Monday, 6 April 2009

Malaysian GP

Round 2 of the Formula One World Championship and again the modifications to the cars this year meant an exciting race with plenty of real overtaking - we didn't just have to wait for pit-stops for the order to change.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was almost as exciting as the previous week’s LieGate scandal had been. (Liegate involved McLaren and its representatives, including Hamilton, lying to the stewards – end result, Hamilton disqualified from the first Grand Prix of the season).

Jenson Button was on pole again and led the race almost from start to finish (with a slow start losing the first couple of laps to Rosberg and a pit-stop routine taking him back into the pack for the briefest of spells). Kovaleinen didn’t make it round the first lap – just to add to McLaren’s woes.

Ferrari had screwed up Massa’s qualifying and then managed to screw up Reikonen’s race by choosing wet tyres too early. By the time this happened it was too late - his wet tyres had gone off.

I think it's safe to say visibilty was not good by the time the safety car was deployed.

Quite when the race finished was a matter for some conjecture and lengthy stewards' debate. Torrential rain meant the race was red-flagged but it took nearly an hour to declare the winner. Not, it seems, because there was much likelihood of a re-start (by then it was almost pitch dark) but because they couldn’t work out who was where when the race finished. (Bearing in mind the race is deemed to have finished when the leader last crossed the line prior to the red flag being thrown.) It seemed that Button had won with the Toyota of Glock second and Heidfeld third but that was then changed to Button, Heidfeld, Glock. The commentator interviewing Hamilton asked was he pleased with seventh place, even though it was half points, and Hamilton said “I thought I was fifth...” One would have thought with all their technology it would have been a fairly simple thing to work out who was where...

The end result (as it stands though it may well change during the week) –

Back on top - briefly

Liverpool beat Fulham away on Saturday and went to the top of the Premiership. They scored in the 94th minute which was a lesson in not wasting time. If Fulham hadn’t spent so much of the second half wasting time the match would have been over. Unfortunately, on Sunday, Manchester United copied us by beating Aston Villa 3-2 with a goal in extra time. So they went top by one point. Bummer.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Australian GP

Formula One is back on the BBC but they cannot have been thrilled to have had qualifying interrupted – even if it was only briefly.

It was good to have proper introductory music back. Music like The Chain and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ summarise Grand Prix racing for me. The commentators include David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan and Martin Brundle.

Honda have disappeared but a buy out by Ross Brawn brought Brawn GP with Jensen Button and Rubens Barrichello to the grid. Virgin has bought into the Brawn with a sponsorship deal and Richard Branson was to be seen in the pits.

The new rule changes mean the ugly side pods (seen above on last year's McLaren) have gone. Instead we have front wings that are the whole width of the car – bound to be plenty of them lying on the track before the race is over and they are so ugly Martin Brundle suggested they should be covered with brown paper bags.

There is a diffuser on the back of three of the teams that is allegedly giving them such an advantage that the other teams are upset and have complained – tell us the old, old story...

Sebastian Bueni is the only rookie on the grid – driving for Torrio Rosso. Mark Webber returned after a crash when his mountain bike hit a car. He smashed up his leg and shoulder. He is still limping badly but he looked quick in the car during practice even if not when limping down the paddock or when his car was limping after a first lap crash initiated by Kovaleinen.

In qualifying one Hamilton could only manage 15th – one place above dropping out... In the end his car packed up and he had to change the gear box so he dropped back to 18th any way! Both Force Indias dropped out in the first qualifying and the Toyotas were put to the back for rule infringements.

The Renault looks more attractive when not in the gravel. Alonso in the attractive looking Renault went out in the next round of qualifying as did Kovalinen showing the McLaren is not a good car at the moment.

Button and Barrichello locked out the front row in their new Brawns. The last time a new team on the grid made it to pole in its first Grand Prix was the Tyrrell team in 1970. The only other team ever to do it was Mercedes in the 1950s.

The race was quite exciting and there was plenty of overtaking suggesting that they have, at last, found rule changes that make for enjoyable racing.

Button led from start to finish but Barrichello looked set to come in fourth after his anti-stall kicked in on the grid. Then three laps from the end Kubica and Vettel had a coming together that put them both out and made it a fairy tale ending for the Brawn team.

Ferrari came nowhere with Massa’s car packing up and Reikonnen having a brush with the wall. Kovaleinen’s car also proved unreliable but Hamilton came from the back to take fourth behind Trulli.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Kop

One of THE great sounds in Football – Liverpool’s Kop in full voice singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

Last night Liverpool played Real Madrid. Liverpool carried forward a 1 - 0 lead from the away leg and added another 4 goals on the night making it a resounding 5 – 0 defeat on aggregate.

This was the fourth goal being scored by Dossena.

The other goals were by Torres and, of course, Steven Gerrard (2). The score hides the fact that the Real goalkeeper, Casillas, made any number of magnificent saves and was undoubtedly their man of the match.

So we are into the quarter-finals of the European Champions League (yet again).

The singing at the end of the match was even louder!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Pink Iguana

A pink Iguana, disovered on the island of Volcan Wolf in the Galapagos in 1986, is causing an evolutionary stir.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Lost World on Google Earth

The mountainous area of northern Mozambique in southern Africa had been overlooked by science due to inhospitable terrain and decades of civil war in the country. However, while scrolling around on Google Earth, an internet map that allows the viewer to look at satellite images of anywhere on the globe, scientists discovered an unexpected patch of green.

Driving up to Mount Mabu - Photograph: Julian Bayliss/Kew
A British-led expedition was sent to see what was on the ground and found 7,000 hectares of forest, rich in biodiversity, known as Mount Mabu. In just three weeks, scientists led by a team from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew found hundreds of different plant species, birds, butterflies, monkeys and a new species of giant snake. The samples which the team took are now back in Britain for analysis. So far three new butterflies and one new species of snake have been discovered but it is believed there are at least two more new species of plants and perhaps more new insects to discover.

Jonathan Timberlake recording vegetation (Photograph: Tom Timberlake/Kew)

Hemipteran bug - Photograph: Julian Bayliss/Kew

Google Earth image of Mount Mabu. The coordinates are 16 degrees 17 min, 56 secs south and 36 degrees 23 mins 44secs east.

Pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon sp.) - Photograph: Julian Bayliss/Kew

See here for the full article by Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent to the Daily Telegraph.

And here for some more images.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Oh Dear!

Or words to that effect.... as the Copenhagen goalie managed to let the simplest of shots by a Manchester City player slip through his hands...

Copenhagen 2 - Man City 2 in the Eufa Cup.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Oh S**t - or more politely - Lizard Poo

Leeds University has apologised to Daniel Bennett, a graduate student and friend of Helen, who lost his unique collection of rare lizard excrement when it was thrown away by mistake. Daniel had been studying the Bhutan Lizard (Varanus olivaceus) for more than five years in the Philippines and was working towards a doctorate. The lizard - also known as Gray’s Monitor – is one of the world's rarest reptiles, it was thought to be extinct for over 100 years.

When he returned from field studies “I was surprised to find my desk space occupied by another student and to see that photographs of my daughter, my girlfriend and my favourite lizards had been removed from the wall. The laboratory space where my samples had been stored was empty. Irritation turned to fear as I realized that my personal effects had been carefully stowed in boxes, but there was no sign of my 35-kilogram bag of lizard shit. Fear turned to anger and bewilderment when I learned that my samples had been ‘accidentally’ removed from the lab and incinerated.”

He said the reptile was so shy that he studied what it ate through its droppings, rather than trapping or disturbing it. The tree-dwelling lizard’s reclusiveness makes it difficult to study, he explained, so the fecal samples were invaluable. Nonetheless their destruction did not stop him from finishing his Ph.D.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New amphibians

This toad from the Nectophrynoides genus is one of 15 amphibian species in Tanzania that have been described for the first time. They were found during research led by UK conservation charity Frontier. The toad is being studied by researchers in Italy and at the Natural History Museum, London. As well as their distinctive markings and colourings, the researchers say Nectophrynoides are also unique because females give birth to live offspring rather than lay eggs. Sadly, areas of Tanzania's mountain forests are under threat from deforestation, the researchers warned.

Meanwhile, a recent scientific expedition in Colombia's mountainous Darien region has unearthed 10 new species of amphibians, including this Harlequin Frog – Atelopus sp.. Scientists with Conservation International announced the discovery in what's being referred to as a safe haven for frogs located in the west of the country on the border with Panama.

A rain frog of the genus Pristimantis was among the new species.

The discovery of the 10 new amphibians, which include a salamander, , was the result of a three-week survey of the area, the group said. The country is home to over 750 species of amphibian.

(Pictures from CNN and BBC)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Hunting Wolves

Over the past five years, Alaska’s aerial hunting program has claimed the lives of more than 800 hundred wolves. Despite strong scientific, ethical and public opposition to aerial hunting, Governor Sarah Palin has not only supported the killing but proposed paying a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf. She has approved a $400,000 state-funded propaganda campaign to promote aerial hunting. In addition Alaska's Governor has introduced legislation to make it even easier to use aircraft to hunt wolves and bears.

If you live in the United States you can send an e-mail to Sarah Palin requesting her to withdraw her support for this brutality by visiting this site.

Sadly the site does not provide for us in the UK to tell her how shameful we find it that a country for which we have much admiration in many respects should let itself down itself by this behaviour. The Uk does not have the best track record on wildlife conservation and environmantal matters but at least blood sports has been banned. (And yes, hunting wolves from the air can only be defined as a blood sport since there is no scientific argument for doing it.)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Everton 1 - Liverpool 0

Life doesn’t come much more frustrating than being a Liverpool fan seeing Liverpool FC get knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton.

Actually, yes it does. The match was a replay at Goodison after a draw at Anfield. Everton scored in the 218th minute of play. Two more minutes and it would have gone to penalties – in which Liverpool have an excellent record. Yes, that makes it even more frustrating.

Then again it can get even more frustrating than that. With two minutes to go in the match ITV went to a commercial break so none of us watching on TV got to see the goal!

Not a good night....

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Whales with big feet

Nine years ago, a team of fossil-hunters led by Philip Gingerich from the University of Michigan uncovered something amazing - the petrified remains of an ancient whale, but one unlike any that had been found before. Within the creature's abdomen lay a collection of similar but much smaller bones. They were the fossilised remains of a foetal whale, perfectly preserved within the belly of its mother...
The creatures are new to science and Gingerich have called them Maiacetus inuus. The genus name is an amalgamation of the Greek words "maia" meaning "mother" and "ketos" meaning "whale", while Inuus, the Roman god of fertility, gave his name to the species.
This trio of skeletons is so complete and well-preserved that Gingerich likens them to the Rosetta Stone.
All in all, Gingerich's latest finds are among his most alluring yet. The remains of these three individuals have lasted through 48 million years of compression and today, they paint an incredibly vivid picture of the life of an ancient species. The fact that they are ancestral whales is the icing on the cake. This group's story is one of the most beautifully illustrated in the field evolution and every new discovery is a welcome one.

For more about this exciting find see Ed Yong’s blog.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


The Eggheads have lost two games in a row. The Bere Heads won £25,000 but because a new run of money had started the next team only won a thousand. Nevertheless they were delighted to win.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Tony Hart

Tony Hart died last week aged 83.

The lovable British artist turned Childrens TV presenter inspired children allover the world to paint and draw for almost 50 years, what a legend. I watched Tony Hart when I was a kid and found his shows hugely entertaining. Tony Hart’s gentle manner and wise years made him one of the best presenters ever to have graced our screens.

Tony Hart broke into television in 1952 after drawing a fish on a napkin at a party that was also attended by a BBC producer (if only it was that easy now!). Tony Hart went on to appear in Saturday Special, Playbox, Titch and Quackers, Vision On, Take Hart, Hartbeat, Artbox Bunch and Smart Hart.

From the 1970s, Tony Hart’s show would often include the animated Plasticine character Morph.

Morph was was produced for the BBC by Aardman Animations who later became famous for Wallace and Gromit. Tony Hart is also famous for designing the Blue Peter logo and badge. Tony Hart received two BAFTAs and a Lifetime Achievement Award before his retirement in 2001.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Inauguration

The Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America took place today. Barack Obama is now the US President. He begins with two advantages – he follows an awful President and he has a lot of the American people behind him. Obama becomes its first African-American leader - in a ceremony in Washington DC watched by millions around the world and an enormous crowd in Washington itself. As he said “A man who sixty years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant now stand before you to take this sacred oath.”

As Andi concluded:-
“Today is an exciting day, a hopeful day, a joyful day. An historic day for every one of us no matter what party, race, religion, or location. Happy Inauguration Day!!!”
Good luck, America.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The 209th Derby Game

Anfield was home to the 209th Derby Game tonight. The Reds scored, thanks to Steven Gerrard, but Everton came back three minutes from time. Bummer. If Liverpool had won they would have gone back to the top of the Premier League as it is they have the same number of points as Man Utd but are behind on goal difference and Man U have a game in hand as well. Disappointing.

John Mortimer

Sir John Mortimer, the preternaturally prolific English author, died last Friday at 85. He created two unforgettable characters: one was the irascible barrister Horace Rumpole; the other was himself. He is pictured above with his actress daughter.

Rumpole, the craftily disheveled Old Bailey "hack," is probably best known through Leo McKern's portrayals on television. As a barrister, he is distinguished by his reverence for the common law, his contempt for judges and his refusal ever to prosecute or to enter a guilty plea.

Mortimer, a former barrister himself, was one of his country's best-known literary celebrities, first as a highly successful playwright -- part of the so-called new wave with his friends John Osborne and Harold Pinter -- then as writer of radio dramas, screenplays, novels, short stories and surprisingly first-rate journalism.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Life on Mars

The "Is there life on Mars debate?" has gone on for my lifetime and indeed since at least the era of H G Wells. This is the latest round in the debate.

Presumably future visitors to the red planet can expect to find signs saying "Methanogens rule OK".

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Milky Way

The Milky Way is considerably larger, bulkier and spinning faster than astronomers thought, it has been revealed.

For decades, stargazers thought when it came to the major neighbouring galaxies, our Milky Way - home to Earth - was a weak sister to the larger Andromeda, but not anymore. Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it is 15% larger in breadth. More important, it is denser, with 50% more mass, which is like weight.

The new findings were presented at the American Astronomical Society’s convention in Long Beach, California.

Info from The Conscious Mind.

By contrast there is little doubt that Mars Bars are getting smaller...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Atheist buses

"You wait ages for an atheist bus, then 800 come along at once"
- Ariane Sherine, the woman behind the atheist bus adverts.

The campaign to raise funds to put adverts on buses bearing the legend "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" was launched in October. Now 200 buses will be taking to the streets in London, with 600 more around the rest of the country.

I wonder how long it will be before we have industrial action by someone refusing to drive one on religious grounds?

Friday, 9 January 2009

Shark Bite

Researchers have found that sharks have very weak jaws for their size and can bite through their prey only because they have a lot of very sharp teeth - and because they can grow to be so big.

"Pound for pound, sharks don't bite all that hard," Daniel Huber of the University of Tampa in Florida, who led the study, said.

As Lee (of A Curate's Egg) commented
Big mouth, very sharp teeth. Seems enough for me.