Monday 27 September 2010

Earth science is not just for terriers

What sort of rock is the wall behind me made of?  (clue: I am in Aberdeen)

Bouncing Bertie Boffin here (you may called me B-cubed).

The next topic we will tackle in my lecture series for budding canine scientists will be geology.

Now the study of rocks is best conducted outdoors. OK, I know what you're thinking, after last week, it's clear that any class involving dogs is best conducted outdoors....

It just so happens that the North of Scotland, my home patch, is widely known as a Mecca for geologists. So in two weeks time I shall be leading a field trip and we shall visit some famous localities in the stunning landscapes of the Highlands and Islands.

I would love to say that all my friends are welcome, but I am a little concerned that this class (and Stella there is no need to write 'class' in inverted commas, it sends out entirely the wrong message...) will be oversubscribed. We can only take a small minibus down the narrow and twisty Highland roads. So before accepting your registrations I am going to ask you to complete a little task.

I want you to provide some evidence - we scientists like evidence - that you are well prepared for field work in Scotland.

Please feel free to use your imaginations here. All the best science students have a strong creative streak. There is no single right way to complete this exercise. But here are just a few suggestions to get you started:

Perhaps you can demonstrate a prior interest in the practical aspects of Earth Science.

Perhaps you could show me that you will be able to withstand our inclement climate / possess the appropriate weatherproof clothing. (A hint to my more fashion forward friends: what works on Seventh Avenue is not necessarily suitable for a Scottish bog).

Maybe you have some photos illustrating that boulders, cliffs, mountains and midges are totally your thing.

A familiarity with the customs and traditions of the Scottish Highlands would be a distinct advantage.

You can submit your applications for the field trip by adding a comment on this post, or better yet by posting something appropriate on your own blog (but please let me know in the comment box if you do the latter so I can make sure I link to it). Deadline for submissions is Friday 8th October. The field trip will take place on Monday 11th October.

I look forward to hearing from the students who attended last Monday's class, and perhaps some new ones. And yes Stella, please do encourage Ludo to apply. I know his Mum is very busy at the moment but I think this subject will suit him down to the ground.

Finally, feedback from the Thermodynamics lecture has indicated a rather regrettable obsession with the availability of 'foodables'.  Please remember that these classes are about expanding one's mind not one's girth.....

Friday 24 September 2010

Wet weather, a tummy tickle and remembering Hamish

After the excitement of Monday's highly successful lecture, we are taking a break from science for a few days... But keen students should look out for a new announcement early next week!

So, just to update you on other stuff. Over at Gail's west coast cottage last weekend the weather was, well, all that one expects on Scotland's west coast. Exactly as depicted in the animated film 'The Illusionist' in fact. I was a bit worried that we would be staying inside so I decided to draw Gail's attention to her excellent and definitely waterproof walking boots...

Luckily, my new friend Clare, who was staying with us, is a jolly good sport and does not mind the rain at all. Here we are together in the little village of Shieldaig.

And later, admiring the view of Loch Maree, and the majestic mountain Slioch, part hidden in the mist.

Then I went exploring the Caledonian pine forest on the slopes of Beinn Eighe.

Back at the cottage, I discovered that Clare also does most excellent tummy tickles.

What's not to like?

Oh and finally, I want to show you the Autumn crocuses, growing around Hamish's memorial stone. They are extra pretty this year, drawing beauty from the ashes of Gail's dear old Westie.

Monday 20 September 2010

Lecture No. 1: Thermodynamics

Now attention dogs! My name is Bouncing Bertie Boffin. Welcome to this special lecture series for budding canine scientists. How pleasing to see so many fresh and eager faces. I am new to this lecturing business so I hope you will be patient with me!

Today's topic is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the universe always tends to an increasingly disordered state.

But before we begin in earnest, there are a few things I need to say.

Molly, Taffy and Monty - can you hear me OK at the back there?

Stella - here is a pencil and some paper, so you now have absolutely no excuse not to take notes.

George! Go tip that pint of Ironbridge Pale Ale down the sink, RIGHT NOW!

'Professor' Agatha - that doctor's note from your brother Archie saying he has a headache is CLEARLY FORGED. Please make sure he attends next time or I shall be instigating special disciplinary measures..

Lola - listen carefully and I am sure you will understand, after all you are an intelligent dog, not a beagle or something.

Mango - so nice to see you sitting there all enthusiastic. You are pleased to be away from that purple room, no doubt!

Petey - please note there will be NO COPYING HOMEWORK. All texts submitted will be run through my specially DWB adapted anti-plagiarism software...And anyway, I doubt that Mango's efforts will be of much use to you. I fear that you are making the mistake of conflating head size with academic prowess...

Tubby Toby - so good too see one so young and so keen to learn. Now you will remember to raise your paw if you need the bathroom, won't you?

Jake and Fergi - oh how nice it is to have such intelligent students in my class, I can see you two are going to be a pleasure to teach. Yes I totally agree with your suggestion that I am a canis lupus familiaris veryspecialis. Ten out of ten already.

Eric - I am assigning you the special role of helping Jake and Just Harry from Florida with problems they might be having with UK English word usage. Aunties Martha and Bailey can also assist with any specifically Scottish vocabulary.

Dozer and Coop - just a quick word. I fear you may have missed the point of coming to class. It is not all about scoring treats, it is about improving the mind. At least Jazzi seems to have grasped that particular point (you weren't expecting tacos were you my dear?)

Oh, what a shame that Wilf does not seem to have made it. Those French air traffic controllers can be so difficult...

Well done Riley, by the way, for arriving on time, all the way from the Antipodes!

Oh hello Tessa, and all you Scotties from Rocky Creek, do come in, yes, there is still room at the back. And sweet little Katie, living proof that science students can be pretty too, why don't you sit right here on the front row. Perhaps you would like some private tuition later.....

Now. What were we going to talk about? Ah yes. Disordered states.


Eric! How is Stella ever going to take notes if her paper is shredded? And her pencils all chewed up?

Jazzi - I can see what you are up to. Please bring that mobile phone to me  RIGHT NOW. Texting an order to TACO BELL indeed!

Oh dear, we seem to have a little puddle on the floor. And Mango it is very mean of you to blame little Toby, don't imagine I can't tell the difference between slobber and pee...

Oh thank you so much Jake and Fergi for fetching the towel and mopping it all up.

Now where were we?

Ah yes, the concept that the overall level of disorder, also known as entropy, is ever increasing. For example....


Oh dear. Another mess on the floor. George, just how many pints did you drink before you came to class today?

Thank you again, Special Wires.  Look I have some biscuits here just for you two. Oh and one for Katie of course...

Eric, Jake and JH - STOP THAT SNIGGERING. Yes I know that the English language contains a wide variety of colourful expressions to describe George's disgraceful condition, but that is not relevant to today's topic.

Dozer! Coop! Jazzi! No! NO!! Those treats are meant for Jake and Fergi. It is very bad of you to steal them. Lola! Monty! Sit. Sit! SITTT! Oh little Toby, please don't be crying...

No, Aunties, I am not losing control. Not at all. Everything is quite in order. This class is not about to degenerate into one big 'stushie' or 'stramash' so there is no need to explain those words either.



Oh dear, it seems we have run out of time for today.

Thursday 16 September 2010

All ears

Never let it be said that this blog is not a broad church. And no I am not going to discuss this week's Papal visit to Scotland; to paraphrase a certain well-known former Downing Street spin doctor, we don't 'do God' round here.

Instead, today I'm giving you a choice of two diverse topics on which to focus. I wonder what will capture your attention when you look at this photo?

Those of you planning to attend the first of my lecture series (currently scheduled for Monday) will no doubt, like me, be very interested in studying the equations. Do biggify the picture if you need to....

Others, more concerned with appearances than with adiabatic gases, will perhaps be looking at my ears. Eric was asking about them just the other day.

You'll have noticed that, since the end of August, they are no longer glued. They are not as floppy as some WFT ears, but neither do they point to the heavens Andromeda Galaxy. Gail says she thinks 'they'll do' now as she's fed up of messing around with the Copydex. I tend to agree with her, although, to be honest, I never really minded them being stuck down.

What's your opinion?

And have you solved those equations yet.....?

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Announcing the Bouncing Boffin!

Now that it's the new school year, my friends, we are going to turn attention to our broader education!

In particular, I have no doubt it has already occurred to you that matters scientific, whilst so crucial to our everyday lives in the twenty-first century, have been, to date, sadly neglected in blogs written by members of the species Canis lupus familiaris. 

Time to redress the balance!

Well I think you may know that my human carer Gail has pretensions to being some sort of a scientist.

And in a striking example of nurture triumphing over nature, I too am developing a fascination with the subject.

So I am planning a series of occasional lectures in the forthcoming winter months in which I intend to enlighten you all, giving the canine perspective on an assortment of fundamental scientific principles. Think of it as a dog's breakfast....

There will be no shying away from the challenging  topics - relativity, cosmology, evolution, quantum mechanics, genetics, earth science, biodiversity, nuclear physics and much else, all presented in a dog friendly manner and with my customary youthful bounce! (Gail is saying something about 'channeling my energies in a constructive fashion'.)

What's more, if any of my canine friends out there want to propose a topic that might be worthy of my special attention, please do let me know. Nothing trivial, please!

To ease us in gently, my first lecture, scheduled for some time next week, will concern the second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything tends inexorably to a state of increasing disorder, a concept that I suspect is already familiar to most dogs and their owners.  Perhaps, to prepare for the lecture, some of you might like to suggest an example or two where you have observed this law to apply in everyday life....

B. Bertie Boffin
The Brian Cox of the Dog Blogosphere.

Friday 10 September 2010

Something to prove

Meeting my friends on my early morning walk in Duthie Park

You know, I am really quite upset, because recent comments on this blog have implied that I might be deficient in certain essential fox terrier traits.

It all seems to revolve around the fact that when I go for walks in the hills (or indeed the park) and am allowed off the lead, I do not do the 'expected' thing of running away, chasing little animals and refusing to come back when called.

Well, perhaps you can tell me why would I take off like that when I am given lots of freedom to roam around anyway? Plus, it's worth keeping Gail in sight 'cos I know she always carries a nice bag of treats in her pocket and she will give me a cuddle if things get scary.

Oh, you think it all might change when I'm a bit older and I really hit my terrier stride?


But for now, please do watch this video which, I hope, proves my true WFT credentials, even if the action all takes place in the study and the only crittur involved is a vibrating toy hamster....

    Tuesday 7 September 2010

    Clachnaben: the promise and the reality

    A typical late summer hill walk in Scotland...

    Oh, and our friend Alison (in the red fleece) wants me to point out that that is not her normal hairstyle! 

    Saturday 4 September 2010

    Blue poo...

    Oh you should be so grateful that Gail does not always take her camera when we go out for walks.

    Today, instead, we shall set the scene with a picture of me posed nicely on some newly conquered territory in Gail's study.

    Now are you sitting comfortably? And have you already eaten your breakfast?

    Good. For today's post is not for those of a delicate constitution. Er, how to begin?

    Well, you'll have noted the reference above to 'newly conquered territory'.  Thing is, Gail has recently decided to allow me into her study during the day. The idea is that I sit quietly beside her, providing restful companionship as she busies herself at the computer reading your blogs doing her work stuff.

    Yes, you'll have spotted the flaw in that plan already. We fox terriers are not noted for our quiet and restful natures. Especially not six month old WFT's. Like the Spanish conquistadors, our instinct is to explore our New Worlds, and to plunder.

    And there are SO many interesting places to investigate in this study. While Gail was away in the kitchen making a coffee, I had a good old rummage around behind a pile of papers and found this long blue wooden object. It tasted just great.

    I really don't know why Gail got so cross when she came back saw me chomping away. You know how humans have this habit, so rude I think, of suddenly snatching things out of your mouth? NO NO Bertie, she said, and put the remnant stump in this old tin.

    Later on, at the usual time, we went out for our afternoon walk. Now I don't know about you, but I am not too keen on using the jungle out the back our pleasant garden as a toilet, and prefer to hold it all in until we are walking down the street. (No Gail, I'm sure this isn't 'oversharing'; it is germane to the story).

    Well half way down the road, I stopped and arched my back in the customary fashion while Gail rustled around in her pocket for a little plastic poo bag. My action, which is usually accompanied by extravagant praise and encouragement, this time elicited from Gail a shriek they must have heard in Dundee."OH MY GOD BERTIE IT'S BLUE".

    Now as you know, Gail is a scientist and normally has a healthy curiosity about natural processes. But not, apparently, on this occasion.  I have no doubt that you too, like me, are wondering, was 'it' blue all the way through, or just on the surface?

    And I am disappointed to have to tell you that we will never now know.

    Mmmm. Time, I think, for a little snooze.

    Thursday 2 September 2010

    In the driving seat...

    Can you believe Gail went off partying in Cumbria last weekend and didn't take me! 

    Well, truth to tell, it wasn't all bad news 'cos I got to stay over with my Westie girlfriends Florrie and Lucy and went out for a drive in their very swish car. 

    These are the two girls (well, actually Florrie, on the left, is a midde aged lady dog now, and rather a bossy one at that....)

    I was supposed to travel in the back with them. 

    My highly intelligent and observant readership will be able to work out the flaw in the arrangement.

    So this is where I ended up.