Thursday, 30 October 2008


The MotoGP season has come to an end. No more racing for months. I shall miss the beauty of the bikes, the thrill of the speed, the excitement as riders pass and re-pass each other, the colour, the glamour, the grid girls, Suzi Perry, the wonderful commentary on BBC, and the whole atmosphere of a MotoGP weekend. And that’s just watching it on TV.

Valentino Rossi won the Championship on his Yamaha. Rossi (born February 16, 1979 in Urbino) is an Italian professional motorcycle racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion. A cheeky chappy. he seems to have a really pleasant personality and unlike many sports champions he seems to be moderately popular with his competitors. Part of the reason fopr this is the fact that he fights very hard but very fair.

Rossi is one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time, with 8 Grand Prix World Championships to his name. According to Sports Illustrated, Valentino Rossi is one of the highest earning sports personalities in the world, having earned an estimated $34 million in 2007. He had a trial in a Ferrari F1 car and toyed with the idea of moving to F1 but decided to stay with motorbikes.

Following his father, Graziano Rossi, Rossi started racing in Grand Prix in 1996 for Aprilia in the 125cc category and won his first World Championship the following year. From there, he moved up to the 250 cc category, again with Aprilia, and won the World Championship in 1999. He won the 500 cc World Championship with Honda in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 Championships after leaving Honda to join Yamaha. After two years as a runner-up (to Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner) he has now regained the title in 2008.

The Rizla Suzuki, ridden here by Capirossi, got my vote for best colour scheme (as it has done for the past couple of years)

Second came the Kawasaki, seen here with west riding it.

Third came the Ducati, seen here with Casey stoner on board.

The Repsol Honda livery for the final race was also pretty smart.

And, as always, the website proved to be the definitive website for all things motorcycling.


I seem to have fallen behind of late in mentioning new species and re-discovered species. So here, thanks largely to “Free your Imagination” is a compilation of some recent discoveries.

The Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana) is the world’s rarest otter species and was thought to be extinct in the 1990s. But a pair were spotted in U Minh Ha National Park, in Vietnam’s Ca Mau province, in March 2008. They have also recently been rediscovered in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution have discovered a new species of bird in Gabon, Africa, that was, until now, unknown to the scientific community. Their findings were published in the international science journal Zootaxa on Aug. 15 2008 The Olive-backed Forest Robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus) was named by the scientists for its distinctive olive back and rump. Adult birds measure 4.5 inches in length and the males have a fiery orange throat and breast, yellow belly, olive back, black feathers on the head and a distinctive white dot on their face in front of each eye. The female is basically similar but less bright.

A tiny frog species thought by many experts to be extinct has been rediscovered alive and well in a remote area of Australia’s tropical north. The 1.5 inch-long Armoured Mistfrog, Litoria lorica, had not been seen since 1991, and many experts assumed it had been wiped out by a devastating fungus that struck northern Queensland state. But two months ago, a doctoral student at James Cook University in Townsville conducting research on another frog species in Queensland stumbled across what appeared to be several Armoured Mistfrogs in a creek.

And another rare frog, the tiny tree frog, Isthmohyla rivularis, has been seen in Costa Rica after 20 years. This species was thought to have become extinct two decades ago, but last year a University of Manchester researcher caught a glimpse of a male in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve.. Now a female has been seen and they are presumed to be breeding.

The world’s smallest snake, Leptotyphlops carlae, averaging just 10cm (4 inches) and as thin as a spaghetti noodle, has been discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados. The snake, found beneath a rock in a tiny fragment of threatened forest, is thought to be at the very limit of how small a snake can evolve to be. Females produce only a single, massive egg - and the young hatch at half of their adult body weight. The discovery of this new snake, the smallest of the 3,100 known species, is described in the journal Zootaxa.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Beans puzzle - solution

The answer to the beans puzzle on my other blog...

Friday, 10 October 2008

White Prominent

Two moths that are so rare in Great Britain as to be almost mythical have been re-discovered – one in Scotland the other in Ireland. A field centre’s moth count training session in Invernesshire earlier this year was amazed to find a black-winged, orange-bodied micro-moth by the name of Ethmia pyrausta. It has only ever been recorded in the UK on five occasions, the first being in 1853, close to this 2008 sighting.

But a micro-moth is nothing like so exciting as the discovery of the macro-moth Leucodonta bicoloria – the White Prominent. This turned up in County Kerry on 7th June (National Moth Night) Ireland, 70 years after it was last seen. In total seven of them were found over the next two nights indicating a reasonably healthy population.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Banana's split

Did you know that if you are my age or older the bananas you had as a child tasted different to today’s bananas? Indeed, interestingly I recall very few bananas when I was young – they were certainly not a common fruit in our house though bananas and custard was an occasional dessert. The reason is explained in a widely read and frantically e-mailed New York Times story that has opened many new eyes to a horticultural disaster anticipated for many years: the commercial extinction of the Cavendish banana. Dan Koeppel's warning is right on target:

“By sticking to [a] single variety, the banana industry ensures that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same rate, creating huge economies of scale. The Cavendish is the fruit equivalent of a fast-food hamburger: efficient to produce, uniform in quality and universally affordable.

But there’s a difference between a banana and a Big Mac: The banana is a living organism. It can get sick
[mind you, I’ve seen some pretty sick Big Macs], and since bananas all come from the same gene pool, a virulent enough malady could wipe out the world’s commercial banana crop in a matter of years.

This has happened before. Our great-grandparents grew up eating not the Cavendish but the Gros Michel banana, a variety that everyone agreed was tastier and easier to peel. But starting in the early 1900s, banana plantations were invaded by a fungus called Panama disease and vanished one by one. Forest would be cleared for new banana fields, and healthy fruit would grow there for a while, but eventually succumb.

By 1960, the Gros Michel was essentially extinct and the banana industry nearly bankrupt. It was saved at the last minute by the Cavendish, a Chinese variety that had been considered something close to junk: inferior in taste, easy to bruise (and therefore hard to ship) and too small to appeal to consumers. But it did resist the blight.

Over the past decade, however, a new, more virulent strain of Panama disease has begun to spread across the world, and this time the Cavendish is not immune. The fungus is expected to reach Latin America in 5 to 10 years, maybe 20. The big banana companies have been slow to finance efforts to find either a cure for the fungus or a banana that resists it. Nor has enough been done to aid efforts to diversify the world’s banana crop by preserving little-known varieties of the fruit that grow in Africa and Asia.”

There are other bananas in the world but no one has put enough effort into ensuring they are preserved and finding if any are resistant to the disease. And none of them is widely cultivated so, even if a disease-resistant one were found, if the Cavendish goes offline, it'll be a long, banana-less age in which scarcity ensures that two of my favourite deserts – bananas in custard and the banana split – are forgotten entirely.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cueva de los Cristales

Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) contains some of the world's largest known natural crystals—translucent beams of selenite, a variety of gypsum, as long as 36 feet (11 metres).

Found deep in a mine in southern Chihuahua, Mexico, these crystals were formed in a natural cave totally enclosed in bedrock. The Naica mine was first discovered by early prospectors in 1794 south of Chihuahua City. They struck a vein of silver at the base of a range of hills called Naica by the Tarahumara Indians.
From the discovery until about 1900, the primary interest was silver and gold. Around 1900 large-scale mining began as zinc and lead became more valuable.
The famous Cave of Swords was discovered at a depth of 400 feet. Due to the incredible crystals, it was decided to try to preserve this cave. While many of the crystals have been collected, this is still a fascinating cave to visit. In one part there are so many crystals on one of the walls, they appear to be like an underwater reef moving in a gentle undulating motion in an ocean current. Then, in April 2000, brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez were drilling a new tunnel when they made a truly spectacular discovery - the Cave of Crystals. While Naica miners are accustomed to finding crystals, Juan and Pedro were absolutely amazed by the cavern that they found. The brothers immediately informed the engineer in charge, Roberto Gonzalez. Gonzalez realized that they had discovered a natural treasure and quickly rerouted the tunnel. During this phase some damage was done as several miners tried to remove pieces of the mega-crystals, so the mining company soon installed an iron door to protect the find. While there are more crystals in the Cave of Swords, they are far smaller, typically about a yard long. Their relative compactness is likely due to a rapid temperature decline, as opposed to the far more gradual change that is believed to have encouraged the megacrystals in the deeper cave.

Selenite, the gypsum crystal, named after the Greek goddess of the moon due to its soft white light, is said to have many metaphysical and healing benefits. Selenite powder has been used cosmetically for thousands of years to enhance one's natural beauty. It is believed that this crystal assists with mental focus, growth, luck, immunity, and soothes the emotions.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

100 Years Ago: Egyptian Fossil Discovery

EGYPTIAN FOSSILS— “Prof. Henry F. Osborn, who directed the expedition of the American Museum of Natural History to the Fayum Desert of Egypt, is just now placing on exhibition one of the most important and significant finds there, the skull of the giant Arsinoitherium,

These photos depict the skull of the extinct Arsinoitherium

The expedition of the American Museum of Natural History to the Fayum Desert in Egypt has brought back one of the most important and significant finds, in the shape of the skull of the giant Arsinoitherium, one of the most extraordinary land mammals of ancient Africa, or of the whole known fossil world. This remarkable beast is entirely new to science and paleontologists. Its existence was unknown and undreamed of until a few years ago.

The dominating and all-powerful feature of the Arsinoitherium was the long pair of sharp-pointed horns, protruding upward and outward above the nose for nearly two feet, an appendage both dangerous and fantastic. Undoubtedly no contemporary could cope with and withstand a mad rush and furious charge from an animal thus armed. Arsinoitherium was the brute king of the Fayum during Eocene times, some two or three million years ago. The narrow muzzle of the head indicated that the animal did not graze, but browsed upon the low bushes and herbage. Our photographs show the front and side views of the Arsinoitherium skull now in the Cairo Museum, found by the Egyptian Geological Survey only a few years back."

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Liverpool 3 PSV Eindhoven 1

Liverpool played PSV in the Champions League tonight at Anfield. Kuyt scored in the fourth minute and the game was effectively over for PSV. Robbie Keane, Liverpool’s new signing this season, scored his first Liverpool Goal, much to the Kop’s delight, after 34 minutes.

In the second half, at the Kop end, Steven Gerrard got his 100th goal for Liverpool, joining a select group of fifteen others who have reached that figure. As usual it was a super goal – in this case form a free kick well outside the penalty area - that zinged into the net.

PSV came back with a goal but were never really in the game.

The Rubber Dodo Award

The 2008 Rubber Dodo award has been made by the Center for Biological Diversity in the US. It has gone to Sarah Palin the Governor of Alaska. as well as denying global warming was caused by greenhouse gases she lied about and suppressed State scientific reviews and then tried to block legislation to protect the Polar Bear.

Perhaps being in Alaska makes you welcome global warming and if you are afraid of Polar Bears it’s only natural to want them shot! As for lying and suppressing evidence, don’t politicians do that all the time?

The Center for Biological Diversity presented Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with its first ever "Rubber Dodo" award, in 2007 in honour of going a record one year and 90 days without listing a new species as endangered or threatened despite the Fish and Wildlife Service classifying 279 species as "candidates" for listing, because they were in danger of extinction.