Next step Space

Stephen Hawking’s just completed a bunch of zero-G flights on a Boeing 727. All part of his grand plan to get into space. After thinking about and explaining the Universe to people for so long it must be a dream for him, and it sounds like his heart is up to it. Cool.

 Hawking amazed by weightlessness

“Space here I come,” he added, referring to his plans to fly aboard one of Richard Branson’s first Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flights, which are slated to start in 2009.”

Rotring 600

I’ve finally got the new, extra-fine nib for my old-style Rotring 600 fountain pen. Seems to be flowing well, although changing nibs was a tough operation and required a bit of experiment. It wasn’t flowing properly at first and I found I had to push it in an extra milimetre to get it going consistently. Now it writes first time. Which of course it is supposed to.

Now I just have to get used to how thin the line it creates is compared to the medium point Parker pen I was using.

In case you need fountain pen advice, here’s plenty.

Ant’s nest

Here’s a shot of a hidden world. This plaster cast is of the INSIDE of a Florida Harvester Ant’s nest. It has 135 chambers and 12 meters of vertical shafts. Quite an architecture.

I liked this quote, which gives such a societal feeling to the colony. Basically they’re saying the young ants work at the deeper end, while the old ants stay near the surface:
“Carbon dioxide concentrations increased 5-fold between the surface and the depths of the nest. A preference of young workers for high carbon dioxide concentrations, and a tendency for workers to dig more under low carbon dioxide concentrations could explain both the vertical age-distribution of workers, and the top-heaviness of the nest’s architecture.”

“A plaster cast of a large Pogonomyrmex badius nest. This nest consisted of 135 chambers and 12 meters of vertical shafts. The top-heavy distribution of chamber area and spacing is typical for the species, as are the helical shafts and the decrease of chamber size with depth (photo by Charles Badland).”

Limited exposure

I’ve abandoned my $2000+ worth of camera equipment in favor of my free cellphone camera (a 2MP Orange M3100). This is partially an effort to take more photos again by using a device that is already always with me, but there’s actually something really challenging about learning the limits of such a simple piece of equipment, and something very stylised about the type of shots it takes that I really like. It must be a bit like taking shots with a Lomo or a Lensbaby, both of which produce a very specific ‘look’ in their output.

The main challenge with the cellphone is the simplicity of its exposure. You have to be very careful about where you point the lens otherwise you easily end up with over exposed or under exposed areas. There’s no capacity, of course, for locking the exposure on the part of the subject that you care about, then moving the lens to re-frame the subject. The subject just has to go wherever the exposure looks best.

The other challenge is low light. It produces a blurry image very easily. It has a simple flash which is actually not bad for filling with a little light, but it’s pretty limited.

One nice feature is that the lens has a macro mode. The macro shots from it can actually be really great (with the right light of course).

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with the results. You can’t search by camera brand on Flickr, unfortunately, but most of my recent shots are taken with this camera/phone.