The Shark and the Albatross.

Price (as of writing): £8.99

Publisher Synopsis: 

For twenty years John Aitchison has been travelling the world to film wildlife for the BBC and other broadcasters, taking him to far-away places on every continent. The Shark and the Albatross is the story of these journeys of discovery, of his encounters with animals and occasional enterprising individuals in remote and sometimes dangerous places. His destinations include the far north and the far south, expeditions to film for Frozen Planet and other natural history series, in Svalbard, Alaska, the remote Atlantic island of South Georgia, and the Antarctic. They also encompass wild places in India, China and the United States. In all he finds and describes key moments in the lives of animals, among them polar bears and penguins, seals and whales, sharks and birds, and wolves and lynxes.

He reveals what happens behind the scenes and beyond the camera. He explains the practicalities and challenges of the filming process, and the problems of survival in perilous places. He records touching moments and dramatic incidents, some ending in success, others desperately sad. There are times when a hunted animal triumphs against the odds, and others when, in spite of preparation for every outcome, disaster strikes. And, as the author shows in several incidents that combine nail-biting tension with hair-raising hilarity, disaster can strike for film-makers too.

This is natural history writing at its absolute best, evocative, informative and gripping from first to last.

Thoughts

I read this book following on from reading the Great Soul of Siberia, and it is along a similar vein to it. Both books take you on journeys to places on the globe you may not normally be able to visit, and through extraordinary writing describe in extreme detail what is found there. The Shark and the Albatross is a lot more varied, in that it takes you further (through India, the Arctic, America and so many other places), but it covers these visits in less detail. You also don't get as deep of a story with each of them, but more a snapshot - which is surprisingly apt for a book about nature photography. I enjoyed the book, but I did find that by separating out the different locations into different chapters throughout the book it didn't follow on as easily - I found myself having to return back to a previous chapter to reread it. Regardless, it was a very beautiful book to read and I would recommend it greatly.

Christmas and New Years!

I just wanted to take this time to wish everyone a very (late) Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year +6! I hope everything over the last year went well, and that the year ahead will be even better!

ChemKit is currently in hiatus as I have mock exams coming up and other work to do (dreaded coursework soon, the problem of doing science A Levels!). I am also thinking of writing some sort of population simulator to aid with biology - think of it as in you have a population of say 100 organisms who have different genetic fingerprints (say 20 digits long). Each digit has a specific advantage or disadvantage, and they may affect each other in different ways. Sexual reproduction could be shown through the combination of different genetics to produce offspring, and through probabilities the likelihood of a member reaching sexual maturity could be shown, hence showing inheritance. I could then have certain factors which could change (and maybe be affected by the organisms - ie a lot of organisms might lead to an increase in temperature) which would then show selection. As the different genes would be interfering it could mean that many solutions are stable (think of it like equation solutions) and this could show speciation as the populations diverge.

In terms of reading, recently I have read "Life's Greatest Secret" by Matthew Cobb, "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, "Human Universe" by Brian Cox and "The Secret War" by Max Hastings. I enjoyed each of these books, and looking back on it now I have apparently been reading quite varied recently. I am currently reading "All Hell Let Loose" by Max Hastings, and I am going to be reading "The Mysterious World of the Human Genome" by Frank Ryan, "Life Unfolding" by Jamie A. Davis, and possibly having a reread of Metro 2033.

Anyway, as said, I hope you all had a nice Christmas and have a brilliant new year.

 

Some Project Updates.

Since I began this blog I have mentioned many projects I planned to start, but have not yet followed up on them. I thought I would take this time to just give a brief overview of the main ones: SERO, Coulomb, and DeepNeurone. I am also going to talk about a new project of mine.

DeepNeurone

Recently my internet connection dropped out so I had a chance to work on DeepNeurone. Unfortunately due to the scope of the project it is unlikely I will get a working worm brain, let alone a human brain. I have, however, managed to write a computer program which is able to have neurones, synapses, spikes, rebalancing and reduction. If you look at the largeish output file below you can see the output of one of the runs.

In the run I aimed to create 50 neurones with synapses between them. The program prints out this layout but it is largely rubbish - it is just a random network the machine came up with. It then generates the thing you see in the file. This takes about 5 minutes to run. In initial runs it generally worked itself to a stable area (after about 30 runs) in which the most neurones it could fire were firing, but every neurone fired another which fired another which fired the original - basically, it wasn't moving. Then I thought that maybe it needs some random firings added in - so I made it randomly flip a neurone every once in a while. This produces the pattern you see.

output_massive

PROJECT SERO

This has largely gone on the back burner - I do not have the time, energy, or money to work on this project. It does not seem to have much use at the moment, as any components for it I am able to fabricate will generally not be powerful enough. Maybe in the future.

coulomb

Yet again, mainly on the back burner. I might revisit this, but the majority of the code has just become unorganised. The simulation basically devolved very inaccurately due to the floating point issues I ran into.

And finally, some good news - TBD CHemkit.

The final entry on this list is a new project. I have no idea what to call it yet, but it is quite an interesting idea. I do chemistry, and occasionally I need to balance an equation, calculate a reactions products or do atom economy/percentage yield calculations. This can get a bit overwhelming (and I have a paper shortage :D), but the majority of tools I have found are generally either expensive or just drawing tools. My idea is to write a custom built chemistry program whereby you can enter some products, some reactants, and it can calculate the molar ratios. It can then operate on this and work out atom economies, etc. Eventually I hope to make it be able to work out reaction products (but this could be hard - I can see how I could do it for simple compounds, but as you get larger it would be difficult). I have no idea if this will be a command line program, a website (might be nice?) or a GUI app. Should be fun regardless.