Thursday 28 July 2016

Adventures in Micro Worlds. Fractals. Mathematics is the language of Nature.

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Ever wondered why the world around you seems so perfect at times? Not the mess and chaos that human populations manage to create everywhere they go but the perfection that often exists in nature, especially when you zoom down to micro levels and you see precise patterns replicated in fine detail to a scale that you can hardly see with the naked eye. The big news is they continue past that until they become invisible- and still continue replicating..... "to Infinity... and beyond" as it were. I was very impressed last month to discover this tiny flower with a perfect cross (or branding iron) sticking out.
Common Blue Butterfly. This is a post I've been working on for several weeks now in my head- in fact it's been several years finding out all the details until they fell together, like a jigsaw puzzle making a complete picture I could understand... to my own limited non intellectual satisfaction that is- as I'm pretty thick at times... but I try my best to keep up.

Years ago, when they still had high street video shops, I purchased a very unusual film called Pi, a black and white low budget affair by Darren Aronofsky and his first as a director. Although made with a tiny cast and very little money the ideas in it were astonishing to me- that everything in nature and the universe can be explained by the laws of physics and mathematics. I always hated maths at school as I had no aptitude for it, and still don't ...but in old age I'm grudgingly accepting it as fact. "Mathematics is the language of nature." Everything has a code and over time we are learning to read more of that code and understand it... well... some of the world's brightest scientists and mathematicians are... while the rest of us just look on in amazement. "Gobsmacked" seems an apt word here.
It doesn't happen very often but occasionally you see or learn something that changes your perception of the world around you so that you see it differently with fresh eyes and this makes a lasting impression. The ideas put forward in Pi certainly did that for me. 1998 it came out and I still remember it vividly.
It sometimes pays to see the fine detail of objects in front of you. (Not so subtle hint to click full screen here.)
Which brings us to The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. Two computer games that made a huge impression on me. The first for it's great story-line, believable characters and incredible lifelike graphics of people, plants, natural features and urban wastelands - The second, Bioshock, for it's imagined worlds, it's bold introduction of quantum physics theories and discoveries placed into a game setting... and again it's great believable characters and heightened graphics. Not being a gamer it was the details of the computer generated artwork and the ideas that mesmerized me most. Similar to the elaborate album covers of certain bands when I was growing up that accompanied the 1960s revolution when a grey drab world suddenly exploded into vibrant psychedelic colour as I've always taken an interest in art and illustration...and although not having much talent in that department myself I can appreciate the worlds created and see it as the great new frontier it is. How could they make the background visuals so  precise and finely detailed in modern games I wondered?
Part of the answer lies in the discovery of "Fractals." They exists in all of us, throughout nature, throughout the entire universe... and are some of the building blocks of life itself... even when they are invisible and all around us. The language of nature... now being understood and used in computer games for the last 20 years, inside smart phones, and loads of other practical applications. Over to an expert to explain things better. This is worth watching and if you don't know about fractals already it should change your understanding of everything around you.

Heady stuff but easier to understand than quantum physics :o)

Dragonfly wings sparkling in the sun.
Patterns in nature working to order.
Hoverfly on flower.
Sticky Raindrops.
Pink sunset.
Beauty or a wee beast?
Obviously very attractive and desirable to some.
Still at it. A busy flower.... and so it goes... replicating down through smaller and smaller worlds into infinity... and then beyond ? Always wondered why Buzz Lightyear said that. A quantum physics in joke perhaps?
Fire clouds over Glasgow.
Red July sky thick with flying insects.
Wasp and Bumble Bee share a flower.
Large wasp with pollen grains on body.
Patterns in nature. Insect chewed leaf. Is this pattern purely random or a fixed course set by internal design? Do we also live by set design as well without realizing it? Are there further mysteries to come...further codes already there to be unraveled and eventually understood? You Betcha.
Water beasties. Tiny and even smaller... and hidden things you cannot see.. even with a very powerful microscope?
 Not being religious I just find it fascinating, beautiful and serene. Hope we don't destroy it all... or  end up living inside someone's virtual dream.

Speaking of dream world scenarios, games are getting so realistic I can see them replacing conventional films, actors and actresses to a large degree, especially if it's cheaper to produce films via computer animation. I could happily watch a film version of  The Last of Us or Bioshock with most of the shoot em up repetitive action and game strategy cut out. You can almost do that already on You Tube and the resulting film is better than most of the rubbish on television presently. Think I'm joking?
I like the details of old period London in the second game in here and the landscapes of Witcher 3. Worth a watch full screen in HD. Some of these new game world's are so lifelike in a few years time you might be hard pressed to tell if you are watching reality or a created fantasy as each year they merge closer togeher. And that will bring it's own set of problems. They are already gearing up to test for athletes in the current Olympics that have been genetically enhanced to make them stronger and faster with longer stamina so it's a strange new world we are living in indeed.

Friday 22 July 2016

White Cart Water. Kayaking under the shopping streets of Paisley.

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A kayak trip with a difference this time. It was Alan's choice of river and a very urban one that filled me with equal measures of dread and excitement. We would paddle at high tide up the White Cart Water from it's mouth/entrance on the River Clyde, under the swing bridge at Renfrew, seen here, then up through neglected seldom used river banks into the very heart of Paisley. As a youngster this large Renfrewshire town was close enough to where we stayed to become our regular Saturday destination for shops, cinema, and other entertainment. It has a long history of weaving, thread making and cotton mills, and of course established (but didn't invent) the famous swirling Paisley pattern teardrop design around the world. Interesting info here about the town's influence on 1960s culture/film/music, the summer of love, the Beatles and Prince, who of course named his studios/base- Paisley Park.

In places this river is wide and deep, certainly at high tide but I'm sure in the past it would have been dredged to make it even deeper for river traffic as one of the highlights was the number of abandoned jetties and docks, some leading to individual grand mansions long since demolished while others hinted at a busy past and thriving town docks supporting this former textile metropolis.

Alan examining wooden frames attached to dock walls, presumably to prevent ship sides from getting caught by the rising tide under the masonry blocks sticking out. With these added any craft would just slide up the walls intact without catching anything.

Paisley's forgotten docklands, hinting at a time , maybe even surviving, if limping painfully, into the late sixties, going back to an age when river traffic still carried most of the trade manufactured in the Scottish river towns before being shipped overseas. Speaks volumes when this once mighty highway and major artery of commerce is now carefully sealed off by railings, thick vegetation and security fences, turning it into a secluded sunken backwater and now very much a forgotten industrial legacy. I would not be surprised if far more people have climbed Mount Everest in the last 20 years than have paddled up the White Cart Water then entered under the flooded tunnels below Paisley's shopping streets by kayak. True adventure is where you find it and that can be surprisingly close to home.

.....and may even involve exploring a 'Land of Giants'. An urban jungle of Giant Hogweed growing over 12 foot high. Invasive species like this one, Indian Balsam and Japanese Knotweed now cover most urban riverbanks in a dense layer of poisonous greenery- as dangerous as any exotic foreign jungle to touch.

Also of concern was the smell, a noticeable odour of chemically treated pong which lasted all the way upriver from the Clyde into the heart of Paisley and a tidal scummy film that coated everything emerging from it, (dripping leaves, river banks, dozens of newly exposed old car tyres and junk etc) as the tide ebbed away. Although our kayaks are very stable in normal conditions  "The kayaker must not capsize." was  uppermost in our thoughts throughout as neither of us wanted to swallow a mouthful of White Cart sludge. This is paddling under the M8 motorway where some locals still keep a few boats on the river. As busy as it gets nowadays.
Some beautiful images in here of The River Clyde and its tributaries during the great days of sail and  steam transport. Well worth a look at a time when docks like these stretched along the river for miles in every direction, holding hundreds of individual craft of every shape and size imaginable.

Further up, the now winding and shallower river had a pastoral feel for a while with green empty banks, plenty of wildlife and some real surprises in store. This is a heron, flying upriver, and a pair of swans.

A wild otter was also spotted as this river held plenty of jumping fish in it. The wildlife didn't seem to mind the smell one bit and the fact that they could survive here shows the river quality must be improving. Still wouldn't like to fall in though.... hospital and stomach pump at the ready- nurse the screens  :o)

Originally thought these were Goosander or Merganser chicks but they are Mallard chicks as I had a half glimpse of the mother with her distinctive eye stripe that the chicks also boast.  

We had a quick stop here for lunch, being careful not to touch any food or drink with our hands.

Ha Ha.......Couldn't resist putting black dot eyes on this one.The white patches are the real eyeballs.  "Are you looking at me?" "This is my river pal!" "Beat it!" A large red dragonfly on a nearby boulder.

The main highlight of this trip however was the intention to kayak under the beating heart of Paisley itself where the river pours under the city centre and train station via several tunnels and bridges. Would we be able to reach the other side and paddle up to the famous waterfalls via this subterranean highway? It was a notion my juvenile mind obsessed over when I first noticed the river pouring under the shopping streets of Paisley via a dark opening as it disappeared on a voyage unknown through this alluring, sometimes turbulent, underworld. The unusual, the strange, the bizarre, the mysterious- has always drawn me in and this was no exception now. At last - an answer.

We had a good go at it.

It was surprisingly shallow and fast moving under here, a bad combination as we kept hitting submerged rocks with our paddles. (Think a storm drain in L.A.) A couple of days of rain had increased the flow but with the tide slightly on the ebb when we got here our attempts to get through were thwarted. I'm not saying it's impossible to go further upstream if more committed than us but the thought of falling in ( now a real possibility thanks to shallow obstacle strewn fast water, limited light for seeing the best route ahead, and strength of flow compared to our slow easily ripped apart inflatables) meant we didn't push it too hard.  

We did explore every option though and gave it our best shot to reach the other side and see sunlight again near Paisley's cathedral where the river resurfaces above ground once more. It's only a short stretch after that, less than a few hundred yards in the open, before you arrive at the waterfalls next to the old mills and a real halt to upstream paddling. I soon found out that photography and river current combined can be unsettling as whenever I took a shot here I found myself going backwards rapidly in the darkness over unseen obstacles in the river bed until I started paddling again. Not good given the number of rocks a foot below the waterline ready to trip you up into the murk and the tendency to immediately turn sideways pushed by the strong current when not paddling hard every second. 

A major experience for us both though and one we were delighted with.

Paddling downstream again.

At the junction of the White Cart and Black Cart, just upstream from where they enter the River Clyde at Renfrew we found this interesting guy who was monitoring the health of the river among other things. Alan is hanging on here as the out-flowing current was strong with the tide now receding rapidly and I was having to paddle flat out just to remain still. A weird sensation like running beside someone standing on an airport pedestrian travelator/treadmill that did weird things to your head. i.e...although moored in mid river and static the boat appeared to be moving upstream at pace while I was paddling beside it flat out, always struggling to keep up and chat - a very strange and surreal feeling. The Black Cart Water appeared too shallow for worthwhile paddling , except for maybe highest tide conditions but it runs right beside Glasgow Airport and low flying aircraft noise.

A plane landing over our heads.

And gliding over the moored boat.

What a fantastic trip... as long as you don't fall in. Around 4 hours paddling at an easy relaxed pace starting at highest tide. As the water in the river drops lower mud covered banks become a problem here when getting back out and it's best to pick your spot for an easy exit to avoid thick clinging footsteps ankle or knee deep in dirty smelly gunge at low tide. We entered and got out near the Renfrew Swing bridge but other access points around the nearby River Clyde ( like the Renfrew Ferry Slipway) are available. A five star adventure.
Fellow blogger and intrepid kayaker- Jinja Coo- is the only other person I could find online who has posted about kayaking up this neglected river and even has night time posts paddling around the upper Clyde into the heart of the City of Glasgow itself. Very helpful info as there's not much available on Scotland's urban river networks.

Meanwhile-remember the urban river mantra for kayakers- keep safe... and never capsize!  but if you do.... spit don't swallow :o) The high tide tree and low hanging leaf material covered by max tide in the above photo show what your insides will probably look like with urban river water inside your stomach. An option best avoided methinks.

Friday 15 July 2016

Made of Stone. Photographs around the City of Glasgow.

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A gallery of photos with a stone (or concrete) theme. City Centre Building. Red Sandstone Period Detail.
A couple feeding the birds. It's only when you look up at Victorian and Edwardian buildings you see the real splendour of the artwork.
Carved Lion. Old Red Sandstone Protector.
Cycle Race in Glasgow Green. Nelson's Monument. Over 40 metres tall and the first civic one in the UK to commemorate him.
Tribute to Billy Connolly- Comedian, Musician, Actor and Presenter on a new(ish) building in Anderston District. Glasgow near the spot where he lived and grew up.

Holding up The Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Entrance.
The Gate Keepers. Pollok House.
Southern Ganglands. The "undercroft" of a dark cathedral.
Paisley Gothic.
22 floor Hi Rise.
A Lost Woody. Child's toy dropped in park, probably thrown out of pram, hence the well known saying.
Bike ride in gangland. No Alice or White Rabbit in sight here. Spooky place at night as it's deep in a dark claustrophobic wood. Grendel's lair.

Mural on wall- maybe promoting the annual Mela in Kelvingrove Park which is on this Sunday 17 July 2016.... or maybe something else entirely.
Red Sandstone buildings around Charing Cross.
St George and the Dragon. Dragon looks unhappy at rough treatment- which wouldn't be allowed today.
Popular music trio of the time. The equivalent of a "Selfie" took slightly longer to develop back then leaving plenty of time to get the "pose" just right.
Side view of spires and domes.
The angel above the ABC Music Venue in Glasgow, hence the graffiti- not American in this instance.

On another note-- does anyone have problems posting comments on here?... or viewing the photographs large screen size easily?  And if so what are they? I have taken off word verification altogether but that seems to mean you sometimes have to pick pictures from a grid to get a tick. If I leave word verification on you have to copy a word- I don't see any way around this on blogger though unless anyone has suggestions? It also sounds a hassle to change everything over to Wordpress.