Other than astronomers, people rarely think about light pollution. In fact there are a variety of negative health effects around disruption of circadian rhythm and a range of effects on our wildlife. You can read about some of these effects at the website of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA). Most of the world's population never sees a truly dark sky, yet this is a situation that has only been in place for the last hundred years or so. Having lived in rural Australia, where the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon and Western Europe, where there is nowhere with a truly dark sky, I know from experience the difference. Even here in Adelaide I can only see a fraction of the sky that I could see in rural Australia. Well the journal 'Science' has published the latest map of 'artificial sky brightness' and it is open access, so you can see how your region or country fares here. What is important is that our local councils use appropriate lighting. See the IDSA website for details.
The difficulty of reconciling Australia's past and present, both in terms of history and culture, is ongoing. It is not helped by the range of integration of Aboriginal people with the modern Australian society that has been imposed upon them, nor the latent casual racism that seems to exist in Australian society towards the indigenous population more than any other ethnic group. It hadn't come across Kate Tempest before her visit here and I never enjoy a London accent, but I think her observations on the general attitude in Australia towards its indigenous population are insightful and astute. There is a write up of her comments at the Sydney Writers' festival on the Guardian Australia website here. Middle-class lefties (like myself I guess) will wring our hands about the problem, but will we even speak out about it? Let alone do anything? The article is worth a read and I particularly like this quote:
Guilt is not good enough any more. Guilt is narcissism. Your guilt is about you. My guilt is about me. It’s not good enough.
It was record shop day recently, although I wasn't able to get to any, unfortunately. It does always remind me of the many hours I spent browsing in independant record shops around the UK though: Picadilly Records and Eastern Block in Manchester, Record Collector and Warp in Sheffield, Selectadisc in Nottingham, Track Records in York and others when I visited other cities. For a while I even had a kind of collection of plastic carrier bags from all the different record shops I'd been too - sad I know! These days I still like to browse record shops, but they are few and far between, Clarity here in Adelaide being the main one and I neither get there often enough, nor spend enough money there. Anyway, one of the UK record shops I still by from online (due to not much vinyl being available here in Australia) is Action Records in Preson. They recently released a short documentary about their history and here it is:
A great cartoon on the Guardian website the other day. With Joe Hockey leaving parliament there was lots of bonhomie, with even Labor giving him some praise. Let's not forget the reality of how he saw the rest of us and what he tried to do as treasurer though. Read the cartoon at this page as a reminder.
On January 23rd a special issue of Science published the intial results from the Rosetta mission to commet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. They also awarded the mission 'Science breakthrough of 2014', see the above video from 3 min 50 seconds. You can view the Rosetta papers that were included here, although only the abstracts unless you or your institution has a subscription to Science. However, there are image galleries for Rosetta and the lander Philae on that page and a PDF of the introductory article here. The image below shows the relative brightness of the comet compared with the earth and the moon.
I'm not one for posting pictures of cute stuff on the internet, but animals from the bottom of the ocean are always interesting, so it's a good excuse. Apparently there are 19 described species in the Opisthoteuthis genus, but this isn't one of them and it is awaiting a name. Specimens have been in collections since 1990, but managing to keep one in an aquarium is new. The Monterey Aquarium did such a good job that it even laid eggs. Anyway, if you haven't seen the video before, have a look and you'll see why they want to call it Opisthoteuthis adorabilis.
Along the Finke river in central Australia (where the family heads to next week!) is a population of palm trees. This is interesting as there is no continuous path for them to have got there from the coast of Australia. It used to be thought they might be a remnant population from several million years ago, until DNA evidence showed them to have originated from the north coast of Australia much more recently, only 7,000-31,000 years ago. Described in an original Nature article, and ABC news report from 2012. Amazingly, recent translations of aboriginal legends have shown that traditional knowledge of the transplanting of these palms from the northern coast to central Australia has been passed down in oral tradition to the present day. This suggests that orals traditions such as this may have been passed down for 30,000 years or more, quite astounding. Read the ABC news article here.
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.