Visiting a zoo always brings mixed feelings, but Pamelia and I can't pass up the thrill of seeing some of the planet's great (if confined) creatures. The nearly 200-year-old London Zoo houses 16,802 animals, from 755 species, and we couldn't stay away. In hopes of gaining a new perspective—by doing things like mucking out zebra stalls, feeding chopped carrots to the giraffes and helping tend to the monkeys and tigers—we attempted to become zookeepers for a day. It didn't work out on this trip, but we'll be back for another try.
Here are a few photos (and a video of the zoo's unique mechanical bird clock) from our visit:
What Does Nano Mean?
Those of you who follow The Naturalist’s Notebook’s Facebook page may have seen the news item I posted this week about the invention of a metal that is said to be extremely sturdy yet 100 times lighter than styrofoam. To fabricate this new material, which is 99.99 percent air, researchers from the University of California at Irvine, Cal Tech and HRL Laboratories constructed what one of the engineers described as “a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.”
Work on this nanotechnology project was done at the scale of a nanometer by engineers who no doubt listen to music on the smallest device they can find, an iPod Nano. Because a Notebook fan asked me what exactly nano means, I’ll make it the word for today. Or the prefix for today. Nano comes from a Greek word meaning dwarf, and besides generally referring to anything very small, it means more specifically one-billionth. A nanometer, for example, is one-billionth of a meter. That’s about as wide as six atoms laid end to end, or a single strand of DNA. A human hair can be a whopping 60,000 nanometers wide—even more if you use the right conditioner! (Just kidding.)