Ignite Your Imagination TVC

Here’s a bit of TV Commercial animation I did for the launch of the University of Tasmania’s science events and info website: Ignite Your Imagination

Andrew from Atomic Blender supplied the storyboards, direction and 2D assets which I then modified and animated. Additional assets were built and animated in 3D. One of the nicest things was that I used multiple kinds of animation, and a whole bunch of software.

The sound effects were created by Nick Storr at Firefly Media.

The animation was then used again on the website via the talents of Matt Daniels who transformed it into a navigation element.

This project was the best kind, lots of fun and people paid me at the end!
Software used: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, Lightwave 3D.

Science at Home: Multicoloured Flowers, ‘What crap will lizards eat?’ and the birth of Mothra!

I grew up on a diet of Attenborough documentaries(where I learned BBC does documentaries like no other), ‘In the Wild with Harry Butler’(where I learned to always put the rock back and drunk pygmy possums are easier to get along with) and some wildlife show that had Lorne Greene narrating and ‘Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring as it’s theme music but I can’t find reference to it anywhere (which taught me slow motion wildlife, Lorne Greene and classical music are pretty epic together). By the way, if anyone can remember what this show was called let me know!

My kids on the other hand are getting large doses of ‘Deadly 60’, ‘Barney’s Barrier Reef’ and a rather cool show called ‘Backyard Science’. The really great thing about ‘Backyard Science’ is that it shows kids doing experiments themselves and discovering how stuff works. It wasn’t long before Gabby was pestering me to try out an experiment I hadn’t seen. It involved taking a white flower with plenty of stem, splitting the stem in two and putting each side of the split into a separate cup. You then put water and different food colouring in each cup and wait overnight. This was our result:

Awesome! Of course the great thing about this is then Gabby asked why it happens. Then we had to find out!(it was almost like I was some kind of responsible parent or something)

Around the same time Isaac and I were encountering skinks in the backyard and he decided that we should feed them as the pesticide barrier or ‘Death Zone’ around our house meant they had fewer insects to eat. So in the spirit of scientific experimentation and being too lazy to chase moths around the back yard I checked what was in the fridge.

Left over Lasagne.

I can’t begin to describe the sacrifice we were making for science, just as words cannot do justice to the lasagne made in our household. Thankfully we didn’t need much as skinks are very small.

We placed the lasagne in places we’d seen the lizards basking and waited. It didn’t take long for the lizards to start chowing down! We were hooked!

The following weeks we tried sausage(eaten), cheese(eaten) and watermelon, filmed with inappropriate music below…

Yuh I know, it’s *just* like ‘Jurassic Park’! (this skink is smarter than T-Rex though, I’m pretty sure it can find something to eat even if the the prey stays still)

The kids are also curious about bugs we find, we’d look up different things uncovered from under rocks or beaten senseless against an outside light .

We’d seen some really big cocoons(10cm long) poking out of holes in trees lately and the kids and I were wondering what emerges from them. During a recent party at a friend’s place we stumbled across another cocoon which was full of what is scientifically known as (orange)goo. The occupant was sitting right next to it… MOTHRA!

To demonstrate how impressed Mothra was at being disturbed while it recovered from getting out of the cocoon it deployed a large tube from its underside and squirted the same goo a quite impressive 50cm or so. The kids didn’t love that part much.

Gabby really wanted to know what it was that had sprayed her with goo, turns out it was a Wood Moth.

I guess the point of all this is that kids really do value knowledge in a way I think many adults forget to do. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routines of work and ‘civilisation’ and forget that there’s a whole lot of stuff going on around us that is worth knowing even just for the sense of wonder, if not the reward of understanding how the pieces of the puzzle of life go together.

What I did on my Summer Vacation #2: Swimming with the Tuna

Every couple of years we travel the 2000km to Port Lincoln in South Australia to visit with family. Port Lincoln is a big fishing town, with the last 2 decades spent ‘farming’ tuna as a value adding venture in response to lower catch quotas.

In the last few years some local tourist operators saw the tuna farming set up, with its captive fauna, as a more accessible form of this. Fun fact: Live shots for ‘Jaws’ were filmed off Pt. Lincoln.

This year we were determined to be tourists in the place we grew up, and since my daughter Gabby and I are such animal nuts we hopped on a boat and went out to a tuna enclosure to get in the water!

The set up was pretty impressive, with the main enclosure containing (delicious looking) tuna surrounding a smaller enclosure swirling with smaller (yummy) species. There were also underwater viewing areas and touch pools containing a variety of kid friendly (and tasty looking) creatures like prawns.

So we suited up…

Gabby is smaller than the fish we were about to swim with, which would make me a less tempting target if things went all 'horror movie' on us!

What you see from above...

.. the mayhem when you get in!

Once you’re in it becomes abundantly clear just how well adapted these animals are to their environment. As we clumsily flopped about the tuna moved their 60kg bulk between us effortlessly. I was surprised by a couple of things, the mobility of the eyes was much greater than I would have thought. The tuna wouldn’t allow you to touch them, if you reached a hand out even toward their tail they would slip out of the way, they could clearly see what I was up to even when I thought I was well out of line of sight.(one of the guides had been a ‘tuna cowboy’ and caught them by hand, you’d have to be bloody quick)

The other amazing bit of anatomy was the way all of the fins, including the yellow ‘spikes’ along the dorsal and ventral posterior body, all had slots to fold into. The Tuna could become bullets at will! Here are two pictures which hopefully show it in action…

Fin sticks up!

Fin goes down!

While you’re in the water you get to hand feed the tuna whole pilchards, which are tossed to you on the surface and you have to hide them until you’re ready to hold them out for the fish.

Another surprise was in store, on one close feeding pass I could feel the tuna’s teeth through the thick diving gloves I was wearing. For some reason I’d always thought tuna engulfed their prey and had only rudimentary teeth, bit wrong there!

The experience was great and they allowed us plenty of time to experience the different fish. For some reason I couldn’t help but start seeing tuna steaks and crumbed prawns, probably should have had a bigger breakfast.

Next time around Gabby and I are keen to swim with the Sea Lions, and I’m also hoping to hop in a cage and get up close with a Great White Shark.

Kitteh in TerrorDactile!

Kitteh makes it’s return this week with more science documentary tropes and a special guest star courtesy of Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings, who supplied the highly accurate pterosaur reconstruction.

In other Kitteh news Illustrator Tricia of Tricia’s Obligatory Art Blog has created Kitteh fan art in the form of a (slightly disturbing) life reconstruction!

Toddle over to Tricia’s Flicker for a look at Tricia’s reconstruction of Kitteh and his Mouse prey, as well as Tricia’s take on one of Kitteh’s natural enemies.

Linheraptor artwork spotted in Japan!

Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings kindly sent me a picture he’d taken at the 2011 Dino Expo held at Tokyo’s National Museum of Science and Nature.

It’s pretty gratifying seeing the painting in this context, as a solid reality and part of an exhibit. I’m looking forward to doing more of the same, as Dave and I have another little collaboration in the works.

Finally a REAL Predator..

This one is definitely for the dino-nuts out there….

This was a bit of fun having a little poke at the idea that a Tyrannosaur’s small arms precluded it from being predatory. The reasoning being that it would be unable to ‘grapple’ with its prey.

That it doesn’t take much of a leap to start thinking of plenty of modern predators which don’t qualify based on the same criteria made the idea appealing to me.

I’m not even sure it’s a controversial topic or whether the dust has settled on the issue. What I do know is that I’ve seen those little arms stopping Tyrannosaurus being able to hunt in as varied places as quite crazy ID blogs all the way to a mainstream TV documentary with the backing of a somewhat controversial palaeontologist.

I drew it all in ball point pen, which is a bit unusual as I’ve taken to drawing in Photoshop lately, the text is digital though.

When I was at school I spent all day drawing with a ball point pen. It was all I had and my teachers didn’t mind because I’d always get the work done as well as drawing away in the back of my books, on my school diary, my ruler… you name it. I still find it really comfortable to draw with, and confidence building as when you make a mark that’s it! No erasing.

Listen to the Scientist..

So a little while ago I posted my version of Diabloceratops here.

It was inspired by Dave Hone hosting a guest post from Palaeontologist Jim Kirkland introducing Diabloceratops.

In the comments a discussion emerged about the nasal horn and Jim Kirkland, one of the authors of the paper, pointed out that Diabloceratops had a small secondary horn in front of the other one.

I’d just done a rough image and by the time I started on a polished version I’d completely forgotten the correction. *Sigh*.

Accuracy, and particularly anatomical accuracy, are the bread and butter of palaeontologists, they live and breathe this stuff. Why is it so important? Simply put, those details allow palaeontologists to understand the flow of life through time, the interrelatedness and relationships between animals, diet and even sometimes their behaviour.

Of course, that it was one of the paper’s authors who’d pointed out the facts and I’d blithely gone on my way without taking a moment to learn something new is pretty damn poor too!

So, if you’re out there Mr. Kirkland, here’s a very small, but not necessarily insignificant, revision.(now with bonus prettier frill)

Poor Science literacy made worse by poor reporting of science… literacy….

Not my usual sort of post but I really wanted to write about this, I promise to post a pretty picture soon to make up for my rantishness.
ABC news recently reported that scientific literacy was poor in Australians, with 30% of people believing dinosaurs and humans cohabited the Earth at the same time.

As sad as this is, when the story comments were inevitably hijacked by Creationists, they were unwittingly aided by no less than Dr Cathy Foley, president of the Australian Scientific and Technological Societies. In the article, Dr. Foley had either chosen her words poorly, or was misquoted when she said:

“Unfortunately 30 per cent of Australians think reptiles or dinosaurs and humans were alive at the same time, for example, which is probably something I guess worries us.”

Emphasis is mine. Of course reptiles are still around now, something people with a beef with evolutionary theory were quick to point out. I can only hope the survey wasn’t as poorly worded.

So why am I going on about a little gaffe in a story that would have been a poor fiftieth choice after everyone had clicked on the latest tidbit about Lindsay Lohan not getting a pillow in prison?

Because science needs to remain relevant in a world awash with information. We have no better tool at our disposal for understanding nature yet it’s poorly understood, or worse, distrusted by a significant proportion of society.

Then of course, when it comes to Evolution there’s a definite movement in opposition from people to whom the very notion is against their belief system. These people make the most headway when science is poorly understood in the first place.

So little stumbles from prominent scientists become easy sources of misinformation.

More than ever, scientists need to make sure they have their facts straight, especially when dealing with the media and with something outside their direct field of expertise.

(even more so when you get this sort of nonsense going on in Australian schools)