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.

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.