Thursday, December 27, 2012

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cool Study Trip Ideas

Study trips are one of the most efficient ways of learning as you come face to face with history and facts. When academic subjects come alive, students often discover or awaken their passion for learning.

Subjects like science and history are among the easiest to teach through field trips. Why not organise an adventure to one of the world's most historically fascinating cities?

Saint Petersburg

In Russia's spectacular second city it feels like every tree and every wall has a story to tell. Saint Petersburg simply lives and breathes history so it is a great destination for history buffs, and those keen on art, music and literature.

It is nor a cheap nor an extortionate destination, provided you plan ahead. Most attractions charge different prices for locals and foreign visitors so if you have a Russian friend willing to accompany you and buy the tickets, you could save money.

The first stop should be the State Hermitage Museum with its incredible collection of treasures from pre-historic times right through to the contemporary art scene. As the ancient residence of the Tsars, the building has quite the atmosphere and splendour.

Kresty Prison Museum is a more sombre destination. The prison facility has historically held prisoners including Trotsky and Brodsky. Despite being open to the public as an attraction, the prison is still fully operational, and being able to see and hear prisoners can leave visitors disturbed so visit with caution.

Peterhof or the "Russian Versaille" will lift your spirits. The Grand Palace is set in sprawling parkland dotted with fountains in all shapes and sizes. It is yet another ancient residence of the Tsars.


The British capital has enough on offer for a month-long study trip. Unfortunately, this would mean having to pay for a month's worth of food and accommodation in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Instead of having to fork out a fortune, try to cram as much as possible into just a few days, such as visits to some of the city's free museums and historic attractions.

The Science Museum is an excellent centre for discovery that both boasts a fascinating permanent collection and hosts regularly changing exhibitions on topics from medicine to natural disasters.

Other free venues include the Natural History Museum, Museum of Garden History, The Royal Hospital at Chelsea, Kenwood House, and Hogarth's House.

It really can be easy and cheap to arm yourself with knowledge in London!

Soak up the academic atmosphere in some of the city's libraries. The University of London has libraries scattered throughout the city, and you can find the British Library on Euston Road with an impressive selection of publications, and regular exhibitions.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lake and Pond Scum

Lake and pond scum is that nasty film of debris and biological decomposition that usually indicates a stagnant body of water with more significant problems. It is not pleasant to look at, swim in or even boat across. And the water column is typically not healthy for the fish that live within those waters. These fish are trapped in those conditions and have to endure low oxygen levels and high algae growth leaving them stressed. If these conditions continue weak fish will die off. If they worsen, even healthy fish will succumb to the conditions.
One very effective technique to prevent this stagnation from happening is to install a laminar flow aeration system. Also known as a bubbler, the only indication of the system is a small area of bubbles rising to the surface in one or more places depending on the size of your lake or pond. Installing a system such as this will mix the water column from the surface to the bottom. The movement breaks up the pond scum allowing toxins trapped at the bottom of the pond to release into the air. At the same time, oxygen is absorbed into the water which then travels to all levels of the water. Bacteria are then able to utilize the oxygen rich conditions to more effectively digest the biological load preventing algae blooms by taking away their food source.
You lake or pond will not only appear cleaner, the water quality will be improved and be a more healthy environment for you and the fish. A more balance ecosystem is the result with fewer swings in water quality. Minor fluctuations will still occur due to adverse weather conditions, but overall your pond will suffer fewer of these events and will self correct more quickly than if no aeration were present.
Aeration is a time tested technique used to digest biologicals in the waste water industry. It has been used in numerous lakes and pond around the world with great results. It uses nature and the good bacteria present in every body of water to remove the excess nutrients. Instead of aquatic pesticides and herbicides which can leave harmful residues that have long lasting unintended effects, aeration simply adds oxygen back to a ecosystem that desperately need it to operate properly. If you choose to discontinue the aeration, the ecosystem returns back to its previous state without and detrimental effects.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bee Aware

Where are all the bees? The worker bees are disappearing from the hives around the world. While this is not the first time in history this event has occurred, it has started to happen in many different countries in alarming numbers. Researchers have not found any bodies, so they are unable to determine why the bees are not returning to the hives. In some countries, the bee population is dropping by as much as 30% per year. They are now importing bees to increase their bee population and honey industry.
This phenomenon is being referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. North America was one of the first countries to report high incidents of CCD in late 2006. Further reports have been received from many countries throughout Europe. Scientists are concerned as the bees play a vital role in the food chain. They are responsible for pollinating hundreds of food crops, nuts, flowers, vegetables and fruits. If our bee population continues drop, it will affect the delicate balance of nature and our crop production in future years.
There are many theories about why the bee population around the world is declining in such great numbers. Environmental changes such as the use of pesticides, genetically modified foods, malnutrition and drought may be affecting the bees. Another theory is that cell phone radiation is interfering with the bee's ability to find it's way back to the hive. As a result, some major cities are placing their beehives on top of building to assist the bees in returning to the hives. War also affects the bee population in some countries, particularly where oil has been burning. This has wiped out entire bee communities. Scientists suggest that it may be a combination of several of these factors.
So what can we do? Supporting our bee and honey industry will be vital to ensuring their and our long-term survival. Here are a few things you can do to help. Use organic fertilizers and natural biological controls in your gardens and on your lawns. Plant bee friendly plants - bees are attracted to yellow, purple and blue flowers. Nurseries will be able to provide more information about which plants are best to use in your area. Plant native wildflowers and plants in your gardens and in common areas to attract and support bee survival. By looking after one of our smallest creatures, we can make a difference in restoring the balance for future generations.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Controlling Lake and Pond Algae

Lakes and ponds are the place we head to for enjoyment to swim, fish or relax. Unfortunately it is also the perfect environment for algae to grow. Where there is sun, water and nutrients pants will grow. And since algae is a very basic and simple form of life, it will be one of the first to establish itself and the quickest to rebound from steps taken to eradicate it such as herbicides.
A pond is a closed system functioning much like an organism with all the life within interacting to create a balance. Algae, rooted plants, zooplankton, fish, birds and so on all have their part and keep the other parts in check and under control. Too often this balance tips and the system spirals out of control. Algae, being the opportunist that it is, is usually the first to take charge. Thick mats of slime or pea green soup-like water are the result.
This is usually a sign of high nutrients and poor water conditions. In the summer and winter months a pond often becomes stagnant and a thermocline forms. As this forms, the water column is cut into two regions. An area of livable water near the surface and a layer of toxic oxygen deficient water closer to the bottom. This upper livable area is susceptible to wild swings in quality as the algae growth spikes and drops, first giving oxygen then sucking it back out as it goes through respiration near dawn or decomposes after a die off. In the spring and fall these two regions will suddenly and violently mix, called a turnover event. It is these turnover events that can trigger a fish kill as the toxins are released to the entire water column stressing all fish contained within the lake or pond.
One very effective technique to prevent this situation is to aerate the water column of the lake or pond. By aeration we mean using laminar flow methodology (bubblers) to move the water from surface to the bottom. Fountains do work in certain situations, such as shallow water areas. But only laminar flow has the ability to completely mix even the deepest of areas to get oxygen down to the sediment-water interface. The thermocline is prevented from ever setting up and the entire water column is improved.
The tiny bubbles pull the water with them as the travel to the surface. The water pulled up from the deep are exposed to the atmosphere and two things happen at the surface. Toxins from the natural bacterial digesting process are released harmlessly to the air while oxygen is absorbed into the water. This oxygen rich water is then pushed back down to the bottom to release the oxygen to the bacteria and move the toxins back to the surface. It functions as a toxin/oxygen conveyor belt that keeps the system in balance.
Once oxygen is in all areas natural bacteria are able to consume nutrients available in that water. Aerobic bacteria, those with oxygen available, can digest nutrients SEVEN times faster than bacteria forced to go through anaerobic, without oxygen, conditions. This reduces the available nutrients for algae to use to grow. It is an indirect method to outcompete the algae for the food they need to survive.
By using this cost effective technique to mix oxygen into the lake or pond from top to bottom, a balance is achieved. Nutrients are kept in check, oxygen is provided to all the areas it is needed, toxins are prevented from building up and that lake or pond is more healthy. It may still go through mild swings as the weather changes, but those are tempered and less active management is required by you or the lake or pond professional you are using.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stone Spheres From Scandinavian Glacial Erratics

The Scandinavian Peninsula occupies part the Baltic Shield, a stable and large crust segment of very old crystalline metamorphic rocks. In the southern part of the peninsula the glaciers deposited vast numbers of terminal moraines, configuring a very chaotic landscape. These terminal moraines covered all of what is now Denmark.
During the Ice Ages, the sea level of the Atlantic dropped so much that the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland disappeared, and the countries now surrounding them, including Germany, Poland, the other Baltic countries and Scandinavia were directly joined. The weight of nearly 4 km of ice during the Ice Ages caused all of the Scandinavian terrain to sink, when he ice disappeared, the shield rose again. Conversely the southern part has tended to sink to compensate, causing the flooding of the Low Countries and Denmark.
To understand the geology of Scandinavia, we must go back 500 million years. Northern Europe and Scandinavia were previously one continent called BALTICA, at that time was situated south of the equator, approximately where South Africa is placed today. Over millions of years, due to the continental drifting of the continents, Baltica drifted northwards until reaching its present position on the globe. The rocks from this continent are ancient, some of then dating back to 3500 million years, nearly as old as our planet. The oldest are found in Northern Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
During the Ice Ages, the 4km high glaciers in Scandinavia plucked and abraded an enormous amount of rocks from the earths surface and transported them together with the ice southward towards northern Europe, Denmark and Russia. There were 3 main bodies of ice, the first from Norway towards Denmark, the second, from Finland and Sweden towards Northern Germany, and the third from northern Russia towards the south and the areas around Poland. When the ice melted at the end of the Ice Age approximately 10,000 years ago the rocks were deposited in the form of moraines, eskers, drumlins and glacier erratics over a large area from Denmark, northern Europe, eastern Europe and Russia. The size of these glacial erratics go from grains of sand to huge boulders, the largest intact rock weighs 4000 tons and is found in Estland. There are several hundred of these large boulders found all over northern Europe, Denmark and the Netherlands.
These glacial erratics place of origin is from the ancient continent of Baltica today known as Scandinavia, these are the stones I've collected, identified as a specific type of rock, the composition and the age of the rocks by carbon dating. Subsequently have cut and polished them into perfect spheres.
Over the past 3 years have traveled frequently to localities where the above mentioned stones are found and have collected approximately over 3 tons of this material which i have transported back to my cutting workshop in Germany.
After building various types and sizes of machines so as to cut and polish these rocks into perfect spheres, have proceeded to identify the stones using pictures and references from petrologist who are occupied in this field of study, mostly from various universities in northern Germany and the Netherlands.

Popular Flowers of Japan

Japan's climate and location has made it a place where a large number of different varieties of flowers are grown. Flowers are also a part of Japanese culture, which values them due to their symbolism and beauty. There are many native flowers of Japan. Among them, the popular ones are discussed below.
Yellow Chrysanthemum
The Yellow Chrysanthemum is the most popular flower of Japan. It is also the official flower of this country. This yellow flower symbolizes the sun, happiness, fidelity and joy. The unfolding of its petals symbolizes perfection. It is also honored during Japan's "Festival of Happiness", which is held annually. Moreover, it is a belief among the Japanese that placing one of the petals of the flower at the bottom of a wine glass leads to a long and happy life.
Cherry Blossoms
The Cherry Blossoms or Sakura is also among the popular flowers of Japan and there is a whole season, namely the 'hanami 'season, associated with this flower. This flower blooms in spring, during which a special festival is held for honoring this flower. Their blossom brings hope to the people every year. This flower can be found in parks, temples and official building all over the country.
There are several varieties of Orchids grown in Japan. 317 species of Orchids are considered to be native to this country. The different varieties of orchids are placed in two categories namely 'tooyooran' and 'yooran'. 'Tooyooran' refers to those varieties that are native to Japan, while 'yooran' refers to the western varieties. They have a nice smell and bloom in different colors including yellow, white and pink.
Japanese Camellia
The Japanese Camellia is among the most popular varieties of Camellia in the world. It blooms in late winter and early spring and can be found in white, off-white, pink and red color. It is used to decorate Buddhist temples throughout the country.
Japanese Lotus
Lotus is commonly used for worship in Japan. It symbolizes spiritual awakening and is highly respected by the Japanese for its religious significance. It is also a symbol of immortality, perfection and truth. The flower blooms in midsummer.
The Azaleas of Japan are divided into two categories namely the 'tsutsuji', which blooms in April and the 'satsuki', which blooms in May. The flowers of the Azalea are found in pink, purple, red and orange. The Azalea is very popular in Japan as it can be made into a bonsai.
The above are the most popular flowers of Japan. A few more popular flowers include sunflowers, poppies and roses.