Sunday, November 21, 2010

pocket change

i've enjoyed the imprinted images on the australian coins. the fifty cent piece shows the australian coat of arms, which includes and image of a kangaroo and an emu (pronounced "ee-myoo" as i learned this weekend).

apparently 1999 was the international year of older persons! i did not know that until i read this coin!

Friday, November 19, 2010

this is england

its such a shame that this made me laugh so much.

it's originally from the monty python sketch hell's grannies, but i saw the screen cap at this isnt happiness

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

dirty space news: planet-bearing stars

the last sentence of the abstract of this paper is just too good not to share.

"Finally, the fingering region is found to extend deeply into the star, a result which would provide a simple theoretical explanation to the measurements of higher lithium depletion rates in planet-bearing stars."


thanks to peter yoachim for thinking of me when he spotted some dirty astronomy ;)

Monday, November 15, 2010

relaxing after laptop death

australia, first impressions

the bad news is that last week my laptop died :( its such a sad moment when it happens.... i managed to back up everything before i left england, but i think i forgot some music files and i lost most of what i did last week (not much). at least the beast held out until i started my new job, but unfortunately, my new computer has not arrived yet and so i'm feeling a bit helpless and unproductive.

i therefore took advantage of the down time to explore sydney a little and try to get my body adjusted to this oppressive heat, humidity, and sunlight! since i cannot download my pictures just yet, i'll share some observations:

The size of the bbqs have not disappointed. there is even a special BBQ cleaning spray that i've never seen sold in any other country!

i've adopted a "don't bother asking" policy and just assume that all animals in australia are poisonous. this was particularly distracting during my first lunch with new colleagues when there were a ton of small creatures crawling all over the picnic tables, yet no one seemed to notice them...

i bought some running shoes and attempted to run to the national park near where i'm currently living. i was unsure that i had found the small trail i was looking for, but pushed forward anyway.... until i came bounding around a tree and literally ran into a huge black snake!! ack! we both stayed stunned for a few seconds and then scurried off in opposite directions. i finally found the proper trail and ran long enough to release all my nervous energy while worrying that any little noise was really something poisonous poised to attack me! silly, i know... when i returned home, i did some research and learned that its the brown snakes i need to worry about and very few people are actually killed each year by animal bites or stings. whew.

my first weekend here there was a spectacular thunderstorm complete with lots of lighting!! i forgot how exciting and dramatic and intimidating thunderstorms can be!

i found some ridiculously specific statements in the paperwork for my new job: "normal business hours are from 8.30am to 4.51pm."

there are a lot of colorful birds with aggressive sounding calls. i had quite a faceoff with a kookaburra saturday afternoon... they are incredibly stout birds with huge heads and beaks for the size of their bodies! they are carnivorous, so i wondered if it was after my toes, but it eventually got bored and flew off to watch from a tree branch.

the people have been incredibly nice... strangers look at me and smile and some even talk to me!

surfer boys are cute. surfer girls are b.a.d.a.s.s.

its freaking HOT and humid here, and it's not even summer yet!

actual question on the driver's licence application that i have no idea how to answer: have you ever had attacks of giddiness?

no, water does not swirl down drains in different directions on different hemispheres! The coriolis force, created by the earths spin, causes storm systems like tornados to swirl in the opposite direction, but it does not affect a system as small as a toilet bowl or sink!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the science of happiness

in a study of the science of happiness, researchers at UC berkeley are finding that sympathy and compassion are extremely beneficial traits. nearly 130 years ago, charles darwin wrote in the descent of man that sympathy is our strongest instinct. one sociologist says "if people overcome the temptation of self interest and instead help others, they are respected more in their group. upon receiving that respect, they help others even more." interesting....

Monday, November 8, 2010

bird shadows

not a single overlap!?  likely photoshopped, but i still love the composition in this photo by alexei bednij:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

jetlagged in sydney

i survived two A380 flights to cross half the world and successfully land in australia! hello from sydney! i hope they manage to quickly fix the design fault in the A380 engine, because its an amazingly quiet and more-pleasant-than-usual plane in which to fly long journeys!

i arrived at 8 am yesterday and felt my mind was swimming through a jetlag haze for most of rest of the day. but i managed to accomplish a few things during my determination to stay awake until at least 8pm. i saw the sydney opera house, from a few different directions, from the car. i thought it looked smaller than i expected, to which someone said "you're so american!" no way to argue that point. i also had some very tasty australian red wine, and i must admit, i tried kangaroo... and liked it.

i havent taken too many pictures yet, but i wanted to share this photo of the power outlets...

they remind me of edvard munch's famous painting the scream, but even more so, of that scary character from the movie...

i made it to 8 pm yesterday and then slept solidly thru the next 12 hours. now i might be on the local time schedule and i get to start shopping for a few staples, you know... a place to live, a phone, health insurance, a car, etc... and i'm supposed to start my new job tomorrow. yikes! that was poor planning!

Friday, November 5, 2010

so begins another adventure

today i leave england with a one way ticket to australia.

moving far far away is difficult and draining, despite the potential adventures that await in a new land....

its a bittersweet feeling that the inexorable nina simone has managed to capture in her ballad, lonesome cities. see you on the flip side.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

things i'll miss about england

tomorrow i move away from england, my home of the last 2 years and 3 months. i have to admit i'm emotionally exhausted from saying so many big goodbyes, but i'm completely over dealing with all the preparations for moving across the world.

things i will miss about england

the sound of the accent, in general, but also how geographically quickly the accents vary!

being called "love" or "duck"

the subtle and hilarious humo(u)r

riding on the upper floor of a double decker bus, in the front seat!

the variety of locally brewed, tasty, real ales. and ciders. and whisky...

satisfying late night cravings for chips!

premier league football

afternoon tea, and the arguments about the "proper" way to add milk to tea

pub quizzes (i only ever won one during my time in england, but not for lack of trying!)

running along the canals

my city center flat and walking to shops

come dine with me

rambling thru the unbelievably bright green countryside

sandwiches from homemade.

participating in sixty symbols

postdoc lunches (PDL), specifically at the vic!

unforgettable friendships

things i will not miss about blighty

the weather

general moaning and the expectation things will inevitably go wrong: "typical!"

friday and saturday night debauchery by the locals (lack of clothes year round, incredible drunkenness, etc...)

invisible queues ("An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one." - George Mikes)

the irrational excesses of english politeness

lack of eye contact

not speaking to strangers, or in most cases, not even acknowledging the existence of other people, unless, of course, one is trying to sell the big issue, or sharing the silent acknowledgment of the impudence of a queue jumper.

confusing one-way streets that are practically impossible to navigate, mostly because the street signs are purposely hidden!

riding my bike in the rain

the full english breakfast

brits asking me to imitate the british accent and then laughing at me when i cant

"i cant be bothered" to come up with anymore right now, but if youre curious about any of these aspects of the english culture, i can highly recommend the book watching the english: the hidden rules of english behaviour by kate fox. in her socialogical study, she hilariously captures the peculiarities of living with the english. reading this book completely changed my perspective and experience here.

cheers, england!

geek bumper sticker

i've never been anywhere in the world where people go as crazy for bumper stickers as they do in the US. this one is top quality!

via unreasonable faith

Monday, November 1, 2010

timescapes: rapture

tome lowe has been traveling around the southwestern part of the US for the last many months (a year almost?) with a huge haul of equipment to record timelapse shots for his upcoming feature film, timescapes, to be released next year.

his past work was gorgeous, but the production footage below shows that he is really revolutionizing this technique. i absolutely love the scenes that follow in the frame of our milky way galaxy across the sky, showing the earth in the foreground moving past. i've never seen the universe filmed in such a way. stunning work!

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

buckeyes or conkers?

i'm originally from the state of ohio, USA, which is known as the "buckeye state." buckeyes are the common local name of a type of tree that are more generally called horse chestnuts.

ohioans have been inspired to make make necklaces out of the seeds of the buckeye tree in support of the ohio state buckeyes:

the region is also known for sweet candy treats called "buckeyes" which are made from peanut butter balls dipped in melted chocolate and left to dry. mmmmmm... buckeyes!

the british, on the other hand, have developed quite a different tradition using the seeds from the horse chestnut trees, which they call conkers. the game of conkers is a moderately violent affair where you string up your conker and try to knock an opponent's conker off his or her string.

a couple years ago we held a conkers tournament among the astronomers and physicists in our building... the brits wanted to initiate all us foreigners to the tradition, you see. we were warned of a few of the rules, which mainly revolved around forbidden methods to potentially strengthen your conker: soaking in vinegar, drying in an oven, etc...

what surprised me is how painful this game can be when your shot is not accurate. if you miss your opponent's conker altogether, which i did quite often, the conker flings around on the end of the string and slams into your forearm. my unskilled conker flicks continued to hit the same spot on my arm and built up quite a painful bruise! ouch! of course i lost my conker during my first battle.

brady haran, who produces sixty symbols, has produced an interesting video about horse chestnut trees for his trees project, which explains a bit more about the game of conkers (but doesnt mention "buckeyes" at all :(

Sunday, October 24, 2010

the optical delusion of our consciousness

small worlds

the results are out for the 2010 nikon small world contest. here are a few of my favorites! the descriptions below come from the big picture.

Magnified 400 times, this is a 2-Photon fluorescence image of glial cells in the cerebellum. Glial cells provide support for the brain's neurons. This image was made by Thomas Deerinck of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California, San Diego.

Two human cancer cells seen just before they divide into four cells, viewed at 100x magnification. This image of Telophase HeLa (cancer) cells expressing Aurora B-EGFP took 11th place and was made by Dr. Paul D. Andrews of the University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland.

Patterns of light are seen in soap film, magnified 150 times in this 18th place image by Gerd Guenther from Dusseldorf, Germany.