Monday, 22 December 2008

Please can I have my duck back?

The US space agency (Nasa) would like its rubber ducks back, please.

Ninety bathtub toys were hurled into a drainage hole on the Greenland ice in September - an experiment to see how melt waters find their way to the base of the ice sheet.

It was hoped the ducks would flow along subglacial channels and eventually pop out into the sea. They may still, but nothing has been seen of them so far.

Strictly is over

The Final of Strictly Come Dancing took place on Saturday. Over 13 million viewers enjoyed the spectacle. And what a magnificent spectacle it proved to be.

I believe the right two couples got through to the second stage (though I suspect GB may disagree when he gets his DVDs up-to-date in a few weeks). I never really took to Lisa and whilst I can appreciate her journey and Brendan’s skill in training her I cannot think of a single dance of hers that really wowed me.

Right up until the show dance I thought it was going to be Rachel’s but the show dance made me wonder if Tom could pull it off.

Bruce sang a song for us.

They opened the cages and let Kristina and Ola out to do some of the brilliant professional dances and to dance with their partners from the series. Whatever other health problems I may suffer from I can guarantee there are still some red blood cells left!

The five previous winners of Strictly Come Dancing - Natasha Kaplinsky, Jill Halfpenny, Darren Gough, Mark Ramprakash and Alesha Dixon - also appeared, with all but Kaplinsky performing a group fabulous routine to a version of Robbie Williams' Let Me Entertain You.

The winners – Tom and Camilla. Overall I think Rachel should have won and I felt sorry for her and Vincent. A score of 79 out of 80 for their two dances prior to the show dance – they could not have done more. But I would have felt sorry for Tom and Camilla if they had lost.

It has undoubtedly been the best Strictly Come dancing series yet.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


Woolworths, the stricken high street retailer, saw its biggest-ever day's trading on Thursday after administrator Deloitte launched a closing-down sale across the 800-store chain. Woolworths' 30,000 staff have been told that they could be out of work before the end of December if buyers for their stores are not found. Hundreds of Woolworths outlets are already under offer to third-party retailers such as Wilkinson and Iceland. However, separate approaches to save Woolworths as a going concern look less likely to succeed.

Strictly Semi-Final

During the week, on Claudia’s programme, we learned some Argentine Tango moves from Flavia and Vincent. I loved the ‘decoration’ in which the girl rubs her foot up the man’s leg. The dance originated in seedy nightclubs of Buenos Aires where the ladies of the night hung out. They had to be able to dance in case the place was raided. The ‘decoration’ was designed so that the girl could use her foot to check how much money the man had in his pockets.

The best celebrity Argentine Tango to date has been Mark Ramprakash and Karen. But no Argentine Tango on Saturday night’s show is going to be able to match the one done by Flavia and Vincent and another professional couple last week-end. That has to be one of the best dances I’ve ever watched on TV.

On the night the two dances by Rachel and Vincent were, in my view, simply perfect. Sadly Tom didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I think Austin would have given Rachel a better run for her money. Sorry, but I still can’t see what folk see in Lisa. There never seems the same life in her dances as there is in Rachel and Tom’s.

Craig Smith and Natalie Wolfe’s show dance was unbelievable. The way she rolled up his body at one stage was quite mesmerising. Then the group jive by the professionals knocked Tom and Camilla’s jive into a cocked hat. “All that Jazz” from 'Chicago' was equally fantastic.

The evening ended perfectly with all three couples going through to the Final.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Fans sought over abusive chanting

The BBC has published images that have been released of 16 Tottenham fans police want to trace over indecent and homophobic chanting directed at Portsmouth's Sol Campbell. The investigation follows abuse aimed at the former Arsenal and England defender during a game with Spurs at Fratton Park on 28 September.

Officers are asking the public to help them trace the men, who were captured on film during the match. The FA said it would ban for life any fans it could prove were involved.

Supt Neil Sherrington from Hampshire police said: "As part of our investigation into indecent chanting at Fratton Park, we have identified 16 people we would like to speak to. Our inquiry is aimed at identifying and putting before the court those individuals who engaged in unacceptable behaviour at this public event. Their abuse caused distress to some supporters and was targeted at an individual. We want to send a clear message that abuse of this kind will not be tolerated and that we are taking robust action. I'd urge anyone who recognises these people to contact us as soon as possible."

Campbell, who left Tottenham on a free transfer to north London rivals Arsenal in 2001, joining Portsmouth in 2006, was subjected to prolonged abuse during the game. Complaints from Portsmouth fans were made to Hampshire police, who initially said they could not take action because of the number of Tottenham fans involved.

Singing and chanting is part of the fun of being at a football match and I am not overly p.c. but I fully endorse action of this sort. It is good to know that people can no longer just hide in the crowd and get away with things that they would neither have the courage nor the stupidity to do on their own.

Monday, 8 December 2008

New pterosaur species found

A new fossil species of flying reptile with a wingspan the size of a family car has been uncovered by scientists. A researcher at the University of Portsmouth has identified the new type of pterosaur, the largest of its kind ever to have been discovered. It would have flown in the skies above Brazil 115 million years ago.

Mark Witton estimated that the pterosaur had a wingspan of 16.4ft (5m) and would have been more than 39in (1m) tall at the shoulder. The partial skull fossil, found in Brazil, is the first example of a chaoyangopteridae, a group of toothless pterosaurs, to be found outside China. Mr Witton said: "Some of the previous examples we have from this family in China are just 60cm (2ft) long - as big as the skull of the new species. Put simply, it dwarfs any chaoyangopterid we've seen before by miles. The discovery of something like this in Brazil - so far away from its closest relatives in China - demonstrates how little we actually know about the distribution and evolutionary history of this fascinating group of creatures."

Mr Witton has named the new species Lacusovagus, meaning lake wanderer, after the large body of water in which the remains were buried. Mr Witton's findings were published in the journal Palaeontology in November.

Strictly Weekend

There were eight dances on Saturday. My favourites were Tom and Camilla’s Foxtrot; Tom and Camilla’s Rumba; Rachel and Vincent’s Tango; Rachel and Vincent’s Cha Cha Cha and Austin and Erin’s Salsa. Rachel was judged to have done another perfect dance.

Austin was at the bottom of the leader board. On the basis of my perception of the dances I decided to give Tom and Rachel two phone votes each and Austin one phone vote. I wonder who will be in the dance off. Could be any of them at this stage. Whatever happens someone really good is going to be leaving.

On Sunday the Professionals did a couple of wonderful dances – firstly a Viennese Waltz.

And then an Argentine Tango.

Then Barry Manilow sang Copa Cobana to the accompaniment of a Samba by the professionals again.

Sadly, as Arlene pointed out, the dance that the performers had to s
do on the night affected the outcome of the dance off and Austin and Erin’s best dance – a latin - was judged to be not as good as Lisa and Brendan’s best dance – ballroom. Austin is out. Very sad.

So it will be Austin and Erin on Claudia’s couch on Monday night.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Pygmy Tarsiers

Conducting a survey of Mount Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park on the island of Sulawesi, a team led by Sharon Gursky-Doyen of Texas A&M University captured three pygmy tarsiers, a tiny species of primate that was last collected in 1921 and was assumed to be extinct until 2000 when two scientists studying rats accidently trapped and killed an individual. Gursky-Doyen's team spent two months using 276 mist nets to capture the gremlin-like creatures so they could be fitted with radio collars and tracked. One other individual was spotted but eluded capture.

Pygmy tarsiers are among the smallest and rarest primates in the world. The species is distinguished from tarsiers by its diminutive size (50 grams) and its fingers which have claws instead of nails, which Gursky-Doyen believes may be an adaptation to its mossy habitat some 7,000-8,000 feet (2,100-2,440) about sea level.

Week 11

Vincent wiping away tears at the end of the show but not because he and Rachel were out. They were in the dance off but it was Christine and Matthew who left Strictly on Sunday.

The right result but very sad because she has been such a lively, bubbly, happy character. Obviously much loved by the other contestants and professionals as witnessed by Vincent’s emotional response.

A new Dolphin

Thanks to DNA testing, a new species of bottlenose dolphin has been discovered in the waters off southern Australia. It is only the second new dolphin to be discovered in 50 years. I always thought examining a moth's genitalia to tell which species it was seemed a bit far to go but when you have to check it's DNA that seems a bit like cheating to an old-fashioned guy like me. As yet the species has not been named.