The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything

No – this post is in no way connected to the classic Douglas Adams book. This is the first post of what may or may not become a new feature topic to The Psychology of Me, and that’s science. I have always been interested in science; it is such a huge part of everything around us. From the smallest things to the biggest, science has an impact in much of everyday life. Chemistry, physics and biology are everywhere and it’s in our understanding of these subjects that we live in the world we do.

If it wasn’t for our understanding of how coal, gas and oil burn at a chemical level, and our understanding of how we can use it to heat water, make steam and drive a turbine then there wouldn’t be the electricity powering the computer I am writing this on. Science is how we understand the things that go on around us. But science isn’t just confined to the pursuits of biology, chemistry and physics. There is social science, too.

Biology, chemistry and physics are the disciplines through which we try to gain a better understanding of the world around us. Social science is concerned with how we fit in to this world. It looks at law, economics, psychology and sociology. At its further reaches, it can also include law and history. Psychology – the study of the human condition. A subject I studied at school and became fascinated in. I love science, but as a creature moving through the world and the cycle of life, humans are complicated, unpredictable and really very interesting. History helps us to understand who we were and where we came from.

As we move through this life we understand the world better, and understand ourselves better. Technology helps us to expand the knowledge we have, and make accessing and sharing that knowledge easier all the time. The internet is a wealth of information, once you manage to trawl through the less-scientific material to reach the real gems. There are some fantastic sites out there that help make science accessible to the masses. A real gem started out as a page on Facebook. It grew in followers, and has its own website: www.iflscience.com.

Hopefully, with all the information and ideas out there, this will become a topic that I will work on and expand. There is a whole universe of subject matter to pick from, so I will definitely give it a go. But that will do for now, so I will leave you with this final thought:

You-Are-The-Universe-Expressing-Itself-As-A-Human-For-A-Little-While

On sharks, media hysteria and potential Darwin Award candidates

Recently I climbed up on my soap box in a post about the barbaric plans being pushed forward by the West Australian Government to cull “large sharks”, which you can read here. This morning I opened up the Sky News app on my phone to see an article involving sharks in Australia in the headlines. To my surprise it wasn’t about a shark-related fatality. It wasn’t even about the frankly disgusting cull plans, or the protests to prevent it. It was about human stupidity that will give the policy makers what they will perceive as further ammunition in their quest to rid the oceans of Earth of possibly the most fascinating creature alive.

The first issue with the article the headline and sub-headline start out with the phrase “killer shark” only for the first line of the article to then call it a “dangerous shark”. Let’s stop for just a moment. Is there ANY evidence the shark swam up to this guy and thought “I think I’ll kill this guy!”? Nope. It was caught by a “professional fisherman” and pulled in close to the boat. So the shark hasn’t killed anyone at this point, and nor did it according to the article. But that doesn’t stop the “journalist” claiming it is dangerous and a killer. Mass media hysteria – gotta love it. The politicians will see this and be in rapturous joy – “oh look, this killer shark just attacked an innocent human! We must kill them all!”. The media has a responsibility to report the facts, but facts don’t sell. Stories with drama sell. If there is no drama, add some. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was humming the theme from Jaws under their breath as they sat at the keyboard!

Anyway, back to the story. The shark, having been caught and brought close to the boat is still swimming in the area, probably less than happy at being dragged by the hook in its mouth. So in his infinite wisdom, our subject decides to put a birdcage over his head and torso, and then jump in the water with the “killer shark”. It swam at him, so he threw the cage at the shark and leapt out of the sea screaming in terror. 

            What did he think would happen? It is no surprise that the shark went for him, especially after having a birdcage thrown at it. The guy is extremely lucky he didn’t become a Darwin Award candidate. If you haven’t heard of the Darwin Awards, they are a tongue-in-cheek award for people who either die or otherwise remove all chance of them procreating through their own stupidity, thus improving the IQ of the remaining gene pool. Take a look at past winners and you will get the idea. If he had died in his idiotic folly, the media would report on the tragic death of an innocent man in the maw of a snarling, bloodthirsty evil shark. And the governments would love the weight it would lend their campaign.

The problem is not with sharks, but with humans and their insistence on putting themselves in the world in which they dominate. Many companies offer tourists shark-watching tours all over the world. The boats head out and bate the water with chum, or use synthetic seal analogues to entice the sharks to surface near the boats, or leap out of the sea. Humans entice sharks in to contact situations with us, yet we then feign shock and horror when these encounters end badly, usually for people. We cannot expect to be able to entice them towards humans, but not see us as a source of food.

Until people learn to understand these animals, appreciate their importance, and respect them safely, then fatal encounters are going to continue – albeit very rarely according to the numbers – and the misinformed will succeed in taking an already threatened creature in to extinction.

I hope this will be my last soap box rant on this topic, but then I thought the first would be! Keep the debate going – use the comments section to let me know what think about all this! 🙂

 

The Darwin Awards

The Darwin Awards


How about a cull on human stupidity instead of sharks?

This post is a bit of a rant really, but maybe it will stir up a little conversation and debate! This one came about from a post on Facebook and a report on the BBC website. The post and report talk about plans by the Western Australian government to cull sharks in their waters. The idea goes like this: set up 72 baited hooks about 1km from the shore to intentionally trap sharks, measure them, and callously kill any over 3 metres in size. While this sounds a big fish, it covers a number of species in Australian waters including the Tiger, Bull and Great White sharks.

Ok, yes, I am a fan of sharks (pretty impressive piece of natural engineering in my view!) but this is just human stupidity at its best. Sharks accounted for 2 fatalities in Australia in 2013. Drowning accounted for 290 deaths, and 1,600 were linked to alcohol. If the government banned swimming in the sea, then instead of preventing just 2 deaths, they would prevent 292. More lives saved, without killing a single shark.

Drowning and alcohol led to more fatalities than sharks

Drowning and alcohol led to more fatalities than sharks

Sharks have swum the oceans for millions of years doing what nature and natural selection intended them to do: hunt. Suddenly strange air breathers come in to their worlds swimming on pieces of wood, they accidentally kill a few in the pursuit of food and survival, and those in power decide to wipe them all out. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against surfers – most of them are fully aware of the risks in their pursuit, it’s the politicians I take issue with! Sharks are the top predators on Earth, with some impressive senses to help them out. And as a by-product of this, they keep the ecosystem in check, ensuring a balance in species numbers. Kill the sharks; you kill the ecosystem, pretty simple really.

Here’s an idea – why don’t we bait some hooks with cash to catch the politicians? Any that are too stupid to spot the trap should be thrown to the sharks. And then the balance of human intelligence and natural order will be restored! 🙂

I hope this sparks some debate and conversation! I am always open to differing views, so whether you agree or disagree with my opinions – put them in the comments and lets have a healthy debate! 🙂

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So what’s this blog all about?

Yes, I know, I have had this blog for some time now! But isn’t it too late to add a “what’s this blog all about?” post? No! Ok, so some of you have read bits and pieces on this blog and probably have a vague idea what’s going on here – though that isn’t a given. Some of you are new followers, and are probably none the wiser as to where my mind is going as I expand this little blog of mine.
I’ll let you in to a little secret – this is the way my mind works. Welcome to my world! So I have my share of interests. Films, sports, music, reading, writing, travelling, trying new things. I also love photography, but you’re in the wrong place for that. Head to my photography blog here to see my photos! This is my little retreat where I will share my thoughts on all these and more. Sometimes my posts won’t have a theme; they will just run along with my train of thoughts. Hopefully you are all thinking “I want to see where this goes” rather than “definite fruit loop!” – if you are the former camp, pop your email address in the box and follow my blog as I take you through my world! 🙂

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So with only 3 days to go, it is definitely starting to look very much like Christmas! Since November shops and supermarkets have been playing Christmas songs. TV adverts have taken on a festive feel. DIY stores and garden centres undergo a massive transformation – out with the potted plants and cans of paint, in with the real trees and string upon string of Christmas lights, decorations and ornaments.
Many grow tired of the ever-increasing build up (it seems to start earlier each year!) to Christmas, and with an abundance of commercialisation to it, that’s easy to understand. But once the twelfth month of the year rolls around, the inner child sits up and takes note – just 25 little days until the big day. That said, there’s still always so much to do. Gift shopping. Food shopping. Card writing. The joys of wrapping any gift that doesn’t come in a nice square box. Sticky tape that shreds, or whose end always eludes us!
Yet for all the frustrations, I for one love the build up. Suddenly the Christmas songs that have invaded my ears from every store, coffee shop and TV advert become a pleasure. Turning on the radio and catching a favourite festive tune becomes a joy. While a great many of the commercials at this time of year are crass, overly-commercialised tripe designed purely to sell you products in the most blatant and shameless manner, a few manage to capture the magic (and still earn a tidy profit for the companies in question!). No Christmas season would seem complete without the now-classic Coca Cola advert. While Coca Cola didn’t actually invent the image of Santa we all picture, their lorries driving through a snowy landscape have become a staple of Christmas TV advertising since 1995! And British department store chain John Lewis have had their run of success with TV adverts that play on the emotion of Christmas rather than telling us explicitly to buy, buy, buy! They gained big success in their adverts featuring a “Mr and Mrs Snowman”, where he heads out on a journey to find the ideal gift for Mrs Snowman. 2013’s advert carries on the emotional theme, with their big budget animated advert featuring “the bear and hare”. It very cleverly targets the emotion of the season, not the cash to be made. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look here.
Christmas isn’t just about the money spent and gifts given, though (honest!). It’s about sharing time with friends and family, and the sense of kindness it brings. Some big, seemingly-faceless corporations have even found the charitable spirit of the season. WestJet, a Canadian airline, carried out a Christmas miracle that has since gone viral. In airport terminals, passengers scanned their boarding cards, only to see a purple-clad Santa appear on screen, knowing their names. He spoke with every passenger, asking what they wanted for Christmas. Needless to say, there was a surprise for passengers at the baggage carousel in their destination airports. Take a look at the video below. Now I am not so naive as to think this was done entirely from the kindness of their hearts, it is the most amazing bit of PR they could wish for. But this doesn’t change the fact that it was an amazing thing to see from a big company.

So while you are all sat around on the 25th, lost in a sea of discarded wrapping paper, gifts, rich food, turkey, festive songs, Christmas films and toys without the necessary batteries (doesn’t this always seem to happen??), remember to enjoy the moments, and spend quality time with friends, family – the people that matter the most!

Let me know what your favourite things about Christmas – films, songs, food, activities –  are in the comments section.

All that’s left to say is that I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! 🙂

MerryXmas

A Busy Year

Well this year has been pretty busy! 11 months in, and I still have a fair bit to come, with a month to go. Plenty of things have happened, including a few firsts for me, so here’s just a little ramble about my 2013.

In March, I had a fantastic day out in London. The day started out with a trip to comic book heaven, Forbidden Planet. After wandering around and gazing at the many things I couldn’t afford, we joined the queue outside to meet Robert Llewelyn (of Red Dwarf fame). He was there to do signings for a couple of his books. Great guy, very welcoming! After a stop for a much-needed coffee and snack, it was off to The Shard. An impressive building from the outside, it was all the more impressive once you got all the way up to the 72nd floor. The views were spectacular, especially as the sun set over London.

The last week of June brings about the start of the biggest of the 4 tennis slams – Wimbledon, and with it, my first (of many I hope) visits to the hallowed turf of SW19. The first impression on walking in is the size of the place! The show courts are all fairly close together, but the outside courts are what makes the place so massive. With the traditional English strawberries and cream in hand, we took up a spot by one of the outside courts to watch a bit of doubles tennis involving Lleyton Hewitt. There was time to catch a bit of Novak Djokovic warming up for his match later in the day, before heading to the famous Henman Hill (or Murray Mount). The atmosphere here is amazing, but nothing compared with being inside Centre Court. With Del Potro, Radwanska and Djokovic on the schedule, it was a fantastic day to pay my first visit.

Cinderella's Castle, Magic Kingdom

Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom

September saw a family holiday to Florida. It may have been my fifth visit to Orlando – Theme Park capital of the world, but this place never gets old. And you are never too old to enjoy the wonders of Disney and Universal. The Disney Parks are a highly magical place, where old and young alike get to indulge the inner child. With the fantastic themes of the parks lands, to the music, larger than life characters and the world-famous parades, Disney’s parks are a must. And coming back after dark for the electrical light parade was an amazing experience – fantastic costumes, vehicles and great music made it true Disney.

The Universal parks bring the world of cinema to life. Seaworld has its own charm, fusing the world of animals and rides together. The new ride – Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin was something special. Part ride – a faster version for big kids, and a tamer version for little ones, and part walk through, it gave a fascinating insight into the world of penguins. Couple all of this with the awe-inspiring shows featuring killer whales and majestic dolphins, and it is a fantastic day out, with a slower pace.

The highlight of the holiday came though from two attractions. A trip to Seaworld’s Discovery Cove is beyond words. A tropical oasis in Orlando, this place exudes relaxation. The opportunity to swim with bottle nose dolphins was something I will certainly never forget. The trainers took the time to teach us so much about these wonderful, intelligent creatures while allowing an unforgettable experience. The main reef is spectacular, too. The warm waters were teeming with tropical fish, and snorkelling amongst them as a variety of huge rays glide by is out of this world. The park is finished off by the aviaries. Being able to go in and learn all about the tropical birds there was fascinating, and only enhanced by having them come and land on you as they literally eat from the palm of your hand. The day finished on a real high note with an evening trip to see the quirky Blue Man Group. A funny, thought-provoking and massively entertaining show by the silent men in blue is something I cannot wait to experience again.

The NFL came to London for two regular season games at Wembley Stadium. First up was the Minnesota Vikings playing host to the

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings, Wembley Stadium

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings, Wembley Stadium

Pittsburgh Steelers, with the second tie seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars host the San Francisco 49ers. I may be a Patriots fan, but living in England, I’ll take my live gridiron action where I can. Both days were a real spectacle. The whole day on both occasions had a party atmosphere, with cheerleader displays, various competitions and a chance to see the Vince Lombardi Superbowl trophy up close. Though the first game was a closely fought affair,  the second more of a one-sided match up, both provided a great opportunity for me to see my first NFL games, so here’s to the 3 games in London next year!

Throw in a fantastic Alter Bridge gig at Wembley Arena, and 2013 has been pretty awesome to date! But there’s still more to come for me before the year is out, so I look forward to the rest of this year!

What has been the highlight of your year so far? Let me know in the comments section! 🙂

2 Weeks in the Theme Park Capital of the World!

Back in September I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks on holiday in Orlando, Florida. It was never going to be a relaxing break, but with all the parks to visit, attractions to ride and shows to see, you wouldn’t want it to be!

Doctor Doom's Fearfall

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall

And we really hit the ground running. On the first full day in Orlando, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. What a park to start off with! With themed Islands including  Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, It features some of the biggest thrill rides so it’s a real big hitter.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fantastic part of the park, even if the main  The ride was something different. A combination of motion simulator, flying ride and special effects show. The effects were impressive, but the constant, sometimes rapid, direction changes let it down. It’s worth it for the walk through the recreated Hogwarts Castle. And the surrounding area, a replica of Hoggsmeade was very impressive, with it’s on-theme shops and eateries.

Cinderella's Castle, Magic Kingdom

Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom

Next up was Disney’s Magic Kingdom. This park never gets old! No matter how old you are, you can’t help but love it. With it’s mix of themes – from the Wild West, to Future Land, everyone loves Disney. From the characters to the rides, and the world-famous parades, it is a must-do when in Florida. Staying late for the electric parade really rounded the day off. Disney also offers up a host of other parks. Animal Kingdom was as-ever amazing, with a mix of Disney magic and exotic animals to go along with a handful of rides. Hollywood Studios brings the films of Walt Disney to life, and EPCOT

Kennedy Space Centre is somewhere I have a real passion for. It may not be a theme park, but it brings a whole other experience. Seeing the Rocket Garden is a spectacle in itself. Walking in amongst full size rockets, either standing full height or laid down, you get a real sense of the enormity of these stunning works of engineering. We took a tour which is always an eye-opener, hopping on a bus to see parts of the complex. The tour included a stop at the now-disused shuttle launch pads. These imposing metal structures loomed high above as we stood in their shadow.  A range of birds, including vultures, circled the towers ominously as you get a feel for how big a shuttle must have been. A trip around the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was a highlight of the tour, getting to see this immense building where the shuttle vehicle was set up with the fuel tank and rockets. A stop at the Saturn V building allows a fantastic opportunity to see a full size Saturn V class rocket separated in to its main parts. The Space Shuttle Atlantis experience started off with a cinematic presentation about the conception, from design to final implementation, of the shuttle programme. As the screen faded to a black backdrop filled with stars, it became translucent allowing a glimpse of the Atlantis shuttle. What an impressive site as the screen raises and I moved forward to see this feat of technology, taking man to the stars. I spent a lot of time lost in thought viewing this majestic creation, before heading to the Atlantis Experience – a simulator-type attraction allowing riders the chance to see what a shuttle launch and re-entry would have been like.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the holiday was a day spent at Discovery Cove. The concept of this park is fantastic. In the heart of Orlando, close to the Universal and SeaWorld parks, it somehow manages to be an oasis of peace. The all inclusive set up including breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks just made the day all the more relaxing. Starting the day with a dolphin experience is something I will never forget. Spending half an hour in the water with these fascinating animals, we were introduced to two dolphins, taught a lot about them, before being taken on an unforgettable swim being towed by one of them. The rest of the day was spent swimming in the warm waters of the lazy river, the cold waters of a lagoon teeming with tropical fish and rays, and feeding a rainbow cascade of tropical birds.

I have been lucky enough to visit Orlando a number of times now, and it never ceases to amaze and astound. There is always something new, and the feeling of excitement as you walk through the gates of the parks and attractions is second to none!