Chennai Week: The Anna Centenary Library

In 2010, Chennai acquired a new landmark in Kotturpuram. A magnificent 8-acre wide site opposite the Birla Planetarium was surmounted by an 8-storey building of glass. It looked, at first, rather like the city had acquired a new eyesore….

But the Anna Centenary Library ended up being a sight for sore eyes! 7 floors of books, packed into neat and impeccably classified aisles, with intelligently designed reading tables set alongside the glass-panel-walls  that give you an impressive view of the city of Madras.

It’s hard to believe that this library, clearly a labour of love and no little thought, is a public library!

In line with many government schemes over the past several years, students have been prioritized in the planning of the library: in addition to the 7 floors of books (capable of holding up to 2 million books!), a dedicated space is made available to students on the ground floor where they can bring their own books in and work. And this section (the ‘own-books’ section) opens an hour earlier than the rest of the library and closes an hour later – surely a welcome space for students who need a quiet place to study and prepare.

The ground-floor also has a Braille section and a Competitive exams section with preparation material for the various competitive exams our country plays host to.

The first floor has yet another unique offering: one half of it is given up to the children’s section, whose crowning glory has to be the décor – a giant tree in the centre of the room and stools and benches scattered around it. The children’s collection is an enviable one and on any given day one can see families dotting the large room, flipping through the books or at the computer-table. An interesting rule this section strictly enforces, though, is that no adults are allowed in without children. So if you want to flip through childhood favourites or (like yours truly) enjoy discovering new children’s lit., it might be useful to carry along a young cousin, niece or sibling.

 

The other half of the first floor is the periodicals section – with the name being self-explanatory.

The contents of the other floors are clearly listed on their blog (http://annacentenarylibrary.blogspot.in/2011/02/sections.html).

Extensive experience can attest to the fourth floor, literature, being a real paradise for readers of English with books by almost every known English author on the shelves and reams of academic works as well. The language and linguistic section is another gem, with the language-section offering ‘Teach-Yourself’ books spanning most known languages!

While the various litigation surrounding the library had led to a slight dip in comfort (malfunctioning/restricted use of the air-conditioners, lack of proper maintenance) the latest High Court order, demanding that the library be well-maintained and well-regulated, is sure to ensure that things return to normal.

The library is an immensely precious resource in this city (no stranger to good libraries!) and deserves to rank among the ‘What’s What’ in Madras and be the focus of Madras Week celebrations in the years to come.

 

 

 

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Natural Selection in Action: The Peppered Moth

Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin together introduced the world to one of the most (perhaps it is not wrong to say the most) important theory about Man and his history.

There are many wonderful introductions to the theory of evolution and natural selection, which can be found online (links below) and this blog will not attempt the mammoth task of explaining the theory in all its dimensions. But it is sometimes a baffling theory to wrap one’s head around in its entirety, not least because most mutations take centuries to come up and the Case of the Peppered Moth is a startlingly clear and lovely example of evolution and natural selection, which is fascinating, recent and very, very well-documented. In addition, it’s one of the most easily observable instances of mutation and adaptation occurring over a relatively short time-span.

We present the Case of the Peppered Moth:

The Peppered Moth, found in Northern Europe, is a light moth. White with dark speckles, hence the name Peppered. Its favourite haunt is the lichen-covered bark of the birch tree, where it is well-camouflaged against the bark and lichen and can hide from prey (see below picture from the blog http://www.genetology.net/index.php/category/biologie/ecology/page/2/)

Peppered moth on birch tree

Now, there were some darker moths that also existed within these populations but they were easily seen on the white birch-trees and would be picked off and eaten by predators, chief among which were the hawks. Imagine a dark stain on a white wall, and you can see how VERY visible these moths would be!

dark and light pepper

And then, one day, people began to notice that in the city of Manchester the moths were growing darker! The white moths were getting outnumbered by the darker ones. More bafflingly, moths in the woods and country around the city continued to be predominantly light.

This is where Natural Selection had stepped in. Manchester, in the 1800s was one of England’s most industrialized towns. And with the industries had come pollution. Smoke from the Manchester factories had begun to darken the city’s trees as well as kill the lichen that provided the distinctive pattern for the light moths to camouflage themselves against. And on the soot-stained and lichen-free trees, the light moths showed up beautifully! Imagine a light stain on a black t-shirt – that’s how visible these moths were.

light moth dark

 

The predators around had a feast laid out for them and they swooped in and gobbled up the moths as quickly as they could. Over weeks and months what happened was that the white moths just began to die out.

But on the other hand, the few dark moths that were still being born could now blend in better! Dark inks (blue, brown etc.) spilt onto a black t-shirt would not really show up very much, and you could wear the t-shirt with very little risk of the stain being horribly obvious…in the same way, the dark, soot-stained trees offered the darker moths more protection!

What happened, of course, was that the dark moths could survive and mate – and reproduce. Their offspring was likely to be dark and thus, their children would survive and mate and reproduce. In the meanwhile, the lighter moths were dying too fast to be able to reproduce – even if they did produce offspring, a large number of  those would be eaten up as well and a very small number survived. The first discovery of the melanic forms was made in 1848. A bare half-century later, by 1895, the proportions had changed so dramatically that the dark moths now made up 98% of the population of moths found near Manchester (M. Newman and M. Inger, 2003).

There was nothing planned or voluntary about this. It wasn’t the dark moths killing the others – it was Nature. Hence, the dark moths were naturally  selected over the white moths.

The proof of this is that in the surrounding countryside, where the trees remained white as there was no pollution, the earlier ratio was unchanged. There were white moths flying around and the dark moths would be more visible to prey and get eaten up so their numbers would remain very low.

The proof of this also lies in the fascinating effects of a Clean Up! When pollution began to affect the human population of the city, the government implemented laws regulating pollution. As a result, the lichen grew back and the smoke-stained trees began to regain their original light colour. The dark moths slowly started getting more visible again and eaten up. In 1959 the population was at 90% dark moths and by 1989, they had declined to a mere 30% of the moth population as the trees grew too light to shield them anymore and began to provide camouflage for the lighter moths instead.

This phenomenon grew to be called industrial melanism. It is defined as : The evolution of dark body colours in animal species that live in habitats blackened by industrial soot.

There are over 100 examples of industrial melanism, other than the Peppered moth, where the population became predominantly darker (melanic). And, consequent to cleaner air and surroundings, where the population returned to being primarily light and the melancis became a minority again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resolve of Steel.

Battoon1

If you don’t get it (or if you’re not already laughing) read on till the end to see just why this is funny.

Is your New Year Resolve looking a little frayed around the edges already? Is motivation flagging and emotion rising up in revolt?

Well, many resolutions ARE made to be broken. However, a problem with giving up on your resolution right now is that it could set the tone for a dispiriting year ahead where you stop expecting success and feel bad about letting your ‘new self’ down. But all is not lost – you can rework those objective and resolutions.

So read on to see how you can plan workable and trackable goals, motivate yourself by building on successes and moving past failures and – a BATT take on things – how you can make a New Year’s Resolution on any day of the year.

Warning: This post is long. But it’s probably a good reminder that anything worthwhile takes a tiny bit of time.

SMART Objectives and Goals

A lot of resolutions fail because they are framed during that deliriously ambitious period between 11.59 pm on Dec 31st and 12.00 am on January 1st. Mad zeal overtakes common sense and a desire to lose weight suddenly becomes a resolve to “lose weight, do yoga thrice a week, eat once a day on weekdays and drink fruit smoothies the rest of the time, go for an early morning run every day, followed by a cold shower and learn how to cook those diet cakes and sweets so i can fit into those pants by the end of the month…”

Most of this is possible and possibly even make up good goals. But let’s start by SMARTening it up.

SMART goals

These are goals that are Specific Measurable Achieveable Relevant and Time-bound.  Let’s assume that X, a slightly overweight, overworked and sleep-deprived person wants to ‘become healthier’. Sounds possible? Now let’s smarten that up.

SPECIFIC : Define healthy. After all, if X is slightly overweight, losing 1 kg is as healthy as losing 2. Or just walking a little faster every day is healthier. Or sleeping 10 minutes more! So – let’s ask X to define what specifically constitutes ‘healthy’ so that they know for sure when it is achieved.

“I want to become fitter, lose about 11 kilos and sleep more regular hours”.
Alright. Now we’re getting somewhere.

MEASURABLE: Now you know WHERE you want to go. But how do you know if you’re heading in the right direction or you’re getting derailed? You need to see if you’re making progress. So let’s see how to track progress:

“The first step is probably being able to climb up the flight of stairs at home without getting out of breath. And getting about 6 hours of sleep a night instead of the 4 hours I’m getting right now.”

If you break down the final goal into smaller, accurately measurable sub-goals, you’ll be able to take a much better call on how things are going as you progress, rather than landing up in December realising that you’re still panting after 15 steps, though you have lost a kilo or two.

ACHIEVABLE: This is the hard part. Everyone urges us to ‘Dream big’ ! Sure, dream big. But make sure you’re not dreaming crazy!

Probably not achievable given X’s background:  “Starting tomorrow I’m going to be up at 5 in the morning and run 2 kilometres. And I guess I could do some weights in the evening. And some sit-ups when I watch TV….that should help me fit into those pants I saw on that model by the end of the month.”

Achievable, “By April I want to be able to wake up by 6 and run a kilometre. And fit into the pants I last wore in early 2013. And realise that the pants on that model are probably never going to fit me because he/she and I have fundamentally different body builds.”

However, to avoid taking the lazy way out and under-achieving, you could always try and talk things out with a trusted friend/confidant. Remember, never be afraid to ask other people for their inputs. It takes nothing away from what you achieve ultimately and might even help you achieve that much more.

RELEVANT: Relevance is important. If a goal is really not important to your daily life, routine or ideals, your motivation’s going to run dry pretty soon.

If X decides that their goal is to be able to down two glasses of pavakka (bitter-gourd) juice by May, then things get complicated. This is certainly an achievable goal. But how important and relevant, really, is pavakka in the larger scheme of things? Will it help X lose weight and get more sleep? Tying your success or failure to that is bit dicey.

TIME-BOUND: This is where things get real. X not only has a plan, but X’s plan is now given a definite dead-line, which makes it easier for X to plan ahead and set out the measurable sub-goals.

After all, there is a vast difference between saying “I want to sleep 3 hours earlier by the end of the year” and saying “In three weeks, i want to have scaled back my sleeping time by about 20 minutes.”

As you can see SMART works together because all these aspects are interlinked : making a goal specific ensures that you can make it measurable and that you put a time to it. And checking how achievable the goal is certainly helps you set realistic deadlines as well. Deadlines, in turn, help you trim off the irrelevant bits.

So what X is left with now, is a shiny new resolution: By July 2015, I want to have lost 12 kilos. I want to be sleeping at least 7.5 hours a day, and waking up by 6.30. I want to be able to swim 50 laps non-stop in CBC pool.”

The measurable sub-goals will then indicate how much progress X makes each month to achieve this by July. (“2.5 kilos a month, scaling back my sleep routine by about 15-20 minutes every three weeks. Swimming 5 laps more every week.”)

So that’s SMARTened up the goals. But we still need to count in a major factor: Experiencing Success.

Experiencing Success and Failure

Our perception of ourselves is quite strongly linked to personal experiences of success and failure. Someone who abandoned too many goals or resolutions half-way through is going to decide that they are incapable of achievement. This leads to further defence mechanisms, of course, that come to define that person’s idea of what they can and can’t do.

If you action plan is too rigid, it doesn’t take into account that very few changes are absolute and overnight affairs. You will then see every drawback as a failure, see every failure as an endorsement of your inability to achieve thing and, if prolonged, might even start building plans that you know are doomed to fail .

How can you use this knowledge? By using the following BATT-formulated principle: Plan for failure – build on success.

Anticipate that there will be setbacks. This will also help you plan in advance and identify and work around setbacks. Also remember to note progress. So when future setbacks come, you don’t sit back and say “Right. So I anticipated this. it’s happened. So I’ll just abandon my plans.” Instead, you can say, “Ok. I knew there’d be some hitches. This is a *&@*^*& pain in the neck. But I’ve come so far and had some success, so let’s keep going and see what happens.”

Do not be afraid to change your strategy midway through if a particular obstacle gives you a new perspective. But there’s a thin line between re-working a strategy after a reasonable trial period, and re-working a strategy every 3 days because those old pants don’t button up yet.

To fight despair and a drop in motivation (very natural, over time if no success further pushes you) make sure you are noting down experiences with success. Suppose X currently sleeps at 2 or 2.30, any night X goes to sleep before that counts as a success, until this new approximate time forms a new habit.

Forming Habits

A lot of our behaviour stems from habits formed over years. Expecting to undo them in a couple of days is usually as unrealistic as expecting to groldhabitsow a new nose just because you want to. Habits take time to form, and are only formed by repetitive behaviour.

Going back to the bedtime example, if X decides to sleep ten minutes earlier every three weeks (and persists despite a couple of nights of sleeping later), it becomes a habit. Once going to sleep 10 minutes earlier becomes more or less easy/automatic, X can scale it back by  a further 10-15 minutes. In this way, X is essentially turning each goal-behaviour into a habit, rather than looking at it as some arduous, heroic task to be achieved EVERY NIGHT.

Your sub-goals should become habits that approximate the final result: sleeping earlier every night, making it a habit to go for a 15 minute walk every morning or evening, and walking up one flight of stairs wherever you go, morning or evening.

When a habit is acquired, push it back: make that sleeping another 15 minutes earlier, tack on another 10 minutes of walking to the evening session – and trying taking the stairs even if it’s 2 flights up.

From experience – forming the new habit takes the most patience and perseverance. Pushing it back – i.e. moving closer and closer to your final goal-behaviour is just a whole lot of fun and self-exploration once the basic habit is formed!

IN CONCLUSION

So, if you’ve made it this far through the post, step back and look at where you want to be 6 months from now and how reasonable that goal is. Break it down into small goals and see what kind of problems you’re likely to have. Talk it over with someone and make a commitment to someone to achieve the sub-goals, so that you have external and internal motivation as well as witnesses to remind you of success. Also learn to ignore people who remind you of failures while downplaying your success. Failures shouldn’t be tossed aside, but nor should they be the only thing you remember from your efforts. There will certainly be people who laugh at your goals or action plan. Unless they’re willing to help you with SMART plans of their own, stop sharing things with them. It’ll probably give you more time to focus on other things as well!

And finally – move away from the Psychological Glamour of January 1st. Jan 1st resolutions bring us that satisfying sense of potential and a Fresh Start that a virgin calendar page brings. But in reality, as the BATT poster shows you, it’s just another day. And every day, every single day in a calendar year, marks a new year (hence our celebration of ‘anniversaries’). And you can even create new milestones for yourself! I.e. “February 2nd, the first day I swam 40 lengths!” and you can make every Feb 2nd the day you swim at least 40 lengths. Or increase it by 40 every year …

But if you DO need to bolster your spirits and deadlines with a ‘fresh start’, then Indians, especially, have rather hit the jackpot. You can, depending on where you are and which part of the country you adopt, celebrate Tamil New year, Padwa, Vishu, Baisakh…and on it goes. They’re all more or less the same time, but then you also have Holi, Labour day, Navaratri, Ramzan, Easter (Lent’s a great favourite! just make sure you keep going even after your 40-day stint!)…you get where this is going, right?

If you’d like to come up with a plan but need some help in terms of breaking down your goals and setting deadlines/making commitments, BATT and our counsellor friends would be happy to help! You can email us – confidentiality guaranteed – or even ask us on our Facebook post if you wouldn’t mind other people listening in!

All the very best to you for every resolution – however large or small, however important or trivial. And remember – don’t hide your failures and certainly share your success. We’ll keep you posted on X’s progress 😉

 

 

Malala Yousafzai – Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard ?

There are several articles and books on Malala Yousafzai’s work, all of which depict a young girl with a precise goal and, from very early on in life, the determination and courage to achieve it, not only for herself but for women around the world. Malala constantly points out that thousands upon thousands of girls like her fight their daily struggles for the same things she did: education and the right to dream.

Malala was born in Mingora, in the Swat Valley, Pakistan in 1997, a community which she describes in her book (I Am Malala) as being only to ready to fire guns to celebrate the birth of a boy and only too likely to hush up the birth of a girl (if parents) and commiserate with the family (if anyone else).
But Malala’s family celebrated her birth and named her after the Afghan heroine Malalai of Maiwand who exhorted the Afghan army to victory over the British, falling in battle herself.

Her father, Ziauddin, was a zealous educator and social activist and worked in the school he had set up in Swat, which Malala attended. In 2008, the BBC approached him with a novel proposition: they wanted to run a blog with diary entries of a schoolgirl who described her experiences in the Taliban-controlled region where girls were finding life increasingly restrictive.

After looking around, Ziauddin suggested that his own daughter take this up. And so Malala began the blog on BBC Urdu, narrating her entries over the phone.

It was dangerous because not only was it open defiance of the Taliban, it was also open defiance by a girl who wanted education for all, while the Taliban was trying to ban girls from going to school.

Though the blog entries were published under a pseudonym, she came to prominence under her own identity when her father took her to public meetings where she spoke out against the Taliban.

Her book describes how the family received threats and the idea that she would be shot and killed became a permanent fixture in her mind, accompanying her to and from school every day.
When it did happen, she was on her way to school to write an exam. A Talib stopped her school-bus (an open truck) and a Talib gunman poked his head in from the back and, having ascertained who Malala was, shot her thrice. The first bullet went through her head (left eye socket) and came out of her shoulder. The other two hit her friends, as she fell forward.

Airlifted to Peshawar, she was then moved with her family to the UK where she now goes to school, also travelling for her campaign and prize-ceremonies. Her speech at the UN received (justly so) a standing ovation.

She continues to be a vociferous champion for human rights and the right to education and has met with top leaders around the world. One of the most amusing and powerful incidents she recounts is meeting with Barack Obama in the White House on her own terms (she declined to come for a photo-op and said that if she did come, Obama would have to listen to her) and talking to him about the role the US played in ‘supporting dictatorships and the drone attacks in Pakistan and other countries’.

For a useful guide to the Malala story, visit the below link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23241937

Her book is also a good read, detailing the experiences in her hometown and recording the changes that came with the Taliban regime.

Kailash Satyarthi: Every childhood matters.

Kailash Satyarthi is a social activist who has worked for over 30 years to free children from child-labour in India.

Born in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, in 1954, he worked as an electrical engineer before quitting this career in the early 1980s and moving towards a campaign for children’s rights. He was quite a keen campaigner and social activist even in college, as recounted by his peers, and was actively involved in student politics and stood for election as college president, though he lost.

He set up the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood). The name of his NGO is quite interesting as it is not ‘save the children’. It is ‘save childhood’, a distinction he also made in his speech when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, driving home the point that children are really children only if they can enjoy all the qualities associated with childhood: play, fun, learning, discovery and (a point Satyarthi repeatedly makes) dreaming.

His rescuing of children often takes the daring path of raiding factories or quarries where children are employed and freeing those children, who are taken back to rehabilitation centres he runs. Needless to say, this act does not endear him to the people who have smuggled those children in or who ’employed’ the children to work in terrible conditions in their mines, quarries or factories. He has received several death-threats for his work on identifying sites where children are employed and following up with action to free them. Two of his colleagues were murdered while on the job – one shot and one beaten to death.

Despite the evident dangers, he has continued with his struggles and brought about some landmark achievements:

Global March Against Child Labour: a network of trade unions and other organisations that work together to eliminate child labour.

The 2012 Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act – Earlier there was a ban on children below the age of 14 working in some occupations. This act bans children below 14 working in ANY occupation. It also bans some occupations for adolescents (14 to 18 years old).

Rugmark/GoodWeave – Satyarthi realised that one of the biggest driving forces in the new-age order was consumer forces. The market would change itself if consumers protested enough. He used this to the advantage of children working wretchedly in various places by sensitising consumers in markets which imported products made by child-labour. E.g. Woven carpets are one of India’s biggest exports to the US. When consumers learnt that their carpets were made by enslaved children, they protested and refused to buy them. In self-defence, the carpet industry had to change their practices so their products would be acceptable to childre.

Rugmark (now GoodWeave) was an independently awarded certificate that stated that a business did not employ child-labour. The licensing and auditing were carried out by independent bodies with no stake in the matter.

Satyarthi’s fight has freed tens of thousands of bonded labourers – children whose parents borrowed money from someone and promised that until the money was repaid, their family would work for this person. The loan was often not repayable and this family and its services would be sold to another buyer and so on. These children never had a chance – forced into labour (not even employment) at a young age and often facing horrific conditions, to the extent that many of them have no concept of what it is to be ‘free’ and not have to work in slavery.

For more on Satyarthi’s work, you can consult the below links and his own open letter, published in the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/09/kailash-satyarthi-march-children-nobel-peace-prize-malala-yousafzai

http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/my-biggest-success-is-giving-visibility-to-forgotten-children-says-kailash-satyarthi/article6515091.ece

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/10/nobel-peace-prize-winner-kailash-satyarthi

QWERTY-ERTY- what?

Keerthana wanted to know why letters on a keyboard aren’t in order.

The truth is, there are several models of keyboards today, including alphabetically-ordered ones.
The very first keyboards developed (for typewriters) did actually have the letters on in alphabetical order.

To know why this arrangement failed, it’s important to understand how a typewriter would work: a key on the keyboard would be tapped, and an arm/hammer (called a type bar) connected to that key would rise up and hit the paper through a band that contained the ink, called the ribbon, printing it with that letter. For a slow-motion look at how this worked you can click on the video below and also look at the associated videos.

Now, this was a mechanical process and typing very fast could result in the little hammers/arms getting jammed or tangled up, thus slowing down the typist.

One man, Chris Shole, decided that there had to be a more efficient way to prevent keys from getting jammed. He analysed words and found that  (in English) the combination of ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘er’ etc were very common. So these keys would be hit together more often. He realised that by separating these keys (and thus increasing the distance between the mechanical arms), the chances of jamming were reduced.

Using more statistcal anyalysis to figure out which keys were usually hit together,  he set all these combinations far apart on his keyboard so that even if the keys were hit near-simultaneously, there would be absolutely no jamming.  This was how the QWERTY model started out (named for the first 6 letters in the top line. And because it’s easier to say than QWERTYUOIP) – and it proved to really increase speed, eliminating the delays due to jamming.

This model continues even today. However, it is not the only model. There are other models, such as the Dvorak keyboard, which were developed to make typing even easier. As mechanical typewriters gave way to electric typewriters and computer keyboard, people started having other problems: injuries (wrist pain etc), fatigue set in early…

The arrangement of keys on the Dvorak keyboard is, so the inventor August Dvorak said, supposed to make typing easier and less painful. Some studies HAVE found it to be more efficient than the QWERTY keyboard. Others have said there is not much difference.

Different languages also have different keyboards – online tamil keyboards have highly varied layouts. Even within countries that use the Roman script (same letters as English), the keyboard changes. E.g. from France to England, or England to the US!

UKkeyboard

UK keyboard- note the position of the ‘@’ when compared to a standard US QWERTY layout.

French keyboard – AZERTY layout

So this does explain why the keys on the current keyboard are not in alphabetical order: basically, the arrangement on typewriters from the late 19th century onwards. But does really have any relevant advantages in today’s world?

And it’s not only the layout of the keys, but the whole design of the keyboard that differs between manufacturers. Just type ‘computer keyboard’ into google images and you’ll see a vast variety of shapes and sizes, from Apple’s seductively flat keyboard to something that looks like it was modelled on a sleeping baby elephant.

A simple google search….

For the last word on keyboard arrangements, you can check out this short article which suggests that at this point it’s really a question of re-learning rather than any particular keyboard having more of an advantage!

http://www.gizmodo.in/design/Why-We-Still-Use-QWERTY-Keyboards-Even-Though-Theyre-Awful/articleshow/44721885.cms

Roach Coach – Mind control.

Have you ever wondered whether Zombies really exist?
Have you ever watched movies where someone is hypnotised and ordered to kill/steal/[insert crime]? Have you then scoffed at this premise and turned back to ‘real life’?

Well, we’ve found you something that puts every horror movie you’ve watched to shame – yes even a step beyond Alien.

This is a wasp that has developed a mind-control drug and whose stinger is so precise, it can perform the most delicate brain surgery, in order to inject this drug into precise areas of the brain. The wasp then feeds on its victim, before guiding it along, alive and docile,  to its ultimate doom…to be the home for the wasps’ eggs. A mixture of vampire, zombie-maker, and that terrifying thing from Alien, we present the Jeweled Wasp.

Disclaimer: If you have a delicate stummick or are terrified of Periplaneta americana (like some of us are, over at BATT), this story might give you sleepless nights. Having, thus, duly warned you, we now urge you to go check out this fantastic link below. The photos can be skipped- but the story is too intriguing to go past.

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/absurd-creature-of-the-week-jewel-wasp/

But we’re BATT – the connections don’t stop here!

This beautiful, deadly and ruthless creature inspired a song by a band that has given BATT several hours of happiness – in fact it was Skrat’s song The Queen that introduced BATT to the Jeweled Wasp!

If the Jeweled Wasp had a PR firm, they’d have snapped up the rights to this song and signed on Skrat as Groupies on the day the album released!

Read the fascinating facts, listen to the haunting harmonies – and reflect on just how much more lethal and beautifully horrific nature is than anything Homo sapiens can dream up!

[For those of you who didn’t click on the hyperlinked text, here are the links below:

Skrat’s song: http://soundcloud.com/skrattheband/02-the-queen

Skrat: https://www.facebook.com/Skrattheband ]

Mosquitos and what drives them.

They creep in at your windows when it gets dark and steamy, touch lightly upon your flesh  – and feast on your nutrition-rich blood. They also sparkle sometimes, yet they’re no form of Edward Cullen…

The chief difference being, of course that they’re all ladies, down to the last buzzzzz.

That’s right, it’s only female mosquitos who bite you. Male mosquitos drift off dreamily in search of nectar, which is enough for them. So is the ‘female of the species more deadly than the male‘? Decidedly!

But for a lovely, heart-warming Nirupa-Roy like reason: the nutrients in human blood help them form their eggs. So the next time a mosquito bites you, it’s not just a blood-sucking being. It’s a blood-sucking being that is using you to form new life!

Other fun facts:  mosquitoes (female) can track you using heat. So if you’re cover your body, you might heat up, but the heat transmitted by your body comes down as the exposed skin gets covered. Also, and in keeping with our last post, mosquitos can also perceive colour -and to them blue is highly visible. So if you’re a mosquito-lover and would love to help further their cause and increase population levels – wear short, blue clothes and wander around. It also helps if you’re hot.