The power of words

This video is quite spectacular! and addresses a very important point. Words have power, the power to build and the power to destroy. BUT they can also be meaningless…

Consider your words and the power they hold. Sometimes we fail to say the things we want to, the things we need to, to the people we care about. Sometimes the lack of words has greater impact than words themselves. Do you sometimes not say what you think just to keep the peace? because what you need to say is not what someone “wants” to hear? Do you speak false words, words without meaning, ghost words- echoed from behind a mask? A mask that portrays what people expect to see and not always what really is…

A few kind words is all it takes to make someone else’s day 🙂

A bigger, older version of earth!

NASA’s Kepler mission has just announced some exciting news! Yes, a new near-Earth-size (NES) planet has been described- it’s name Kepler-452b. What is special about this discovery is that it is the smallest NES planet described so far. Kepler-452b is orbiting the habitable zone of a sun (Kepler-452) much like our own, in terms of size (~10% larger diameter), brightness (~20% brighter) and temperature! The planet itself is about 60% times the size of Earth and has an orbit of 385 days around its sun. While NASA still needs to determine the composition of the planet, previous research suggests that there is a good chance that the planet is indeed rocky. Another interesting aspect- the newly discovered planet is older than earth at 6 billions years. That in itself is exciting as this has allowed ample time for the development of life, especially given that the conditions are so similar to what we have in our own system. Because Kepler-452b occurs in the habitable zone of its sun, this means that water has the potential to pool on the surface of the planet.

We will have to wait and see what we can learn from Earth’s older, bigger cousin as NASA continues to analyse the data!

Happiness…the reason for living?

During the course of the last few days a few experiences have made me think a lot about life and relationships in general. My first instinct now was to create a joke and in some way detract from this very serious kind of post. Because, let’s face it, we like to read things that make us smile, or brighten our day in some small way, perhaps even in a way that is lost on the next person. We often avoid the “deeper” things or trivialise them because for some reason being “deep” is often looked down upon. I think we avoid expressing some of our deeper contemplations because we are insecure about them, maybe we fear them, perhaps we even think that revealing these parts of ourselves open us up to attack. Now I do not mean physical attack but these are things that some people do not really talk about, we all think about them right? (questions if he is normal).

BUT, what I like to read is something that makes me stop, think and take stock of how I view the world. So here goes 🙂

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Wilderness destinations you have to visit!

I have always suffered from a fairly serious case of wanderlust. Although as of yet I have not had the opportunity to formally pursue many of these cravings… As a result I have taken up living vicariously through others until such time as I can go on adventures of my own (uhm meant to be read as when I develop the ability to grow money!). Don’t get me wrong, I have been incredibly lucky growing up with parents who exposed me to many beautiful places all around South Africa (Thank you Mom and Dad!), wanderlustbut I have always had this urge to see more. Experience the majestic wild of some far off country, be it the rainforests of Papua New Guinea ,Equatorial Africa, or Tasmania. Where you are enveloped by the forest and all around you are ancient trees and wilderness which for the most part is virtually untouched by mankind. That to me is a thrilling thought! Yes these rainforests are usually occupied by a multitude of critters of the spidery and slithering kind- who are often quite dangerous, BUT lets not dwell on those aspects haha. I imagine staring up at the canopy above me, the light creeping in creating shadows wherever I look. I imagine the humidity lapping at my skin and the sounds of the forest orchestra all around, the hum of insects the basetrack.  I smell the damp leaf litter and hear the leaves crack and twigs snap softly under my weight. I imagine the luscious air free of pollution and also staring out across the carpet of green. Trees the units of this puzzle! What I would give to sit and watch the sun rise and the forest wake up, to see the clouds drift gently across the horizon, gently blanketing the canopy. I can picture the stream gurgling by, softly caressing the rocks as the water flows determinedly -imperfectly perfect pebbles evidence of eons of weathering.

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Norway rocks!

Amazing pictures!

On top of the world

Norway is never just Norway.

DSC_0966 Lonely rock, balancing on the top

We had to revisit the magnificent views of the north in order to find back temperature sensors that we had left scattered through the mountains. It made for three days of walking, camping and working in one of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen.

DSC_0631 Birch tree surviving on a smooth steep slope

I was in particular impressed by the wide variety of rock formations that defined the landscape. Rocks are truly reigning in the north – at least in the summer season – and the vegetation has to adapt to their moods.

DSC_0593 Meltwater river forcing us to jump

We also had to subject to their power and clamber up and down the slopes to find back our sensors. It made for exciting adventures and some tricky balancing excercices, but it was definitely worth every second of the experience.

DSC_0744 Impressive rock formation in…

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0.5 Love…

Something a little different today- a poem, and an expression of emotions. Some people find it therapeutic to write down their feelings. This is something I wrote last year, except the last few verses are new. That is why I feel now it is truly finished and I am ready to share it. I know it is quite gloomy, but life cannot always be full of good. It is the struggles and the hard times that shape who we are. This is just part of the Odyssey that is life… 🙂

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You know nothing…Jon Snow and graduate school

Did you finish the title by ending with Jon Snow? Its ok, I forgive you and I am sympathetic to your plight! The series is hard not to get caught up in.

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When embarking on a new degree, in a new field or one which is fairly different to your existing background- this may (probably will if you are human) ignite feelings of inadequacy causing you to doubt yourself and your abilities. You may even go so far as to think, I know nothing…Which is of course not true, but tell that to your over-active, woe-me, the sky is falling brain! But do not despair, everyone goes through these feelings, unless you are blissfully ignorant or in denial or simply have an extraordinarily healthy ego.

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A great discovery!

For the past few hours I have been completely absorbed listening to This American Life! A friend posted a link to it and while I will be honest and say that I have never heard of it before I am very much impressed by both the quality and content of each story!

I strongly believe that listening to this kind of thing is extremely important! not only because it makes you more aware of what is going on in the world around you but instead of just being exposed to the information it actually provokes some thinking and thus some interaction with what you are hearing. A skill which most people seem to lack in modern times. In science the ability to take in information and process it into something useable is critical.

Plus- it is a great thing to keep you occupied while doing some mundane task such as data analysis or data compilation!

Give it a listen, you will not regret it!

I suggest starting with: The incredible rarity of changing your mind

Wesley 🙂

Co-evolution, the answer to world hunger?

9.5 BILLION- That is likely what the global population of humans will be by the year 2050. Is that not far away? Do I need to be concerned about this?

Well yes, you should be. As much as it would be convenient, there are unfortunately a finite supply of resources on planet earth and these are running out. Scientists warn that ecological systems are approaching critical thresholds or “tipping points” beyond which alterations to these systems due to human induced impacts will result in runaway, irreversible changes (1).

In 1964, Peter Raven and Paul Erhlich published a study which introduced the concept of coevolution (More information on coevolution) and now five decades later, with the science community taking a renewed interest in coevolution we see a return to butterflies and some fascinating work being done on understanding the mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon (2).

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How Long Does Your Writing Take?

A very useful trick to overcoming procrastination!

Academic Life

Let me ask you a quick question. Do you normally read in bed before falling asleep every night? If so, how long do you read for?

candleI certainly do. Yet, I only manage to put together five or six pages at most before abandoning myself into Morpheus’ arms. The whole process probably takes me 15-20 minutes every night and, as a positive side effect, I have noticed that the quality of my sleep is far better than if I tried to fall asleep without reading.

But I am digressing…

So, here is my point:

I have managed to read lots of books in my life, just by spending a few minutes every night reading only a few pages!

This is remarkable for me because all too often I have a strong tendency to wait for the perfect circumstances, the perfect settings, the perfect time, before actually getting a start…

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