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Blue hair, yellow sweater, big smile

On evaporation and blissful motion

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I am three quarters of the way through my two week precipitation experiment, which I have mostly been very good about recording. I totally forgot last night, which is a bit piss poor, to be honest. And my only excuse is that I was knackered. Oh, and we had to tighten the chain on my motorbike, which was the flappiest, crappiest thing ever. I’ve ordered a new one, and sprockets, because it’s pretty FUBAR’d.

Anyway – tonight’s precipitation was more interesting than of late; it’s been raining quite a lot, with the Met Office predicting floods because the ground is pretty saturated after the snow.

Vessel A (no funnel) now contains 20mm of water.

Vessel B (funnel) now contains 30mm of water. I also noted that the underside of the funnel was liberally coated with condensation. It’s been pretty breezy and dry today, so I am thinking that much of the water from vessel A upped and left. Either that, or my neighbours are playing silly buggers with my experiment (although it doesn’t smell of wee, so I should be thankful for that, I guess).

Evaporation interests me. I know how it happens, and why, but it still seems sort of magical. All that water contained in the air – a little like something into nothing. I love clouds too. Especially when viewed from above, because they look so solidly soft and inviting. I always find it difficult to believe that I would just plummet to a pancakey death, when it looks like I should be able to roll around in them…

But I digress. Evaporation and precipitation massively influence our planet’s climate, and temperatures. Water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas of all – I always assumed it was carbon dioxide. Clouds are a pretty efficient way to move all that water around. I also like to think of all the water that ever was just being shuffled around in different forms. A little like energy – it’s not created or destroyed, just changed.

So the experiment is almost over. I’m not sure how accurate my measurements have been – but I don’t think that’s the point. I think they want us to really think about experimental design, and observation, which I think I have done. I’ve enjoyed it, in a “back at school” kind of way. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Blissful motion

For the first time in ages, I really enjoyed my journey to work this morning. I remembered why I love my motorbike. The freedom it engenders; the thrill and the beauty of the ride. It was much warmer and drier, and I flowed through bends and past imprisoned people half asleep in their boxes. It was just bliss.


I know some people who can write. I mean really write. They’re very good, and often very funny. I’m a little envious. Not too envious though – because they actually spend time doing it. I always think I want to, but never quite do. I have ideas, but don’t write them down (ha!) and I do my thinking on the bike, or somewhere equally unsuited to making notes. And my memory is pants.

I must do better. And I must do more reading!

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Vicky Fraser, Saturday, 15 Jan 2011, 13:16)
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Blue hair, yellow sweater, big smile

An inability to stop eating chocolate and Professor Brian Cox

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Edited by Vicky Fraser, Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 09:24

This studying lark is bad. It’s bad. I never ate this much chocolate before. I think it’s a distraction technique to be honest. I sit down, there’s chocolate nearby, and it finds its way into my face. I don’t know how it does it. It may be of interest to science…

Speaking of science. I checked my precipitation gauges when I got home, and lo! there was 3mm of precipitation in each. The funnel had blown off, which I semi-predicted, but still. 3mm of shiny precipitation. And no pee. This is a Result. I dutifully recorded said measurement, stuck the funnel on with Blu-Tak and put them back outside. We’re forecast rain for the rest of my life, it seems, so I may actually get vaguely interesting results. Or at least different measurements.

I did have a little trouble measuring. I bent one of those metal tape measures at 10cm, so it starts from the bottom (if that makes sense), but I had trouble seeing the level. Would food colouring help perhaps? I’ll see. I might add some food colouring. Oh, and for my record, gauge 1 is the one without the funnel.

I’m blogging because Joe isn’t home yet. He’s on his way back from Leeds, but traffic is pants I think. So I can’t do an exercise vid, or yoga, because he has the computer and my yoga mat in the car. The blogging will turn into studying shortly. I finished chapter 2; chapter 3 is “The Earth’s Surface Temperature”. I’m hoping it’ll be a little more interesting…

Now. Last night we watched BBC’s Stargazing Live, which was great. I’m going to make a device to look at the sun on a piece of paper, and we saw great images of the eclipse that I missed because – again! – it was cloudy. But importantly, it was presented by Professor Brian Cox. I know he has a permanent smile, and he’s a little geeky. But there’s something about him. I want to cuddle him and keep him in my pocket. Ahem.

I do like him. He’s so obviously passionate about what he does. And passionate about introducing science to The Public too – and I guess why he’s always got that slightly knowing smile on his face. He’s got a job he loves, and he’s bloody lucky. And he knows it. It’s catching, too, that enthusiasm. I really hope that this course will take me somewhere near his plane of existence – in a slightly different direction, but really caring about what I’m doing.

This weekend I’m going to make that device for looking at the sun. And a pinhole camera. And win some poker money from my friends.


A small rant. Sometimes I really enjoy my job. I like the people I share an office with, and the work is generally interesting enough to keep me from screaming. But why are some people SO BLOODY RUDE? One of my colleagues (from a different department) is just obnoxious sometimes, and there is no need for it. Drives me up the wall. One day he shall be told to go forth and multiply, but that day was not today.

Why are people rude though? And mean? I mean, everyone has an off-day, feels a little grumpy and out of sorts. But not everybody is bloody rude to other people. A little kindness goes a long way. A smile, a nice word, a greeting. No snapping, no shouting, no abruptness. It spreads the love, maaaan, and keeps the world spinning smoothly. A caravan of love, if you like. My resolution is to be nicer to people, especially the ones who are rude (not least because it really annoys them). Random acts of kindness, and smiling at strangers, is the way forward.

A new song

This morning I heard “I Want You” by Elvis Costello for the first time. I didn’t even realise I had it. It hit me like a hurricane; what a song. He drags you through the emotions with him whether you want to go there or not; it’s pleasure and pain, and it is stupendous.

It's here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWt6XxP2biE

Apparently I need the album “Blood and Chocolate” now – which is where the song is from. That sounds fine to me. More chocolate; but chocolate for the soul, this time.

Peace out.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Vicky Fraser, Thursday, 13 Jan 2011, 19:10)
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Blue hair, yellow sweater, big smile

Precipitation and the art of teleportation

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I’m feeling pretty virtuous. Bank Holiday Monday, and I took down the Christmas decorations, performed an exercise video, filled the green bin with bits of unwanted garden, read and made notes (or actively read if you prefer) chapter two of Book 1 – Global Warming, and set up my precipitation gauges.

I changed my mind about the type of receptacle. I went for a couple of jam jars, but used the ex-Evian funnel in one of them. And, just to overcomplicate things, I’m going to set up two more in week two. With wax in the bottom, because I’m worried that the non-flat-bottoms will distort my results.

Yes, it’s probably not that important, but if I’m going to do the thing, I may as well do it properly. Anyway – I’ll post pictures in the next few days, and you can marvel at the positioning and sophisitication of my scientific techniques. And the messiness of my front garden. I’m hoping that my neighbours won’t have pee’d in it (more on that later).

Let’s all hope for some precipitation people. Ideally, that precipitation will come in the form of snow, but anything will do. I suspect I will rapidly lose interest if I keep going out into the cold to measure nothing.

So, a good and productive day, all in all. The book is a little slow to get going, to be honest. Every now and then there’s a box explaining what a pie chart is (for example). I’m a bit of a maths spaz, but even I’m okay with pie charts. They’re starting with basics, and so far I’m not feeling at all taxed.

Still, I’m studying again, and that makes me happy. Plus, the zombies haven’t arrived yet. This can only be A Good Thing. Particularly as we haven’t finalised the Zombie Plan yet…

Joe invited our neighbours around for mulled wine last night too. The mulled wine was yum; the neighbours entertaining, with their stories of flat-faced pigs and gigantic four-foot rabbits. Seriously, this thing’s a monster. I’ve only seen a photo, but that’s quite close enough.

He has a jet engine, which he’s promised to get going in the garden this summer. When we have a barbecue. Ha ha, I said. But no! He really does have a jet engine. Apparently it caused a bit of a ruction between him and another neighbour (not the one who likes to get naked and run around the front courtyard).

I reckon we should have a go at attaching it to a bicycle – it’ll sort out that big hill going into Radford Semele when we go to the pub. It’s a very big hill.

We chattered about this and that, and discovered that they like talking to strange people, which is grand – I also like talking to strange people, but I’m a little shy, so it’s nice to have someone to take the lead. We’ve vaguely planned a canoe trip around Anglesey. I think. I was talking about a couple of days with a tent on the Wye, but somehow we got onto sea kayaking and trips around entire islands. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I’ll give almost anything a go.

So, gossip was gossiped, threats to pee in my experiment were declared, plans were made, and we were informed that we could, in fact, attend the residents’ association meetings. Which seem to be an excuse to drink wine and gossip. It’ll be a method of getting to know the neighbours better anyway, and that must be at least partly a good thing, right?

And so to bed. Which brings me on to the teleportation aspect of this entry. We had dispatched our smaller cat, Whiskey, to the living room just before retiring. Noodle was fast asleep on the sofa. (Noodle is our cow-print cat.) Lying in bed, having a read, trying to put off the horrible return to work after ten days off – and Whiskey appeared – just appeared – on the bed next to me.

I can only conclude that she has learned to teleport. She was very smug about it too. I’m intrigued as to what else she may be up to…

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Blue hair, yellow sweater, big smile

Measuring precipitation. Oh, and happy new year...

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Welcome to 2011. Goodbye to 2010; a little sadly, as it was a great year. Packed full of fun and excitement, and chopped up into little slices of human-created time. 2011 is going to be filled with learning, as well as fun. Right now, it's grey and miserable outside, but warm and cosy in here. If a little befuddled... and so we begin.

I did say that I would begin my first experiment today - and begin it I have. This is the experiment at the end of Chapter 2 - Global warming - an interdisciplinary issue. I need to measure precipitation over two weeks (I do feel a little like I'm back at school, which to be honest is not a bad thing...) so I have Started Thinking About It.

I need two rain gauges, and I'm supposed to think about how I will measure the mean daily precipitation over two weeks. Considering the following questions:

  • What type of collecting vessel will you use for the rain gauge? Should it have a particular size or shape? Does it need some form of cover?

I need two gauges. One with a funnel, one without - in order to look at the effects of evaporation. I will use a jam jar for the funnel-less receptacle; an Evian bottle for the funnelly one (left behind after the new year celebrations by my best friend Emma). I've cut the top third of the bottle off, and inverted it to make a funnel. This also ensures that the opening of the gauge is the same size as the bottom. Although, Evian bottles are not straight-sided - so I may need to change this to a lemonade bottle with straight sides. The same principle applies though.

They need to be flat-bottomed and straight sided. So, at the suggestion of my lovely assistant Joe, I may melt some wax and cover the bottoms of the gauges with this, in order to create a flat bottom.

  • Where will you site the rain gauge?

Well. We have a back garden, but it's pretty sheltered, with overhanging trees and shrubs. And a lot of birds on our bird feeders (which is great, but I don't want them messing with my experiment!) We are lucky enough to have a front garden too, which is pretty private, and with plenty of room to site a rain gauge. So there it shall be. To the left of the front door, between the front window and the box hedge, but not too sheltered.

  • How will you measure the amount of precipitation?

I have access to rulers, which I will use. However, we also have a Vernier gauge, which will be very accurate indeed. I shall measure both inside the vessel, in the water itself, and outside the vessel.

  • How often will you record the data? Should you empty the rain gauge after each measurement?

I will measure the precipitation and record the data every day at around 6.30pm (if possible). I will not empty the rain gauge after each measurement, because it is entirely possible that some days there will not be enough to physically measure with my rulers.

  • What problems might you have in measuring the precipitation?

The amount collected may be too small to measure each day. This is one reason why I will not empty the gauge after each measurement. Measurements taken from the outside of the vessel may be distorted visually by the material. The meniscus will need to be taken into account.

I'm going to set up my gauges either tomorrow or the next day, depending on which receptacle I decide to use.

My other task is to start planning my studying time. I really need to print off a timetable of some sort and stick it on the wall. I also need a decent sized diary. I need lists, and things written down, as well as online calendars. It's like the difference between books and e-books. E-books have their uses - great for holidays when you don't want your luggage allowance taken up with books - but they are not tangible things. They don't smell. You can't really touch them. So they're not really real.

And an unreal study plan and calendar is no use to man nor beast. Nor intrepid voyager.

Study space preparation has begun. Tidying has happened. I need to make a blind or curtain. And a cushion. But I do have a very nice new lamp, courtesy of my best friend Emma (she who provided the Evian bottle). It's from Cornwall, and it's stripy, and it's bloody lovely. So now I have a comfortable study space.

Couple more pictures on the walls; a calendar; a diary; and we're almost ready to be off. Tomorrow will be spent studying Chapter 2 itself.

I wish you all a very happy new year. May it bring you everything you desire.

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