Monthly Archives: October 2013

We know an awful lot about nothing

Friday last week was another day of high winds so I decided on a day at home using the sewing machine.

I turned on the radio and began to listen to an interview with Professor Gerry Gilmore, a New Zealand born Astrophysicist.


He is the principal leader of the Gaia project. My ears began to prick up more when I heard that the purpose of this project is to map, in 3D, 1 billion stars and the project had begun way back in 1990. Twenty three years is a long time to plan something.

The most precise telescope ever built, with the biggest camera ever made and including 10 mirrors will be launched on Wednesday 20th November 2013 from a site in French Guiana.

The destination of this amazing piece of equipment is 150 million kilometres away in outer space. It needs to be that far away from the sun, the earth and the moon to escape the gravitational pull of these celestial bodies. In order to function at its optimum it needs a gentle, stable environment and one which is shaded so it has a sun shield as part of it.

Pictures of the silicon carbide Gaia can be found here on the Radio New Zealand website.

Apparently the universe is expanding at a rate that is too fast and I would have to say that what I went on to learn from this interview caused my mind to expand at an accelerated rate too.

Gaia will take exquisite measurements of 1 billion stars, measurements equal to measuring a shirt button on the moon from earth.
• It will measure the whole sky, find what is up there and map it.
• And all this will be in 3D. A first for mankind.
• It will measure things in the sky 80-100 times, over 3-5 years because things move and will return to be viewed.
• It will find planetary systems and weigh them.
• Gaia will accurately weigh the Milky Way.

• It is hoped that Dark Matter, which astrophysicists know exists because without it the sun would fly off into outer space, may be understood in greater detail and potentially made visible thanks to Gaia and its technology. Dark matter has mass and can be weighed…..at this point my humble sewing seemed a mere speck in the great body of human achievements.

• It is also hoped that Gaia will discover and explain remnants from the early universe and explain reality around chemical elements and their relationships to earth and human beings.

source: clipart

source: clipart

If all this is not enough it is also hoped that IF Dark Energy is out there, and currently it is just a name and not understood at all, then Gaia might advance learning on this. Super Novae will be studied, critical distance calibration will be fine- tuned and perhaps answers to why the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather too quickly will be found. Suffice to say that learning will be stretched and more questions generated and more evidence accumulated.

The interviewer drew an analogy between this project and the days of the sea-going European explorers in the 1600 and 1700’s.

When Captain James Cook set off for the southern ocean he was tasked with finding land and mapping it. Other European explorers, such as Abel Tasman had reported back that there was land so James Cook had some data to work with. He was successful in mapping the coastland of my homeland and now we have a countryman who is heading an exploration of the heavens above us, seeking a 3D map of it all.

Here is a link to the Gaia project website. I will be following progress come November 20th 2013 with great interest. It feels a real privilege to stand on the edge of such awe inspiring discoveries.

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Three Cheers for the Fire Brigade!

We had another storm hit our area yesterday with gusty winds reaching up to 140kms per hour. Normally we fare reasonably well in a North-westerly but a huge gust of wind just before 5pm last night caused an old television aerial to break loose from its metal plate which had been attached to the gable of the house. The noise of the aerial hitting the roof caused me to check around the property and finally locate the problem.

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Our neighbour has a good view of our roof and was able to reassure me that the cabling for the aerial was still intact and the aerial appeared to be wedged around another smaller, modern aerial. I called the emergency services but they were too stretched with other priorities to come and ensure the aerial was not a threat to life or property.
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However this morning the aerial had moved considerably and any cabling was no longer visible. While the wind has thankfully gone the rain is falling in a steady and heavy manner so no roof expeditions could be mounted safely.
A call to our local fire station saw this fire truck and four firemen arrive within 10 minutes of my phone call.
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They were only too happy to remove the fallen aerial and ensure everything was secure high up on the roof.
It all seemed a very simple task with their correct clothing, footwear and equipment but what really impressed me was their attention to the drills and practices that they used and which they constantly ensure are second nature to their tasks and teamwork.
Three cheers for the Fire Brigade I say!!!! And the three year olds who live across the road loved watching it all and being waved to by the friendly fire crew.

My parent’s advice

When I was a child growing up in New Zealand my parents always said that “if you are in need then ask a Policeman.” (Not so many Policewomen back then)
Today was one of those spring days in Wellington when it is brutally cold, relentlessly wet and the wind is a gale coming straight off the Antarctic ice shelf. Not much of a day for venturing out. But an appointment this morning saw me head off rugged up.

I knew that I would have some difficulty in the gusty strong wind to hold the car door open as I got in and out of the car. Car parks are notoriously narrow and it is easy to damage another car if the door swings wildly in the wind. I declined an offer of help from a family member saying I would ask a passer-by for help if I needed it.

As I returned to my car I could see that the gap was narrow to the next car and the wind was still buffeting everything in its path. I determined to seek help and who should stride past me but a policeman!!!!

Challenge solved as I asked him for help. He was more than happy to hold the door for me and would have backed the car out of the car park for me had it been necessary. We laughed about “parental advice” to ask a Policeman/Woman and after I thanked him again off he went on his beat.
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Thursday Thrushling

Do you remember my post about Mr Thrush and his endless singing back in July this year?

It would appear that his dedication and choice of aria was well rewarded. He found a mate and together they have raised this little one I spied in the Bottle Brush tree. I have seen two thrushes in the garden regularly in the past weeks and they have often been carrying beaks full of worms and now I know why.
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