Sunday, September 28, 2014

Life found in Trinidad pitch lake

An interesting find in our neighbour across the sea (Trinidad). According to this report in the blog "The Meridiani Journal":
"A recent discovery by scientists may have implications for possible extraterrestrial life: Bacteria have been found thriving in a lake of oil in Trinidad, again showing how life can exist in even the most inhospitable conditions on Earth. The discovery brings to mind the similar environment on Saturn?s moon Titan, where lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons (methane/ethane) exist at the moon's poles."
When you go to Trinidad make the pitch lake one of the sights to see.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I am currently completing a course (social psychology) online at Coursera and am favourably impressed with the way the course has been done. I believe not all courses they offer at Coursera are as good as this - more on this later. The video lectures were short (10-25 mins) and engaging with the lecturer speaking as in he was in a small informal group and punctuating the lecture with pictures, questions, video clips etc. There were downloadable readings. There were weekly assignments which were diverse, imaginative and not too academic. There were very active forums - possible because of thousands of students all doing the course together. There was also a series of customised Google Hangout sessions with other students in groups of 4 or 5.

The topic being psychology made possible a style which would be more difficult with the hard sciences but it seems to be near the cutting edge of online learning. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Biodiversity in the Rupununi

An expedition to two localities in the Rupununi by World Wildlife Fund and Global Wildlife Conservation during late 2013 from did a comprehensive survey of biodiversity.  Their first report has now been released and consists of 97 pages.
"Preliminary results indicate 241 species of plants, 302 birds, 150 species of fish, 34 reptiles, 25 amphibians, 23 small mammals and over 300 species of insects were encountered during the two week expedition."
Also see this very readable write-up of this in Caribbean Beat. Plus there is this Guyana Times report from a local perspective.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Internet troubles - DNS settings

If you are using DSL and sometimes you just cannot get any websites though you are still connected then this advice may help you.

The problem is often that your browser cannot reach the GTT-provided name server (DNS) which is required to translate the website name into the internet (IP) address needed to reach it. The permanent solution is to provide a public name server address to your computer to meet the need.

A commonly used public name server address is that of Google: or
To add this name server address to your computer please see one of these tutorials below. Note - this needs some experience so ask for help if you are unsure. You can cause more trouble if you make mistakes.

How to change DNS Servers in Windows 7
How to change DNS settings in Windows 7 | 8

You can diagnose the problem more accurately by pasting the following address into your browser where I use the IP address directly not the name so DNS is not used:
If you get a webmail login site (this is just a random site to use as a test) then you do have an internet connection but the DNS may not be working so try the above solution. If you get nothing then you have some other problem or GTT does.

Another, temporary, solution is to close down your PC and modem, restart and hope for the best...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

About lecturing

Firstly it seems that taking notes longhand helps us remember the subject while typing on a laptop is no help in that respect. So get out those pens...

From an article in The Atlantic:
"...this might be the key to their findings: Take notes by hand, and you have to process information as well as write it down. That initial selectivity leads to long-term comprehension."

Secondly getting the active participation of students is more effective than long lectures. No surprise really, the trick is how... the article does give some clues. One more thing - putting the lecture on a computer does not improve learning. From the article in Science :
"A new study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods."