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tag: nature

A Dove In The Bell Jar

Next month at the Greenwich Gallery, my significant other Julia has a solo exhibition of her photomicrography practice. With a laboratory-grade microscope and digital SLR camera, she explores the hidden microworlds of cellular biology, crystallography, and more.

Alongside a whole series of aluminium-mounted prints, she will be in the gallery on Saturdays and Sundays with the microscope, projecting a live video feed of microscopic specimens onto a plasma display.

You want something teeny looking at? Bring it down.

A Dove In The Bell Jar
Greenwich Gallery
London, SE10 8RS
21 June 3 July 2013

For much more, check out the eponymous blog: A Dove In The Bell Jar

Bird migrations tracked over 5,000mi with 1.5g sensors

Read a couple of weeks ago but forgotten until now: the IHT reports on a Science article [subscription required] in which Toronto researchers track the migration patterns of birds over thousands of miles, using tiny backpacks that are light enough for songbirds to carry but still accurate enough to track movement remotely within a few miles.

One of their key novel findings is the distance that such birds can travel in one day: up to 370 miles, much larger than previously thought.

One boggles at the potential future uses of such technologies.

Swarm: Nature's Incredible Invasions


It's a modest new year's resolution of mine to make more of the bountiful resource that is BBC's iPlayer. Thanks to a tip-off from my folks, this was kicked off with last night's Swarm: Nature's Incredible Invasions: When Worlds Collide (baffling double-colon reproduced verbatim; watchable till 19 Jan 2009). Narrated by David Tennant, this nature documentary "reveals the awe-inspiring world of animal swarms", using a wide range of footage including aerial footage from within insect and bird flocks to illustrate its point.

Given that the subject matter is of such interest to me, it was a disappointing way to begin my iPlayer experience: in both tone and focus, it bore more resemblance to a US car-chase shock-doc than to the informative Attenborough fare that is more the norm for the BBC. Tossing aside any biological insights, it was merely a catalogue of the devastation that swarms can wreak on man and nature, albeit with some highly impressive film and stats to back it up -- one particularly striking scene showed amateur video of an Australian farmer lifting up a piece of corrugated iron to reveal a heaving throng of thousands of mice, like woodlice under a particularly large rock. Why not discuss the complex communications the determine the movements of killer bees, rather than just whacking on some gory footage of bee stings? Why not mention, even in passing, the stunning and unlikely evolutionary advantage given by the 17-year cycle of periodic cicada breeding? Here's hoping that next week's followup provides more in the way of factual background.

One feature that I did enjoy -- and another that it shared with the aforementioned US cop shows -- was its extensive use of amateur video, including mobile phone and camcorder footage of suburban infestations, accompanied by token doltish mumblings ("See that tree right there? It has.. lots and lots of cicadas on it."). It also featured the great sight of an endless stream of cars ploughing over a highway strewn with migrating land crabs. Yet, to really hammer home the point that this is AMATEUR FOOTAGE, the production company saw fit to superimpose illusory phone facias onto the wobbly video. Why?!

Fake phone