With thanks to CSIRO Science by Email. Scientists have discovered a new Australian dinosaur, and it’s a big one! Several giant bones, some over one metre long, were uncovered near the town of Winton in central Queensland. But what’s got scientists all worked up isn’t what it looks like: it’s where it came from.
Scientists have named the new dinosaur Savannasaurus elliottorum. It was a big, four-legged plant eater, and looked a bit like a brontosaurus. Savannasaurus was as tall as a giraffe, but much heavier.
Fossils from big plant-eating dinosaurs can be found in many places around the world. Some are up to 150 million years old! Several different species are found in Australia, but they only date back to 100 million years ago. Scientists think that these Australian dinos, including Savannasaurus, might be recent arrivals from another continent. Their best guess is that Savannasaurus came from South America.
So how did Savannasaurus get to Australia? They probably walked! During the time of the dinosaurs, the world was a very different place. South America and Australia were both much closer to Antarctica. And that means there may have been dry land linking the three continents.
The world of the dinosaurs was also a lot warmer than today. Antarctica was covered in trees, not ice. Up to around 100 million years ago, it was still pretty cold, but then global warming kicked in. A warmer world might have allowed Savannasaurus to migrate to Australia, along with other large dinosaurs.
We still have plenty to learn from Savannasaurus. We don’t know how far it spread, or how long it lived until it became extinct. Even the story of how it got here is just a best guess. But it’s pretty cool imagining Australia 100 million years ago, filled with giant dinosaurs!
Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.
The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.
Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.
The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.
From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.
It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.
It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.
It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.
The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.
From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.
And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.
Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.
In the immediate aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Yasi in the Tully area, North Queensland, June Perkins took to documenting the story of resilience of the people around her. In the process of this documentation, June was one of the people activating resilience-building activities for the community.
The stories she tells in “After Yasi – Finding the Smile Within” are simple, almost pedestrian, and so are, in style, a commentary on the paradox of an ordinariness of the community spirit that seems quite extraordinary. These straightforward stories shine a light on the vulnerability of people who have had their lives turned on their heads in one day of environmental violence.
The poems that people wrote for the book are similarly simple and authentic, a sharing of lives finding their way out of the struggle to making it work again.
Throughout June’s photography captures both the devastation and the recovery, and, in the recovery, the beauty and the friendships.
Having an interest in contemporary dance, I particularly appreciated that one of the recovery events that June documented was a dance workshop run by local dancer Danielle Wilson. Contemporary dance is still a less well-developed community art form in Australia, so it was great to see it working for the community in resilience building. When the world shows us that, rather than being stable and faithful, it can be unstable and fickle, it often attacks the very core of our identity. In that attack, the body and mind can need the experience of revisiting the feeling of the event and the aftermath. Often it can be difficult to express in words what is showing up for the body. Facilitated contemporary dance can allow the mind to honor what the body is expressing and then generating a new story, a new future as a reconstituted identity and self-assurance. Contemporary dance also brings bodies and minds together, so that the sharing of experience and a new future with others, restores faith in that our true stability and support and our tomorrow is in the people around us.
Just finished listening to this talk back with Melbourne restaurateur and youth mentor Peter Coronica. Peter has employed over 1000 young people over the last 25 years.
He says parents play a vital role in preventing youth unemployment by getting kids off the sports ground, out of music class and into paid work as early as possible.
While broadly supporting Peter’s premise and experience, I took some exception to his ‘priorities’, wondering where those choices that he made, came from. Over the years i have read and listened to an array of educational experts and my conclusion is that a learning culture shows up with these characteristics that are applicable from 0 – 99 year:
Mimicry and modelling;
socialization, community engagement, and empowerment;
exposure to the natural environment;
building a knowledge base;
I realise that many of these characteristics come from people who have spent their career on one of these items as has Peter Coronica. And their individual focus tends, i think to skew that characteristic from its appropriate expression as within a wholistic framework constructed from all characteristics.
There is more I can say specifically about this framework for age appropriate development and learning, however the framework implies a great deal of change in the structure of education, learning, culture, productivity and economics. However, i believe it is the surer future for our children and young people: to have it all.
With thanks to CSIRO Science by Email for this wonderful series of science updates. I like seeing my friend, Denise Hardesty, reported below, for her work on sea trash.
MOTH’S EYES MAKE BETTER SUNGLASSES
Despite their tendency to circle light bulbs, moths have eyes that are designed for darkness. Each eye has a bumpy pattern that stops light reflecting off the surface, possibly helping the moth see in the dark and hide from predators.
For years, scientists have been trying to replicate the effect. They hope that adding a similar pattern to electronic devices could prevent glare when sunlight hits your TV, computer screen or phone. It could also make solar panels more efficient by reducing how much light bounces off them, while stopping any dazzling reflections.
There’s been some success. Extremely tiny shapes, similar to those found in a moth’s eye, have been made using metals, silicon and plastics. Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, recently described how to etch a pattern of nano-sized cones on Teflon, the non-stick material famously found on frying pans.
After coating a thin film of Teflon with a layer of tiny polystyrene balls, they exposed it to a corrosive chemical. The polystyrene partially protected the Teflon, leaving millions of tiny nanocones etched into the surface. In the process, the Teflon film turned from transparent to white, a sign that light was being scattered. Then they added a thin layer of gold to the cones. To their surprise and, at first, concern, they noticed what looked like soot had appeared on the surface. In fact, the material had turned black and was antireflective, bouncing less than one per cent of incoming light.
As well as reducing glare, the aptly named black gold also conducts electricity and repels water. It seems the magnificent moth eye has much to teach us.
GHOST NETS AND TURTLES
There are seven threatened species of marine turtle and we have six of them here in Australia. One of the threats to turtle species is marine debris – waste that humans throw away that has made its way into the ocean. Waste affects turtles in two ways – either they mistake it for food, or they get tangled up in it
Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned at sea. These nets continue to travel through the ocean, trapping and entangling turtles. These nets are very hard to escape from and can drift in the ocean for decades, catching protected turtles and other marine species.
Scientists from CSIRO are working with GhostNets Australia and Indigenous rangers to identify areas where turtles are most at risk. The researchers use models based on ocean currents to identify areas that are likely to have a high number of ghost nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria and to find out where turtles are most likely to get caught up in these nets. The team is also working with schools and citizen scientists to survey beaches for litter. The data will help them identify where efforts to clean up nets and marine debris will have the greatest impact.
CSIRO’s Dr Denise Hardesty is leading the research and says, “The best way to tackle marine debris is to stop it from entering our oceans. Together we can all make a difference.” Simple things such as recycling and picking up litter can go a long way in protecting the future of marine turtles!
An exploding star is called a supernova. The big blast can leave behind a pulsar, which is a kind of neutron star. A pulsar spins very fast and sends energy to Earth, in the form of radio waves. As the pulsar beam passes repeatedly over the Earth, like the spotlight of a lighthouse, the pulsar appears to be blinking.
A pulsar is sometimes known as the ‘clock’ of the universe. Just as the Earth spins on its axis every 24 hours, a pulsar spins at a constant speed. Scientists measure the speed of a pulsar by how often Earth receives a ‘pulse’ of radio waves.
With the help of CSIRO’s Parkes telescope, and another telescope in South Africa, a group of researchers noticed that one pulsar was spinning slower than usual. The pulsar is located in the constellation of Puppis and is estimated to be 37 000 light-years from Earth. One possible explanation for the decrease in speed is that a large rocky object – such as an asteroid – hit the pulsar. Scientists estimate that the asteroid weighed a billion tonnes and could have been created when the star exploded!
CSIRO’s Dr Ryan Shannon suggests that the pulsar may have reacted to the collision by zapping the asteroid, causing it to vaporise. The vaporised particles that are left behind are electrically charged. These particles cause the pulsar to spin more slowly, changing the shape of the radio waves received by Earth.
It has been said that time heals all wounds. The ‘clock’ of the universe is expected to return to its original spinning speed once those pesky particles pass!
Just as plants grow and develop, so does technology. The combination of these two fields has given rise to ‘nanobionics’. This exciting field could lead to pollution-free machines and a better understanding of our environment.
Plants make their own food by photosynthesis, a process which takes place in tiny sub-units of cells called ‘chloroplasts’. A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology inserted nanoparticles into the chloroplasts of plants, boosting their ability to capture light energy. As well as supercharging photsosynthesis, the researchers discovered a second superpower – the treated plants glowed when exposed to infra-red light!
The team also noticed that the glow stopped when the plant was exposed to nitric oxide – a pollutant commonly produced by cars. The plants acted as chemical sensors, the glow fading in response to the pollutant.
Professor Michael Strano, lead researcher of the study, foresees wide application of bionic plants in our society. He hopes that nanoparticle technology will enable plants to produce energy for other functions – limited only by our imagination.
While there is still more research to be done, our future looks brighter, safer and greener. It won’t be long before bionic plants are lighting up our streets and monitoring our environment!
It was found by accident. “I was actually trying to use a mould [casting] process to make a really nice flat lens,” says Steve Lee, a physicist and engineer at the Australian National University. “It didn’t work very well, I was very disappointed. At the same time I left a drop in the oven overnight and it formed a really nice curvature.”
Tough and rubbery, the drop had some interesting properties, but Steve didn’t think much of it until he talked to Tri Phan, a doctor working in the microscopy division at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research. “He got excited,” says Steve.
The lens simply sticks onto a smartphone camera to provide instant magnification. Steve is now talking to dermatologists who think this tiny lens could track suspicious moles in case they change shape. Farmers could use it to identify pests, perhaps uploading photos to biosecurity agencies.
There are several ways to make a lens. Steve’s process uses only an oven and a polymer called polydimethylsiloxane, the strong, scratch-resistant material found in soft contact lenses. A drop is placed on a glass microscope slide and flipped upside down. Gravity and surface tension pull the droplet into the shape of a lens
After the accidental discovery, Steve wanted to make the lens better. “I thought maybe I could try layering. I did it again and again until I had refined the time, the sequence steps, how much to drop … Each drop reduces the focal length and increases the magnifying power,” says Steve. “The highest magnification strength we can get is 160 times, resolving four micron [four thousandths of a millimetre] structures.”
The lenses might find use in developing countries as they cost only a cent in material and all you need to make them is an oven. Steve says they are so easy to make you could do it at home. He suggested you could make one with gelatine by experimenting with different viscosities, and it works! See this week’s activity to make your own jelly lens and try sticking it on a smartphone.