Monthly Archives: July 2013

Close …


… but not too close.   (Click for the gallery)


Good news, bad news


Here’s the good news:  being fat isn’t only about greed, diet and exercise.  Here’s the bad news:  being fat isn’t only about greed, diet and exercise.

Fat, fate and disease is the ‘popular’ summary-so-far of research being conducted in Southampton and New Zealand, and linked to projects from all points in between.  The authors are studying epigenetics – specifically, the way environmental cues switch on and off the genes for subtle metabolic pathways during fœtal development, leading to later life obesity and a propensity to Type II diabetes and cardiovascular risk.

One would expect that obese mothers produce babies who tend to become fat children and adults; it is more surprising that undernourished mothers also produce babies who tend to become fat children and adults.  Add the interesting facts that first-born children often have a metabolic tendency towards fatness, whatever their mother’s nutritional status and no matter what later siblings are like, and that the average number of children per UK family is now 1.7, and you have some sinister statistics.  Now think of China.

According to Gluckman and Hanson, only improvements in women’s nutrition before they ever become pregnant can make a difference, which will in some cultures require a social revolution.  Meantime, the obesity epidemic is becoming a global pandemic.  And diet and exercise are not going to fix it.

(Any resemblance between the typography and a well-known logo is, I am sure, entirely accidental ...

Any resemblance between the typography and a certain well-known logo is, I am sure, entirely accidental …

Hugging a jam-jar


The soft fruit is cropping.  It’s years since I had a decent pick of redcurrants, though the blackcurrants are usually reliable.  The gooseberries aren’t as big and juicy as last year (one species that loves the rain) but as payoff they have sweetened up in the sunshine.


I earned all the fruits above the hard way; spines and spiders in the gooseberries, ants all over the blackcurrants, and brambles threading their way treacherously through the redcurrants.  Heat stroke threatened again.  I applied the anti-hot-water-bottle.


Looking for ghosts


Exasperation.  A hot dusty wind wobbled the scope and the sky, one of the big primary mirror screws fell out with a sinister clunk and the laser collimator is bust.

In spite of all which, and the gibbous moon, and the long twilight, the 10″ showed me Saturn with banding on the planet, shadows from the rings, the Cassini Division, and at least three moons – in moments between wobbles.

Then I went hunting for ghost craters in Oceanus Procellarum.

Not for observing


Last night was not a good one for observing:  long summer twilight, thick atmosphere, and waxing gibbous moon, so forget trying to find anything subtle.  But it was WARM and only clothing required was sandals, jeans, t-shirt and insect-repellent.

The moon began the evening white in a blue sky, became dazzling silver in a dark sky, and ended as hot apricot as it sank through a strange reddish haze (though the sun was long gone).  Even in the 5-inch it always looks good.

Here is the best snapshot.  This time Sinus Iridium and Plato were in the sharper part of the eyepiece image, and the intensely cratered southern highlands were in the fuzzy part. This was a pity, as the arc of diminishing craters within Clavius has the satisfying quality of a row of Russian dolls.  I have turned the photo ‘right way up’ and now it looks most peculiar to my own eyes (reflector telescopes flip everything top to bottom).

(click for a larger image)

(click for a larger image)