January 06, 2010


Recently, I came across an excellent article on dinoflagellates — a large, diverse and eccentric group of (usually) single-celled organisms that are as celebrated as they are feared. They are the best of beings and yet are also the worst of beings. They are animals; they are plants. While they can be saviors, they are also killers. Sometimes they are predators and yet, they are also parasites.

Extracted from The New York Times:

All dinoflagellates live in water, most famously the ocean (though some live in freshwater), and many of them can swim: protruding from their outsides they have two whip-like structures known as flagella, one for moving and one for steering. (Flagella is plural: if they had only one, they’d have a flagellum.)

Some dinoflagellates have eyes. Others give off light. Some, like plants, make energy from the sun; others, like animals, capture and eat their prey. Some do both. Funky.

But even if you’ve never seen a dinoflagellate and wouldn’t recognize one if it waved its flagella at you, you’ve probably come across them, for they impinge on our lives in two important ways, one good, one bad. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article. Believe me - it is worth reading!

Take care and have a nice day!

January 03, 2010


I drew my arm back and with a flick of the wrist let the boomerang fly. It was out of my control. To an observer it may have appeared to be attached to a string I held, for it banked to the left and carved out a circle heading back towards me. As it got closer it increased in altitude, slowing and hovering as it settled down into my hands. I clamped them together and felt the exhilaration of a perfect execution.

Boomerangs were like relationships. You got out what you put in and never had complete control of the process. The boomerang decided whether it would return and some days, if the conditions were bad, it would never come back. Selecting a suitable boomerang for the conditions helped but not always.

Some boomerangs would never fly. Like my grandfather's boomerang, the one he got from Queensland during the war. When he showed me it as a boy I was awed. It was dark brown, almost black in places and quite large (about the size of my arm). He had thrown it once that I remember, down at the beach, but it hadn't returned. Still I was smitten and convinced him to make me and my brothers some smaller ones to throw in the bush. They never returned either, but the fun was in the making and the games we played.

Recently I had taken the big 'rang to the park and thrown it with confidence. Instead of banking to the left it had soared up high, directly in front of me then roller-coastered back down almost taking off my head. Inspecting its design and comparing it with a book, I realised it was not to be.

Wind is the natural enemy of the boomerang - contrary to popular belief. I had always thought that the wind pushed the 'rang back to the thrower. Graham informed me otherwise. I met him at the beach one morning. I was there for a swim but when I arrived I saw him standing on the edge of the water throwing boomerangs. It was very calm as he tossed them out to sea and caught them as they returned. It looked very Zen-like and I walked up to him to find out more. That was when he told me that he never threw when it was windy. He patiently explained to me about the aerodynamics - lift, rotation, processional motion, angular momentum - pointing out the modifications he had made.

My first boomerang came from the gift shop Graham suggested. It didn't work so I proceeded to adjust the aerofoils as he had shown me. It still didn't return. Luckily, before I gave up, I tried another shop and was rewarded with a 'rang (which had a guarantee of flightmanship stamped on it), and a book about throwing and making boomerangs. Armed with knowledge and a guaranteed boomerang, I practiced and practiced until I could throw. Like my marriage to Susan, I also learnt when to walk away. Some days and some 'rangs just never worked no matter how hard I tried.

-written by Mark Hansen-