Synopsis (from back cover):

Enormous, elephantine and extinct the mammoth is the iconic animal of the Ice Age. These colossal creatures roamed the cold, open landscapes of Europe, Asia and North America as recently as 20,000 years ago. Today, their well-preserved fossil remains generate much fascination and speculation around the world. Mammoths: Ice age Giants reveals what their life was really like. It describes their environment, behaviour, evolution and appearance, including new DNA analysis that shows what colour mammoths actually were. Unravelling the latest scientific research, Adrian Lister explains why this incredible species died out and whether it may be possible to clone them in the future. He also draws challenging parallels between the fate of the mammoths and that of their close relatives, the living elephants.

Throughout the book there are striking photographs of skeletons, skulls, tusks and preserved flesh from the world-famous collections of the Natural History Museum in London, as well as images of the best preserved mammoth in the world, Lyuba. From the Pleistocene period to our recent past, Mammoths: Ice Age Giants captures evolution in action in the dynamic world of the mammoth.

Review:

This book was published by the Natural History Museum to co-inside with their exhibition of the same name. The lavishly illustrated book is divided into five chapters; Mammoths and elephants, Tusks and trunks, The world of the Ice Age, Frozen and living and Endangered and extinct.

The book compliments the exhibition well, but there is no need to have seen the exhibition to enjoy the book. Adrian presents the evolution of the mammoth, their environment and suggests why it may have become extinct.  The book is very readable with up to date information.  Well worth a read if you are interested in this subject.

The Exhibition:

Lyuba

One of the main reasons for my recent visit to London was to see the ‘Mammoths: Ice Age Giants’ exhibition at the Natural History Museum in order to see baby Lyuba, the most complete woolly mammoth ever found. Whilst there I was surprised to learn that there are three types of elephant not just two because there are two types of African elephant; plains and forest.

This exhibition opens with a replica of a mammoth skeleton in bedrock and an actual thigh bone just to give a context of their scale. From here, the show never lets up on this sense of scale with mammoth skulls, tusks and hair samples adding to the wonder of a towering full-scale model of a Columbian mammoth, alongside other giants of the time including a short faced bear and a sabre toothed cat.

The display is littered with interesting facts such as the elephant family tree showing us that mammoths aren’t actually direct descendants or ancestors of elephants — they both diverged from an earlier common ancestor. It also tackles questions such as how close we are to being able to clone a mammoth, and the ongoing conservation efforts to preserve modern day elephants.

The highlight is of course Lyuba — a baby mammoth who was found in Northern Russia in 2007. She is remarkably well preserved and it’s a great opportunity to see the detail of the skin and hair up close.

The exhibition (now coming to a close) was very well done and well worth a visit. The two mammoth pictures are photographs I have taken of illustrations in the book.

Baby Mammoth

2 Comments CherryPie on Sep 2nd 2014

…future development.


Land Reserved for Future Develpment

For some reason I felt rather lethargic on Sunday (yesterday) and struggled to get myself going. I had planned a short cycle ride but the dull weather made me hesitate. I read a book for a while, made and ate my lunch, read a bit more and then I forced myself to go ahead with my planned cycle ride. As soon as I opened the front door the sun came out.

I made my way through the local housing estates to the green belt of countryside, which is a joy to cycle around. However it is upsetting to see most of the gates to the green fields sporting a sign saying ‘Land reserved for future development’.

Due to the recent autumnal weather I picked up a fleece before I left the house but it wasn’t needed.  Summer had returned, I got rather overheated and had to take a rest and sit on a bench to cool down… It gave me the excuse to play around with some artistic photo shots ;-)

Self Portrait

Rest a While with Me

The weather reprieve meant it was warm enough for us to enjoy our Sunday evening roast on the patio watching the sun descend behind ‘my oak tree‘. A perfect end to the day :-)

17 Comments CherryPie on Sep 1st 2014

Freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science.

Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882)

Untitled

9 Comments CherryPie on Aug 31st 2014

Baby Model

One of the exhibits in the Human Biology section of the the Natural History Museum is this eight times lifesize model of a seven month old baby living with in its mother’s uterus. The baby will soon turn over so it’s head faces downwards ready for birth.

The sound of a mother’s heartbeat as heard from inside the uterus accompanied the display.

6 Comments CherryPie on Aug 30th 2014

Blue Whale

I remember being rather disappointed with the Natural History Museum on my first visit there on a school trip.  There were lots of tired looking stuffed animals that didn’t capture my imagination.  There was however one part of the museum that blew me away and that was the museum’s Whale Hall. At the time it was possible to walk underneath and alongside the ‘Blue Whale Skeleton’ and the life sized model replica and  wonder in awe at the size of the Blue Whale.

New Scientist reported that last year the iconic model celebrated it’s 75th birthday:

Created in the 1930s, the life-size model blue whale at London’s Natural History Museum has lost none of its ability to thrill crowds

THIS month, thousands of people will fall under the spell of a giant.

But this is no fairy tale or pantomime giant. It’s a life-size model of the blue whale, the world’s largest mammal. Now celebrating its 75th birthday, the 28.3-metre-long model dominates the mammal gallery at London’s Natural History Museum, dwarfing whale skeletons and other mammals.

Richard Sabin, the NHM’s principal curator of vertebrate collections, says the model was “incredibly ambitious” when it was built in the 1930s. He saw it as a 10-year-old on his first trip to London, nearly 40 years ago. “I was absolutely blown away,” he recalls. Back home, he raided school and local libraries for whale books.

When the model was unveiled at the end of 1938, it was the world’s only life-size replica of a blue whale. But other museums soon wanted to copy it. Some museums in the US made a point of making their version fractionally longer.

The giant was created by Percy and Stuart Stammwitz, a father and son team in the museum’s zoology department, using photographs and measurements made by scientists on British whaling fleet vessels in the south Atlantic. Although it was accurate for its time, modern underwater photography shows the model doesn’t match reality, says Sabin, probably because it was based on carcasses that became distorted as they were dragged on to ships.

Built in situ in the museum’s Whale Hall, the model drew on technology used to make first-world-war planes. The general foreman, William Sanders, suggested building a wooden frame, covering it in lightweight wire meshwork, then coating it with plaster and painting over that, rather than using traditional plaster casts.

The replica whale has gone on to feature in books and movies, and is also the stuff of urban legend. Some of the best stories concern what went on inside its hollow belly before the trapdoor was sealed shut forever. They feature everything from hidden time capsules to romantic trysts and gambling dens. Only one story is true, Sabin reckons: that workmen used to take their lunch and cigarette breaks inside the whale.

The whale remains a magnet for children. Sometimes when Sabin overhears chattering school parties, he hopes that among the more excited children lurks the next generation of marine biologists who will keep the magic of the whale alive.

Shaoni Bhattacharya

Blue Whale

The blue whale is the largest creature known to have existed it is bigger than the largest dinosaur. Now it is not possible walk underneath it in the same way as I did as a child, but it can be viewed from different levels on the gallery floors around the exhibit which now includes other large mammals giving it a sense of scale. The Blue Whale still hasn’t lost it’s sense of wonder and awe.

Blue Whale

13 Comments CherryPie on Aug 29th 2014

Satellites

Thousands of pieces of debris are orbiting the Earth, travelling at over 27,000 km/h.1 This space junk can collide with and destroy essential satellites, knocking out communications – and in turn creating even more junk. As the layer of junk gets thicker, it’s becoming more dangerous to launch satellites and send astronauts into space. Our lifestyle depends on satellites in orbit, but space junk poses a real danger.

Space junk includes old dead satellites, fuel tanks, everyday rubbish from past space stations, lost tools from spacewalks, and even astronauts’ gloves, along with natural debris from space. Junk can range in size from dust to very tiny fragments (called ‘bullets’) to full-size satellites (‘cars’).

Low Earth orbit is 500 km above the Earth’s surface. This is where most of the junk is, and is also the region where we have had most manned spacecraft and many scientific satellites.

Middle Earth orbit is about 2000 km above the Earth’s surface. This is where you find the GPS system of satellites, orbiting twice a day.

Geostationary orbit is 36,000 km above Earth. Satellites here stay above a fixed point on the Earth and are usually for communications, television signals and monitoring the weather. They orbit once a day.

Satellites

15 Comments CherryPie on Aug 28th 2014

Apollo 10 Command Module

One of the exhibits in the London  Science Museum is the command module from Apollo 10. It is quite fascinating to see it in person rather than in black and white on a television screen.  The scorch marks caused when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere are distinctly visible.

Apollo 10, carrying astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan, was launched in May 1969 on a lunar orbital mission as the dress rehearsal for the actual Apollo 11 landing. Stafford and Cernan descended in the Lunar Module to within 14 kilometres of the surface of the Moon, the closest approach until Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin in Apollo 11 landed on the surface two months later. The craft, which had the call sign ‘Charlie Brown’, travelled approximately 500,000 miles (800,000 km) during the eight-day mission and exceeded 24,790 mph (39,887 km/h) on its return to Earth, faster than any other crewed vehicle before or since.

Apollo 10 Command Module

Housed in a different part of the museum is a full sized replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module that landed the first humans on the moon in July 1969:

The Eagle has landed – Apollo 11 was the first mission to land people on the moon. It’s lunar module, nicknamed, Eagle transported Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon’s surface while Michael Collins piloted the command module in lunar orbit.

This full-sized replica of the lunar module shows the lower ‘descent’ stage, with a rocket engine (just visible underneath) that slowed the module to a safe landing, plus storage space for experimental equipment to use on the moon. The upper ‘ascent’ stage included the crew’s cabin and another rocket engine that blasted it off from the top of the descent stage when the mission was over. The descent stage was left behind on the moon.*

Apollo 13 Lunar Module

*Information from a signboard next to the lunar module

8 Comments CherryPie on Aug 27th 2014

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