This is what the Transit of Venus looked like from my backyard in Greenhills.
(Description: grey cloudy sky behind tree)
I didn’t see it at all, and given that my next chance to see it is in 2117, my guess is that I won’t be seeing it at all ever.
On the other hand, my brother saw it in full glory in Brisbane. He had a set of welding glasses – the proper sort – and he spent a good part of his day on the roof of his workplace, looking. More than just looking. He dragged many of his colleagues up there to take a look, explaining to them what it was all about, and why it is so important in the history of New Zealand and Australia. Some of them really didn’t care at all, but others were intrigued, and keen to learn more, and still talking about it hours later. My brother was buzzing about it, when he rang me to brag tell me about his day.
Oh, go away, I said. Laughing. I’m so pleased that he had that experience, and that he was able to share it with his colleagues.
I enjoyed all the stories on the news last night, about people watching the Transit in various places around New Zealand. The best story came from Tolaga Bay, where people were on the beach and gathered at the local school, and everyone was excited about it. What a great way to get kids enthusiastic about science, and history, and our world. Fantastic stuff.
My parents gave me that sense of joyful curiosity about the world when I was a child, and I am busy passing it on to my daughters (see for example, one of the earliest blog posts I ever wrote, about a total eclipse of the moon). It’s great to see children and adults all around the country being excited about science.
The earth moved for me. It moved for Mr Bee too. And for lots of other people in the lower North Island of New Zealand at 7am this morning. The earthquake was a long way from where we live, and about 200km deep, so even though it measured 5.7 on the Richter scale, we experienced as a small jolt and a jiggle, a mere frisson of excitement.
What I have found interesting about this earthquake is watching it being reported on GeoNet. A few minutes after the quake, I opened up the NZ Quakes app on my iPad, and got the details of scale and depth and distance. I refreshed the screen 15 minutes or so later, and as well as the earthquake being marked with an orange pin, there were orange dots appearing around it, representing reports being sent it. GeoNet asks people to fill out a report recording their experience of the quake: how they felt it, did it cause any damage, and so on. Just before 8am, the NZ Quakes app looked like this:
Description: Map of New Zealand, orange pin in the sea in the South Taranaki Bight about halfway between New Plymouth and Nelson, orange dots all along the coastline and inland from New Plymouth down to Wellington in the North Island, and across the top of the South Island from Blenheim to Takaka.
One of those orange dots is the report I sent in via the GeoNet site: New Zealand Earthquake Report – Feb 3 2012 at 7:00 am (NZDT). It’s a great exercise in crowd sourcing information, and involving ordinary people in the collection of data for science. But as well as serving a scientific purpose, I think it also meets a social need, of sharing our experiences with each other, and of feeling that we are part of a community.
More lawn art, this time created by Mr Bee.
You will be rewarded by the admiration of your peers if you can identify the subject of Mr Bee’s art work.
Previous post in this occasional series: Lawn Art
In the days after the Christchurch earthquake, one of my favourite websites stopped. SciTechDaily was seemingly paused for ever on 22 February. After a few days, a note appeared on the site: Vicki Hyde, the editor, was well, and uninjured, but there was no electricity in her area. And then nothing, except what we heard through the news.
Until Vicki’s partner Peter wrote a magnificent piece about Shower City, and Rescue City, and Refugee City. Through that piece, I learned just how difficult things were for Vicki and her neighbours.
And today, joy of joys, at last, Vicki has been able to re-start SciTechDaily. Here’s her story of what’s been happening: After the earthquake: living in an information vacuum.
If you don’t already read SciTechDaily, then I recommend it to you wholeheartedly. It’s a portal site, where Vicki posts links to fascinating science stories. I’ve been reading it ever since it started, checking in three or four times a week to read some science, just for fun. I am curious about the world and the universe I live in, and Vicki’s work enables me to pursue that interest. Through SciTechDaily, I’ve learned about bugs and stars and ancient civilisations and genetics and chemistry and…. everything and nothing. Everything because Vicki’s interests are so wide-ranging: nothing because there is so much still to be learned.
Vicki, I’m glad you’re back in action.
The rest of you – take a look at SciTechDaily.
Vibenna has put up his annual post. It’s about bureaucracy vs private business, exemplified by NASA and space exploration. Bureaucracy
My prediction – governments will be left behind. There will be private a moonbase by 2020. And the US will roar back into global pre-eminence.
It just shows that he is presently failing in his duty of making me another cup of coffee.