I noticed an item on the ABC new website today, which had photos of a new volcanic island in the waters of Tonga. Apparently the island only started to appear in January, but it is already impressively large. Must have been quite amazing to be the first people to set foot on it, I guess they were brave too! See some more photos with the news article here.
A while ago I read an article in the Australian Sky and Telescope magazine showing the differences in city lights from space using photographs from the International Space Station. This is a NASA Youtube video of the same, there are some amazing differences where cities cross political boundaries for instance.
Currently, NASA can't send astronauts up to (or get them back from) the ISS themselves, but they are working on a new capsule for doing this. The first flight of this was a few days ago. There is an 'astronauts eye' video of the re-entry as well, which is quite amazing too.
There is a fascinating article on the Radio National website by John Gardiner of the University of Sydney about the role of plants in science, culture and medicine. A brief look at a big subject, but it elegantly describes the reasons why we should be interested in plants, rather than having "plant blindness" and the myriad ways that they have shaped everything about us. You should read it here!
I was fascinated by the seeming simplicity of plants. I soon discovered that this was an illusion. Their complexity is mind-blowing.
There is no fact more damning of our society than the fact that the 85 richest people in the world possess more than the poorest 3.5 billion. History will despise us for this and the failure of our capitalist ideals. We vote for parties that continue this and make the situation worse; over the last 30 years the proportion of wealth generated that is going to the richest 1% has increased year on year. During the "great financial crisis" the rich continued to get richer while the rest of us paid for it. Do you really think this is an acceptable situation? You can at least make your voice heard before the G20 summit in Brisbane. Write to Tony Abbott through the Oxfam website. Want to be depressed even more by our lack of action, read a fuller article at The Guardian. Don't forget, those 3.5 billion people aren't just (or even mostly) the starving you might normally pity. They are people who would consider themselves perfectly well off in the countries we like to go on holiday to.
There was an interesting article in the last issue of the Australian Sky and Telescope magazine on the high-resolution images that are available from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. There is a great online interface that lets you zoom in anywhere on the moon, overlay various bits of information and so on. The thing I really liked though was the 'Path Query', where you can draw a line anywhere you like and get the geographic profile. The moon looks fairly flat right? So this image is of Copernicus crater, not the largest, but one of the more interesting. It is nearly 4 km deep! Explore the moon yourself at: http://target.lroc.asu.edu/q3/
I recently came across an article that mentioned the nuclear powered engines for rockets that NASA was developing in the 1960's and '70's. I have to admit I had no idea that had been going on, although obviously a range of space probes are nuclear powered. A bit different from the rockets that provide the lift though. What is really amazing is how much more powerful and efficient they were than the conventional chemical rockets we are using today. They would have allowed us to reach Mars in a few months and Saturn in less time than it takes to get to Mars today. If man had chosen to go down this route we would almost certainly have had a manned visit to Mars years ago. It was certainly planned.
For those that are unaware, the 'Deadly' awards were set up almost 20 years ago to recognise achievement by indigenous people. It is clear that two of the many problems in respect to indigenous people in Australia are recognition of indigenous achievement by the white majority and self-worth of the indigenous minority in the face of constant belittling in much of the established media, not to mention politicians. See the comment by Abbott in the image attached. So, in this respect the generally positive (if muted) reporting on the 'Deadly' awards has been a significant benefit. One of Hockey's many cuts in the budget was to the organisation that ran the 'Deadlies' meaning that they are no more. I'm not sure if the money saved is being used to fund the new 'Knight' and 'Dame' awards that Abbott has brought back or not, but it sure isn't funding anything of benefit to the Aboriginal population has funding has been cut across the board, see a list here.
What we can do is campaign for the awards to be reinstated, sign the petition at Change.org here. Incidentally, shortly after the announcement of the funding cut, Gavin Jones, the founder of the Deadlies was found dead.
So. Rather than leave everything to Facebook and all the anoyances that entails I have ditched my account and turned my old site into a blog. There are some rather old overviews of my past work, a few random pages on my interests and, by default, whatever random stuff I've felt like posting.