her inside a second night. She went outside in the early afternoon, so she was obviously feeling much better then, although still not one hundred percent.

But she obviously liked the experience, because she came back in later, and has been coming in every day since, usually about mid afternoon, and goes out at about nine in the mornings. She knows the best place to be. There is always food and water, it never rains, and the temperature is always a comfortable 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. What more could a dove want?

Because she is one of the doves with wide circlets she always looks wide-eyed, so I call her WidestEyes1, following my usual habit of giving names based on easily identifiable physical atributes.

She is a very well-behaved lodger. She does not say much and stays in one place in my office most of the time. She has become very used to my movements. Most of the time she sits, or stands on one leg, watching me at work (from well-placed paper towels to keep things clean).

She seems to have lost full confidence in her wings. I have seen her come down from the roof a couple of times so she must be able to get up there. But when she was ill she could not get more than a few centimetres off the floor, and she still does not fly from there to her favourite place, which is only waist-high. I am sure she can physically, because she has flown greater horizontal and vertical distances inside, but she seems stuck mentally. She could not fly to that place when she was ill, and still thinks she cannot. So she takes it in three or four steps, scrambling from one foothold to another till she can flit across the final bit. Sometimes it takes her several attempts. Occasionally I take pity on her and lift her up, but she likes to do it herself.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013



Dolphins can remember each other's 'name' whistles for twenty years:
'Dolphins are able to remember one another's signature calls for at least 20 years making it the longest memory for "faces" among animals--perhaps even surpassing the ability of people to remember one another from their appearances alone. Every dolphin has a unique whistle which is used as a signature-call and stays with them unchanged throughout life. '

Friday, 2 August 2013


Albert Bierstadt (1830-1892): Looking Down Yosemite Valley


Graphene-based supercapacitors:
'Monash University researchers have brought next generation energy storage closer with an engineering first--a graphene-based device that is compact, yet lasts as long as a conventional battery.'

Splitting water with sunlight to produce hydrogen:
'A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel.'

Climate-change is spreading disease:
'Climate-change is affecting the spread of infectious diseases worldwide, according to an international team of leading disease ecologists, with serious impacts to human health and biodiversity conservation. Writing in the journal Science, they propose that modelling the way disease systems respond to climate variables could help public health officials and environmental managers predict and mitigate the spread of lethal diseases.'

The hubristic theory was junk, not the DNA:
'Researchers from the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at Sydney's Centenary Institute have confirmed that, far from being "junk," the 97% of human DNA that does not encode instructions for making proteins can play a significant role in controlling cell development.'

Thursday, 1 August 2013


A one-word joke, two two-word jokes and a three-word joke:

Normal progress.
Government progress.
Normal government progress.

Now you know...


Our hotter, wetter, more violent future:
'Earth’s atmosphere seems to have found a way to get back at the human race. For almost three centuries, we humans have been filling the air with carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Now, it turns out, the climate-change these emissions have wrought is turning people against one another.
'So says a review, published today, of 60 studies on how climate change helps spark conflict throughout the world. The researchers found a surprisingly close link between climate change and civil wars, riots, invasions and even personal violence such as murder, assault and rape.'
Original paper.

Climate-change happening ten times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years:
'The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years.'

How to reset your internal clock:
'Our internal clocks are drifting out of sync, and indoor lighting may be to blame. A new study suggests that just a few days in the great outdoors puts us back in tune with the solar cycle, and reconnecting with the sun could make us less drowsy.'

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Beam me up, Scotty, is impossible, unless you are going to live quadrillions of years:
' complete a fully successful human teleportation from Earth to space... assuming the bandwidth is 29.5 to 30 GHz... would require up to 4.85x10^15years. The universe is thought to be around 14 billion years old (14x10^9 years), so it would take around 350,000 times longer than the age of the universe to transport the information of a single human--it would be quicker to walk!'

The arithmetic of gun-control says limiting weapons lowers the death-rate:
Should we act surprised? 'The duo reviewed available data stretching as far back as World War I, then drew up equations to compute whether policies ranging from a total firearm ban to "arm everyone" increase or decrease homicides. After running the numbers, they found that in more common domestic and one-on-one crimes, reduced legal gun availability--if properly enforced--is likelier to lower deaths.'

Monday, 29 July 2013


Human cells respond differently to true happiness and false:
'Human bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health, according to new research led by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
'The sense of well-being derived from "a noble purpose" may provide cellular health benefits, whereas "simple self-gratification" may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found.'

The duration of breast-feeding is positively associated with intelligence and linguistic ability:
'Breastfeeding longer is associated with better receptive language at 3 years of age and verbal and non-verbal intelligence at age 7 years, according to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.'

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Skylon's engines to get into the air in 2020:
Flight-tests of an engine for the giant space-plane Skylon are expected by 2020. The page has a good video of the Skylon in emulation. And see more at:

Friday, 26 July 2013


Glenorchy, Otago, New Zealand


The North Pole has melted into a lake:
Time-lapse shots show the before-and-after state of the world's most northern point.

The unrivalled technology for thin-film metal coatings used thousands of years:
'Artists and craftsmen more than 2,000 years ago developed thin-film coating technology unrivalled even by today's standards for producing DVDs, solar cells, electronic devices and other products. Understanding these sophisticated metal-plating techniques from ancient times, described in the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research, could help preserve priceless artistic and other treasures from the past.'

Reuters' coverage of climate-change plummeted after a sceptic became an editor.
That's what you call unbiased reporting! :-(( Shame on you Reuters!

Thursday, 25 July 2013


Simple world-changing technology gives any plant the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and thus be self-fertilising:
'Speaking about the technology, which is known as 'N-Fix', Professor Cocking said: "Helping plants to naturally obtain the nitrogen they need is a key aspect of World Food Security. The world needs to unhook itself from its ever increasing reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilisers produced from fossil fuels with its high economic costs, its pollution of the environment and its high energy costs." N-Fix is neither genetic modification nor bio-engineering. It is a naturally occurring nitrogen fixing bacteria which takes up and uses nitrogen from the air. Applied to the cells of plants (intra-cellular) via the seed, it provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix nitrogen. Plant seeds are coated with these bacteria in order to create a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship and naturally produce nitrogen.'

Common agricultural chemicals impair honey-bees' health:
'Commercial honey bees used to pollinate crops are exposed to a wide variety of agricultural chemicals, including common fungicides which impair the bees' ability to fight off a potentially lethal parasite, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.'

Simple tool to 'tinker' with any human gene:
'Duke researchers have devised a way to target any gene in the human genome and tinker with it. The new tool, which builds on an RNA-guided enzyme they borrowed from bacteria, is being made freely available to researchers who may now apply it to the next round of genome discovery.... it works, and it works on genes that matter from a clinical perspective. In principle, the RNA-guided tool could be used to modify or influence any gene anywhere in the genome.'

'Printed' rocket parts as good as machined ones, and far cheaper:
'Traditional subscale rocket injectors for early SLS acoustic tests took six months to fabricate, had four parts, five welds and detailed machining and cost more than $10,000 each. Marshall materials engineers built the same injector in one piece by sintering Inconel steel powder with a state-of-the-art 3-D printer. After minimal machining and inspection with computer scanning, it took just three weeks for the part to reach the test stand and cost less than $5,000 to manufacture.'

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


The release of Arctic methane could cost the world $60 trillion:
'Researchers have warned of an "economic time-bomb" in the Arctic, following a ground-breaking analysis of the likely cost of methane emissions in the region. Economic modelling shows that the methane emissions caused by shrinking sea ice from just one area of the Arctic could come with a global price tag of 60 trillion dollars -- the size of the world economy in 2012.'

When temperatures rise tropical ecosystems pump out more carbon-dioxide:
'NASA scientists and an international team of researchers have found tropical ecosystems can generate significant carbon dioxide when temperatures rise, unlike ecosystems in other parts of the world.'

Antarctic permafrost is melting fast:
'For the first time, scientists have documented an acceleration in the melt rate of permafrost, or ground ice, in a section of Antarctica where the ice had been considered stable. The melt rates are comparable with the Arctic, where accelerated melting of permafrost has become a regularly recurring phenomenon, and the change could offer a preview of melting permafrost in other parts of a warming Antarctic continent.'

Environmental toxins get into the brain-tissue of polar bears:
'Scientists from Denmark and Canada are worried by their new findings showing that several bioaccumulative perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are crossing the blood brain barrier of polar bears from Scoresby Sound, East Greenland.'

Molecular pathways in Alzheimer's identified:
'Key molecular pathways that ultimately lead to late-onset Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of the disorder, have been identified by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). The study, which used a combination of systems biology and cell biology tools, presents a new approach to Alzheimer's disease research and highlights several new potential drug targets. The paper was published today in the journal Nature.'

Study points to permanent impairment of brain-function from adolescent use of marijuana: 
'Regular marijuana use in adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair brain function and cognition, and may increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, according to a recent study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. '

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Dolphins call each other by 'name':

'Scientists have found further evidence that dolphins call each other by "name". Research has revealed that the marine mammals use a unique whistle to identify each other. A team from the University of St Andrews in Scotland found that when the animals hear their own call played back to them, they respond.'

Saturday, 20 July 2013


Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand - May 2013

Friday, 19 July 2013


Global Climate Analysis for June 2013:
Prepared by the US Government's National Climatic Data Centre of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Global Highlights
* The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for June 2013 tied with 2006 as the fifth highest on record, at 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20th-century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F).
* The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th-century average of 13.3°C (55.9°F), marking the third warmest June on record. For the ocean, the June global sea surface temperature was 0.48°C (0.86°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), the 10th warmest June on record.
* The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–June period (year-to-date) was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 13.5°C (56.3°F), tying with 2003 as the seventh warmest such period on record.

Thursday, 18 July 2013


Sperm Whale Gliding Through The Blue World of Undersea


Widely-used pesticide toxic to honeybees:
'Deltamethrin, fipronil and spinosad, widely used pesticides in agriculture and home pest control, were applied to healthy honeybees and proved toxic to some degree irrespective of dosage.'

Monday, 15 July 2013


Killer Whale breaching


Exaptations not adaptations:
Sorry Darwin, you got it wrong...
'Exactly how new traits emerge is a question that has long puzzled evolutionary biologists. While some adaptations develop to address a specific need, others (called "exaptations") develop as a by-product of another feature with minor or no function, and may acquire more or greater uses later. Feathers, for example, did not originate for flight but may have helped insulate or waterproof dinosaurs before helping birds fly.

'How common such pre-adaptive traits are in relation to adaptive traits is unclear. Santa Fe Institute External Professor Andreas Wagner and colleague Aditya Barve, both evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich, decided to get a systematic handle on how traits originate by studying all the chemical reactions taking place in an organism's metabolism.'

Messed-up GPS signals reveal wind-speeds in hurricanes:
By figuring out how messed up GPS satellite signals get when bouncing about in a storm, researchers have found a way to do something completely different with GPS: measure and map the wind speeds of hurricanes. Improved wind speed measurements could help meteorologists better predict the severity of storms and where they might be headed, said Stephen Katzberg, a Distinguished Research Associate at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and a leader in the development of the new GPS technique. On a global scale, experts hope to use the new measurement method to better understand how storms form and what guides their behaviour.

New form of carbon. Grossly warped nanographenes:
'The new material consists of multiple identical pieces of grossly warped graphene, each containing exactly 80 carbon atoms joined together in a network of 26 rings, with 30 hydrogen atoms decorating the rim. Because they measure slightly more than a nanometer across, these individual molecules are referred to generically as "nanocarbons," or more specifically in this case as "grossly warped nanographenes.'

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Friday, 12 July 2013


Air-pollution kills over two million people every year:

Where muscles get their strength:
'The basics of how a muscle generates power remain the same: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle--but the power doesn't just come from what's happening straight up and down the length of the muscle, as has been assumed for 50 years. Instead, University of Washington-led research shows that as muscles bulge, the filaments are drawn apart from each other, the myosin tugs at sharper angles over greater distances, and it's that action that deserves credit for half the change in muscle force scientists have been measuring.'

Plain surfaces transformed into cheap touch-screens:
"Our innovative system is able to transform surfaces such as wooden tables, aluminium, steel, glass and even plastics into low-cost touch screens. You could play computer games or draw sketches on walls or windows since almost all surfaces can be made touch-sensitive with our system."

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Phantom Falls near Oroville, California, in the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve


Mammals can 'choose' the sex of offspring (males are preferred):
That includes humans.

Far more accurate way of defining temperature achieved:
'Scientists at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have performed the most accurate measurement yet of the Boltzmann constant. While the impact of such an achievement is not immediately obvious, the measurement could revolutionise the way we define temperature, replacing the standard method that has been used for over 50 years.'

IBEX has now mapped the structure of our solar system's comet-like tail:
'NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft recently provided the first complete pictures of the solar system’s downwind region, revealing a unique and unexpected structure.'

The post has excellent graphics.

Marsha Ivins, Shuttle veteran, celebrates her spacecraft:
'I’d been off the planet for 13 days—12 days, 20 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds to be precise—when the space shuttle Atlantis touched down on runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base in California on February 20, 2001. It was the 102nd mission in the Space Shuttle program, and the 23rd for Atlantis. It was my fifth and final space flight and I knew going into it that it would be my last. I’d had a good run...a pretty incredible run, and three of my five flights had been aboard this same ship...'

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


DNA computation performed in a living cell:
'Chemists from North Carolina State University have performed a DNA-based logic-gate operation within a human cell. The research may pave the way to more complicated computations in live cells, as well as new methods of disease detection and treatment.'

720-square-kilometre iceberg breaks away in the Antarctic:
'On July 8, 2013, a huge area of the ice shelf broke away from the Pine Island glacier, the longest and fastest flowing glacier in the Antarctic, and is now floating in the Amundsen Sea in the form of a very large iceberg.'

'For the Western Antarctic ice shelf, an even faster flow of the Pine Island glacier would presumably have serious consequences. "The Western Antarctic land ice is on land which is deeper than sea level. Its "bed" tends towards the land. The danger therefore exists that these large ice masses will become unstable and will start to slide," says Angelika Humbert. If the entire West Antarctic ice shield were to flow into the Ocean, this would lead to a global rise in sea level of around 3.3 metres.'

Graphene can damage cells:
'Researchers from Brown University have shown how tiny graphene microsheets -- ultra-thin materials with a number of commercial applications -- could be big trouble for human cells.
'The research shows that sharp corners and jagged protrusions along the edges of graphene sheets can easily pierce cell membranes. After the membrane is pierced, an entire graphene sheet can be pulled inside the cell where it may disrupt normal function.'

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


It is false to say that a 2-degree rise in average global temperature is safe:
'The notion that we'll avoid serious damage to the world's climate if we limit the warming of the atmosphere to a 2-degree-Celsius rise in temperature is untrue, says Stanford climate scientist Chris Field.'

By far the best coverage yet of the plane crash at San Francisco:
Raw video of the plane as it came in and crashed, analysis of its approach-speed, and other details. 

Monday, 8 July 2013


Tane Mahuta (tarnay marhoota), the largest kauri tree in New Zealand, Waipoa Forest


Breakthrough could lead to artificial skin that senses touch, humidity and temperature:
'Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have discovered how to make a new kind of flexible sensor that one day could be integrated into electronic skin, or e-skin. If scientists learn how to attach e-skin to prosthetic limbs, people with amputations might once again be able to feel changes in their environments.'

'The secret lies in the sensor's ability to detect three kinds of data simultaneously. While current kinds of e-skin detect only touch, the Technion team's invention "can simultaneously sense touch, humidity, and temperature, as real skin can do," says research team leader Professor Hossam Haick. Additionally, the new system "is at least 10 times more sensitive in touch than the currently existing touch-based e-skin systems." '

Increased CO2 is greening arid regions:
'Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have helped boost green foliage across the world's arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called CO2 fertilisation, according to CSIRO research.'

Choral unison in melody and heartbeat:
'When people sing in a choir their heartbeats are synchronised, so that the pulse of choir members tends to increase and decrease in unison.'

A photo-transistor developed in Vienna:

Air-pollution in China shortens lives:
'A high level of air pollution, in the form of particulates produced by burning coal, significantly shortens the lives of people exposed to it, according to a unique new study of China co-authored by an MIT economist.'

Marital breakdown increases criminal behaviour in males:
Evidence from this study and elsewhere reinforces the importance of good, stable family relationships to help children escape 'negative outcomes' like delinquency, substance abuse and an inability to have good relationships themselves.'

Could one man have shortened the Vietnam War?:
'Konrad Kellen was an unknown defence analyst who might have changed the course of the Vietnam War if only people had listened to him, argues Malcolm Gladwell.'

Sunday, 7 July 2013


'OK Glass, Save A Life':
Using a Google Glass app to assist in cases of cardiac arrest.

Increased number of kids committing sexual abuse:
'Easy access to increasingly hardcore pornography and the sexualisation of childhood are being blamed for a rise in the number of children sexually abusing each other.'

Friday, 5 July 2013


Fin Whale Spouting


The changing world--timelapse powered by Google:
'These Timelapse pictures tell the pretty and not-so-pretty story of a finite planet and how its residents are treating it — razing even as we build, destroying even as we preserve. It takes a certain amount of courage to look at the videos, but once you start, it’s impossible to look away.'

Add water and iodine, and get a lithium battery with twice the energy-density:

Unique epigenomic code identified in the development of the human brain:
'The results of a new study by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies show that the landscape of DNA methylation, a particular type of epigenomic modification, is highly dynamic in brain cells during the transition from birth to adulthood, helping to understand how information in the genomes of cells in the brain is controlled from fetal development to adulthood.'

Limiting global warming is not enough:
'So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply.'

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Green Park


New system uses low-power Wi-Fi signal to track moving humans — even behind walls:
Yet another technology that can be used for good and great evil.

Smart birds figure out how to get through five locks in the right order:
'A species of Indonesian parrot can solve complex mechanical problems that involve undoing a series of locks one after another, revealing new depths to physical intelligence in birds.'

Exercise causes epigenetic changes to the DNA of fat-cells:
'Exercise, even in small doses, changes the expression of our innate DNA. New research from Lund University in Sweden has described for the first time what happens on an epigenetic level in fat cells when we undertake physical activity.'

'Printed' exo-skeleton to replace clunky casts for broken limbs:
'The scratchy, sweaty plaster cast could soon be a thing of the past, as a Victoria University graduate's sleek clip-on alternative gains international acclaim. After being picked up by many online tech and design sites, Jake Evill's lightweight cast looks so good people have volunteered to fracture their wrists to try it out.'

Fish cannot feel pain say scientists:
For years a row has raged over whether angling is a cruel sport, and now researchers have waded into the debate by claiming that fish cannot feel pain.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Insecticide causes changes in the genes of honeybees:
'New research by academics at The University of Nottingham has shown that exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the honeybee.'

2001-2010 shows an accelerated trend in global warming says the United Nations:
'U.N. climate experts say the first decade of the new millennium was an unprecedented era of climate extremes, with more countries than ever before seeing their temperature records broken. The World Meteorological Organization's analysis Wednesday says average land and ocean surface temperatures during 2001-2010 rose from the previous decade and were up almost a half-degree Celsius from the 1961-1990 global average.'

Monday, 1 July 2013


Electric car sets new world record:

Bugs detected by 'tuning-forks':
More on the new nano-technology to detect and identify bacteria at high speed.

Sunday, 30 June 2013


Girl Running through a Forest in a White Dress


A test for the presence of bacteria that takes minutes not days or weeks:
'Researchers at EPFL have built a matchbox-sized device that can test for the presence of bacteria in a couple of minutes, instead of up to several weeks. A nano-lever vibrates in the presence of bacterial activity, while a laser reads the vibration and translates it into an electrical signal that can be easily read. The absence of a signal signifies the absence of bacteria. Thanks to this method, it is quick and easy to determine if a bacteria has been effectively treated by an antibiotic, a crucial medical tool especially for resistant strains. Easily used in clinics, it could also prove useful for testing chemotherapy treatment.'

Quantum-tunnelling outsmarts chemistry:
Chemists have discovered that a reaction thought impossible at cold temperatures actually occurs with vigour, which could change our understanding of how alcohols are formed and destroyed in space.

Diamond catalyst shows promise for cheap fertiliser etc:
'Like all chemical reactions, the reduction of nitrogen to ammonia involves moving electrons from one molecule to another. Using hydrogen-coated diamond illuminated by deep ultraviolet light, the Wisconsin team was able to induce a ready stream of electrons into water, which served as a reactant liquid that reduced nitrogen to ammonia under temperature and pressure conditions far more efficient than those required by traditional industrial methods.'

Friday, 28 June 2013


New fibre-optic technology can increase bandwidth dramatically:
'...1.6 terabits per second, the equivalent of transmitting eight Blu-Ray DVDs every second.'

Two carcinogens present at 'safe' levels double the risk of cancer:

1977 and still going--Voyager spacecraft have almost left the solar room:
'Data from Voyager 1, now more than 18 billion kilometres from the sun, suggest the spacecraft is closer to becoming the first human-made object to reach interstellar space (for the metrically-challenged that's 11 billion miles).
'Research using Voyager 1 data and published in the journal Science today provides new detail on the last region the spacecraft will cross before it leaves the heliosphere, or the bubble around our sun, and enters interstellar space. Three papers describe how Voyager 1's entry into a region called the magnetic highway resulted in simultaneous observations of the highest rate so far of charged particles from outside heliosphere and the disappearance of charged particles from inside the heliosphere.
'Scientists have seen two of the three signs of interstellar arrival they expected to see: charged particles disappearing as they zoom out along the solar magnetic field, and cosmic rays from far outside zooming in. Scientists have not yet seen the third sign, an abrupt change in the direction of the magnetic field, which would indicate the presence of the interstellar magnetic field.'

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Grey-and-White Farmhouse in Green Fields 


The brain's garbage-disposal system may hold the key to treating Alzheimer's etc:
'In a perspective piece appearing today in the journal Science, researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) point to a newly discovered system by which the brain removes waste as a potentially powerful new tool to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. In fact, scientists believe that some of these conditions may arise when the system is not doing its job properly.'

Prevailing view of brain-wiring wrong?
'A series of studies conducted by Randy Bruno, PhD, and Christine Constantinople, PhD, of Columbia University's Department of Neuroscience, topples convention by showing that sensory information travels to two places at once: not only to the brain's mid-layer (where most axons lead), but also directly to its deeper layers. The study appears in the June 28, 2013, edition of the journal Science.'

Key step in protein synthesis revealed:
'Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have trapped the ribosome, a protein-building molecular machine essential to all life, in a key transitional state that has long eluded researchers. Now, for the first time, scientists can see how the ribosome performs the precise mechanical movements needed to translate genetic code into proteins without making mistakes.'

Humans caused Australia's 'angry' summer:
'Human influences through global warming are likely to have played a role in Australia's recent "angry" hot summer, the hottest in Australia's observational record, new research has found. The research led by the University of Melbourne, has shown that global warming increased mored than five-fold the chances of Australians experiencing record hot summers such as the summer of 2013.'

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Green Field and Coming Storm


Lamark would love this: 'Elephants shaped their own evolution'

Broadband satellites aim at 3 billion people:
Four satellites soared into space Tuesday (June 25) on top of a Soyuz rocket launched from the jungle of South America, beginning the assembly of a fleet of spacecraft equipped to beam broadband connectivity to billions of people beyond the reach of affordable high-speed Internet services.
O3b Networks homepage is here.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


A rise in sea-levels of up to 10 metres possible:

'Climate change could be putting the planet on a path to an era not seen for 3 million years, a New Zealand scientist has warned. Professor Tim Naish, director of Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre, said sea levels in 2100 could be alarmingly higher than today if carbon emissions continue at their present rate. Today, atmospheric CO2 has just reached 400 parts per million due to human emission, and the last time the planet experienced such levels was 3 million to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene era, when the climate was 3°C warmer.... both the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and parts of the East Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets had melted and sea levels were at least 10m higher.'

Obama's radical plan to tackle climate-change (text and video):
But will it get anywhere in a nation infested with petrol-heads, oil moguls and rabid climate-change deniers?

The Hydrogen House Project:
Hydrogen fuel-cells driving a house and car. Solar cells split water to make the hydrogen.

Monday, 24 June 2013


Mount Cook in the South Island of New Zealand (New Zealand's highest mountain)

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Climate-change equals four Hiroshima bombs per second:
'The planet has been building up temperatures at the rate of four Hiroshima bombs of heat every second, and it's all our fault, say climate scientists.
Hurricane Katrina and super-storm Sandy are just two examples of how extreme weather will intensify, Australia's Climate Action Summit has heard.'

Friday, 21 June 2013


Menya River, Papua New Guinea


Are blind, starving cheetahs the new symbols of climate-change?
'The world's fastest land animal is in trouble. The cheetah, formerly found across much of Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, has been extirpated from at least 27 countries and is now on the Red List of threatened species.'

Beyond silicon: transistors without semiconductors:
A new nano-techology exploits quantum tunnelling at room temperature.

The gene associated with getting old also regulates the body's circadian clock:

Why jumping genes do not cause meltdown:
'The study reveals for the first time how the movement and duplication of segments of DNA known as transposons, is regulated. This prevents a genomic meltdown, and instead enables transposons to live in harmony with their hosts -- including humans.'

New method of magnifying images 700 times faster:
Aránzazu Jurío-Munárriz, a graduate in computer engineering from the NUP/UPNA-Public University of Navarre, has in her PhD thesis presented new methods for improving two of the most widespread means used in digital image processing: magnification and thresholding. Her algorithm to magnify images stands out not only because of the quality obtained but also because of the the fact that it executes 700 times faster than other methods that obtain the same quality.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Huka Falls on the Upper Waikato River, North Island, New Zealand


The quantum secret in photosynthesis uncovered:
'The efficient conversion of sunlight into useful energy is one of the challenges which stand in the way of meeting the world's increasing energy demand in a clean, sustainable way without relying on fossil fuels. Photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and some bacteria, have mastered the process. In less than a couple of trillionths of a second, 95% of the sunlight they absorb is whisked away to drive the metabolic reactions that provide them with energy. The efficiency of photovoltaic cells currently on the market is around 20%. What hidden mechanism does nature use to transfer energy so efficiently?'

Table-top particle accelerator opens a new chapter in research:
'Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have built a tabletop particle accelerator that can generate energies and speeds previously reached only by major facilities that are hundreds of meters long and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. "We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 gigaelectronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch," said Mike Downer, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences. "Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It's a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000." '

Thirdhand tobacco smoke causes DNA damage:
'A study led by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found for the first time that thirdhand smoke -- the noxious residue that clings to virtually all surfaces long after the secondhand smoke from a cigarette has cleared out -- causes significant genetic damage in human cells.'

And gets more harmful over time. And is very hard to remove from surfaces and materials.

Total amount of exercise important, not frequency:
'A new study by Queen's University researchers has determined that adults who accumulated 150 minutes of exercise on a few days of the week were not any less healthy than adults who exercised more frequently throughout the week.'

What do memories look like?
'Oscar Wilde called memory "the diary that we all carry about with us." Now a team of scientists has developed a way to see where and how that diary is written.'
' "When you make a memory or learn something, there's a physical change in the brain. It turns out that the thing that gets changed is the distribution of synaptic connections," '

Global Climate Analysis for May 2013 - NOAA's Nationals Climatic Data Centre:
* The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for May 2013 tied with 1998 and 2005 as the third warmest on record, at 0.66°C (1.9°F)) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F).
* The global land surface temperature was 1.11°C (2.00°F) above the 20th century average of 11.1°C (52.0°F), also the third warmest May on record. For the ocean, the May global sea surface temperature was 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average of 16.3°C (61.3°F), tying with 2003 and 2009 as the fifth warmest May on record.
* The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the March–May period was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F), tying with 2004 as the eighth warmest such period on record.
* The March–May worldwide land surface temperature was 0.97°C (1.75°F) above the 20th century average, the 11th warmest such period on record. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the 20th century average and tied with 2001 as the seventh warmest such period on record.
* The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–May period (year-to-date) was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 13.1°C (55.5°F), the eighth warmest such period on record.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Huka Falls near the top of the Waikato River, North Island, New Zealand


A new drug reverses the loss of brain-connections in Alzheimer's (in mouse models):
'The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer's disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroys the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.'

Hydrogen-sulphide confirmed as a signalling gas in the body:
'A new study confirms directly what scientists previously knew only indirectly: The poisonous "rotten egg" gas hydrogen sulfide is generated by our body's growing cells. Hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, is normally toxic, but in small amounts it plays a role in cardiovascular health.'

'H2S--along with nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and others in this emerging class of gaseous signalling molecules--assists the body's large proteins.'

Jail reckless bankers, UK standards commission urges:
Senior bankers guilty of reckless misconduct should be jailed, a long-awaited report on banking commissioned by the government has recommended. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards was set up by Chancellor George Osborne last year after a number of scandals involving the industry. It was highly critical of the banking industry.

Pioneers of photography (BBC video):

Latifa Nabizada - Afghanistan's first woman of the skies:

Monday, 17 June 2013


Waikato River, North Island, New Zealand (from Reid's Farm). 


Unusual changes in the jet-stream caused record melting on Greenland:
'Research from the University of Sheffield has shown that unusual changes in atmospheric jet stream circulation caused the exceptional surface-melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) in summer 2012.'

Tianhe-2, the new Chinese supercomputer is twice as fast as its nearest rival:


Friday, 14 June 2013


Electric cars much cheaper than you think:
US Department of Energy charts shows that fuelling an electric car costs about a third as much as fuelling a bang-bang one.

Antarctic ice being melted from beneath by warmer water:
'Ocean waters melting the undersides of Antarctic ice shelves, not icebergs calving into the sea, are responsible for most of the continent's ice loss, a study by UC Irvine has found.'

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Grand Tetons Under a Stomy Sky


Getting water to march in single file:
'Aquaporins are a bit like bouncers at a club. These proteins span the cell membrane, forming an hourglass-shaped core that allows water molecules to enter, but excludes ions, such as protons or hydroxide.
'Without aquaporins, cells wouldn't be able to properly regulate their water intake and salt balance, and diseases such as some forms of diabetes and bipolar disorder can result when there are defects in these channels.
'Now researchers have created the highest resolution crystal structure of any membrane protein—an aquaporin from yeast—and revealed the trick to its selectivity. The structure, reported online today in Science, shows how amino acids in the protein's core use hydrogen bonds that they share with water molecules to orient the waters in just such a way to allow them to zip through in pairs. And because charged ions can't form these same bonding arrangements, they are shut out.'

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Wild Sky


BPA linked to the risk of obesity in girls around the onset of puberty:

Girls between 9 and 12 with higher-than-average levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in their urine had double the risk of being obese than girls with lower levels of BPA according to a Kaiser Permanente study.'

The study is the latest by the same researchers examining the effects of BPA in humans:
* A 2009 study found that exposure to high levels of BPA in the workplace increased the risk of sexual dysfunction in men.
* A 2010 study found that increasing BPA levels in urine were associated with worsening male sexual function.
* A 2011 study showed that increasing urine BPA levels were significantly associated with decreased concentration, total count, vitality and motility of sperm.
* A 2011 study showed that parental exposure to BPA during pregnancy was associated with decreased birth-weight in offspring.
* A 2011 study found that in-utero exposure to BPA was related to anogenital distance (the physical distance between the anus and the genitalia) in male offspring.
* A 2013 study showed that male workers exposed to BPA in a chemical plant for 6 months or more had lower testosterone levels in their blood than with those who were not exposed to BPA in the workplace.


Wild Horse in Sepia, Contra Jour (Against the Light)

Friday, 7 June 2013


Wild Horses in Sepia


The 'electric cars aren't green' myth debunked:
A detailed international analysis, showing the countries in which electric cars are far more carbon-efficient than internal-combustion cars, all the way down to where they only are on a par.

Fossil-fuel bosses say the darndest things on climate-change:
'Given that poorer countries are likely to be hit hardest by the impacts of climate change from burning all that coal, the idea that they so desperately need fossil fuels feels a little like selling cigarettes to lung cancer sufferers.'

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Wild Horses of Assateague Island


New all-solid sulphur-based battery outperforms lithium-ion technology:
'A new all-solid lithium-sulphur battery developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory team led by Chengdu Liang has the potential to reduce cost, increase performance and improve safety compared with existing designs. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have designed and tested an all-solid lithium-sulphur battery with approximately four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies that power today's electronics.'

Atomic bombs help solve brain mystery:
'The mushroom clouds produced by more than 500 nuclear bomb tests during the Cold War may have had a silver lining, after all. More than 50 years later, scientists have found a way to use radioactive carbon isotopes released into the atmosphere by nuclear testing to settle a long-standing debate in neuroscience: Does the adult human brain produce new neurons? After working to hone their technique for more than a decade, the researchers report that a small region of the human brain involved in memory makes new neurons throughout our lives—a continuous process of self-renewal that may aid learning.'

MRI study shows that breastfeeding boosts babies' brain-growth:
'A study using brain images from "quiet" MRI machines adds to the growing body of evidence that breastfeeding improves brain development in infants. Breastfeeding alone produced better brain development than a combination of breastfeeding and formula, which produced better development than formula alone.'

The wiring in our biological clocks has been mapped:
'The World Health Organization lists shift work as a potential carcinogen, says Erik Herzog, PhD, Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. And that's just one example among many of the troubles we cause ourselves when we override the biological clocks in our brains and pay attention instead to the mechanical clocks on our wrists.

'In the June 5 issue of Neuron, Herzog and his colleagues report the discovery of a crucial part of the biological clock: the wiring that sets its accuracy to within a few minutes out of the 1440 minutes per day. This wiring uses the neurotransmitter, GABA, to connect the individual cells of the biological clock in a fast network that changes strength with time of day.'

'These synchronized networks are very precise, says Herzog. If you let them free-run in constant darkness they will lose or gain only a few minutes out of the 1,440 minutes in a day. So they're accurate to within 1 or 2 percent. But they're ever so slightly off the 24-hour cycle tied to one turn of the planet on its axis. Over time they would drift far enough off that cycle to be of little use to us, unless they also had some means of synchronizing to local time.'

Metal-free catalyst outperforms platinum catalyst:
'Researchers from South Korea, Case Western Reserve University and University of North Texas have discovered an inexpensive and easily produced catalyst that performs better than platinum in oxygen-reduction reactions. The finding, detailed in Nature's Scientific Reports online today, is a step toward eliminating what industry regards as the largest obstacle to large-scale commercialization of fuel-cell technology.'

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Stormy Sky and Blue Sea


Roman concrete better than today's:
'The chemical secrets of a concrete Roman breakwater that has spent the last 2,000 years submerged in the Mediterranean Sea have been uncovered by an international team of researchers led by Paulo Monteiro of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

'Analysis of samples provided by team member Marie Jackson pinpointed why the best Roman concrete was superior to most modern concrete in durability, why its manufacture was less environmentally damaging -- and how these improvements could be adopted in the modern world.'

Monday, 3 June 2013


Mountains and Sea in a Silver Light


Electric car fallacies and fables:
'The more I go into the pros and cons of electricity versus the internal-combustion engine purely from the point of view urban transport and of relative carbon footprints, toxic emissions and so forth, the more it becomes clearer to me that in spite of electricity being "dirty", the whole process of getting a vehicle to get from point A to point B leaves the electric vehicle a winner by a large margin.'

Blood-vessels in the eye linked With IQ and cognitive function:
'Having wider retinal venules was linked with lower IQ scores at age 38, even after the researchers accounted for various health, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors that might have played a role. Individuals who had wider retinal venules showed evidence of general cognitive deficits, with lower scores on numerous measures of neurospsychological functioning, including verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and executive function. Surprisingly, the data revealed that people who had wider venules at age 38 also had lower IQ in childhood, a full 25 years earlier.'

He said 'one small step for a man' not 'for man':
'When Neil Armstrong took his first step on the Moon, he claimed he said, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" -- but many listeners think he left out the "a." A team of speech-scientists and psychologists from Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing and The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus is taking a novel approach to deciphering Armstrong's quote by studying how speakers from his native central Ohio pronounce "for" and "for a."'

Sunday, 2 June 2013


Mountains After a Storm


Mission to Mars:
'Astronauts on a Mars mission would spend 500 days on the planet and 360 days on the round trip. The first people to make the perilous journey will have to cope with long periods of boredom, the constant worry of returning safely and the joy/pain of each other's company. And according to the latest research into long-duration space travel, they will also endure the sort of radiation exposure that few people of Earth have experienced.'

Specific changes in brain-structure after different forms of child-abuse:
'Different forms of childhood abuse increase the risk for mental illness as well as sexual dysfunction in adulthood, but little has been known about how that happens. An international team of researchers, including the Miller School's Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has discovered a neural basis for this association. The study, published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, shows that sexually abused and emotionally mistreated children exhibit specific and differential changes in the architecture of their brain that reflect the nature of the mistreatment.'

Thursday, 30 May 2013


A pair of horses against the sky at sunset


A new machine-learning algorithm outperforms its predecessors:
In computer simulations the new algorithm arrived at more reliable predictions in a fifth the time.

The strangely familiar browsing habits of 14th-century readers:
Today we constantly switch from one text to another: news, blogs, email, workplace documents and more. But a new book by an MIT professor shows that this is not a new practice. In the 14th century, for instance, many people maintained eclectic reading habits, consuming diverse texts in daily life.

Radiation data from Curiosity shows the danger to manned missions:
NASA's Curiosity rover has confirmed what everyone has long suspected. Astronauts on a Mars mission would get a big dose of damaging radiation. The robot counted the number of high-energy space particles striking it on its eight-month journey to the planet. Another story on the same subject. And another.

New Zealand police ordered to return Dotcom items:
Taken illegally. Nothing, including copies/clones, is to leave New Zealand.