Saturday, February 26, 2011

Freaky Optical Illusion

This moving pattern really messes with your vision. Very weird.

Monday, February 21, 2011

BBC - Chemistry, a volatile history

I just finished watching a 3 part BBC series by Professor Jim Al-Khalili called Chemistry, a volatile history. Orignally broadcast in 2010. I particularly enjoyed going through the stories about the discovery of some of the 92 naturally occurring elements. Above Al-Khalili holds a flask containing burning Phosphorous, the first element discovered that does not occur naturally in a pure elemental form. An alchemist was attempting to transmute Urine into Gold. It took over 1000 liters of urine to produce 60 grams of phosphorous.

The series also has the fascinating story of the creation of the periodic table and the creation of man-made elements including Plutonium.

I found the series informative and recommend watching it, especially for students who may need a bit of inspiration while studying chemistry.

BBC Page for Series

The series is available to watch on Youtube, but is annoyingly split up into 6 clips per episode, I think because of Youtube's limitations.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Big January

Canada Geese resting on the snow - Cedar Hill Cemetary, Hartford, CT

My goal for January was to see at least 90 species in CT. I didn't reach my goal, but I saw lots of good birds and managed to get outside quite a bit. I also really started using eBird, both to enter my observations and to scout out new locations where others were seeing birds in the state. The deep snow definitely hampered my efforts a bit. Many trails and nature areas didn't have their parking areas plowed and still don't.

In the course of the month I discovered a few new areas for me that I will be going back to later in the season.

One of these new areas for me was Farmington Meadows, Riverside Cemetary in Farmington. Even though I have been birding the Farmington Valley for years, I never made it over to this area before. I saw that people using eBird had been reporting various ducks there, so I went and checked it out. Even with the cold weather the Farmington River is has ice free areas, especially at the bend of the river near Riverside Cemetary. This has proven to be a reliable place to find wintering ducks. Wood Ducks especially seem to like to tuck themselves into little holes and tangles in the riverbank. The last time I visited also saw a female hooded merganser sitting on the edge of the ice preening herself. She started making low grunting noises, I think calling for the spectacular male that was downriver. He responded and flew over, landed in the water next to her then climbed up next to her like a dutiful husband.

The meadows area also has some riparian woodlands that have trails originating from Tunxis Meade Park and very large open fields on both sides of Meadow Road. Before the snow there was a group of 3 snow geese hanging out with the hundreds of Canada Geese. My last foray in the deep snow I watched 4 Wild Turkeys feeding in the fields.