Sunday, 27 September 2015

Awesome Macaques

Anasua showed me this news story about a 10-year-old who got lost in the woods while camping, and was only found after a nearly 29-hour search. The report says:
When asked what it was like to stay on the mountain overnight by himself, he replied: "It was awesome."
I like to think he used awesome not in the colloquial sense of "extremely good", but in the original sense of "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe".

Speaking of awesome (extremely good) things, here is a video of Yakushima macaques we saw in the forests of Yakushima, Japan.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Astronomical Inaccuracy

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I was in London yesterday on some work, and I saw this poster on a tube station wall.

I was idly scrutinising the night sky in the poster, trying to see if I could recognise any constellations, when I noticed a curious thing. Not only is the depiction of the sky inaccurate (which alone would be bad enough, this being an advert for an observatory of all things!), it actually repeats horizontally.

You can see this clearly in the image below, where I have circled three of the asterisms* for easy identification (you have to make some allowances for the distortion caused by the camera lens and the curvature of the wall).

I think this is rather lazy design; contrast it with Randall Munroe's obsessive attention to astronomical detail.

Happy equinox, everyone!

*An asterism is a pattern of stars smaller than a constellation, like the Big Dipper which is part of the constellation Ursa Major. It is also the name for one of my favourite typographical symbols: . You may have known these facts already; I basically inserted the footnote because the temptation to put an asterisk next to asterisms was irresistible.

Friday, 18 September 2015

A Deer Parable

Last week when Aditi's family were visiting, I tagged along with them to Richmond Park.

Shortly after our picnic lunch, Aditi's parents declared they would spend the rest of the afternoon lazing under a tree. Disdainful of this sedentary attitude, Aditi, her sister and I decided to explore further, and try to track down some of the wild deer which roam free in the park.

We ranged far and wide, exploring as much of the park as time permitted. We trudged through woods, meadows and bracken, treading quietly, venturing into less frequented areas, trying to second-guess the deer. But the most exciting thing we found was a parrot-feather.

When we got back, Aditi's dad asked us whether we had managed to spot any deer. We admitted that we hadn't. Not without a hint of smugness, he tilted his head to indicate a spot to his left. There, hardly 15 metres from where they were lounging, three fallow deer were unconcernedly munching on grass. Apparently the deer arrived on the scene minutes after we strode off; at one point they came so close that Aditi's mum had to literally shoo them away.

I am sure there is a life lesson in there somewhere.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Village News

Three days ago I moved to Histon and Impington, a village (or more accurately, two intertwined villages) in Cambridgeshire, England. Next time someone asks me what village life is like, I will show them this photo I took yesterday on the High Street.

This incident, which took place in the neighbouring village of Girton, is the sort of thing which makes front-page news in these parts.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Seasons 6: Millwall Park, London

Move your cursor over the image below, and it should change to another image of the same scene in a different season. (If it doesn't work, check that your browser has JavaScript enabled.)

Base photo:3 December 2014
Mouseover photo:20 April 2015
Approx. coordinates:51.49°N, 0.01°W

August 2015 has not been a good month for this blog: it is the first time in its seven-year history that a whole month has gone by without a single post (unless you count August 2008 when I briefly deleted the blog).

One of the things which kept me busy last month was moving from London to Histon and Impington in Cambridgeshire. So before I start posting photos of village life, here's a photo I took in London: the disused railway viaduct at Millwall Park.

The viaduct was built in 1872 as part of the Millwall Extension Railway. The railway closed down in the 1920s, but six decades later, trains returned to the viaduct when it was reused for the Docklands Light Railway. In 1999 the DLR was rerouted, leaving its original line to duck underground at Millwall and pass underneath the Thames and on to Greenwich. So now the viaduct lies in disuse once again, festooned by ivies which grow green in summer and rust-red in autumn.