Feeds:
Posts
Comments

With just one day left of Children’s Book Week, it’s time to share some highlights from the last few days…I’ve just had so much fun, presenting to school groups from Year 1 right up to Year 10, and it’s exciting how much fun we’ve had with science, Japanese ghosts and a whole swimming pool of cabbage juice.

Thanks so much to everyone for organising Children’s Book Week…Books really do light up our world, so a big pat-on-the-back to all of us who do so much to promote reading and literacy in our schools. HOORAY FOR US!

xx

IMG_5345

Let’s go! National Science Week and Children’s Book Week! My favourite time of year!

I’ve been lucky enough to spend two days at Williams Primary doing writing workshops (Hi Williams! Thanks Jac for organising!), and today I was at Applecross Primary sharing some tips on science writing, fiction writing and the power of believing in yourself (Hi Applecross! Thanks for a fab day!).

I’m super-excited this Children’s Book Week to be focusing on non-fiction writing, and especially to be sharing the story of Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, Western Australian winners of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

And, even luckier, I have these amazing *signed* posters to give to each school, with big thanks to the Nobel Office. How awesome is that!?!

IMG_5329

Do books light up your life?

This year the themes for Children’s Book Week (Books Light Up My Life) and National Science Week (International Year of LIght) combine…If you’re an adult and want to know more about the science of light, check this out.

If you’re a kid and don’t believe me about putting the head in the fridge…

And if you’re interested in tarsiers, check out this article, which appeared recently in CSIRO’s Scientriffic magazine:

IMG_5313

Tarsiers…

Cute, furry and critically endangered, tarsiers are distantly related to someone you know very well: you!

Fact file

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tarsiers share the family name Tarsiidae. There are 5–15 species of tarsier.

DIET: Entirely carnivorous: they prefer cockroaches, crickets and other insects.

STATUS: Threatened by the illegal pet trade, hunting and habitat destruction.

Living fossils

Until around 50 million years ago, tarsiers and humans shared the same genetic path. Then, while some of us evolved into modern primates—animals like monkeys, apes and human beings—tarsiers did nothing much at all.

“They look remarkably like primates that roamed the earth 50 million years ago,” says researcher Sharon Gursky-Doyen.

Nicknamed “living fossils,” tarsiers live in forests across the Philippines and Indonesia. They are active at night, when their huge eyes help them see in the dark. Each eye is around the same size and weight as their brain.

By the light of the moon

Most nocturnal animals are afraid of the moon, but not tarsiers.

“They like full moons and are more active during full moons,” says Sharon. “This increases their exposure to potential predators, but also increases their ability to see.”

Sharon recently found that instead of seeing mostly black and white, like typical nocturnal animals, tarsiers can see red, green and blue, just like you and me.

They also have unusually large babies.

“The infants are a quarter to a third of adult weight at birth,” says Sharon. Imagine your Mum giving birth to a baby already as big as you!

“Instead of carrying their babies on their bodies, like most primates, tarsiers transport their infants in their mouths,” says Sharon.

Not yawning, screaming

Some species of tarsier are very noisy, calling to each other all night long. Others are silent—or so we thought.

One day Sharon noticed tarsiers seemed to spend a lot of time yawning, with their mouths open but making no sound. She was curious, grabbed some equipment designed for working with bats, and set to work.

Incredibly, Sharon’s team discovered these “silent” species are actually communicating ultrasonically, using chirps and whistles so high-pitched that human ears can’t hear them.

Sharon recorded tarsiers calling to each other at frequencies as high as 79 kilohertz, or 79,000 vibrations per second.  She found they can hear sounds up to 91 kilohertz, while humans can only hear up to 20 kilohertz—which to us is a brain-piercing squeal.

Pygmy tarsiers

In the highlands of Indonesia, back in 2000, two scientists were catching rats when they discovered something strange in their trap: a pygmy tarsier. Last seen alive nearly 80 years earlier, pygmy tarsiers are the smallest species of tarsier, about the size and weight of a chicken’s egg.

Sharon and her team were inspired. They searched the jungle to find more pygmy tarsiers.

“It was always foggy and wet,” she says, “…and the moss was so slippery, we were always struggling to stay upright.”

Finally, after two months of searching, Sharon trapped two male pygmy tarsiers and a female, fitting them with radio collars before releasing them.

Now, by tracking the signals from their collars, we can learn more about these shy and mysterious creatures.

It’s August! August is home to National Science Week and Children’s Book Week, so naturally it’s my favourite month of the year :-)

It’s also busy, so I’ve been looking into the possibility of cloning myself, or at least, hiring someone who looks like me and can cook and clean as badly.

the science of stunt doubles

Can’t spot the difference? That’s because of science

This article, called Double Take, appeared in Helix magazine, and it dashes all my hopes of hiring my own stunt double. Unless we’re seen around 15-second apart, it won’t really work :-/

Double Take

Movie stars may be hired for their looks and skills, but stunt doubles are hired to jump from helicopters, fall from cliffs and explode from burning buildings.

A star and stunt double can have very different faces, so why can’t you tell them apart?

Researcher Alina Liberman found the answers are all in your head.

She says your brain deliberately blurs recently seen images in a process called perceptual pull, which helps you to recognise familiar faces.

If we didn’t have this bias of seeing a face as the same from one moment to the next, our perception of people would be very confusing,” says Alina. “For example, a friend or relative would look like a completely different person with each turn of the head or change in light and shade.”

Thanks to perceptual pull, your brain morphs the effect of changing viewpoints, different lighting, blur and noise into a single idea of a particular face.

The connections it makes are especially strong when you see two or three similar faces within a 15-second time frame.

Alina tested perceptual pull in a study where participants had to pick a face that best matched a target face. Every time, they selected a face that combined the two target faces they’d most recently seen.

Here are some of the stunt doubles I’ve considered:

Baby me

Baby me

Man me

Man me

Manga me

Hmmmm. Disturbing. I think I’ll just have to stop messing around on the internet and start doing some work instead :-) Happy August everyone!

One of the things I love about science writing is the absolute variety I meet in my working day. I’m always learning new things, and I get to spend time talking to passionate, clever and interesting people.

Below are some of the stories I worked on last month for the Perth-based ScienceNetwork WA. SNWA articles require a journalistic “hard news” writing style, which is very different to the storytelling style I’m used to, but they’re still great fun to research and write. I’m always learning something new.

From WA’s tectonic foundations to the Bardi Jawi seagrass meadows, from microalgae to Australian football, from our Jurassic past to our (hopefully) glittery future…and all of it researched in Western Australia. Yay us!

WA foundations not as ‘stable’ as previously thought

What’s eating you? Solving the seagrass mystery

Marriage of maths and microalgae a good export

Zeds in bed not linked to AFL injuries

Long-gone bacteria blows the whistle on gold deposits

dualling-illustrators-heartlines-festivalWhat are you doing on Sunday 21 June?

Want to take a drive through the gorgeous Perth Hills?
Want to sip some mulled wine and talk about books and illustration?
Want to slip behind the scenes of book publishing in Australia and overseas?
Want to watch two of Perth’s best and funniest illustrators go head-to-head in an impromptu illustrator’s duel?

I do!

So book your $5 ticket and pack your bags!

We’re hosting a Meet the Maker’s session at this year’s HeARTlines festival of children’s illustration and writing, and it’s going to be fab! It runs from 1 to 2.30pm on June 21 and features some of Perth’s most distinguished authors and illustrators, including the award-winning James Foley, renowned illustrator Frané Lessac, historical narrative author Mark Greenwood and Young Adult author Amanda (AJ) Betts to share with you the how, why and what of their passion for children’s literature.

There’s more on the public program of workshops here, or you can check out Meet the Maker details below:

Heartlines-festival-event4MEET THE MAKERS

Sunday 21 June, 1 – 2.30pm

16 years + Adults

At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2

$5 non-members or $4.50 MAC/ Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre members

Afternoon tea provided

Maximum participants 35

Join the heARTlines curator Cristy Burne and some of the festival’s artists and authors, as they discuss and demonstrate their passion for literature. For this session, you will meet renowned illustrators, James Foley and Frané Lessac and authors, Mark Greenwood, Cristy Burne and Amanda (AJ) Betts as they share their knowledge, stories and inspirations.

The session will conclude with an illustrator duel… be prepared with some exciting adjectives and see what happens next! Then relax over a lovely warm, mulled wine and nibbles and a bit of informal mingling with the session’s presenters.

Clare Stroud Cristy Burne and Den Scheer

Clare, Den and I pose for Mundaring Arts Centre director Jenny. Note how empty the walls are. Hmmm. Much work to be done!

This week I’ve been working with the team at the Mundaring Arts Centre to hang this year’s heARTlines festival of children’s literature and illustration.

Like hanging the 2013 exhibition, 2015’s exhibition was a humbling experience. Thankfully, we were guided again by the marvellous Clare Stroud, who has an eye for detail and a terrific sense of what-looks-good-where (and she also cooks a fab pumpkin soup – mmmm).

Unlike 2013, we had the invaluable help of Dr Bob Squiggle, some sort of magical laser-pointing tripod-mounted Christmas gift that splashes perfectly level cherry red laser light across the entire gallery. AMAZING! Begone, heavy and ridiculous measuring devices! Thank you Dr Bob!

And even better than Bob, we had the help of artist Den Scheer, who valiantly volunteered her time to hang with us and was a huge help and inspiration (and she also makes a super-tasty quiche – mmmm).

The festival opens this Friday night… Come and see the exhibition…it’s super-inspiring to be surrounded by all these original and beautiful works, each created by people who love what they do and are looking forward to sharing it with us over the next six weeks. Yee ha!

Come see the exhibition, and you can also be part of our public program of workshops and the Great Kid’s Book Swap (bring in a book you’ve loved but can bear to part with, then swap it with another book and make a gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation….cool!)

THANK YOU to everyone involved in this year’s exhibitionto the authors, illustrators, the team at the Mundaring Arts Centre and to our sponsors: the Department of Culture and the Arts, the Shire of Mundaring, the WA branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and the Mundaring Branch of the Bank of Bendigo. We love you!!!

Heartlines_launch_2015Come one! Come all!

Come for the OPENING of 

the 2015 heARTlines Festival of Children’s Literature and Book Illustration exhibition.

The exhibition opening will be held at the Mundaring Arts Centre from 7-8.30 pm on Friday 15 May and you can RSVP your attendance with the Mundaring Arts Centre.

More on the festival

heARTlines_montague_2015Held from 15 May till 28 June 2015, this year’s heARTlines festival, held at the Mundaring Arts Centre in the awesome town of Mundaring, will feature this FREE exhibition of awesome artwork from Western Australia’s most fabulous children’s illustrators, and feature workshops from WA’s best children’s authors and illustrators.

Details on our public program are below, and you can also check out our schools program (bookings required).

PUBLIC WORKSHOPS:

WATERCOLOUR PAINTING AND ILLUSTRATION WITH GABRIEL EVANS
Thursday 11 June, 10am – 3pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$110 non-members (including materials) or $99 MAC Members *
Maximum participants 12
Gabriel Evans has illustrated over fifteen books, working in traditional materials including watercolour, gouache and coloured inks to create his whimsical paintings. Join Gabriel for a fun-filled day of creative exploration to learn about watercolour techniques and apply them to create your own illustrative painting to take home.

MEET THE MAKERS
Sunday 21 June, 1 – 2.30pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$5 non-members or $4.50 MAC/ Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre members
Afternoon tea provided
Maximum participants 35
Join the heARTlines curator Cristy Burne and some of the festival’s artists and authors, as they discuss and demonstrate their passion for literature. For this session, you will meet renowned illustrators, James Foley and Frané Lessac and authors, Mark Greenwood, Cristy Burne and Amanda (AJ) Betts as they share their knowledge, stories and inspirations.
The session will conclude with an illustrator duel… be prepared with some exciting adjectives and see what happens next! Then relax over a lovely warm, mulled wine and nibbles and a bit of informal mingling with the session’s presenters.

LANDSCAPE PAINTING WITH WENDY BINKS
Sunday 28 June, 10am – 4pm
16 years + Adults
At the Mundaring Arts Centre – Gallery 2
$110 non-members (including materials) or $99 MAC Members *
Maximum participants 12
Join well-known artist, illustrator and author Wendy Binks in a full-day workshop exploring acrylic painting techniques. In this session, Wendy will help you create an amazing piece of art you will be proud to hang on any wall, using simple rules, methods and shortcuts. You will leave with one practice piece and one completed large canvas. This workshop is for absolute, non-painting beginners…. be brave, you will be amazed!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,699 other followers

%d bloggers like this: