My kids both loved the book Deadly Feathers by Des Hunt, I actually really enjoyed it too, made me want to go to Stewart Island. We loved reading about the kākāpō and Sirocco the Rock Star Kākāpō.
The other thing we all love is a nature programme so I thought I would check out New Zealand Geographic TV. There is a huge selection from old classics like the Wild South series in the 80s to international series like Living World. I found a programme called To Save the Kākāpō that was filmed in 1997 when there were only about 50 kākāpō left and follows the very rare breeding season of the kākāpō. To Save the Kākāpō is filmed the year Sirocco hatched so is actually quite fascinating the lengths the volunteers went to help the kākāpō chicks.
The kākāpō only breeds when the rimu trees fruit, which is once every 2 to 4 years. This summer is expected to be another breeding season, even a bumper one, so hopefully they can increase the population from the current 154.
Ada Lovelace, born in England in 1815, was the first computer programmer. Growing up, she was a sickly child, home-schooled in a variety of subjects, including mathematics and astronomy. She invented a steam-powered flying machine at the age of 12. When she was 17, she met Charles Babbage – a mathematician and mechanical engineer who was working on a clockwork calculating machine (initially the Difference Engine, then the Analytical Engine) – to produce error-free logarithmic and trigonometric tables, which could be use by anyone from navigators to powered loom designers.
Babbage’s notes about his Analytical Engine were expanded, corrected and published by Lovelace. She saw the full potential of the machine more than he did. She wrote “I want to put in something about Bernoulli’s Number, in one of my Notes, as an example of how an explicit function may be worked out by the engine, without having been worked out by human head and hands first.”
Ada died on 27 November 1852, aged just 36 years old, having never been able to test her theories on the actual Analytical Engine, as it was not built. But her ideas found their way into modern computing via Alan Turing. During the Second World War while working on decoding German communications, Turing discovered Lovelace’s notes and they helped to shape his thinking.
Dr Michelle Dickinson wants everyone, everywhere to enjoy a meaningful relationship with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics).
She introduced her book and her mission to a sold-out crowd of kids and whānau. If you missed her on Sunday, get ready for Nanogirl Live! “Out of this World!” – a Live Science Spectacular on at the Isaac Theatre Royal on Saturday 17 November 2018. Her bus is Paul McCartney’s old tour bus rigged out in a science-focused fashion, and it will be coming to Christchurch in a Hercules plane. There’s also a TV show Nanogirl and the Imaginauts coming soon to the TVNZ app HeiHei.
Michelle explained her mission – “teaching kids to have fun experiences with different technology”. Her nanotechnology career has involved cool jobs such as designing concept cars that will tap you on the shoulder if there is a cyclist behind you, and know if you are feeling a bit bleak and make your commute home go past the beach. She also helped devise a 6 nanometre wide coating for iPhones to protect the screen.
Home is where the learning is probably more powerful.
The book took three years of experimenting, and a determination that the recipes be achievable for all families, using what is in the kitchen. After shopping it to publishers who wanted to skimp on production values (she wanted the ribbon/bookmark in her book), she made the decision to self publish. Michelle used Facebook to solicit recipe testers. People were keen as. A Kickstarter campaign raised the necessary money ($85,462). Her father in law took the photos.
10,000 books have been sold already, and for each one sold, one goes to a needy family or school and there is a connection to organisations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Pillars (for families with parents in prison).
Next up, it was kitchen science ahoy – and kids got to head up on stage to be part of the experiments. Can crushers, unicorn noodles, edible earthworms, chicken in a cup, centrifugal force – it was brilliant to watch, and kids had their hands in the air, desperate to get up on stage and do some kitchen science.
The conversation quickly turned to fatbergs, stinking accretions of fat and other unsavoury substances that so many of us misguidedly pour down our drains, which clog up the sewers of cities around the world. Reference was repeatedly made to the mythical place called “away” that we refer to when we “throw things away”. There is no away; these things have to end up somewhere. So-called “flushable wipes” may be flushable in the sense that they will go round the U-bend and disappear from view, but that doesn’t mean they are biodegradable and will breakdown somewhere in the waste disposal system; it just means they are someone else’s problem now, although they are still all our problem in the end as we have to pay for the resulting mess to be cleared up.
The tone of the conversation lifted only slightly when the topic turned to the concept of “toilet to tap” drinking water. This is the reverse of the usual situation. Laurie was incredulous that we currently flush our toilets with water that is clean enough to drink. How ridiculously inefficient is that?, she asked. With the right kind of processing however, toilet water can be turned into potable drinking water. The processing of course is crucial (“you really don’t want to have contact with faeces”, she said), and expensive, so this is only really a solution for drought-prone cities. Remarkably, blind taste tests have revealed that people actually prefer the taste of recycled water over tap water.
Even when the topic turned to transport we were straight back to hearing about human waste. We were shown a picture of a poo-powered bus. Hilariously, this was the number 2. Apparently, the taxis in Stockholm are partly fueled in this way. It’s genius really when you think about it, turning one problem (waste disposal) into the solution for another (fuel consumption). Brilliant!
Another huge source of waste is the way we treat our electronic devices as disposal ephemera, but this is changing. Landfill mining is now a major source of recycled materials for the industry. Experiments are currently underway to turn single-use plastic waste into building materials. There is even a trial of an asphalt mix that incorporates waste plastic currently underway at Christchurch Airport.
While Laurie had managed to restrain herself until now, she went into full on rant mode when it came to cars, roads, and traffic (although she confessed to being a motorsports fan). New Zealand, she told us, has the highest car ownership in the OECD. While there are understandable reasons for this that she recognizes (small pockets of people separated from each other by large distances) this threatens to impact on the clean green image that we trade on. Don’t think “Oh no, I’m stuck in gridlock” she said, “you are the gridlock!”. Fewer cars on our cities’ roads would have measurable economic and health benefits, but this would require alternative means of public transport, which would necessitate something of a culture-shift.
Michelle raised the interesting question of what cities might look like if they were designed by women. Laurie wouldn’t be drawn into making any firm conclusions, but she did make the point that “to build better cities we need to listen the voices of the people living in them, half of whom are women”. She seemed more concerned about listening to older people and those with access issues. “Cities built with older people in mind”, she said, “will be better for everyone”. “Modern cities are built to be easy to get to, but not worth arriving at”, she quipped.
This led on to a nuanced discussion of green spaces. Laurie is a big fan and cited many benefits of urban trees, not least their effect on cooling cities down. “We need to prioritise green over grey” she said. But she’s not such a fan of more gimmicky solutions, like living walls and vertical gardens, which she sees as largely hype and greenwashing, and she was ambivalent about urban farming. She would like to see a more evidence-based, problem-focused approach. Ask first what we are trying to achieve and then pick the best tools to do that job.
The conversation then moved on to smart cities. Smart cities rely on sensors she said, but these are difficult to incorporate into concrete buildings. There is a trend among urban planners and designers to add more and more sensors to every new structure that we build, but how we will use the enormous amounts of data that they collect is less clear. Laurie seemed to be calling for a more mindful approach, in which sensors are deployed to achieve particular aims, rather than incorporated willy-nilly into all our new buildings by default.
Before questions, the main part of the session concluded with a brief, but fascinating, discussion of driverless cars. They are not coming to all of us anytime soon, Laurie said, but we don’t have to wait for everyone to have one to reap the benefits. To illustrate this, we were shown a compelling video, which demonstrates that just one driverless car can improve traffic flow on a busy road.
Questions were taken at the end, most of which focused on local issues. Laurie clearly felt that New Zealand is doing some amazing things in this space, but not taking the credit it should for that. “New Zealand’s energy mix is the envy of the world”, she said. Let’s hope that local and central government start taking more notice of people like Laurie who have looked at cities around the world and understand the evidence the underpins the ways that science and technology can be used to improve our cities to all our benefits.
I’ve done it again. I’ve stumbled on to a book with a premise that really intrigues me and then leaves me floundering with more questions than answers. This drives me crazy. Other people love this book. I love answers. Fully committed though, I launched myself upon the movie when it turned up on Netflix.
More confusion as the writers took another turn with the story. My frustration now consumes me, but at least there was some resolution in the movie. But what is this story that managed to evoke such a range of emotions? Read on…
Annihilation is the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Southern Reach has control of Area X. This is an area of land that has apparently inexplicable changes happening to the environment, people and animals that live or have lived within it. Southern Reach has been sending teams into Area X for 30 years and up to this point, there has been a very high failure rate. One by one the teams either go crazy, kill themselves or return a shell of their former selves. Nothing stays untouched by the environment inside Area X. I say ‘inside’ but in reality there is no visible barrier that separates the real world and the one that is evolving inside Area X.
Southern Reach have decided that for their 12th mission it is time to send forth an all-female team consisting of an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor and a biologist. They remain nameless for the duration and the chasm that exists between each of them is palpable and one wonders if it is deliberate. The very experiences that should bring them together are ripping them further apart due to an underlying distrust. Encounters with the inexplicable and alien continues the downward spiral as they search for answers.
Then my mind wanders and I can’t help but wonder, “Only 12 expeditions in 30 years?” That doesn’t sound quite right to me. History dictates that in our desperate need to find reason where there is none, we would have bombarded the area with specialists and most of all, military. Certainly not fluffed around so that there was more than 2 years between missions while Area X steadily grows larger! And the questions continue.
Hopefully you do better than me in your search for answers. Maybe you don’t need any and are happy to just immerse yourself in the possibilities alone. More than likely I gave up far too easily and just need to get stuck into VanderMeer’s next two books in the Southern Reach series, Authority and Acceptance and keep searching for those elusive answers.
Alternatively try something completely different, if you gave up like I did:
“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure ‘science.’” – Edwin Powell Hubble
Famed astronomer Hubble articulated simply what great science teachers have always known: science is based on exploration, interaction, and engagement. When students connect with concepts in a meaningful, tactile way, they learn in a more meaningful way.
That belief is the foundation of Gale Interactive: Science, a new resource with interactive 3-D models and authoritative, digital content that helps students experience science, not just study it.
Designed to supplement science course materials in a fresh, unprecedented way, the resource is brimming with relevant images that can be rotated, magnified, and closely examined to enhance experiential learning. Students can explore on their own to assist with homework and research assignments, or teachers can use the online resource in the classroom to demonstrate concepts and expand discussion. Content supports the study of biology, chemistry, and earth sciences – making it an ideal resource for high school students.
For example, when studying insects, students can find images of specific insect types which can be manipulated to allow different views. It’s like examining each bug in person – but possibly even more useful, as unique features can be explored by zooming in. And with different resources available, such imagery as cross-sections and other scientific views are available to support in-depth investigation.
Two other Gale Interactive products are available to extend you scientific knowledge further –
3-D printing with installed driver and an optional 3-D printer to print teaching models for use directly in the classroom.
Interface and content available in multiple languages.
With eResources like these, science will become a fun, exciting subject. Gale Interactive takes the struggle out of science and it is at your fingertips 24/7. Take it for a test drive and see for yourself at:
More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is continuing to rise. As more and more of us are crammed into these cities at ever increasing densities, there is an urgent need for innovative ideas that enable us to live together happily in comfort and good health. To achieve this, city planners are increasingly turning to science and technology for what are sometimes called smart city solutions.
As part of Techweek 2018, on Monday 21 May, Christchurch City Council’s Smart Cities programme will be hosting the 2018 Smart Cities Innovation Expo at Novotel Hotel, Cathedral Square Christchurch. Entry is free, and from 10am – 4pm visitors will be able to see a wide range of interactive exhibits showcasing local and national cutting-edge ideas for improving city life, from urban augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and smart sensors, to rapid earthquake response systems, cycling innovations, and interactive apps. In anticipation of this event, I’ve put together a list of books that explore the many ways that science and technology can help us to understand cities and make them better places to live. Enjoy!
I’m a pretty avid reader and mostly I love good fiction, but this year I have made a determined effort to read more non-fiction, but not just any old non-fiction – what I was after was “Recreational Non-Fiction”!
After a great deal of library exploration, and some very, VERY dry encounters with some non-fiction authors and their writing, I soon discovered that I’m particularly drawn towards non-fiction that is;
a) interesting / informative (gotta love what you’re reading about, right?)
b) conversational (this is very important to me!)
c) about an individual’s own explorations on a subject (it’s great to go along for the ride while someone makes discoveries!), and
d) based on the natural sciences (that’s just what floats my boat I guess!)
And I’ve been building a list this year to keep track of the “recreational non-fiction” titles that I have really loved, and here they are along with some notes on each;
These are my best titles for the year under the banner of “recreational non-fiction”. Most of these titles are new releases, some are from decades ago, all are great! I do have a particular liking for the natural sciences so most of these books will be on this topic…
New Zealand Geographic – I love this magazine for championing and celebrating all the good things in New Zealand’s natural world. Every issue is packed full of interesting scientific projects being undertaken, updates on the status of various endangered species, and how humans are impacting on the environment and what we can do about it as individuals.
Smith Journal – This is a great periodical, full of insight, information, and learning opportunities. Stories about potentially world-changing initiatives mix with current trends in sciences, and the revolution of traditional crafts, all from around the world. Very entertaining read!
The Secret Life of Flies – Do you like chocolate?!?! Then you’re relying on the humble and, misunderstood fly – they are the only pollinator of the cacao tree! Shocking hey!? Flies have so much more to offer the environment than we realise. Have a read of this entertaining and informative book, it may change the way you view these annoying pests for good!
Curious Encounters With the Natural World – This is a masterpiece of recreational non-fiction! Written conversationally (like you sitting with the author at the pub over a couple of pints discussing the natural world!), hugely informative, and hilarious, this book offers a very real access point for those who don’t read non-fiction or find in inaccessible. If you’re interested in the natural world, here’s one for you!
The Unexpected Truth About Animals – Another brilliant book about some of the lesser known creatures of the Earth and their own particular nuances. It’s very easy to read and pretty funny, making the science really attractive and easy to digest. Great dinner party fact fodder!
Blowfish’s Oceanopedia – The story of the seas from the coast to the deep. This book is divided up into quickfire digestible facts on all manner of issues and powers of the most abundant ecosystem on the planet. A great read for lovers of natural science.
Spineless – Juli Berwald really likes jellyfish and this book proves it! Follow her story as she travels the globe learning about the state of jellies in our oceans, how they are coping with climate change, and what’s leading to the huge and unpredictable super-blooms of jellies. There’s so much information in this book about this underrated creature of the seas that it makes you wonder why we know so little about such a successful and abundant animal. A solid, insightful, and entertaining read and I look forward to seeing her future work.
American Wolf – Follow the committed souls who observe the wolf packs of Yellowstone National Park. Wolves have only recently been reintroduced to the wild in this region and careful monitoring has led to some quite simply amazing discoveries about the ecological balance of a region. But not everyone is so keen to have the wolves back and as we follow the pack that she-wolf O-Six we learn how hard it is to survive in the wild under diminishing environment and increasing threats. One of my books of the year, this one!
The Soul of An Octopus – In this book we follow the author as she becomes increasingly enamoured with all things octopus! We get to share the experience of learning SCUBA and see first hand behind the scenes at the New England Aquarium – a facility dedicated to sea life and full of passionate and knowledgeable staff and volunteers. And throughout the narrative we think on the idea of consciousness and emotions in all life – did you know that fish dream?!?
Record observations like the number of pieces of litter picked up on the beach, how many grams of soft plastic collected at school, the number of footprints on tunnel traps, chew marks on cards, observe number of birds at the local park or collect weed seeds off socks and count them.
Collect and record data over time and analyse it.
Discuss the changes you observed and suggest how you could find solutions.
Look at what happened after you made changes, what happened before and after.
So why not pick a project you want to champion and get stuck in cleaning up the environment? Why not start a worm farm or compost heap at school for all those apple cores from your lunch boxes then use all that lovely compost to start a school vegetable garden? Be part of Sustainable Christchurch at home, in school or out in the community.
Stephen Hawking has been called the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Albert Einstein. FI loved his appearances on the Simpsons and the fact he had a fan club. I also love the fact that whenever I hear a computer generated voice I associate it with the astrophysicist. From what I have read, he was very witty and had a great sense of humour as well as a brilliant mind, so he wouldn’t mind my blog about him. So here is some information about Stephen Hawking and about his work — learn about Quantum Mechanics and cosmology and black holes from my selection of class readings for Stephen Hawking 101.
I started with eDS (eResource Discovery Search) eDS search Stephen Hawking and which covers articles and books in our eResources collection.
Read Stephen Hawking’s bestseller A Brief History of Time that has sold more than 10 million copies. It only contains one equation E=mc² as Hawking was told the readership would be halved with every equation included.
Or try an eAudiobook if you would prefer to listen.
First off start with the basics, learn about black holes with this article by Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy Hawking
Find out more about Mr Hawking with these great biographical sources:
Biography in context has excellent information and even has ReadSpeaker text to speech technology so you can hear the biography been read in computer generated voice similar to the technology that Stephen Hawking used himself. Biography Reference Center has a selection biographies from different sources.