Nature, Science, Transport

Small World, Big Planet

Antarctica - Gerlache strait

Antarctica – Gerlache strait (Photo credit: Rita Willaert)

This site’s tagline refers to the old saying that keeps getting reused that ships, then aircraft and now the internet are “shrinking the world” but although Humans have visited every continent there’s still vast areas of emptiness, much unexplored, and as for the oceans, well we’ve barely dipped a toe in the water and shivered at how cold it is so far.

To show this Gizmodo recently showcased some of the most remote research stations on the planet and even a couple of homes for those who really want to get away from it all.

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Nature, Outdoors, Science, Tech

Satellites, Cows and Penguin Poop

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus...

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus), West Falkland. Français : Un Manchot royal. Photo prise sur l’île de Falkland occidentale (ou Grande Malouine), dans les Malouines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people worry about all the satellites up there pointing cameras down here but for scientists as well as governments they can be invaluable – particularly if you need to p p p pick up a penguin, or 9,000.

In recent years wildlife researchers have used satellite and aerial imagery to watch animal movements and behaviour.  Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany who had been studying magnetic sensing in animals, initially mole rats, decided to see if larger animals might have the same.  Dr Begall and colleagues used Google Earth to examine how cows stand in fields across the world (to rule out weather effects) and found that the majority faced north or south only, the effect was also seen in deer in the Czech Republic.

In 2009 a group monitoring how penguins were coping with changing environmental conditions wanted to confirm the location of breeding grounds.  Using satellite images, which didn’t have sufficient resolution to see individual birds, they were able to identify colonies due to the staining of the ground by guano – the penguins stay at the colony for around eight months.  The work confirmed the location of 26 colonies and found 10 more.

Then in December last year a team of Belgian and Swiss explorers visited one of these colonies, finding around 9,000 birds.  The article at The Atlantic has the photos.

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Funny, Random, Science

Ever Decreasing Circles

English: Tree Stump, near to Langbank, Renfrew...

English: Tree Stump, near to Langbank, Renfrewshire, Great Britain. Looking past the tree stump and silage pit over the River Clyde to the west side of Dumbarton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have at one point said “I’m going round in circles” but many experiments have shown that a blindfolded person, when told to walk in a straight line, will end up walking in a curve to one side.  On the edition of QI tonight Jack Dee suggested this may be some kind of self-preservation response but nobody really knows why it is.

On the same programme the example of the experiment described involved a man who set off across a field blindfolded and spiralled right in smaller circles until he fell over a tree stump.  This proves one of two things however – humans can detect minute changes in the Earth’s magnetic or gravitational fields caused by things like tree stumps and are drawn towards them, or the universe has a sense of humour.

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