'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Pure Water from a Billboard

Imagine living in Lima - a city located in a part of Peru so dry it receives less than 1 inch of rainfall a year.
Yet, tantalisingly, the the humid air above you is full of moisture, if only you could get it.

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru, in an attempt to encourage young people to pursue engineering careers, have come up with a cool idea.

A simple reverse-osmosis condenser in a billboard-sized structure has been constructed and delivers pure drinking water into 20-litre tanks.

Here is the original article.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Co2 is winning, humans are losing.

This time last year the CO2 in our atmosphere reached 400 ppm.

This is the same as it was about 5 - 3 million years ago in the pliocene age.  You know, the one when we had vast tundra-like areas, and animals were much bigger, the climate warmer, and there was much less summer ice at the poles.

Artist's impression.

Since we have Cee O two-ed ourselves here* in only about 200 years, the world weather systems and climate now has to catch up with this new atmosphere.
You will probably be around to watch it begin.

Dr Maureen Raymo explains the implications:

The carbon dioxide levels in our Earth's atmosphere have increased more than 20% in my lifetime.

Might it be a REALLY good time to go on a LOW CARB(on) diet!?
I'm getting my bike out of the shed.  It will be good for my fitness too!

More here

*and we continue to pump 2% more CO2  every year.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

In the Beginning

....there was a sketch. And the sketch seemed to have potential.  And the artist smiled.

(I did this on my new iPad.  Using an app called 'Paper'. )

I have done something similar before, and it was quite successful:

Naturalist's Diary Page. (Godwit Series).
I like exploring the elements of the Godwit's surroundings up in Alaska, their lowland tundra nesting grounds.  For a start, in their breeding plumage they are so much more brightly coloured than their umbers and grays down here in New Zealand.
And when I add some of their significant food and predators, all burgeoning in the fast albeit short Alaskan summer, it's a recipe for a colourful and interesting piece of art.  The writing is the kinds of things I imagine, from my extensive readings, that an early naturalist might write...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Fun '3D' Drawing Activity

If you have a spare ten minutes and want to create something a bit different, try making this 3D drawing of a hand.  It's quite simple to do but looks rather effective.

You'll need:
A hand (yours will do at a pinch if you can't grab a kid's.)
A piece of paper
A pencil
Two or more colours of felt pens (I used highlighters) and a black.

How to do it:
1.  Place the hand on the paper, fingers spread out.
2.  With the pencil, draw lightly around and up the wrist a little.

3.  Starting at the wrist end of the paper, on the far left hand side corner, with one of the felt pens, draw a horizontal line up to the pencil contour, at which point you curve up until about the middle of the wrist, then curve down again (to about the same place where you would have been had you not curved at all) and continue the horizontal line. You don't have to worry about being a bit wobbly.

4.  Start just above this line, and with the other colours, do the same thing.

5.  Repeat until you have covered the whole paper.  If you come to a finger just curve 'over' it and 'down' the other side.  Draw horizontal lines where there is no finger.
6.  With the same colour pens, go over the lines again just around where they cross the pencil.  This will enhance the shadow effect.  If you experiment, you can do it better than me.  Pretend which side the 'light' is coming from and make other 'side' of the hand/finger darker (in shadow).

6.  Stand back and admire your work!  If you want to be fussy, you can rub out the pencil line.

It looks a bit like one of these, doesn't it?


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sunset - 8pm.

Here's the view from our front door a few minutes ago.  The clouds have respectfully parted to allow the crescent moon to have centre stage.

It looks especially nice in the lightbox (click image).

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Film by James

Just a quick post today to share a lovely little clip that was taken, composed, and music added, by my son James who does volunteer work at the 'House of Science' in Tauranga.


Here it is embedded:

Thursday, 20 February 2014


A number of my regular visitors will remember that I spent pretty much a whole academic year back in 2011 very involved with bugs and small critters.  I was doing my post-graduate degree in art and design, and during the year went from intensively studying aspects of beetles to cockroaches, and then finally ended up with honey bees.
I did a survey here and elsewhere.  I asked about 500 people what they thought of various insect/arachnida species, and also 'watched' my own reactions. (We still have a felt-pen cockroach on the lounge wall as part of an ongoing experiment).  Spiders were the least liked critter.  Next came cockroaches and wasps and other biters and stingers.  Most liked were butterflies.  Bees were interesting to me because they sting but were also liked because they were a role model for industry ('worked hard') but unlike the other 'good worker', the ant, they also 'gave us honey'.

But back to spiders.  Despite huge amounts of knowledge that we now know about the critical importance of spiders to almost all of the world's habitats, we still find their predatory air and 'confident'  or stealthy movements disconcerting.  Perhaps because we see them as challenging to our position as ruler of the Earth?

Anyway, all this is a long way of getting around to saying that I was especially fascinated to see this latest in robotic technology.  What's your reaction?  A tingle of fear to see it 'crouching' to 'look' up?