Category Archives: Science & Engineering

Recollections of an interview with Kim Hill, which saw me talking about my arthritis on national radio.

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A closer look at the Britten 1100 motorcycle

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A visit to a romantic ghost town gives one impression: a Google search quite a different picture.  A few weeks back, the Nelson camera club organised a field trip to Reefton.  Someone suggested we look at Waiuta, a historic mining town near Ikamatua.  Wikipedia describes Waiuta  as “one of New Zealand’s most popular ghost towns and a great tourist attraction” and the entry continues in rather romantic and nostalgic terms.

Waiuta grew up around a gold mine, starting in 1905 and continuing for almost 50 years. At its peak there were 600 people living there, but here’s the scene today:


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A few weeks back the Nelson Camera Club had a field trip, led by member Daniel W.  The idea was to learn about night sky photography.  Initially, fairly thick clouds blocked our view.  Rather than go home early, we stopped off at a (fireproof) location and played with some light painting.  Sandra J showed us what can be done with steel wool and matches (more on that later in this post.

Eventually however the sky cleared up and we headed off to the Boulder Bank.  My best effort was very satisfying:


That was taken with a DX lens, the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8,  on a full frame Nikon D700.  You see see a bit of distortion towards the edges, but otherwise it’s fairly sharp.

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I’ve been very busy for the past few weeks on a project.  This Christmas we will be sharing with our 1 1/2 year old grandson and I wanted to mark the occasion with a special present.  I managed to get it built with a couple of days to spare, despite some setbacks.  Here it is:


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In the last couple of days there has been news of a number of people admitted to hospital in Tauranga with shellfish poisoning. There have been warnings out for some time now, advising people to avoid shellfish from the area after tests showed PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) toxins were present.  It might be coming from a  microalgae called Alexandrium catanella.


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I had a stimulating day on Tuesday, photographing students and their projects at the annual Cawthron Science and Technology Fair.  It took a long time, I spent too much time talking with them about their work rather than getting on with the (voluntary) job.  But it was great fun, they are an interesting lot.  The range of projects was impressive.  Some were high-tech, based around their iPads, iPods etc:

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A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of the local branch of IPENZ. The speaker was Bryan Leyland, a consultant in the energy sector with very strong views on a number of global issues. Then the May/June issue of  Engineering Insight contained an opinion piece by  Leyland covering similar ground. In his view, for example:

  • The world has plentiful resources (fossil fuels, food).
  • Man-made CO2 does not cause global warming.
  • Nuclear power is safe and should be widely adopted.

His presentation certainly was thought provoking. I found it disturbing, not because I disagreed with many of his views (even though I do), but because of his certainty and the way he used data to support his arguments.  I thought I’d share some of my reactions.

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PTX label

Cawthron Institute made the front page of our local paper tonight with a great story about a new business they have developed. Cawthron has become an important source for rare marine toxins, used as standards for calibrating the instruments used for detecting them in food such as shellfish. They get very high prices for these chemicals: one example was quoted where €3000 was paid for 1 mg (that’s one thousandth of a gram). There were many interesting stories along the way. Here’s one of them:

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Sir Theodore Rigg

Today is the birthday of Sir Theodore Rigg, director of the Cawthron Institute for 23 years, from 1933-56.  He was a very interesting man indeed.  Instead of providing the link to his biography on the Te Ara website, I’ve reproduced the whole thing here.  No problem with copyright, because I wrote it.

Sir Theodore RiggI was especially interested in his life before his arrival at Cawthron.  During the First World War Rigg, a Quaker, became heavily involved in humanitarian work.  Immediately after the war he found himself in Russia running orphanages.  Remember, this was during a civil war, the Revolution. He was reputedly sufficiently highly regarded  by both the Reds and the Whites that he was able to travel more or less freely on either side of the battle lines.  Anyway, here is the brief bio:

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