We live on the most incredible planet and we want to talk about it with you! read about some processes of our planet that shape the world we live in, and discover far off locations and the wildlife that calls them home.
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Wednesday 24th June: Butterfly Time Lapse
Time lapse photography is a tool for seeing things we don't normally see...usually because we get bored of waiting around. All the amazing phenomena around us takes different amounts of time, some things quickly (atomic interactions, chemical reactions, our brains), and some things slowly, like the movement of planetary bodies. We like to use a Raspberry Pi and camera to take the photos, as they only require some simple programming to get the timelapse running. Professionals however will use high-spec. cameras, like in today's timelapse.
The story of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly is a well-known tale, told in nurseries around the world. There is an important distinction however which we can see through timelapse. Here we see a Monarch butterfly, and after a few seconds it pulls off its outer layer like it's a pair of trousers; it's effectively pulled its own skin off. This reveals a green membrane, called the Chrysalis, and inside of that the lies the organs and everything that constitutes the caterpillar. At this point, all those organs become a soup, then reform into butterfly organs. Once they're intact, the external features are grown - the outline of the wings can be seen just before the cut to the butterfly breaking out.
A moth, however, is the insect that creates a cocoon around itself, and breaking out of that requires significant strength - if they're able to break out their own cocoon, then life outside will be much easier for them.
Scientists currently don't know for certain whether any pain receptors are activated by this whole procedure, and generally pain has an evolutionary purpose. Thus, it is possible that the process of ripping off your own skin, turning into soup, then reforming as a butterfly is pain-free.
Wednesday 17th June: Pressure in the Deep
Today on #WondrousWednesday we are celebrating a completely misunderstood ocean hero - the blobfish! Once named the ‘World’s Ugliest Animal’, it doesn’t have the best reputation… but we’re here to set the record straight!
Blobfish live between 2,000 and 4,000 metres deep in the ocean where the pressure is almost 150 times higher than it is at sea level. This poor fish only looks weird and ugly because it was caught in a fishing net and brought up to the surface! If we visited the blobfish’s home we would instantly be crushed into a gross human paste, and might be a good candidate for ‘World’s Ugliest Animal’ then too!
Animals that live in the deep sea have incredible adaptations to survive in these extreme conditions. Click this link to find out how to do an experiment at home that shows the impact high pressure has on animals, and why they need to adapt to overcome it.
Wednesday 10th June 2020: Coral Reef Survey
Did you know that octopuses have three hearts and blue blood! They are part of a group of animals called cephalopods, which is Greek for “head-foot” because their feet are attached to their head! They have cool ways of escaping predators including squirting black ink and even dropping off their arms and to grow them back later.
Follow this link to download our reef survey activity and see if you can spot the octopuses hidden in the Scottish coral reef.
Wednesday 3rd June 2020: How Far is the Moon?
Today for #WondrousWednesday we’re playing a game that will help us understand just how far the Moon is from Planet Earth.
If you Google ‘Earth and Moon’ images they usually look a bit like this one, but do you think that this shows the true distance to the Moon?
Follow this link to download the full instructions to play along, and find lots of other moon activities too!
Wednesday 27th May 2020: Plants Time-Lapse
This week, you can see some coriander plants growing on a windowsill facing south. We set the camera to take one photo every minute for 24 hours, and then edited out the completely dark bits.
These plants are very keen for growth, as in the space of one day they were able to wiggle upwards and gain another few mm. The way they sway is due to the ever-changing light, where the shifting around of the brightest light will be reflected in the plants movement.
By watching plant life and flora in different timescales, you can see a whole world of dynamics taking place that we are otherwise completely unaware of. The Daisy is one such flower that opens up to the Sun, and closes when it gets dark, hence the name being 'Day-see'. At the other end of the time-scale, the Mimosa Pudica will move very fast when stimulated by someone touching it, as will the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula).
One other plant which displays movement at different timescales is the Telegraph plant - the smaller leaves rotate around in minutes, the reason why still unknown but possibilities include mimicking insect movements to deter other insects from eating the leaves. It's clear that we have so much still to see in our own world that we have missed so far.
Wednesday 20th May 2020: Bird Time-lapse
Time lapse photography is a tool for seeing things we don't normally see...usually because we get bored of waiting around. All the amazing phenomena around us takes different amounts of time, some things quickly (atomic interactions, chemical reactions, our brains), and some things slowly, like the movement of planetary bodies. As you can see in these photos, we like to use a Raspberry Pi and camera to take the photos, as they only require some simple programming to get the timelapse running.
This week, you can see what variety of birds briefly stop off at this tree stump, with bird-shaped bird feeder attached, over a period of 7 hours on 2 separate days during the late afternoon/evening. We set the camera to take a photo every 30 seconds, resulting in around 800 photos per day.
By putting all the photos together into a movie, one can quickly get an idea of how many birds are visiting this spot, and we can infer the variety of species that frequent the spot - here we saw Magpies, Wood Pigeons, Dunnocks, and a Bullfinch. Also, we can find out if there are any peak-times outside of which bird activity is very low. This is helpful for future timelapses, allowing us to focus on the key areas.
This sort of camera trap allows the gathering of data, and one way you can get involved is by helping out african nature reserves by analysing the tens of thousands of photos that they simply can't process fast enough: https://www.zooniverse.org/organizations/meredithspalmer/snapshot-safari
Wednesday 13th May 2020: Clouds Time-lapse
Time lapse photography is a tool for seeing things we don't normally see...usually because we get bored of waiting around. All the amazing phenomena around us takes different amounts of time, some things quickly (atomic interactions, chemical reactions, our brains), and some things slowly, like the movement of planetary bodies. We like to use a Raspberry Pi and camera to take the photos, as they only require some simple programming to get the timelapse running.
This week, you can see the ever-changing weather above Edinburgh in action; Cumulus clouds are thrown across the sky from west to east, and small patches of rain repeatedly fall down on what looks like central Edinburgh and possibly further north.
By watching the weather through timelapse, you start to see patterns: generally the wind blows west to east in Edinburgh, coming from the North Atlantic. However, the Salisbury Crags and Arthurs Seat have an influence, sometimes channeling the wind back south, and Blackford Hill and the Braids can create low pressures that bring wind & rain towards them, as seen in this case. The complexity of the weather is seemingly infinite, but order can be found from the chaos through timelapse photography.
Wednesday 6th May 2020: Moon Time-lapse
Time-lapse photography is a tool for seeing things we don't normally see, usually because we get bored of waiting around. All the amazing phenomena around us takes different amounts of time, some things quickly (atomic interactions, chemical reactions, our brains), and some things slowly, like the movement of planetary bodies. We like to use a Raspberry Pi and camera to take the photos, as they only require some simple programming to get the time-lapse running.
Here you can see the moon and what we think is a planet moving very quickly across the sky, as we set up a Raspberry Pi to take photos every 5 minutes for 24 hours, totalling 288 photos. Then we make an mp4 out of those photos, so we can watch 24 hours flash by in seconds. This way, by bringing phenomena into a timescale we are more used to, we can learn a lot more.
Just before the Moon appears, a bright point of light follows a similar path at a slightly faster speed. We think the planet is Venus, as it is relatively large and it's thick poisonous atmosphere can reflect light. So, by counting how many photos Venus appears in, and multiplying that by 5 mins, we know roughly how long Venus takes to pass through our skies. It could, however, be something else completely.
Click here to visit the Stellarium's website which is a free source planetarium. This site shows a sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
Wednesday 29th April 2020: Goma - a city of balance
For today’s #WondrousWednesday we will learn about how geography can dramatically influence people's lives. The city of Goma lies on top of the East African Rift Valley, where tectonic plates underneath Africa and the Indian Ocean are moving apart. Even though this process occurs over millions of years, the consequences are very real for the residents of Goma who live in the shadow of two active volcanos: Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. Click here to read more about these two volcanos and their impact on the city of Goma.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/NIMA
Wednesday 22nd April 2020: Earth Day
Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which our learning team are celebrating with this quote from writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry. Planet Earth is our only home and it is under threat. From climate change to biodiversity loss, ecosystems which support not just us but all life on Earth are being degraded. But we can make a difference. If we all come together to protect Planet Earth, our home, we can start to make positive change.
Wednesday 15th April 2020: Our Living Planet
Pollinators are a really important set of animals that help most flowering plants, and one third of crops humans eat, to complete their reproductive cycle. But sadly the numbers of many pollinator species such as bees are in decline. Help give them a boost by making your own biodegradable newspaper plant pot and growing plants that these wee heroes can feed on. Click here to download the instructions
Wednesday 8th April 2020: Spaceports
Find out more about spaceports, satellites and rocket launches in today's Workshop Pack!
Check out this slow-mo video of a mini rocket the Dynamic Earth team launched at The National Space Centre last year as part of our #DestinationSpace programme!
Wednesday 1st April 2020: The Northern Lights
One of our Learning Officers has just returned from an exciting expedition in northern Norway, so this week, it’s all about the Northern Lights otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis. Click here to find out more about what causes this extraordinary natural phenomenon and how can scientists predict it?
Then check out our latest blog post by Eve Armstrong and learn all about her epic 200km journey across the wilderness of the Finnmark Plateau.