Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Rural Relaxation: At Weston Turville Reservoir

Yesterday was a lovely sunny November day and I decided to take a walk round Weston Turville Reservoir. The reservoir was built about 200 years ago to ensure a supply of water to local mills when the local stream was diverted to feed what is now the Grand Union Canal. It is now used by anglers who fish from the dam and from a path which runs below this viewpoint; by Aylesbury Sailing Club, and as a nature reserve managed by BBOWT. Wendover Woods cover the hill beyond, where I often used to take my dog Franki for a walk, and where I still go occasionally.

The walk was most enjoyable - although no birds (apart from gulls in the distance) were visible from the new hide. The only problem was the mud - particularly where the path is narrow behind the boating club clubhouse, so if you want to walk round be sure to have good shoes..

For other photographs I have taken of the area, including part of the Wendover Canal, see Geograph.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

I didn't put an X in the Box


Well the elections for the Police Commissioners are now over and on Thursday I did what I have done regularly over the last 50 or so years and trotted off to the polling station and made a mark on the voting form.

But this time it was different and for the first time ever I didn't put a cross into any of the boxes. For my reasons see below the fold.

Exploring the Tree of Life

Thanks to a mention on The Panda's Thumb I have discovered the OneZoom Tree of Life Explorer - which allows you to explore the was mammals and amphibians are related (more to come, including birds) - and when you get to a leaf (for a single species) a click will take you to the appropriate Wikipedia page. Most educational and most enjoyable!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Hi Mum - I know your name

When I was working in Sydney I spent a lot of my spare time watching birds, and taking photographs for record purposes. I enjoyed watching the fairy wrens - especially when the male got very angry with the impostor he could see in the car wing mirror.


I now find the birds had a verbal trick to enable them to discover when they have a cuckoo chick in the nest. The incubating female sings an individual trill to the eggs - different for each female. The in-egg chicks learn the call and when the eggs hatch they use a segment from the mother's individual song as part of their begging call. If a chick does not use its mother's "name" it must be a cuckoo imposter - and the nest is abandoned. [More Information]

Interestingly most of the publicity I have seen uses the brightly coloured male to illustrate the species - when the female, whose song was the subject of the research is just a harder to see LBJ (Little Brown Job)

Monday, 5 November 2012

Rural Relaxation - On Monument Green, Ashridge

The area immediately around the Bridgewater Monument appears deserted when I visited it today. However the Brownlow Cafe a few yards away was reasonably busy and I enjoyed the special of the day - a very acceptable Beef Bourguignon,
See some other of the other pictures I have taken on the Ashridge Estate.

Free Access to Royal Society Journals in November

The Panda's Thumb has drawn my attention to the fact that the Royal Society has provided online access to its journals during November. If, like me,you a retired or for some other reason locked out of many scientific journals by pay walls get busy checking what is there as there are bound to be a number of papers of interest. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Colossus at Bletchley Park

The Colossus 
A few days ago I did what I have been meaning to do for years and visited Bletchly Park to see the rebuilt Colossus - the world's first programmable computer. The original was built during the Second World War to help decode encrypted German messages. The Germans used a Lorenz coding machine which had different setting and Colossus scanned a paper tape of messages to find out what setting was being used. The machine was deemed so secret that it was destroyed - but has now been rebuilt and the fully operational version is in the National Museum of Computing.

The Bombe
Also on display was The Bombe which was designed by Alan Turing which was an earlier electro-mechanical to tool used to break the German codes.

The purpose of the trip was mainly to look at the code-breaking work that had been carried out at Bletchley Park and and I plann to make another visit to be able to do justice to the National Museum of Computing.

Welcome to Alistair Cooke

Alistair Cooke (1908-2004)
For many years I was a regular listener to Alistair Cooke's Letter from America which was broadcast by the BBC and which gave many people in the British Isles an insight into the the American way of life. I would really have enjoyed his views on the current Presidential elections - but as he continued to broadcast until shortly before his death in 2004, at the age of 95, this is of course not possible.

However the BBC has now put over 900 of his broadcasts online and I have just listened to his talk Online America, first broadcast on September 22nd, 1995, which was on the impact of computers and the questions we should ask about the introduction of new technology.

There does not appear to be a good search engine for exploring his talks for specific references - but if I find others relevant to the theme of "trapped by the Box" I will report them here.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Day the Mesozoic Died

I greatly enjoyed watching the educational film "How the Mesozoic Died because, although I already knew quite a bit about the research it provides a good introduction to the extinction of the dinosaurs, it also explains step by step how the story was researched. It is produced by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and can be downloaded here.