Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dance Your Thesis

Science research is important but let's face it—PhD theses can be very inaccessible to the general public.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  For several years, Andrew and I have looked forward to Science's "Dance Your Ph.D." contest.  The competition, in its fourth year, encourages graduate students to create dance videos that explain their research.  The results are often wacky, usually hilarious, and mostly educational.

Why am I telling you about this?  Because this year's winner in the Physics category is from Australia! 

Video embedded above (if you're looking at this blog in Reader, you may have to open the post to see the video). 

Even if you're not interested in physics, the video is worth checking out for its sheer creative brilliance and comedic impact.  You'll also learn a little bit about how titanium is used in bone replacements.

Floriade - A Festival of Flowers

Floriade is a flower festival held every spring in Canberra. The main attraction is the flower beds which have a new theme every year.  This year's theme was A Feast for the Senses. In addition to the flowers, there are musical performances, a crafts market, and amusements for kids, such as spinning tea cups and  a Ferris Wheel.  It's a pretty big deal in the city.  As in, at least ten people have asked me, "Have you been to Floriade yet?"  (Ten people is pretty much my entire collection of friends/acquaintances so far.)

Drew and I went to the festival earlier this month and we spent an afternoon walking around the grounds.  We saw heaps of blooming tulips.  It reminded me of the spring gardens on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.  We saw twirling fairy ladies on stilts, a group of old men playing ukeleles, and a street organ.  We browsed the market, and bought some local, raw honey (good for allergies!) and three jars of herbal tea.  I drooled over gourmet chocolate and type-writer key jewelry.

  And here are two of my favorite things from the day...

Birdcage lights!  Floriade has a bunch of nighttime concerts and events, so they strung bulbs in birdcages and hung them on trees to light the way.  The effect was very whimsical.

Cabbage beds.  These were tucked in next to the tulips and pansies, reminding everyone that flower beds can be beautiful as well as nutritious.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Koalas and Wallabies and 'Roos, Oh My!

Last Saturday, Drew and I ventured 40 minutes south of Canberra to Tidbinbilla, a nature reserve and national park.  Several of our friends had recommended it and, thanks to Mia Kia, we finally had the wheels to take the trip.  After a nice drive through the rural outskirts of Canberra, we arrived at the Welcome Center, signed up for an annual pass (only $30!), and started our hike.

The weather couldn't decide if it wanted to be sunny or rainy, but we didn't mind a little bit of rain.  Especially since the guide book touted kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and platypuses.*

Over the course of our day, here's what we saw:
  • kangaroos (at least 100)
  • one koala, curled up into a ball and sleeping in the crook of a tree
  • one shy Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby
  • several Swamp-wallabies
  • kookaburras
  • magpie geese
  • an emu
  • ducks, loons, and a grebe

Sadly, we didn't see any platypuses, probably because of the rain.  However, we found the spot where they are normally seen and we're "mustard keen"** to go back and try again.

*Platypuses - Did you know that there is no scientifically correct pluralization of platypus?  Scientists use both "platypuses" and "platypus" to signify multiples.  However, "platypi" has found its way into the common lexicon.  A quick Wikipedia search told me that platypi is a pseudo-Latin term and that if we were to use the Greek translation it would be "platypodes."

**Mustard Keen - An interesting phrase that I heard someone use the other day.  Apparently, it has its origins in Olde English.