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English: Four retailers, Newport Road, Cardiff...

English: Four retailers, Newport Road, Cardiff Located on the west side of Newport Road, close to the Colchester Avenue junction are Topps Tiles (their banner states “Britain’s biggest tile and wood flooring specialist” Halfords Currys PC World. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like looking round a real-world shop and if I can get something I want from somewhere that I can look at it first then I’ll often be happy to pay a few quid more for it – as well as being able to get that instant gratification feeling of having a new shiny thing straight away.  Sometimes you find something you didn’t know you wanted.  Some things we can buy based on a picture and a specification, somethings are more subjective, they need to be inspected closely, handled to see if they will fit into our life, or indeed hand – as in the case of my recent mobile phone.

The trouble is that so often that thing you see in front of you is cheaper online, and maybe it is worth waiting a few days to save money, so you go home and order it instead – I’ve heard of people using apps on their smartphones to order things while they’re still in the shop even.  I admit I did this when I bought my current phone but only because I had built up a small cash-back to use if I bought it online direct from the network.

Understandably high street retailers are not happy about this and it has even been cited as contributing to the failure of some big-name stores recently – added costs of bricks-and-mortar stores being named specifically as the reason they can’t match online prices.  Yes people need to save money these days but if we abandon local shops altogether our town centres are going to be awfully quiet.

To fight back some retailers let you buy online for collection in store, getting a web-exclusive price into the bargain, Currys PC World for example, which will tempt some away from Amazon et al with the carrot of convenience while some remaining retailers are either trying to match online prices to gain volume sales instead or emphasising the added-value of personal service, which is certainly a benefit to specialist retailers like camera stores where knowledgable staff are invaluable.  Choice, availability, service and a reasonable price are what high-street stores need to emphasise.

One specialist food store in Australia though has taken the same route as supermarkets have done with parking, to discourage people who visit but not buy anything (and then go online) they charge $5 entry which is refunded when you buy something.  Which is quite a carrot, appropriately enough.

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Eco Cow – Ruminent of The Future!

Cattle on the alp

Cattle on the alp (Photo credit: Darkroom Daze)

Methane emissions from cows (burping rather than farting, apparently) are a serious problem, contributing to climate change due to the huge numbers being bred for our insatiable appetite for a good steak and milk.  Now though researchers in Brisbane, Australia are investigating breeding low-methane livestock and modifying feeding regimes to keep the emissions low.

They will be monitoring gas build up using a small submarine like sensor with wings that keep it in the cows rumen – the chamber in the stomach where gas production is greatest.  Using infra-red sensors they can assess the conditions that create the most gas and adjust feeding accordingly.

Good news for those of us who enjoy a good sirloin.

[Gizmodo UK]

Whalers, Cartographers and Disappearing Islands

discovery channel ship

discovery channel ship (Photo credit: the queen of subtle)

This week has seen much confusion for oceanographers in the Pacific.  Scientists from the University of Sydney tried to visit Sandy Island between Australia and New Caledonia, identified on everything from marine charts to Google Earth it was nowhere to be found and the ocean beneath its supposed location was 4,500 feet deep.

That’s a lot of island to lose – an exceptional case of coastal erosion perhaps?  Or maybe one of the errors that map makers have deliberately added to maps to show who’s copied their work?

Probably the best solution has been proposed by Shaun Higgins from Auckland Museum who has found records from the whaling ship Velocity which recorded the island around 1876.  It is possible that the crew were mistaken about what they saw or where they were.  Since then it has been applied to all other maps of the area.  Google has removed the island from its database stating to AFP that they welcome feedback and “continuously explore(s) ways to integrate new information from our users and authoritative partners into Google Maps”

Whatever the cause it’s an error that has lasted until today, demonstrating the vastness of our Earth’s oceans and how much there’s still to find, or not as the case may be.

[Gizmodo UK, Discovery News]