Friday, December 24, 2010

Reviewing 200 years

Commenting on a BBC 4 minutes video presentation by Hans Rosling, Aaron Saenz writes:
"Rosling’s review of the past 200 years leaves me rather optimistic about the years ahead. As he has outlined elsewhere, there are serious problems facing us in regards to exponential population growth and global health. Yet there are also solutions to humanity’s grand challenges of poverty, health, energy, etc."
A short but impressive and thought-provoking presentation - well worth watching.

Direct link to video here.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The new Google Earth Engine

Google now has an important new online service for those working in the environmental field.

"Google Earth Engine is a new technology platform that puts an unprecedented amount of satellite imagery and data—current and historical—online for the first time. It enables global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the earth’s environment."

"For the least developed nations, Google Earth Engine will provide critical access to terabytes of data, a growing set of analytical tools and our high-performance processing capabilities. We believe Google Earth Engine will bring transparency and more certainty to global efforts to stop deforestation."

It does have data for Guyana for those who know how to interpret this.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Intertropical Convergence Zone in November

With the weather starting to get wetter a check on the position of the ICTZ shows that it is moving south and is now close to Guyana - see the map.
Once again the green dots show the apparent position of the ICTZ.
And again the picture is from the BBC web site today.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Intertropical Convergence Zone in September

The Intertropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ is where winds coming down from the northern regions meet the winds coming up from the south. It is a band of somewhat turbulent cloudy weather moving east to west which circles the globe near the equator. It moves up and down with the seasons. This is a my attempt at a simple explanation anyhow. A fuller explanation can be found on Wikipedia.

Why is it important to us here in Guyana? Because as it moves over Guyana it is largely responsible for our rainy seasons. Which brings me to the nice picture I took off the BBC weather web site on the 22nd. The ITCZ was hanging around our latitude for longer than usual right up to mid-August. It is now well north of us and our weather much drier - see the green dots on the picture along the top marking the band of cloud where the ITCZ is located now.

In a few months it is expected to drift south again bringing our next rainy season in November.

It is of little interest to US media where most of our television originates which may explain why few people here seem to know about it. However there is a good explanation of its effect on the Hydromet web site.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Caves in Guyana

Are there any caves in Guyana? Very few it seems which is not too surprising given the lack of suitable geology.

There is one cave under Kaieteur Falls.

There are also a few caves in the Roraima area (see picture) including one called the Oil Bird Cave. I am not sure if all these are in Guyana.

Note: there seems to be several caves called Oil Bird Cave. Oil Birds live in colonies in caves in this part of the world.


Friday, September 03, 2010

Education on the rise world-wide

Some really good news - many more people around the world are getting a better education now than previously. According to a recent report:
"More than 61 percent of individuals 15 or older—just over 3 billion people—finished at least some secondary school during their lifetimes as of 2010. This proportion has risen from 36 percent in 1970 and from 50 percent in 1990."

This is supported by figures for enrolment in primary education from the UN. It seems to me that this is very encouraging trend which has huge and very positive implications. Yet the media seems not to be talking about it. Their focus needs to cover both positive and negative ...

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Felt a slight tremor this morning around 4.40am. Had I not chanced to be awake I would never have noticed it. A few objects on shelves rattled briefly.
On checking the cause seems to have been an moderate earthquake off Venezuela.
BBC news item
USGS report

Friday, August 06, 2010

Physics help

I have added some posts regarding Physics videos, labs etc to my other blog.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Physics Subset

I have started a new blog " to support the various Physics teaching and educational activities I have recent become involved with" here in Guyana.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stabroek News web site problem

I visited the website this morning only to be told by my browser (Firefox) that:

"This web page at has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences."
And that
"Attack pages try to install programs that steal private information, use your computer to attack others, or damage your system.

Some attack pages intentionally distribute harmful software, but many are compromised without the knowledge or permission of their owners."

Now this may not be the fault of the web site manager. If a web server is sharing an IP address with other web sites then one of those other web sites might be the cause of the problem. But given the size of the Stabroek News web site I would expect they have their own address.

A more likely cause of the problem is ads which appear on the Stabroek News web site but which are generated by third parties who are careless or irresponsible.

The additional information provided by Firefox seems to suggest that the ads were indeed the problem.

Iran's seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders

There have been many calls for the release of the seven innocent Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran. Many Baha'i leaders in Iran have been executed over the past several decades without just cause. Concern for the Baha'is in Iran has been expressed by many including (recently):
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Amnesty International
  • European Union
  • the Prime Minister of Canada
  • Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi
  • Swami Agnivesh

The latest news on this secretive process is that the trial seems to have ended but no one seems to know the outcome...

Trial of seven Iranian Baha'i leaders appears to have ended

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Congratulations to the President

President Bharrat Jagdeo has been awarded the 2010 Champions of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) for Biodiversity Conservation & Ecosystem Management. Also awarded was President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Only a few Heads of State have been awarded since the first awards in 2005.

Guyana Chronicle

Monday, April 26, 2010

And also in the Caribbean - underwater volcanic vents

Explorers in the Cayman Trough have found the world’s deepest known underwater volcanic vents called smokers which emit very hot mineral solutions and gases and provide an envionment for exotic and strange creatures. The Cayman Trough lies just north of Jamaica and south of Cuba.
See this picture of a smoker from Wikipedia:

For more on this see:

New interest in Pitch Lake (Trinidad)

Researchers have found microbial life in Pitch Lake - a lake of hot 'tar' in Trinidad. This is surprising since it is a hostile environment for typical bacteria being hot and there being no oxygen available in the 'tar'. See this article:
"These alien conditions have made Pitch Lake a place of more than passing interest to astrobiologists. Various scientists have suggested that it is the closest thing on Earth to the kind of hydrocarbon lakes that we can see on Saturn's moon Titan. Naturally, these scientists would very much like to answer the question of what kind of life these places can support."
Here is picture of the lake from a Wikipedia article:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Progress with Suriname-Guyana Submarine Cable System

There was some concern about vandalism in Surinam affecting this project but this appears not to be the case according to Stabroek News.
According to the original news release from Global Marine Systems this cable when completed this year will "ultimately have the potential to increase current telecom bandwidth to more than 3,000 times what is currently available in these areas". Note that the initial bandwidth is not specified but presumeably will depend on what GTT pays for.

The name of the project is misleading since it is really connecting Trinidad and Guyana as well as Trinidad and Suriname. It appears that the only connection between Guyana and Suriname is via Trinidad. Of course it is the Trinidad connection we are mainly interested in since that provides the increased bandwith to the international internet services. See the nice map at Columbus Networks which connects the Trinidad end.

Affordable streaming video at last? Currently we are paying US$50 for a nominal 128Kb DSL service. No word yet on how the new bandwidth will improve DSL services to consumers.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Better teachers

Now that I have started doing a bit of teaching of Physics again two recent news items struck me as being of particular relevance to our situation here in Guyana.
First an article from the New York Times about making education in schools more effective. It seems that there is general concern about having better teachers rather than better methodologies even though there is no concensus about what makes teachers better:

"“Today, the teacher-education curriculum (in the US) is a confusing patchwork. Academic instruction and clinical instruction are disconnected. Graduates are insufficiently prepared for the classroom.” By emphasizing broad theories of learning rather than the particular work of the teacher, methods classes and the rest of the future teacher’s coursework often become what the historian Diane Ravitch called “the contentless curriculum.” "
"But what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed. Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try. When Bill Gates  announced recently that his foundation was investing millions in a project to improve teaching quality in the United States, he added a rueful caveat. “Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn’t have a clear view of what characterizes good teaching,” Gates said. “I’m personally very curious.” "
Reading the article makes me feel that having better teachers is really what we need to focus on. And makes me think about my own teaching...

Secondly the surprising research finding from Psyhology Today that formal Mathematics is best not taught to young children:
"In sum, Benezet showed that kids who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard calculations and much better on story problems than kids who had received several years of arithmetic training."
Could be very popular...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Solar panel research in Guyana

A local organisation, ECO1, has been successful in constructing for scratch a solar cell prototype. Great work guys! See article here with picture.
"ECO1's R&D team has produced a DSSC prototype, made from scratch. This gives a boost to our aim to produce solar cells in Guyana, and the promotion of more sustainable lifestyles for Guyanese."

Disclosure: this blogger is a member of ECO1.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food for thought about climate change

An interesting item in Scientific American about consumerism and its driving of climate change:
"As simply put by the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005: "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.""
and a viewpoint from the BBC about the need for climate scientists to present their findings more carefully. Recent cold weather has caused confusion about the reality of climate change:
"No matter how many times we say that "global warming" means a rise of average temperature across the world, decade by decade, and not every year being consistently warmer than the last in every place on Earth, there are still those that get this mixed up."