Wednesday, 10 November 2010

No Vestige of Beginning! No Prospect of an End!

A song inspired by James Hutton, written by Oskar Lindenmayer

The mind of every man aboard this boat will be unfenced,

Though they’re doubtful what I’ll show them will convince them of my sense.

We’re headed out upon the waves a treasure trove we seek

Not gold or jeweled bracelets, but the proof of time most deep.

When years ago I traveled south and worked upon the land

I planted crops in springtime midst the hills, rolling and grand.

I watched my precious soil carried off by floods and rain

And wondered just how many times a flood had done the same.

For if my hills denuded annually, as such one might expect

Then I’d soon run short on soil and my crop growing prospects.

So I reasoned that new soil was eroded from the rock

And was both carried in and carried out maintaining gain and stock.

But where then did this dirt end up? Of course it went downhill,

And into flowing rivers, never resting, not until

Its journey’s end, or so I thought, was deepest oceans floor,

With this in mind, I went on planting, and for years I thought no more.

Then later in the highland peaks that rise above the land,

I chanced upon a seashell buried in a rock of sand.

How it came to be in mountains high I hadn’t but a clue,

Unless the mountain once was sea bed, though that went ‘gainst all I knew.

But what else could bring these shells, for more and more I found,

From the depths of deepest ocean to so high above the ground.

And the rock itself was made of sand, the link formed in my mind

My highland stone and weathered farming soil were of a kind!

Whatever force had driven those shells up out of the water,

Had fused the sand and formed new land, I beheld erosion’s daughter!

But then I realised the implications, Good grief! I must be wrong!

For such sediment's depth below me would have taken far too long

To accumulate from river flows, why millions of years would be needed,

But with no way 'round I must take what I've found and insist that my findings be heeded.

And so on this fine day, we paddle away in our boat, in search of an outcrop

And I see what I seek, there's no time to be meek and so boldly I call for a stop.

On the cliffs up above a formation displayed that promises to shatter their normity,

'My friends', I exclaim, 'Have you changed what you claim, now you've seen angular unconformity?'

I am supposed to be studying for my exams, not writing songs about the findings of James Hutton, who was the pioneer of uniformitarianism. Nevertheless, I think I did a pretty good job of it and it kind of counts as studying, sort of, maybe, a bit. The tune I was thinking of was the one that seems to be used in all musicals where instruments accompany someone talking purposefully without drawing attention to themselves.

All for now,


Friday, 13 August 2010

I have a foram on my forearm...

Wow, it has been ages! (I seem to start most of my posts like that.) I won't appologise for the delay between this and my last post, because I have been really busy and feel that the accumulation of knowledge trumps the spread of gossip.

I am, however, back.

And I am back with some good news (for those who are fans of foraminifera, palaeoclimatic research and me). Today I discussed the possibility of a research project with Ass. Proff. Stephen Gallagher, a micropalaeontologist. He said that he'd be happy to have me and suggested a project involving the identification of changes in species of foraminifera over time in the Gippsland basin and their use as a proxy for palaeoclimate.
Understandably, I was pretty happy with this.

He also gave me back my shoes, which was a bonus. (I left them in the back of a van while doing field work over the winter break.

So, as of next year I will begin being involved in actual science for the first time, which is completely awesome.

For the uninitiated, forams are unicelular organisms that construct a shell called a test. They are used extensively in biostratigraphy and as palaeoenvironmental indicators. They are awesome (some benthic ones are in fact both boring and awesome [as in they bore into the sea bed {thought I could get through the first post in months without using three kinds of brackets? You thought wrong}])!

I'll post again soon,

Friday, 19 February 2010

Ode to Coal.

I decided to write this song about the ultimate origin and formation of coal...

Our story starts like most things: Solar.
Four thousand million years and older,
from nebulaeic clouds it all condensed.

The sun, our great nuclear reactor,
pumpin' out light by fusing matter.
Shining on a new-formed Earth, that's how it went.

Skip forward two billion years or so.
Cellular life has started to grow.
Photosynthetics oxygenate the atmosphere.

Ice-age, greenhouse, its understood.
Sea grass, land-plants, -SNAP!- we've got wood!
stacking into airless swamps for millions of years.

Half a billion years of fossil sunlight,
cooking hot to keep my, lights bright.
Tapping ancient swamps, I'm burning COAL!

Half a billion years for it to build up.
Four hundred years then dug and drilled up.
To feed our growing needs at any toll.

Did anyone else notice my prediction in the last bit. We've only been seriously mining coal for the last 200 years, so I am telling you I expect us to run out in around 200 more...

Also, in the third and fourth paragraph-y things it looks a bit like I think photosynthetics, seagrasses and wooded land plants all emerged during both a greenhouse event and an ice age, around two billion years ago. I know that this is not true. I didn't put in any more lines about time passing because they wouldn't fit.

All for now,

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Nature of Nature.

A number of possibilities for a definition of 'nature' have been proposed.

The first I will examine is 'Wilderness, a physical area unaffected by humanity'.
Personally I consider this to be an unrealistic view of any part of the world. All environments are inextricably linked and we humans have had some degree of impact on all of them. Even places where no human has ever been are in some way affected by us, through our pressure on migratory organisms that do come into contact with us and our impact on the global climate system. In addition, if we only consider things to be natural if no human has come into contact with them, then none of us have ever actually experienced nature.
While it is true that some environments can clearly be seen to have been further affected by humans than others, the impossibility to draw a line makes this definition of nature unrealistic.

Next we have ' The opposite to culture, that which is not culture'. This is an interesting one, that at first looks promising to me. Difficulties arise, however, when one has to define culture. Somehow I feel 'The opposite to nature' isn't going to cut it. The definition of culture that I have generally used is 'Any learned behavior, or product of this behavior, that can pass between individuals'. This definition seemed fine when dealing with human culture as opposed to nature, but I then considered the culture displayed by other animals. For example, styles of bird song are learned. Certain types of song go in and out of fashion for birds in different areas, even those of the same species. While this, by my earlier definition, is certainly a cultural phenomenon, it is something that I generally would have considered natural.
The difficulty with this definition of nature is drawing a line between whether a phenomenon constitutes culture or is driven by instinct (and if it is a combination of the two, is it natural or cultural?). Language in humans, for instance, is universal, indicating that we have some kind of in-built language instinct, but individual languages are culturally developed and transmitted.

The definition of nature that I am most comfortable with is 'Every element of the world we inhabit'. The implication is that humans and our constructs are not separate from nature, but an integral part of it. Some claim that this would excuse us from our degradation of other natural things, as we cannot be doing anything wrong in exploiting that which we are a part of. I find this most unsatisfactory. It is perfectly reasonable to be worried about one part of a whole damaging another, particularly when one part is self aware.

I am reminded of Richard Dawkins' metaphor of a selfish gene at this point. A self interested part of a whole, that will 'try' to ensure its own survival at the expense of other parts, but has found that cooperation and mutualism are more successful at ensuring its continued existence that all out exploitation. That is not to say that sometimes, it is in the best interests of a self interested propagator to exploit. The fact that humans, unlike Dawkins' unaware selfish-genes, are able to plan and to think forward gives us two greater opportunities.
One is the ability to propagate ourselves at the expense of other elements of nature with much more efficiency and success.
The other, is to look ahead and steer ourselves away from mindless propagation (in terms of population and of material wealth and power) that will not benefit us in the long term.

I hope that we can see fit to choose the latter option.

This essay is far from perfect or complete, I am using this blog as a sort of sounding board. I am stressing that I really need people to criticize me. This is the way that I sort out what is going on in my head. I really do think I'm on to something with the layers withing layers of selfish propagators, though. Anyway, thoughts?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Loren is The best Person in The world ...

She dares Me to Post something Like this. Why am I writing Like this.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Conversing with a Monk.

Today I was approached by a monk on Bourke St. This is the conversation we had:

Monk: Hey there, how are you today?
Me: Not bad, thanks. How are you?
Monk: Good, good. I was wondering if you'd heard about yoga?
Me: Yes, yes I've heard of it.
Monk: How about karma?
Me: Yes.
Monk: Reincarnation?
Me: Yes, that too.
Monk: What about monks?
Me: Yes, I've heard of monks.
Monk: Well, I'm a monk!
Me: Oh, ok. (he was wearing a white robe and had a white mark on his forehead, I was pretty sure he wasn't a banker)
Monk: Let me give you an example. Imagine someone has a car. It starts off really good and fast, but over time it wears out, just from being used. Eventually the driver gets a new car, because the old one wears out. That's like the immortal soul in reincarnation. The body is like the car.
Me: I see.
Monk:We have this publication of information. We give you knowledge. Most people give a donation to cover the cost of printing, but you don't need to.
Monk: You see, karma is really all about having a good time. Are you the kind of person who likes having a good time?
Me: Um, yes... (NO I HATE GOOD TIMES!)
Monk: You see, our, sort of, god, really just wants us to have a good time. We do yoga and maintain balance and have a good time.
Me: How do you know this?
Monk: What? Ah, well it works!
Me: What do you mean?
Monk: If you try it you will find yourself feeling better and more fulfilled.
Me: More so than the regular stretching and relaxation would leave you feeling?
Monk: Yes!
Me: How do you know that?
Monk: Well, I started all this, became a monk and now I feel much better than I would have if I was just stretching.
Me: So you feel better than you did before and this is the only explanation that you have to account for it? I'm sorry, but do you think you're not being very open minded?

I gave him $5 for his book, which I read, then threw out. I regret the waste of paper.

Don't worry, I don't just pick on the religious who approach me in the street. I do the same thing for members of the Socialist Alternative!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Bike Powered Gun!

That's right, it's that time of year again! The time of year where I get BRILLIANT ideas for electrical things I want to build. This time I'm planning on combining my old design for the ball bearing accelerator with a three phase DC power generator run by an old exercise bike.


I'm not sure what the said consumer is consuming exactly, but they're probably doing so AWESOMELY!

While strictly speaking a completely different design, this German Railgun also accelerates pieces of metal with electricity...

Previously, when one wanted to accelerate their ball bearings they would have had to connect their accelerator up to a car battery or some other one-use-only power source (or throw it). I think I should be able to produce a higher amperage from the bike than any easily obtainable battery would be able to (thus inducing stronger magnetic fields and propelling my projectiles faster).
I've also never made a proper generator before, and I think it will give me a healthy respect for how hard generating power is, when I have to pedal to do so. Perhaps I can also use it to educate others as to how difficult it is to generate electricity, or even use it as a practical generator, for when I need to... light really small light bulbs while cycling...

Re: Title: If the ball bearing comes out fast enough it could be considered a sort of gun.