Category: Society

Mary Leakey – The Puppet! (by )

Cuddly Science has a new puppet 🙂 Mary Leakey - an paleoanthropologist who along with various other members of her family and team found alot of the early homonid fossils and moved our understanding of our own evolution on in leaps and bounds.

Mary Leakey the puppet reading one of her favourite books

Mary Leakey was one of my science heroes when I was a teen - during my GCSEs and A'levels I read all the books the library had or could get on her discoveries. And she was in the original list of ten puppets to make for Cuddly Science. My Mum and Dad worked on her mainly in secret for me, knowing I was uber busy with things.

Mary Leakey the puppet with one of her creators Angie Pym

She also doubles as a general geologist, archeologist and explorer! Which is just what I needed with various archeology festivals and geology based workshops coming up this summer!

Sarah Snell-Pym Cuddly Science Cheltenham Science Festival

The puppet was in fact barely finished before it was being whizzed off to the Cheltenham Science Festival to help explain the Cheltenham Hackspace's magic sand box!

Geology Puppet showing off the sand projector

This 3D projector that maps the sand contours in real time and projects and ever updating graded colour system on top was amazing! I do have video but haven't worked out how to extract it from my phone etc...

Geologist puppet is at the sand

We had over 10, 000 kids through the Makers Shack at the festival which was amazing and also exhausting! Mary Leakey and Ada Lovelace both enjoyed their outings and I have a hell of a lot more photos and vids to put up from the festival including trying to launch a robot into near Earth orbit! But for now I shall end with this pic of Mary Leakey chilling and relaxing behind the scenes.

Mary Leakey the puppet chilling behind the scense at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Cephalopod Week 2017! (by )

Cephalopods are things like squid, octopi, cuttle fish and the nautilus or at least that is all there are today in the rock record it is quiet another matter. Ammonites with their curly shells pretty much ruled the seas at one point and were so wide spread and abundant and varied that we use them as markers in the geologic record i.e. you know what type of ammonite you've got - you know the time period the rock was formed.

Ammonite Ink Sketch

I love my fossil cephalopods (lit. head on legs) and the modern ones are pretty amazing too!

There are so many videos on youtube of them doing amazing things like escaping from jars and squeezing through very small gaps, mimicking walking and so on.

The Natural History Museum London has an entire twitter feed dedicated to cephalopods which is well worth a look and can be found here.

The Guardian has an article on Snake Stones i.e. our friends the ammonites again, which you can find here 🙂

The New York Times has an interesting article on the genetics and intelligence of squids and octopuses, which is stuff I am putting straight into one of science fiction stories as it really is quiet weird! You can find that article here.

Ever since I was a child I've loved the way cuttlefish skin changes colour, squid skin is pretty fab too 🙂

I also have one crotchet squid for my hair and one cuddly octopus for snuggling that have been given to me - surprisingly they are both purple 😉

Over at ChemKnits they happen to have collected a load of free patterns for our cephalopod friends which you can find here.

The drawing sheet still needs some work done on it but will soon be up for free down load though sadly not this week. I will also be creating two different boarders for it - one for workshops and one for the third of my adult colouring in books - Colouring Rocks!

Enjoy what's left of Cephalopod Week and I will try and do better next year 🙂

Refugee Week and Poetry (by )

I found this podcast which explores the refugee crisis etc... through poetry and musical expression. It contains an amazingly beautiful and sad Wade in the Water which has been cleverly adapted. For those of you who don't know the history of Wade in the Wader it was part of the Slave/Freedom Train in the US before the full abolition of slavery (and in some cases even after it). It was a sung code as were a few other songs.

This is something else that has been breaking my heart over the last few years - when we were trying to adopt (on hold now due to head injury) I felt I was doing something to help because we'd been told that refugee kids were the largest group and I don't care where a child comes from a child is a child and I just want to keep as many safe as possible weather from here or abroad. But obviously that didn't happen and now I sit in my house with spare rooms... and all any one tells me is that it would have been dangerous for my kids :/

I wonder if the households that took in the evacuees and the jewish kids in the second world war had the same sort of issues?

A few years ago Neil Gaiman made this video whilst visiting a refugee camp and highlighted the efforts that are being made and also the plight. He like many in the UK is descended in one branch of his family from refugees - pretty much anyone is going to find foriegn links if they actually bother to look and investigate and just ask. Many families have tended to keep that sort of ancestory secret but not all.

You can read his write up about here on the UN Refugee Agency website.

Currently I am putting together some more political poetry pamphlets/zines just my poetry at the moment - within which I have a few poems about refugees. This one is called The Journey and shamefully I can not even remember which group or news report it is about because there have been so many - so many little bodies and big bodies and just people - washed up along the shores - lives gone and wasted.

A Journey

The journey was across the water
And was flimsy with grief
The crowds swarmed
Desperation palatable
In the tang of stale sweat

Grey waters ebbed to black
Hiding those who could not make it
Or were Unwanted
Thrown to the cold placid stillness
Breath gone

Bodies bloated and rotting
Effluent choked to the fish
So they could no longer
Nibble the corpses
And still the people came
Fleeing, frightened
Seeking sanctuary
That so many of them
Would never reach
The waters filmed with grief

.....

Years ago now I remember sitting in the Wilson Museum and Art Gallery at an event where the guest poet was a refugee - I wish I could remember the mans name - he was seeking asylum at the time - in many places poetry is outlawed, poets especially political poets are actually risking their lives for something that gets seen as "a bit prissy" in this country.

I think that for next year I will try and get the Gloucester Poetry Society to organise an event.

For more information on Refugee Week go here.

London’s Burning (by )

London is reeling - everyone knows someone who lives in a Tower Block - London has a lot of Tower Blocks full of families - the fire by Latimer Road has shook the foundations of the city - and as the situation unfolds it looks more and more like we may not be able to tell how many have died, the fire spread in a way that was unexpected due to the cladding causing issues with people following the advice and how fire services initially reacted and advised people.

Fire fighters risked their lives and are still currently working - many of them have been injured but they kept going to get as many out as they could - they went in knowing they themselves could die - it was a write your name on your helmet just incase situation.

This is the sign I saw on my way home from London yesterday and my facebook post on return.

Tower Hill Tube station message after the Tower Block Fire

My heart hurts from the news - I had to walk part of my journey yesterday and that is a small price - I would have walked the whole thing to undo this tragedy- Alaric Blagrave Snell-Pym contacted me to warn me - I panicked when he initially said a Tower Block in London but it wasn't the area that sprang to my mind - that doesn't alter the horror just the likelihood of me knowing the people living there and highlights a huge issue - there are many tower blocks and flat complexes and even the "luxury" ones give me the chills when I hear from people living in them that they've turned out to be structurally unsound and are being re-built around them and so on. Many are old and do not follow the modern regs. The fire fighters fought and rescued and did amazing things - and I know their work is still on going to find what exactly happened - they sustained injuries, they are heros. I cried when Al told me and then later on when I saw the news before I went to the memorial reception I was heading too. I saw this sign on the way back home today from East London, at least I couldn't smell it on the way home - I did on the way in yesterday and that sickens me :'( It's a nightmare, a pure nightmare.

.......

My mum was struggling with the news - this is an old nightmare of hers due to the flats that were opposite her as a child and the fear of collapse from fires etc... Mum and Dad were both surprised that there was gas on in the flats due to a blow out when they were younger, that had collapsed a block of flats - there is sadness and anger.

When I got into London on Wednesday there were harrowed faces and people dashing for the newspapers as soon as they hit the stands - those who were talking had the event on their lips. London is a sprawling hive of people, mainly in the last century it has sprawled upwards.

There are regulations - each flat is supposed to be a sealed fire safe unit, they are designed and often retrofitted to contain fire - that is not what happened here. Grenfell went up like a candle with the fire spreading around the building, violently, unpredictably and rapid. People jumped and threw kids out of windows from the 15th storey and so on.

Many things appear to have gone wrong. I can not get it out of my brain and it hurts. I was visiting South Ken the Fire was North Ken. a) there was no sprinkler system and they had just redone the plumbing - apparently not adding it was not about money b) the alarms were all in the corridors outside the flats and were not loud enough to wake people c) the advice was to stay still which if it had been a normal fire would have worked sadly it didn't and that has cost lives and will continue to do so as now no one is ever going to stay still whilst the fires burn themselves out d) the cladding...

Now obviously lots of investigations have to be done but from the information that's come out so far this is what I think happened - the plastic was not fire retardant, it caught fire and was wrapped around the building - worse it had huge air gaps behind it causing a flu effect that sucked the air through making the fire burn more viciously and helped it spread upwards. The company that make/instal? the cladding are saying they followed regs in which case those regs need to be looked at. But more than that - where were the engineers? Did no one stop and thing what could the down sides of this be? What might happen if a) b) c) were to happen? One report was suggesting the cladding had been involved in other fires in India if that is the case then they must have known it was a potentially fatal issue?

The cladding also fell down meaning that police and fire fighters had to clear the local area and evacuate near by buildings. The gutted block is however still structurally sound enough for the fire fighters to be wondering around looking for bodies.

The emergency services were all maxed out and then some and they still saved lives, they still risked their own.

Nearly 9 million pounds was spent on tarting that building up - mainly spent on the cladding - to make it look nice so the expensive flats didn't have to look at the ugly mostly social housing. Yeah... so if the cladding was the problem those families, that community have been decimated because they didn't fit with gentrified London. They were the working class that had to be covered up and hidden - the asthetics of the building to the outside gaze was more important than the internal functionality and safety of its residents.

I am so ********* angry right now.

There are kids/whole families missing, out of those confirmed dead there are refugees who had already fled horror only to die like this, the young, the old... people - The People - just a standard mix of Londoners - wiped out.

And I mentioned the community, those who got out watched their homes and neighbours go up in flames - that is not going to be easily if ever forgotten - pretty sure the emergency services people will struggle too. Ontop of that what happens now? There are displaced families - some had bought their flats so now we wait to see if the insurance companies are going to be evil or not and the others? There aren't any new council houses being built - social housing has been being whittled away so where are they going to go?

London/Britain is having a bit of a time at the moment - and that is when heros emerge as the Underground sign says and not just the emergency services - various religous and social communities have stepped forward to help shelter and provide - even back here in Gloucestershire people are trying to work out how to help.

As I left South Ken and made my way through central and East London to my parents home I passed many many blocks of flats and the fear curdled my stomach - and the next morning too on my way back to Paddington Station - seeing them in day light with washing and bikes and sundries showing just how full of life those blocks are. All I can hope is that things will be done to make sure this is the only time this was allowed to happen. But that's what my parents thought about the gas blow out...

Yes I think this was preventable and that the chase for pretty penny has cost families their lives and their homes and worse of all I think those who should answer for it wont.

All I can do is offer love to those who are affected but that wont bring the dead back to life :,(

The Black Fly (by )

I was working
Working hard
Educating children
For free as there is no funding
Police and officials arrived
Those who seemed to not fit
Scooped inside
Out of view
Out of sight
But we could see
The campaign bus
We could see the
VOTE US
Sign
Black limos
On the scene
And a down pour of rain
From darkened skies
A storm was coming
Would it blow over?
The rain pelted hard
Frosting my window
But I still saw
The PM there
Standing serene
Surrounded by
People from
The bus
Brought with
Not those who were there
Those who belonged there
Who's streets these were
I stood and thought
I could go out and take a photo
And I thought
Why?
I don't want to talk to this person
If I do and I speak my heart
I will be rude
If I do and am polite and nice
I wont have spoken my heart
I felt the sliver and slime
Of both of these
And so I stood a statue
Unable to move
I thought I should take a photo
It will be news...
But I could not
Would not
I wont say should not
Because maybe I should have
Maybe I should have heard the speech
Given a chance
A blue bottle
Landed on my window
Blotting out the Prime Ministers head
It's eyes were multifaceted
It's wings had been buzzing
Droning in the background
Gnawing at my mind
And it reminded me
It was a shit sucking thing
OF infection and illness
Rotting putrid thoughts
Large and bulbous
With irridescent lines
I could not look away
Staring now focused on this fly
Transfixed on the effergy
That seemed to have the PM's body
A foul wind blew
Lashing the trees...

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