One Year of the HIVE

THE HIVEOne year ago we opened our first makerspace, The HIVE, in Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Hub. It has been a very interesting and very busy year, even with all the interruptions that we have had.  In this post I will try and take you through a few of the things we have learnt, some of the cool things that have been made, and where we are going for the future.

First a few fun stats for all of you. In the last year:

  • 3500+ people have visited the HIVE
  • We have done 529 individual 3D Print jobs. This equates to over 40kg of filament (or 4 big bags of potatoes)
  • 139 full sheets of laser cutting, plus another ~100 jobs completed on offcuts.
  • 300 bookings for Tūhura HIVE Studio

We have also had a drop in use of our sewing machines, CAD machines, Looms and 3D Scanner.

What have we learnt this past year? I am going to give you three out of the hundreds things we have learnt.  We have learnt how to arrange models so that they will 3D Print nicely, and that getting them to print nicely is only half of the battle! We also need to print them in such a way that the rafting and support structures are easy to remove.  On a personal note, I have also learnt that 3D printers are very simple to rebuild!

Another learning, Laser cutters will be more popular than you think. We really underestimated how many people would want to try their hand at cutting, and then go on to bigger and better projects. The cutter we have is a domestic one and has really been put through its paces and then some.

The final of the big three, trial and error is king. The best way of learning how to do something new is to try, and if it goes a little wrong, that is okay!! We have lost count of the number of times we have had things go wonky when we are trying to learn new machines, new techniques, using new materials, or software, but we always end up learning far more from those errors than if it went perfectly first time. We even have a “Shelf of Failure” in the HIVE that shows a few of the pieces that have failed in the line of duty, plus we have a few of the more spectacular failed models in the display case.

Now onto the fun stuff! Cool things we have made.

Saturn V Rockets

The first is a Saturn V rocket. I am very proud of this. It was started during the first COVID level 2 that we had and finished during the second. It took roughly a week to print (including the failures!), and then 3 days of painting. Believe it or not, it isn’t quite finished. I am planning on making a display shelf for it. Watch this space.

ClockThe second is our clock. Not much story behind it really; we needed a clock, so I made one. The mechanism came from spotlight, and the face and numbers were laser cut in our laser cutter.

The third cool thing, is a sausage roll. We were asked if we could make a 3D printed sausage roll. Believe it or not, no such thing existed, so what did we do? Went up toSausage roll the café, purchased one, 3D scanned it (then ate it), then printed it and had it painted. We created timelapse of the whole thing here.

Where to for the future?
Well, I am happy to announce that we have a new laser cutter. It arrived in March and is a semi-industrial machine. This year I would like for us to really start using all our robotics and coding equipment to the fullest.  We have a suite of Arduino and BBCmicro bits that are rearing to go, we just have to get confident with them. The final things are getting our 3D modelling software up to scratch and having a bit more wood working happening. But these are long term goals.

Anyway, thank you for reading this brain dump of the last year. I look forward to seeing you in the HIVE at some point soon!!

The HIVE in Isolation: The Faceshield Production Line

Greetings all, to the first of many blog posts about the HIVE, our Makerspace at the new Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Hub. Our Makerspace team have been busy working from home during the lockdown – have a read of what they’ve been up to below!

Before lockdown, we were fortunate enough to rescue some of the gear and take it home (specifically the 3D Printers Kryten & Holly), and really put them through their paces. We thought it would be a good idea to show you what they have been up to.

On day two or three of lockdown, we got put in touch with a group called ‘Project Faceshield New Zealand’, for people with 3D printers to help make personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers. Kryten and Holly spent Headbandsthe first week or so throwing out faceshield headbands — 34 to be exact — so they have really been doing their part. Since then, we have been told to stand down as overseas supplies have been incoming, but we are ready to restart the production line if needed.

Burnt nozzleWe were also able to test a new type of filament in Kryten — polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified, or PETg. A lot of customers had been asking about using it (we usually use PLA), and I can tell you the test was a complete failure! Such it is with what we do, sometimes things go to plan beautifully, and sometimes not so much… this one, not so much. We ended up burning up a hotend and ruining a nozzle (hopefully a good acetone soak should fix it). Lesson learnt!
However, there has been some good come from this failure — We are now very proficient in where every single little setting for the 3D printers can be found, and what they do!


Since we have been stood down for faceshield making for the moment, we have been busy trying to create things that could potentially be used around the HIVE, or even in other parts of the library. Of course, the temptation to just play around making cool stuff has occasionally proven too strong – but hey, we need to test those settings, right? Stay tuned for the next ‘HIVE in Isolation’ to learn more about what we’ve been doing since libraries closed.

Brief answers to the big questions

Brief Answers book cover

The popular science section is always fun to peruse — it’s interesting to see what topics are being thought about and considered, and whose legacy is being remembered and promoted.

Below we’ve included just a few of our picks of the new popular science books over the last few months. Our absolute favourite is a collection of answers to questions Stephen Hawking was asked across his long career as a public figure and popular science communicator — Brief answers to the big questions, but there’s lots more on a range of topics, including books on the history of the periodic table, the development of thinking about the atom, and how ancient DNA has changed our understanding of human history. Enjoy!

Brief answers to the big questions / Hawking, Stephen
“Professor Hawking was a brilliant theoretical physicist, an influential author and thinker, and a great popular communicator. Throughout his career he was asked questions by business leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs, academics and the general public on a broad range of subjects, from the origins of the universe to the future of the planet. Brief answers to the big questions brings together his thinking on the most timeless and the most-timely questions in science” (Catalogue)

Who we are and how we got here : ancient DNA and the new science of the human past / Reich, David
“David Reich describes how the revolution in the ability to sequence ancient DNA has changed our understanding of the deep human past. This book tells the emerging story of our often surprising ancestry – the extraordinary ancient migrations and mixtures of populations that have made us who we are. A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history. Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and written records as a means to understand our ancestry” (Catalogue)

Caves : exploring New Zealand’s subterranean wilderness / Thomas, Marcus
“New Zealanders as a collective share a deep connection with the outdoors. Our rivers, forests, and mountains are part of our national identity but our caves are less well-known and often misunderstood. Though nearly every corner of the country has been explored and mapped, exploration beneath our land is still in its infancy. This book takes readers on a journey into New Zealand’s longest and deepest caves. In Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness, Marcus and Neil share their passion for caving with well-researched narrative and dramatic photos – it’s as close as you’ll get to real caving without getting your socks wet” (Catalogue)

The book of why : the new science of cause and effect / Pearl, Judea
“Correlation does not imply causation.’ This mantra was invoked by scientists for decades in order to avoid taking positions as to whether one thing caused another, such as smoking and cancer and carbon dioxide and global warming. But today, that taboo is dead. The causal revolution, sparked by world-renowned computer scientist Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and placed cause and effect on a firm scientific basis. Now, Pearl and science journalist Dana Mackenzie explain causal thinking to general readers for the first time, showing how it allows us to explore the world that is and the worlds that could have been” (Catalogue)

Cracking the elements / Mileham, Rebecca
“Get back to basics with Cracking the Elements, and learn all about the building blocks of life as we know it. From the earliest-known elements to those named in 2016, this book takes a comprehensive look at the development of the periodic table – and reveals untold stories, unsung pioneers and plenty of fascinating science along the way. “(Catalogue)

Atom : the building block of everything / Challoner, Jack
“Until now, popular science has relegated the atom to a supporting role in defining the different chemical elements of the periodic table. This bold new title places its subject center stage, shining the spotlight directly onto the structure and properties of this tiniest amount of anything it is possible to identify. The book covers a huge range of topics, including the development of scientific thinking about the atom” (Catalogue)

Science Picks for July

These are but of few of the new science books about our Solar system, the planets, and space! Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverVacation guide to the solar system : science for the savvy space traveler! / Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich ; art by Steve Thomas.
“Packed with real science and fueled by imagination, a beautifully illustrated guide to traveling in our solar system. Imagine taking a hike along the windswept red plains of Mars to dig for signs of life, or touring one of Jupiter’s sixty-four moons where you can photograph its swirling storms. For a shorter trip on a tight budget, the Moon is quite majestic and very quiet if you can make it during the off-season. With four-color illustrations and packed with real-world science, The Vacation Guide to the Solar System is the must-have planning guide for the curious space adventurer.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverThe art of astrophotography / Ian Morison, Jodrell Bank, University of Manchester.
“In The Art of Astrophotography, astronomer and Astronomy Now columnist Ian Morison provides the essential foundations of how to produce beautiful astronomical images. Every type of astroimaging is covered, from images of the Moon and planets, to the constellations, star clusters and nebulae within our Milky Way Galaxy and the faint light of distant galaxies. Whether you are just getting into astrophotography or are already deeply involved, Morison’s advice will help you capture and create enticing astronomical images.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn astronomer’s tale : a life under the stars / Gary Fildes.
“Gary Fildes left school at sixteen, got a trade like most of his mates and was soon married with four kids. His life seemed set. But he had a secret. Something he only practised late at night with a few like-minded friends. Then one day, middle age approaching alarmingly, he acted on his lifelong passion. He finally came out. As an astronomer. Today, Gary is the founder and lead astronomer of Kielder Observatory, one of the top ten stargazing sites in the world, which he also helped to build. An Astronomer’s Tale is Gary’s inspirational story: part memoir, part nature writing, part seasonal guide to the night sky. It is a book brimming with passion; and at a time when the world is captivated by space, it will leave you ready to get out there and explore the wonders of the skies for yourself.” (Adapted form Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover4th rock from the Sun : the story of Mars / Nicky Jenner.
“Mars, the red planet, is ingrained in our culture, from David Bowie’s extra-terrestrial spiders to Captain Scarlet to War of the Worlds. It has inspired hundreds of authors, scientists and science-fiction writers – but what is it about this particular planet that makes it so intriguing? Nicky Jenner’s 4th Rock from the Sun reviews Mars in its entirety – its nature, attributes, and impact on 3rd Rock-culture, its environmental science and geology, and its potential as a human colony – everything you need to know about the Red Planet (and quite a few things you don’t).” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAstrophysics for people in a hurry / Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“The essential universe, from our most celebrated and beloved astrophysicist. What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson. While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverEssential guide to space : the definitive guide to exploring and understanding our solar system and the universe beyond / Paul Sutherland.
Philip’s Essential Guide to Space takes the reader on a beautifully illustrated and informative journey from the earliest beginnings of rockets and artificial satellites, through the first manned space missions, and on to the latest space probes venturing out into the farthest reaches of the Solar System and the observatories in space that are delving deeper into the origins of the Universe. Illustrated throughout with stunning photographs and colourful artworks.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStargazing / Radmila Topalovic and Tom Kerss.
“This is an introductory guide to the night sky, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Offering complete advice from the ground up, Stargazing is the perfect manual for beginners to astronomy, introducing the world of telescopes, planets, stars, dark skies and celestial maps. Discover how to tackle light pollution, how to stargaze with just your eyes, and what equipment is best for beginners. Bridging the gap between human curiosity and the need for scientific expertise, Stargazing allows a complete novice to understand our place in the cosmos and enjoy the beautiful and extraordinary wonders of the night sky.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMeteorite / Maria Golia.
“Worshipped in the past, now scrutinized with equal zeal by scientists, meteorites helped sculpt Earths features and have shaped our understanding of the planet’s origins. ‘Meteorite’ tells the long history of our engagement with these sky-born rocks, which are among the rarest things on earth. .. This richly illustrated, wide-ranging account surveys the place of meteoric phenomena in science, myth, art, literature and popular culture. Appealing to anyone interested in interplanetary space, in the uncanny and the marvelous, ‘Meteorite’ explores the ancient, lasting power of the metiorite to inspire and awe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Ocean to ocean – New Science Books for May

Here area few little gems about the Oceans (and one not so much about the Oceans) that caught our fancy this month!

Syndetics book coverWild coast : a celebration of the places where land meets sea / Marianne Taylor.
“This book is a celebration of the wildlife and landscapes of Britain’s coastline. Sheer limestone crags resound with the voices of thousands of bickering seabirds; endless acres of estuarine mud are packed with squirming invertebrates that sustain thousands of wading birds. In between are the dazzling chalk outcrops of the south coast with glorious floral communities on the clifftop meadows, shingle beaches where terns and plovers hide their eggs among the stones, and dune systems bound together with marram grass and supporting a unique and fragile ecosystem. Beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and authoritative text, this book is a celebration of the wilder aspects of the UK’s coasts.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverVoices in the ocean : a journey into the wild and haunting world of dolphins / Susan Casey.
“While swimming off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey was surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was a profoundly transporting experience, and it inspired her to embark on a two-year global adventure to explore the nature of these remarkable beings and their complex relationship to humanity. Casey ends her narrative on the island of Crete, where millennia-old frescoes and artwork document the great Minoan civilization, a culture which lived in harmony with dolphins, and whose example shows the way to a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPristine seas : journeys to the ocean’s last wild places / Enric Sala ; foreword by Leonardo DiCaprio.
“National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala takes readers on an unforgettable journey to 10 places where the ocean is virtually untouched by man, offering a fascinating glimpse into our past and an inspiring vision for the future. Showcasing 10 of his designated pristine locations, this book will unveil the greatest discoveries from Sala and his team’s expeditions and research. It is a beautiful reminder of what we have to gain by protecting our seas.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeep life : the hunt for the hidden biology of Earth, Mars, and beyond / Tullis C. Onstott.
“Deep Life takes readers to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust in search of life in extreme environments and reveals how astonishing new discoveries by geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system. Geoscientist Tullis Onstott provides an insider’s look at the pioneering fieldwork that is shining vital new light on Earth’s hidden biology–a thriving subterranean biosphere that scientists once thought to be impossible. This unforgettable book takes you to the absolute limits of life–the biotic fringe–where today’s scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeadly oceans / Nick Robertson-Brown and Caroline Robertson-Brown.
“The world’s oceans are filled with an array of venomous and toxic marine critters, not to mention a whole host of apex carnivores. Join ace divers and wildlife photographers Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown as they tour the world in search of the deadliest sea creatures.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn illustrated coastal year : the seashore uncovered season by season / Celia Lewis
“An amusing and informative anthology of coastal wildlife through the year.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOf orcas and men : what killer whales can teach us / David Neiwert.
“A revelatory history of orcas evaluates them as one of the planet’s most intelligent animals, challenging beliefs about their “killer” natures while citing the threats to their populations.” (Syndetics summary)

The Cricket World Cup – 2015

ballFor only the second time in its short life the Cricket World Cup graces the shores of Australia and New Zealand. We’ve seen just over two weeks of competition, but already a lot of history has been made in this tournament. Considered to only be minnows, Ireland stunned all when they slew the giant-like figures of the West Indies. England and Pakistan have continued a poor run of form with both teams only managing a single win each from their three pool matches. And for the first time in over four years the Chappell-Haddle Trophey was up for grabs between New Zealand and Australia. In the nail-biting, down to the last wicket match, New Zealand were guided home by the ever reliable Kane Williamson to claim the trophy. Over the next few weeks the race for who will secure a Quarter Final spot will heat up, so expect the competition to remain fierce. The talent and mental state of this New Zealand side put them in what is arguably the best position they have been in during a Cricket World Cup.

Players to Watch

Tim Southee:
In New Zealand’s rout of England Southee claimed seven wickets along with the best One Day International (ODI) bowling figures for a New Zealander. As the leader of the New Zealand pace attack you can bet he is far from finished in this tournament. Expect plenty more spells of swing and maybe even a few lofty 6’s.

Ross Taylor:
The long-standing backbone of the New Zealand batting line-up has been relatively quiet so far in this World Cup, but when the occasion calls Taylor is always ready to answer. An excellent player of pace and spin alike, he is able to change the speed of a game from sedate to blistering in an instant. Expect a big score when the pressure is on.

Corey Anderson:
Since breaking the then world record for fastest ODI century Anderson has set about his cricket with a work-horse like ethos. A man who is as happy cleaning up the tail as he is chasing down a total, Anderson has proved over the past six months that he has the maturity required to close out a game for New Zealand. Expect the ball to pepper the boundaries and the ladies to swoon.

Records Broken:

First WC Double Century – Chris Gayle
First Double Century by a non-Indian player – Chris Gayle
Fastest 150 – AB de Villiers
Fastest 50 – Brendon McCullum
Most 6s in an Innings –Chris Gayle
Highest Partnership (any wicket) – 372 by Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels
Best figures for a NZ bowler – 7/33 Tim Southee, 3rd best in World Cup (WC record is Glen McGrath 7/10)

Recommended books

Syndetics book coverA complete history of World Cup cricket / Mark Browning and James Grapsas.
“A Complete History of Cricket’s World Cup is a timely addition to the great body of cricket publications. A complete history of every World Cup competition since 1975, this publication will tap into the enormous interest in the ODI game around the world. The book traces the history and development of cricket’s World Cup, from its first tentative steps to the mammoth and wonderful event it has become. Each and every game is covered, but it is a story that goes beyond the mere statistics of matches. The World Cup silenced all the doubters and has established its unchallenged pre-eminence as the premier cricket event over the past 40 years.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverCricket : a modern anthology / Jonathan Agnew.
“Jonathan “Aggers” Agnew, England’s voice of cricket, showcases some of the very best writings on the noble game, from the 1930s to the present day. In this wide-ranging and beautifully-produced anthology, Test Match Special’s Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew, chooses a wide variety of writings on the sport that has consumed his life, from the 1932/33 Ashes (Bodyline) series right up to the present day. In a series of carefully considered, thematically organised reflections, he examines the importance of their contribution to our understanding and appreciation of cricket. With input from several eminent cricketing historians, including the librarian at Lord’s, the book contains a fascinating range of material, from renowned classics to books that have hardly seen the light of day in the United Kingdom (e.g. The Hanse Cronje Story by Garth King); from overseas fiction to modern day autobiographies (Marcus Trescothick, Simon Hughes, Mike Brearley etc.) that have attained classic status. With 75 seminal cricket images, original line drawings and a comprehensive index, this book is a must-have for any self-respecting cricket fan.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverMemorable moments in one day cricket : a compact history / compiled by Peter Murray.
“One Day Cricket has been produced in a unique style resembling a white cricket ball and will provide all cricket enthusiasts with detailed statistics and many memorable moments of one day cricket. The book features the great games, the great players and the great tournaments since the inception of one day cricket in 1962. The book covers cricket innovations such as coloured clothing, World Series Cricket, and the history of the one day cricket World Cups. The perfect Christmas gift for all cricket enthusiasts and a great memento of the game.” (Library catalogue)

From the web:

  1. Kane Williamson hits winning six as New Zealand defeat Australia by one wicket in Cricket World Cup thriller
  2. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 – Home page
  3. ESPN Cricinfo – World Cup 2015
  4. – Cricket World Cup 2015
  5. 3 NEWS – Cricket World Cup 2015

Science Feature – The Rosetta Space probe

Image: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam
Image: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam
At ~5am NZ time, 13/11/2014, the comet lander Philae landed on the nucleus (central part) of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. 7 hours earlier it had separated from its parent craft, the space probe Rosetta.

This is the first time a man-made craft has landed on a comet. Rosetta was launched in 2004, on a mission to rendezvous with a comet, send a lander to it, and escort the comet to observe any changes to the comet on its path around the sun.

On its travels to the comet, Rosetta has flown by Earth three times, Mars once, and an asteroid. It was also forced into a 31 month hibernation, to conserve energy. It awoke in January 2014 and continued its journey to the comet, culminating in the landing of Philae.

Though the landing can be considered successful, in that Philae made it down in one piece, the harpoons meant to hold it onto the comet did not fire upon landing, raising concerns about how stable it is, on the surface.

More information on the Rosetta mission can be found on the European Space Agency website.

Books on comets and asteroids:

Syndetics book coverThe solar system : a visual exploration of the planets, moons, and other heavenly bodies that orbit our sun / written by Marcus Chown.
Bestselling author Marcus Chown leads us on a grand tour through the incredible diversity of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and spacecraft that surround the Sun in our cosmic backyard. Illuminating his insightful and surprising text are a wealth of beautiful images and diagrams, printed in full colour, richly detailed and accurately based on real scientific data. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNear-Earth objects : finding them before they find us / Donald K. Yeomans.
“Humans may fret over earthquakes, nuclear meltdown, and heart attacks, but only collision with a near-Earth object has “the capacity to wipe out an entire civilization with a single blow.” Balancing the wonders of astronomy with the looming potential for an epic, planetwide disaster, Yeomans, a fellow and research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explores the origins of near-Earth objects-asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteoroids-and the threat they can pose to our planet. Though brief, Yeomans’s book is an accessible and far-ranging primer on the science of near-Earth objects.” (Adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Books for the Kids:

Syndetics book coverComets, asteroids, and meteors / Stuart Atkinson.
“What are comets and asteroids like, and could we ever visit one? Taking the form of an imaginary trip, this book explores the science and history of these objects, looking at recent studies and possibilities for the future.” (

Syndetics book coverThe lonely existence of asteroids and comets / by Mark Weakland ; illustrated by Carlos Aón.
“It can be tricky to keep all those chunks floating around in space comets, asteroids, meteors straight. And though these space rocks don’t have quite the brain-bendingly cool allure of other cosmic wowers like black holes and supernovae, they provide a solid thematic bedrock for a wide-ranging tour of the vastness of the universe in this graphic-format title in the Adventures in Science series.” (Adapted from Booklist)

Further online Rosetta reading:

— The Guardian – Why is the Rosetta landing so exciting: This article gives a good, basic outline of the mission, and why we should be excited!
— – Philae landing: An article on the landing of Philae.
— – Philae landing-Malfunctions made Philae bounce kilometre off comet: Outlines what didn’t quite work with the landing, and gives a history of man’s landings on other worlds.
— Wikipedia – Rosetta: Wikipedia’s article on Rosetta.
— Wikipedia – Philae: Wikipedia’s article on Philae.

Science feature – Earthquake lights

seismocc1Earthquake lights are a very rare phenomenon that occurs during seismic events. They appear in the sky and look quite similar to an aurora with many different colour variations.
97% of all reported sighting of these lights have occurred near plate boundaries or continental divides.

Initially reports of sightings were dismissed as superstition until they were photographed in the mid 1960’s during the Matsushiro earthquake swarm in Nagano, Japan.

Since then scientists have gone through the previously dismissed sightings and have confirmed sightings from over 65 events. Events that have generated lights include the 1888 Amuri, 1930 Idu, 1975 Kalapana, 2007 Peru, 2009 L’Aquila, and 2010 Darfield and Chilean earthquakes (to name a few).

This Phenomenon has been receiving a lot of press recently, with a publication of a paper in Seismological Research Letters, written by Robert Thériault, France St-Laurent, Friedemann T. Freund, and John S. Derr, entitled “Prevalence of Earthquake Lights Associated with Rift Environments.”

In this article the authors suggest the possible causes of these lights and their potential use in earthquake prediction, or early warning use. Unfortunately, due to copyright reasons, we are unable to provide access to this article.

However you can find some information earthquakes and related phenomena from the following links to library books and websites:

Syndetics book coverGeology for dummies / by Alecia M. Spooner.

Syndetics book coverEarth science today / Brendan Murphy, Damian Nance.

Syndetics book coverEarthquakes / G.A. Eiby.


Recent Science Books

A few of latest and greatest science books that have come across my desk

Syndetics book coverRandomness in evolution / John Tyler Bonner.
“Bonner indicates in the acknowledgments section that some readers may consider his book “controversial.” However, he provides a well-written, well-documented collection of evidence suggesting randomness as a primary engine behind natural selection. This has been self-evident since Darwin’s time, and should no longer produce controversy. More interesting is Bonner’s suggestion that an organism’s size is a factor in randomness. While not really new, his well-done approach is certainly convincing. The author’s own research on slime molds bears out his thesis nicely. Clearly, the greater an organism’s size, the greater the opportunity for errors to occur from random events. If this happens early in development, it is probably fatal; if it happens much later, it might provide desirable/advantageous change. Equally an issue is that larger organisms take longer to reach independence. Bonner could have addressed the role of chance in the evolution of populations consisting of small groups such as hominids, where the loss of one individual could change the future of the species. This is an excellent essay, valuable to a wide audience. Evolution is an important, timely topic, making Bonner’s work a worthy contribution. Summing up: Highly recommended.” (Adapted from CHOICE)

Syndetics book coverDarwin’s doubt : the explosive origin of animal life and the case for intelligent design / Stephen C. Meyer.
“Charles Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. In what is known today as the “Cambrian explosion,” 530 million years ago many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock. In Darwin’s Doubt Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life — a mystery that has intensified, not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found, but also because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the theory of intelligent design — which holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection — is ultimately the best explanation for the origin of the Cambrian animals.” (From back cover)

Syndetics book coverRocket girl : the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist / George D. Morgan.
“Rocket Girl is an intriguing biography of a woman who kept many secrets, the least of which was her part in crafting the rocket-fuel recipe for the satellite Explorer 1. She had a bitter and brutal childhood, put a child up for adoption, and was unpaid for many years for the dangerous work she did in a male-dominated field. Most of all, as her son, author Morgan, recalls, there was something not quite right about her. Call it depression or OCD or just years of suppressed emotion, but Mary Sherman Morgan was not a happy woman. Determined to explore her complicated past, Morgan first wrote a play and then, delving into more detail, this portrait. The narrative is a bit unwieldy in its jumping back and forth in time and in Morgan’s attempts to enter the minds of Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev, and many questions remain unanswered. Still, the personal story and family detective work are truly gripping, and Mary, in all her contradictions, emerges as a fascinating subject.” (Adapted from Booklist)

Syndetics book coverThe Norm chronicles : stories and numbers about danger / Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter.
“A far from average book: the real story behind the statistics on risk, chance and choice. Meet Norm. He’s 31, 5’9″, just over 13 stone, and works a 39 hour week. He likes a drink, doesn’t do enough exercise and occasionally treats himself to a bar of chocolate (milk). He’s a pretty average kind of guy. In fact, he is the average guy in this clever and unusual take on statistical risk, chance, and how these two factors affect our everyday choices. Watch as Norm (who, like all average specimens, feels himself to be uniquely special), and his friends careful Prudence and reckless Kelvin, turns to statistics to help him in life’s endless series of choices – should I fly or take the train? Have a baby? Another drink? Or another sausage? Do a charity skydive or get a lift on a motorbike? Because chance and risk aren’t just about numbers – it’s about what we believe, who we trust and how we feel about the world around us. What we do, or don’t do, has as much do with gut instinct as hard facts, with enjoyment as understanding. If you’ve ever wondered what the statistics in tabloid scare stories really mean, how dangerous horse-riding is compared to class-A drugs, or what governs coincidence, you will find it all here.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverBrilliant blunders : from Darwin to Einstein–colossal mistakes by great scientists that changed our understanding of life and the universe / Mario Livio.
“Drawing on the lives of five great scientists — Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle and Albert Einstein — scientist/author Mario Livio shows how even the greatest scientists made major mistakes and how science built on these errors to achieve breakthroughs, especially into the evolution of life and the universe.” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverFrom quantum to cosmos : the universe within / Neil Turok.
“In this visionary book, Neil Turok explores the great discoveries of the past three centuries – from the classical mechanics of Newton; to the nature of light; to the bizarre world of the quantum; to the evolution of the cosmos; and even the recent findings of Higgs bosons at the Large Hadron Collider. Each new discovery has, over time, yielded new technologies that have transformed society. Now, he argues, we are on the cusp of another major change: the coming quantum revolution that will supplant our digital age. Facing this new world, Turok calls for creatively re-inventing the way advanced knowledge is developed and shared, and opening access to the vast, untapped pools of intellectual talent in the developing world. Scientific research, training, and outreach are vital to our future economy, as well as powerful forces for peaceful global progress. Elegantly written and highly inspirational, From Quantum to Cosmos is, above all, about the future – of science, of society, and of ourselves.” (Book cover)

Syndetics book coverEarth / editors-in-chief, James F. Luhr and Jeffrey E. Post.
“Offers an exploration of planet Earth. From the fiery mass of the Earth’s core to the tip of the highest ice-capped mountain, this title helps you discover every aspect of our planet in photographic detail with Earth.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe Neanderthals rediscovered : how modern science is rewriting their history / Dimitra Papagianni, Michael A. Morse.
“For too long the Neanderthals have been seen as dim-witted evolutionary dead-enders who looked and behaved completely differently from us, but in recent years their story has been transformed thanks to new discoveries and advances in scientific techniques. In a compelling narrative one that has not previously been told in a way that encompasses the entire dramatic arc from evolution to expansion to extinction this book takes a fresh and engaging look at the whole story of the Neanderthals, setting out all the evidence, redressing the balance and arriving at a fairer assessment of a species that was closely related to us and in so doing addresses what it is to be human.” (From book jacket)

Syndetics book coverTelling our way to the sea : a voyage of discovery in the Sea of Cortez / Aaron Hirsh.
“Hirsh, with biologist Veronica Volny and science historian Graham Burnett, traveled with 12 college students to a remote Mexican fishing village on the Sea of Cortez for a field course on evolutionary biology and the ecology of the area. Hirsh weaves the history of the conquistadors, knowledge of the present-day villagers, and the day-to-day activities of the group, with its varied, sometimes difficult personalities, into his story of the Sea of Cortez and its ecology, along with that of the adjoining desert. He uses the group’s observations as a springboard to a discussion of endangered species and the wonder of the sea’s inhabitants, from sea cucumbers to rays to whales. Beautifully descriptive prose and accessible science combine to create a fascinating look at a seemingly abundant ecosystem that turns out to be a pale imitation of what it once was. Verdict? This work is a rich exploration of the Sea of Cortez and its surroundings for readers interested in the ecology, history, and current inhabitants of the area, as well as fans of lyrically written natural history books and/or of evolutionary biology.” (Adapted from Library Journal)

How To Shoot The Stars – A Talk Not To Be Missed

Syndetics book coverImaging the Southern Sky : an amateur astronomer’s guide
“Stephen Chadwick’s recent book is not about imaging from the southern hemisphere, but rather about imaging those areas of the sky that lie south of the celestial equator. Many of the astronomical objects presented are also accessible to northern hemisphere imagers, including those in both the USA and Europe. Imaging the Southern Sky discusses over 150 of the best southern objects to image, including nebulae, galaxies, and planetaries, each one accompanied by a spectacular color image taken from the author’s backyard in rural Manawatu, New Zealand. This book also includes sections on both image capturing and processing techniques and so makes an ideal all-in-one introduction. Furthermore, because it contains an in-depth study of how to capture all the objects, many of which are rarely imaged by amateurs and professionals alike, it is also extremely useful for the more advanced imager.” (adapted from

In association with Wellington City Libraries, Stephen Chadwick will give a FREE talk on 8 November at Newlands Community Centre during which he will highlight some of these objects – galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, constellations and comets – that are out there deep in space, and will end with a video called “A Journey along the Milky Way” set to live music performed by Wellington composer and musician Oliver Devlin.
For more information, visit

Join and share the event on Facebook

2013 Cook Strait Earthquakes

What happened?

nzOver the last month, Seddon & Wellington have been rattled by a swarm of earthquakes that started with a 5.7 at 9:06am on July 19th. This swarm reached a head with a magnitude 6.5 shake on Sunday 21st July at 5.09pm. This quake was centred 25km east of Seddon and had a focal depth of 13km. An aftershock sequence followed with over 2500 earthquakes over magnitude 2.0.

Just as the previous sequence was starting to quieten down, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck at 2.31pm on August 16th, near Lake Grassmere. This quake heavily damaged Seddon, and startled workers and residents of Wellington. This quake also has its own aftershock sequence, of which over 2000 quakes over magnitude 2 have been recorded.

Points to note

I have been asked quite a few questions about earthquakes in the last few weeks, as one of a few staff members with a geological background. These are a few of the more common answers to questions I have been asked:

1. Earthquakes are made up of two parts – P-wave, which comes first and is a compressional, push-pull wave, and S-wave, which comes second and is the side-to-side shaking that is normally what causes damage. Very often you won’t feel the P-wave – your pets might, though, which is what gave rise to the folktale that animals ‘sense’ earthquakes.

2. There’s no real difference between an earthquake and an aftershock – they’re just words we use to qualitatively differentiate between a big event and any little ones that happen around it.

3. A swarm is where a localised area is struck by many earthquakes over a short period of time. They are usually around the same size and are different from aftershocks in that they are not preceded by a large event.

Where can I learn more?

I must confess that I am not a seismologist, but I have studied seismology and do have a degree in geology. Even so, I get a lot of my information from GeoNet. It is the most reliable source of information (I would take what they say in news articles with a few grains of salt).

These GeoNet pages are very very good:
1. GeoNet News: Damaging quake hits the north-east of the South Island : This page gives you nice brief, easy to understand scientific descriptions of what has happened, and it compares the 6.5 and 6.6 quakes.

2. GeoNet: M6.6 Lake Grassmere earthquake : This page shows more info on the 6.6 and also the latest information that GNS have on the quake.

3. GeoNet: Cook Strait aftershocks and forecast probabilities : This page gives you the lastest aftershock forecast probabilities (These are NOT predictions) and the information on the 10 largest quakes so far.

For information on what to do after an earthquake or other natural disasters visit the Get Ready, Get Thru and WREMO pages, and for counciling and support check out Skylight.

NZ’s Active Volcanos

volc1With Mt Tongariro bursting into life, and Mt Ruapehu possibly about to erupt, it is probably a good idea for us to acquaint ourselves with their past.

Mount Ruapehu: Probably the most well known of all of New Zealand’s volcanoes. A major eruption occurs at this mountain every 50 years or so, the last of which being the 1995-96 eruption series, with smaller single eruptions in-between.

Ruapehu erupts / Karen Williams.
In September 1995 Ruapehu burst into life after a period of restlessness. The raw power of the ensuing eruptions captured worldwide attention as towering columns of roiling ash and steam, torrential mud-flows and incandescent lava bombs presented an ongoing spectacle. Now including coverage of the plans painstakingly put in place to avoid another Tangiwai disaster when the crater lake burst, and the sudden eruption in September 2007 which nearly killed climber William Pike. “Ruapehu Erupts”  celebrates the drama and magic of these eruptions and lahars and provides a stunning record of the latest chapter in the continuing story of this unpredictable volcano. (

Eruption! : Mount Ruapehu awakes / Bruce Houghton, Vince Neall and David Johnston.
“Events during the eruptions of Mt Ruapehu in 1995-96 are presented in text and colour photographs. Two of the authors are members of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences team which monitors the volcano; Vince Neall leads a team from Massey University studying lahars and the effects of ash fall.” (Syndetics summary)

For more information on Mount Ruapehu visit:

Mount Tongariro: Last active in the 1800’s, Tongariro has burst into life again, closing parts of the world famous crossing. Tongariro consists of 12 cones and craters including Mount Ngauruhoe, which was previously active in the mid 70’s.

Syndetics book coverTongariro : a volcanic environment / Lois Anderson.
The main focus is on the volcanic landscapes and the interacting natural process that created, located and shaped them in the Tongariro volcanic environment. Resource written for Level 3 (Year 13) Geography students studying the Natural processes topics, assessed by Achievement Standard 3.1.

For more information on Mount Tongariro visit:

More books on New Zealand Volcanism:

Syndetics book coverAwesome forces : the natural hazards that threaten New Zealand / edited by Geoff Hicks and Hamish Campbell.
Storms, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami – all New Zealanders will encounter at least one of these hazards in their lives.  Informative, generously illustrated, and written by some of New Zealand’s leading scientists, this massively revised and updated edition of Te Papa Press’ bestselling title is now more relevant than ever.
With all-new information on climate change and the social and emotional impact of disasters, this book is a fascinating and essential resource.
Produced in association with EQC and GNS Science. (Te Papa Press)

Formula 1 and Recent automotive manuals

With the Formula 1 season well underway here are some books to help you make sense of the madness that is F1, and the people involved in it — and by madness we mean awesomeness!

Syndetics book coverFormula 1 : all the races : the world championship story race-by-race, 1950-2011 / Roger Smith.
This book describes in remarkable detail the 62-year history of the Formula 1 world championship, covering 858 races, 192 winning cars, 102 winning drivers and 32 champions.–Back cover.

Syndetics book cover60 years of the Formula One world championship / general editor, Bruce Jones ; featuring exclusive contributions from Tony Brooks … [et al.].
“The 2009 Formula One World Drivers’ Championship” is the 60th of the series and “60 Years of the Formula One World Championship” is published to celebrate this anniversary. Every significant moment of every one of the 60 years is described in words and pictures, giving the reader a sense of the drama, thrill and glamour of motor racing. Complementing this is a series of specially commissioned interviews with half a dozen of the leading protagonists from Formula One’s first six decades. From Juan Manuel Fangio’s dominance in the 1950s through the era of Michael Schumacher, to the modern day, “60 Years of the Formula One World Championship” is essential reading for any Formula One fan. (

Syndetics book coverNo angel : the secret life of Bernie Ecclestone / Tom Bower.
Private, mysterious and some say sinister, 79 year-old Bernie Ecclestone criss crosses the globe in his private jet mixing with celebrities, statesmen and sporting heroes. Ecclestones success has not just been to create a multi billion dollar global business but to resist repeated attempts to snatch the glittering prize from his control.

Recent Car Manuals & Bike Manuals

Syndetics book coverMazda MX-5 Miata automotive repair manual / by Alan Ahlstrand and John H. Haynes.

Syndetics book coverSubaru Legacy and Forester automotive repair manual / by Robert Maddox and John H. Haynes.</a

Syndetics book coverSuzuki Intruder, Marauder, Volusia, C50, M50 & S50 : service and repair manual / by Alan Ahlstrand.

The Transit Of Venus – June 6 2012

Courtesy ESA/C. Carreau The “transit of Venus” is one of the oldest predictable astronomical phenomena, occurring in pairs, 8 years apart, every 105 and 121 years. Thanks to Johannes Kepler and his work in planetary motion , the first transit was predicted to occur in 1631, but was unobservable from Europe. Following some re-working of Kepler’s work, Jeremiah Horrocks was the first man to witness a transit of Venus. From the data he collected he was able to roughly work out the size of Venus, and how far the earth was from the sun.

Since then transits were witnessed in 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and 2004. With each passing transit astronomers have been able to improve upon the original work started by Kepler. Although the advances made in technology since 1882 have lessened the scientific importance of the transit, one cannot understate the importance it had in the early days of astronomy and helping us to understand our solar system…. plus it won’t happen again till 2117!.


Syndetics book coverTransit of Venus : 1631 to the present / Nick Lomb.
“The transit of Venus across the sun in June 2012 will be the last chance in our lifetime to see this rare planetary alignment that has been so important in history. Rich in historical detail and cutting edge science, along with practical information on how and when to view the transit, Transit of Venus is the must-have companion to this extraordinary astronomical event. From Johannes Kepler’s first prediction of a transit of Venus in 1631, to Captain Cook’s 1769 transit expedition to Tahiti (which led to the European settlement of Australia), and on to our 21st-century quest to find distant Earth-like planets using the transit method, astronomer Nick Lomb takes us on a thrilling journey of exploration and adventure.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJune 8, 2004 : Venus in transit / Eli Maor.
“On June 8, 2004, Venus will cross the sun’s face for the first time since 1882. Eli Maor tells the intriguing tale of the five Venus transits previously observed and the fantastic efforts made to record them. This is a story of heroes and cowards, of reputations earned and squandered, all told against a backdrop of phenomenal geopolitical and scientific change. With a novelist’s talent for the details that keep readers reading late, Maor tells the stories of how Kepler’s misguided theology led him to the laws of planetary motion; of obscure Jeremiah Horrocks, who predicted the 1639 transit only to die, at age 22, a day before he was to discuss the event with the only other human known to have seen it; of the unfortunate Le Gentil, whose decade of labor was rewarded with obscuring clouds, shipwreck, and the plundering of his estate by relatives who prematurely declared him dead; of David Rittenhouse, Father of American Astronomy, who was overcome by the 1769 transit’s onset and failed to record its beginning; and of Maximilian Hell, whose good name long suffered from the perusal of his transit notes by a color-blind critic. Moving beyond individual fates, Maor chronicles how governments’ participation in the first international scientific effort–the observation of the 1761 transit from seventy stations, yielding a surprisingly accurate calculation of the astronomical unit using Edmund Halley’s posthumous directions–intersected with the Seven Years’ War, British South Seas expansion, and growing American scientific prominence. Throughout, Maor guides readers to the upcoming Venus transits in 2004 and 2012, opportunities to witness a phenomenon seen by no living person and not to be repeated until 2117” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe transit of Venus : how a rare astronomical alignment changed the world : the collected lectures of the Royal Society of New Zealand transit of Venus series broadcast on Radio New Zealand.
Introduction / Marilyn Head — Search for the lost continent / Hamish Campbell — The road to Stonehenge / Richard Hall — A brillant civilisation / Peter Adds — To the farthest ends of the Earth / Duncan Steel — Voyaging with Cook / Anne Salmond — Travels in time and space / Paul Callaghan.

and for the CD of these lectures :

Transit of Venus lectures [sound recording]
“On Disc 1, Dr Hamish Campbell talks about the origins of New Zealand, especially from the split from Gondwanaland, and the development of our unique flora and fauna; on Disc 2, Richard Hall’s lecture the Tent fires of antiquity: exploring the early origins of astronomy explores the use of the stars by ancient peoples; on Disc 3, Dr. Peter Adds’ lecture Pacific voyaging and navigation explores the use of the stars by Pacific navigators; on Disc 4 Dr Duncan Steele discusses the history and prediction of the Transit of Venus, why it is important to astronomers and navigators, and its importance to New Zealand and Pacific history; on Disc 5 Dame Anne Salmond discusses the importance of James Cook’s 1769 voyage and cultural contact between the Europeans and Pacific and New Zealand peoples; on Disc 6 Prof. Paul Callaghan looks at Voyages of the future: what are the challenges in the search for the dark matter, other life, and other universes.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)


In the news lately… the sinking of the MV Rena

We’ve decided to start an occasional series of topical posts highlighting resources about current events – let us know what you think!

We hope to link to useful resources from around the Web, as well as highlighting information from our premium databases (authoritative resources on many many topics that we have subscribed to so that you can access with your library card details).

For our first of these topics, we’ve chosen the grounding (and eventual sinking) of the MV Rena in Tauranga.

What happened?

At 2.20am on Wednesday, 5 October 2011, the MV Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef. She was sailing from Napier to Tauranga in clear weather. At the time of grounding she was carrying 1,368 containers, as well as approximately 1700 Tonnes of heavy fuel oil. By 9th October a 5km oil slick was clearly visible, endangering local wildlife and rich fishing grounds. By the morning of 12 October 2011, the ship was listing 30° to starboard, had lost 30 – 70 containers, had leaked about 350 tonnes of oil, and also had large cracks developing in the Hull.

For a timeline of how the clean-up and salvage operation has proceeded, visit Maritime New Zealand’s Rena Timeline page. (The Rena broke into two pieces following a storm on January 9th, and the following day the Stern section sank.)

Useful websites for up-to-date information:

From our databases:

(To access these links, you’ll need to log in with your library card details – there’s some great stuff here though!)

  • Search on ProQuest ANZ Newsstand for articles on the Rena Oil Spill (valid for 3 months from date of search)
    Media coverage of the disaster from New Zealand and Australian newspapers.
  • MacKenzie, Dana. 2011. “Operation clean-up.” New Scientist 212, no. 2836: 46.
    This article from New Scientist talks about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and mentions the grounding of the Rena and subsequent oil spill as well. It looks at current and possible future methods of clean-up.
  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (2010, in the Gulf of Mexico) on Gale Student Resources in Context
    Overviews, newspaper and magazine articles, images, video, audio and more
  • Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989, in Alaska) on Gale Student Resources in Context
    Overviews, newspaper and magazine articles, images, video, audio and more
  • A general search for ‘oil spills‘ on Gale Student Resources in Context
    Produces encyclopaedia overviews,  newspaper and magazine articles, audio, photos and video on the topic of oil spills.

Books about New Zealand Shipwrecks:

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand shipwrecks : over 200 years of disasters at sea / originally compiled by Charles William Ingram & Percy Owen Wheatley.
“Since the publication of the first edition in 1936, New Zealand Shipwrecks has been the authority on maritime disasters in our waters. This hugely readable reference records the details of more than 2200 shipwrecks and highlights those of special significance and drama, telling exciting tales of daring, bravery or treasure never found. An indispensable record of a fascinating aspect of New Zealand’s maritime history. This 8th edition includes 245 new entries as well as updated information on many wrecks.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverFull astern! : an illustrated history of New Zealand shipwrecks / Gavin McLean ; [edited by Lorraine Olphert].
“The sea may be our highway, but it can charge appallingly high tolls. Our ancestors rightly feared death and destruction at sea. In the last 200 years over 2000 ships have been fatally wrecked on New Zealand shores, sometimes with horrific loss of life. Many more have been salvaged only after epic struggle. In this lively book, leading historian Gavin McLean examines some of New Zealand’s most interesting wrecks. In Full Astern he explores some of the iconic wrecks that wrote themselves into New Zealand history: the Orpheus, General Grant, Tararua, Wairarapa, Penguin, Wahine and Mikhail Lermontov. But others will be new to readers, the ordinary, everyday vessels on which New Zealanders depended. Full Astern is a story of terrifying storms, of inhospitable coastlines, of human error, of the malicious hand of fate, and of courtroom dramas as stunned communities picked through the evidence of disaster.” (Mighty Ape)

Or, try this catalogue quicksearch for more items about New Zealand shipwrecks.

Love Top Gear? Need something to watch or read?

With summer here (for a given value of summer), many of you have doubtless seen many many lovely and interesting cars around the place (like the beautiful bright yellow Lotus Elise I followed yesterday) and thought to yourself, “I wonder what the boys off of Top Gear say about that?”. Or you may just have a hankering to watch some entertaining Top Gear challenges. Either way, we have the solution for you! Here’s a round-up of Top Gear offerings at the library:


The Top Gear Challenges DVD’s

The Library has 5 volumes of Top Gear Challenges, taken from seasons 7 – 16. They range from the £1500 Porsche challenge, to building a snowplough out of a combine harvester and turning a Reliant Robin into Space Shuttle. Also included in the above search are two DVD’s of Top Gear’s famous ‘Road trips’, including last year’s Middle East special.

topgear10Top Gear. Series 10
“Who in their right mind would attempt to drive through the Kalahari Desert in three 20-year-old bangers? Or try to cross the treacherous English Channel in a fleet of amphibious cars that are less seaworthy than the average church? You guessed it – Top Gear’s three intrepid presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May! But Top Gear is much more than just three grown men – who should know better – larking about. There is some serious car journalism in here too, with exhaustive road tests of the latest models, a search for the perfect driving road in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Lambo Gallardo Superleggera and Aston Vantage N24, a look-back at the history of motoring, man versus machine experiments, and power tests featuring the world’s most exotic supercars, including the Ferrari 599, Audi R8 and Caparo T1. And of course, the tried and tested Top Gear favourites make a welcome return including ‘the news’; the ‘cool wall’ and The Stig, who puts the rich and famous through their paces in the regular ‘Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’ feature” (Back cover)

topgear11Top Gear. Series 11
“Fasten your seatbelts as Jeremy, Richard and James attempt to build a better police car with old bangers, and race a Nissan GT-R against the fearsomely efficient Japanese public transport system. The boys also find time to test the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Mitsubishi Evo X, Bentley Brooklands and Mazdas amazing Furai concept car.” (Back cover)

For more DVDs try this search


topgearant TopGear anthems : the greatest ever driving songs.
These songs compile by a popular vote by the UK Top Gear audience during season 6. The track listing contains many timeless driving classics and is a brilliant way to start your morning drive.

TopGear : seriously rock ‘n’ roll!
“The award winning Top Gear show continues to top TV ratings and sell out live arenas globally. Since it made its live debut on the world stage in 2008, Top Gear Live has been seen by over 1,000,000 fans and is continuing to push the boundaries of car theatre. After 36,000 kiwi fans rushed to purchase tickets to the sellout TOP GEAR LIVE shows in 2009 and again early this year, the UK BBC have approved a special 2CD edition of ‘Top Gear :- Seriously Rock ‘n’ Roll! (New Zealand Edition)’.” (

For more CD’s try this search

Books by the Top Gear boys:

Syndetics book coverOr is that just me / Richard Hammond.
“More of the wry, honest, and often hilarious chronicles of Richard Hammond–TV presenter, adventurer, and general drawer of the Short Straw. Continuing where “As You Do” left off, “Did I Say That?” focuses on just a few of the many hair-raising stunts, expeditions, and encounters experienced by Richard Hammond over the last eventful year.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRound the bend / Jeremy Clarkson.
“What’s it like to drive a car that’s actively trying to kill you? This and many other burning questions trouble Jeremy Clarkson as he sets out to explore the world from the safety of four wheels.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverCar fever : the car bore’s essential companion / James May.
“Top Gear’s James May is back with his hilarious and controversial opinions on just about everything, from political correctness to cars.As well as writing about his first love, the Fiat Panda, James has a go at the endless rules and regulations of daily life, the internal combustion engine and traffic wardens.His highly entertaining observations from behind the wheel will have you laughing out loud, whether you share his opinions, or not. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

For more Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond books, please click on their respective links.

We’ve been pondering… Marie Curie

marieDecember the 10th marked the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie’s winning of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for her discovery of both polonium and radium, and the research she subsequently did on radioactivity and the associated compounds of radium. She had previously won a joint Nobel Prize, with her husband Pierre Curie, for their research into radioactivity. This made her the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, the first person to be awarded two Nobel prizes, and she is still one of only two people to be awarded two Nobel Prizes for different fields. She is still to date, the only woman to win in two fields.

Here is a link to the transcript of the speech made by the President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences at the award ceremony, that thrust Marie Curie well and truly into the history books.


Syndetics book coverRadioactive : Marie and Pierre Curie : a tale of love and fallout / Lauren Redniss.
“Presents the professional and private lives of Marie and Pierre Curie, examining their personal struggles, the advancements they made in the world of science, and the issue of radiation in the modern world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverObsessive genius : the inner world of Marie Curie / Barbara Goldsmith.
“Best-selling historian Goldsmith incisively chronicles the intensely dramatic life of the first woman scientist to win the Nobel Prize, neatly explicating both scientific breakthroughs and complex personal and societal conflicts. Curie, born Marya Salomee Sklodowska, endured and triumphed over a tough childhood in Russian-occupied Poland as well as depression, sexism, and poverty. A brilliant and profoundly committed scientist who achieved many firsts, she found her soul mate in fellow scientist and maverick Pierre Curie, who helped her conduct the grueling experiments that enabled her to discover polonium, radium, and radioactivity, thus throwing open the door to atomic science. A humanist who hoped that radiation would only be used for good, Marie Curie also invented a mobile X-ray unit that her courageous scientist daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, who also won a Nobel Prize, operated on the front lines. Marie, Pierre, and Irene were all made fatally ill by their work with radioactive substances, and decades later, the Curie papers that Goldsmith has made such superb use of were still hot. Marie Curie’s life, Goldsmith concludes, was tragic and glorious. Her powerful portrait reveals a woman of great passion, genius, and pain who changed the world in ways she would have deplored. –Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 BooklistFrom Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.” (Booklist)

For more books try this search for ‘Marie Curie’.

From our databases:

For more articles please use our Science databases located here.

From the web

  • – Covers both her 1903 prize in Physics with Pierre Curie and her 1911 prize in Chemistry. Also includes some interesting biographical details and some of her X-ray work in WWI.
  • Royal Society of New Zealand: Marie Curie Lecture Series – This site contains details of the Marie Curie lecture series currently being run across the country by the Royal Society.
  • Year of Chemistry 2011- The NZ site for the year of Chemistry. Keep up with local events and lectures, for what is left of the year. The main international page can be found here.

Previous Science features

Please click here for previous Science features

We’ve been pondering… Near Earth Objects

Our latest science featured topic, is Near Earth Objects. Have a browse!

Courtesy NASA/JPL-CaltechThe Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy (log in online with your library card details) defines a Near Earth object (NEO) as “An asteroid whose orbit brings it close to Earth’s orbit. Such Asteroids have a perihelion of less than 1.3 AU (1 AU = 149,597,870 km)”.

Earth often has close encounters with these NEO’s: there have been five in the last 10 years – such as the November 8, 2011 encounter with asteroid 2005 YU55, which came within 324,600 km of Earth. The last time a NEO of this size got this close was in 1989. As of April 2011, 7,954 NEO’s have been discovered (this includes asteroids and comets). Of the 7,954, 1,047 have been listed as hazardous – but there is no need to worry!

Approximately 1 NEO per year measuring 5-10m across strikes the Earth, and in the last 100 years, only four NEO’s have struck Earth with any considerable force (although these only affected the immediate area of the fall). Of those under watch at the moment, the one with the highest chance of striking Earth has a probability of 1 in 300, and won’t be near us till the year 2880.


Syndetics book coverWonders of the solar system / Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen.
“Employing his trademark clear, authoritative, yet down-to-earth approach, Brian will explore how these previously unseen phenomena have dramatically expanded our horizons with new discoveries about the planets, their moons and how they came to be the way they are.” (

See also the DVD version.

Syndetics book coverAsteroid rendezvous : NEAR Shoemaker’s adventures at Eros / edited by Jim Bell and Jacqueline Mitton.
“An account of NASA’s dramatic NEAR mission to the asteroid Eros by scientists involved.” (Syndetics summary)

For more books try this search for ‘Asteroids’.

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New Pasefika music

Here are a few highlights:

99AD 99AD.
“There’s a lot to say about 99 A.D, the new album from New Zealand’s much loved hip-hop/R&B crew Nesian Mystik. The record is as welcoming as it is challenging, it’s uncompromisingly forward thinking rather than mired to the many successes of the group’s celebrated past and, in the words of rapper Feleti ‘Sabre’ Strickson-Pua, it is “completely fresh.” (Adapted from

“Erakah’s appropriately titled debut album Infatuated. It’s a record that showcases not only her dazzling vocal ability but also her willingness to push the sonic boundaries and perceptions of what R&B can be and do.” (

RiseandshineRise & shine.
“The Release of Rise And Shine marks the beginning of a new chapter for Adeaze, and the boys are excited to be back doing what they love best – making great music and putting on great shows. Adeaze have delivered a beautifully constructed album replete with songs of love, lost and found, and ultimately of hope. The last few months have seen Adeaze busy with the daily production and recording sessions for Rise And Shine. The first single Got My Girl For Life was delivered to radio in October 2010, and in February 2011 Adeaze followed that up with Broken Promises. The third single Paradise saw Adeaze bring together friends, family and local artists to sing with them. Adeaze wrote this song to encourage people, wherever they are at in their lives, to find their own paradise.” (