NERD HEROES – Ryan MacDonald

Today I am kicking off my series on NERD HEROES. Us nerds have many heroes, hundreds of them, we just don’t really talk about them enough. You don’t have to be cool to be awesome and many of our nerd heroes will never ever be described as cool.

My first Hero isn’t some eminent scientist, he’s not a world leader in anything, he isn’t rich or famous. He is ordinary. But one day Ryan MacDonald could possibly be a household name like Neil Armstrong or Yuri Gagarin!

Ryan is An Astrophysics PhD student at Cambridge in the UK who is researching exoplanets. He is nerdy, has the classic jam-jar glasses, seems a little awkward from his videos, and has a youtube channel with complex videos about orbital dynamics on it and one day ….… he might just live on Mars.

Ryan is one of the “Mars 100”, the 100 final candidates picked by Mars One, a Dutch company that is planning a one-way Mars mission to establish a colony on the Red Planet. Yes, one-way. initially everyone thought they were bonkers but as time rolls on and they chip away slowly at this enormous goal some (me included) are beginning to believe that they might just do it, it’s just a matter of a few billion dollars and a final selection process between Ryan and Mars. Regardless of whether Mars One gets to Mars or even launches a probe the whole thing is fascinating, made even more exciting by Elon Musk’s recent announcement of how SpaceX intend to get to Mars in the next few decades.

Ryan’s Martian Colonist YouTube channel is great fun and his are the most comprehensive updates on the Mars One project I can find, I have been following him for a while. I honestly look forwards to hearing about the mission’s progress and also to hear his often strange asides about space exploration and the science of astrophysics.

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Regardless of whether Mars One will actually happen Ryan is a nerd hero. Just watch some of his videos and you’ll see his infectious enthusiasm for the Mars One project and space exploration in general and will come to appreciate his true SUPER-NERD status. Teachers – he gives a lot of talks and video links in to classrooms all over the world about his planned trip to Mars.

For those of you who want to hear from the man himself here are links to Ryan’s Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Ryan MacDonald I salute you!

A true Nerd Hero!

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NERD HEROES

<A barely audible creaking of laptop hinges, a mechanical rattling as cobwebs are wiped form the keyboard of the blogging computer, a small fluttering of moths arise disturbed form their gloomy forgotten hiding place, the feeble dusty glow from the screen illuminates an old familiar pair of glasses once again. Ancient long lost passwords are repeatedly failed and eventually reset and re-verified and …. oh for God’s sake just let me in …. aaaaaaaah…. yes. I’m in! It’s Aliiiiive! The Blog is Aliiiiive!>

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Now, let’s begin … again…….

Society bombards us with sporting heroes and music stars. Some celebrities are celebrities for … well… being celebrities, what exactly is it that the Kardashians do?

It’s time we fought back. We need to spread the word about the massive multitude of nerd heroes out in the world. Not hipster-nerds, “I’m cool because I like nerds”, Big Bang Theory celeb nerds. We need to talk about real heroes; people who are nerdy, unashamedly so, and do cool things, very cool things. As I have discussed before, we nerds are taking over the earth. Let’s celebrate it.

As a starting point for my new world order I plan a little series of posts on Nerd Heroes. People who may not actually be that famous that I have stumbled across but who are doing very cool things.

The first one is underway and will be up soon. If you think  of anyone to add, or fancy writing one yourself – send me a line.

Keep nerdy!

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Nerd Dad’s top 10 parenting tips

I have seen so many of these and they all say nothing so they must be easy to write. Hopefully these tips will inspire and assist you in being a better parent.

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1. It is best not to eat your children. It is neither ecologically sound (the carbon footprint of a child is considerably larger than that of a cow) or very sanitary (depending on how clean your house is). Few butchers will assist you in jointing the meat so there will inevitably be excess waste without the help of a professional.

2. Moving on from point 1. Children and kitchen knives should be mutually exclusive. The contamination risk posed to your expensive kitchen implements by an unwashed toddler is high. Bone (albeit supple bendy bone) blunts knives horribly.

3. Keep strong alcohol away from young children. They are badly behaved enough when sober.

4. Keep your illegally owned handguns hidden from view. The kids shooting someone is bound to give away the fact that you own one and the penalties for this can be quite high.

5. Let children out of the house into the sunshine every so often. Vitamin D supplements can be expensive and calculating paediatric doses is a right pain.

6. Don’t let your children play video games all day, if they are on the X-Box incessantly when will you get a chance to complete all 16 hours of Modern Warfare Black Ops 6?

7. Leads are for dogs and choke chains are a definite no-no, too swift a tug is likely to result in a fall, thereby drastically and unacceptably lengthening your walking time. Reins or wrist straps are more socially acceptable and less destabilising alternatives.

8. Name your children. Without doing so differentiating between them can be challenging, you also have nothing to shout across the room when they are carjacking another kid’s Cozy Coupe in playgroup.

9. Speak to your children. If they don’t learn a language how are you going to ask them to fetch the remote or answer the phone for you?

10. Finally, the most obvious one, probably not in keeping with some of the previous subtler, debatable points above. This one is so obvious I’m not sure why I’m adding it – VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN, it stops them and others getting horrible preventable diseases. The anti-vaxers can deny they work and claim harm all they like, they can also deny the existence of cheese for all I care and that will be total bollocks too.

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Is science learnt or is it an instinct?

Every so often in the media there are reports and opinion pieces from educationalists concerned about instilling an understanding and appreciation of the scientific process in our children. As a Dad of 2 (yes we now have 2) growing nerds I am a little puzzled by these statements and what happens to our offspring.

The first time I gave my Mini Nerd a crayon he looked at it, thought about it, waved it a bit then took a big bite. This ladies and gentleman was the scientific process in action. “I have a crayon, I’m not sure what it does, I’ll perform some experiments. Does it rattle …. no….. Does it taste good ….. Yum! These must be for eating”. Science developing before creativity, or rather the scientific process is inherent to humans, it isn’t learnt, it’s an instinct!

Hypotheses develop and new techniques in the ever growing field of toddler mediated destruction are discovered and employed on a daily basis in the Nerd household

How and why do we squash the inquisitive minds of children? Sometimes it’s entirely appropriate, like when they are about to investigate a plug socket with their tongue or a carving knife with their hands but do we say “Stop, put it down, don’t do that” too much? It’s probably no coincidence that one of the first words they learn is NO …. It’s probably one of the commonest words they hear. On the other hand we can’t let them run riot in the name of learning ….. can we?

I was very pleased the other day when we went to the park with a ball and he spent longer examining daisies than kicking the ball …… which is exactly what I would do given the choice too. I once got sent off during a football match in school for making and wearing a daisy chain. Needless to say I am not training for Rio 2016.

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The results of the gravity driven Lego acceleration experiments were inconclusive so they were repeated… endlessly.

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Reviving the blog

After over a year of this blog lying fallow I have decided to fire it up again. This is just a test to make sure it’s all still up and running properly.

More to come tomorrow if it all works.

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Top 10 awesome landmarks of New Zealand.

New Zealand.

A nation of unspoilt panoramic scenery, ancient cultures, rugby, hobbits and bored but ingenious nutters.

New Zealand is in the middle of nowhere. Nobody knows where we are, nobody cares where we are, we are a complete global insignificance and that’s the way we like it. One side effect of being in the middle of nowhere, being diligently ignored by everyone, is time. Time to quietly sit in your shed through the long winter nights and think. Very occasionally inspiration will strike! From the midwinter gloom a voice will bellow out in the night, echoing from the dimly lit shed out across the misty fields “I’ve got it! What this town needs is a really massive ………………”.

New Zealand has a bewildering number of ridiculous landmarks. Every tiny town seems to have one. Every council wants the biggest/smallest/tallest/widest something in the World/Southern hemisphere/Australasia/this far South of Turangi.

We (HandMadeMummy and NerdDad) will start our top 10 countdown with some honourable mentions. We wouldn’t want to leave anybody out, and someone unstable enough to spend all their spare time making oversized fruit out of fibreglass probably shouldn’t be trifled with! (Boom! Boom!)

Tirau’s (tee-rao) corrugated iron sheep and sheepdog (the inspiration for this post, seen on a previous Top 10 post) are a visitor centre and gift shop. It is probably the only place you can walk up a sheep’s bum and buy a coffee. Although Tirau is fantastic with heaps of strange corrugated iron creations, including the eyeball, Top 10 has been there and done that so we didn’t include it.

Other honourable mentions go to Taupo’s fish, Rotorua’s Agrodome sheep and Te Anau Takahe, Waitomo Apple and the Geraldine Jumper.

But now onto the Top 10 (Dumroll Please)

NUMBER 10 – The Turangi (Too-rang-ee) Fisherman

Turangi Fisherman

Turangi Fisherman

Turangi is the self styled Trout fishing capital of the World. At the bottom of beautiful Lake Taupo and the entrance to the atmospheric volcanic central plateau it has a bit of tough time standing out so you can’t blame it for blowing its own trumpet. In order to remind people driving through the town just how good the fishing is here they erected a giant silhouette of a fisherman, I wonder how many people it has persuaded to stop and try their luck.

NUMBER 9 – Te Puke (Teh Poo-Kee) Kiwifruit

Handmade Mummy in the Kiwi Fruit

Handmade Mummy in the Kiwi Fruit

Te Puke is in the centre of kiwi fruit country and so it was fitting that some bright spark decided to open a kiwi fruit themed tourist attraction. You can take a tour of the kiwi fruit vines in the kiwi fruit shaped golf cart train, buy kiwi fruit themed products from the gift shop, eat kiwi fruit in the cafe and at the end of your visit you can climb the massive kiwi fruit slice that stands at the entrance. The slice must be at least 20m tall and has a staircase inside it so you can climb up and take in panoramic views of the….erm….kiwi fruit!

NUMBER 8 – Cromwell (Crom-well) Fruit

Handmade Mummy with the Cromwell Fruit

Handmade Mummy with the Cromwell Fruit

Cromwell sits in Otago wine making country, all around there are amazing wineries making some of the best Pinot Noir in the World. These wineries sit in some stunning countryside which you can more often than not take in from their restaurants whilst enjoying their amazing wine. However someone in Cromwell decided that this beautiful scenery and award winning wine wasn’t enough to attract people to the area, they needed something else. Giant fruit were the answer.

NUMBER 7 – The Gore Brown Trout

The Gore Trout welcomes you!

The Gore Trout welcomes you!

Gore. The name says it all. Buried in the depths of Southland Gore is a town that services the large rural community around it. It does however have a very handsome brown trout that has recently been repainted at great cost.

Nobody knows much about Gore really, that is we don’t know much about it because, unlike the other astounding constructions, we haven’t actually visited this one. We kept it in because we felt there was a place in the top 10 for a random mahoooosive fish.

NUMBER 6 – Te Kuiti (teh-kwitty) Sheep Shearer

The Te Kuiti Shearer

The Te Kuiti Shearer

Te Kuiti is the self-styled “sheep shearing capital of the world”. Like a wooly Pamplona, each year Te Kuiti runs sheep through the centre of town. The animal rights guys think it’s baaaaabaric but how can you object to such a ewemungous event? The highlight of the Te Kuiti year, if not the whole Southern Hemisphere year, is the New Zealand Shearing Championships. This statue commemorates this and serves as a monument to all the stubby and black wool singlet wearing men toiling in shearing sheds nationwide. He is reputed to be the world’s largest shearer at 6m high.

NUMBER 5 – Taihape (Tie-Happy) Gum Boot

The Taihape Gumboot

The Taihape Gumboot

Taihape is wet. Very Wet. Situated roughly in the middle of the North Island, South of the ski fields, it’s a small country town with country interests. Farming, hunting, fishing, the great outdoors …. all of which are miserable with a leaky gumboot. Gumbots are of paramount importance in Taihape, they even have an annual gumboot festival and a song about it. All hail the Taihaope Gumboot.

NUMBER 4 – Otorohanga (oh-Toe-Row-hong-a) Kiwi

The Otorohanga Kiwi

The Otorohanga Kiwi

OK, so a massive national icon isn’t that strange we suppose. This one however has a flag on his bum and had an all blacks jersey for the world cup. Otorohanga is the self styled Kiwiana town and has displays of Kiwi items all over the place, all six buildings, including a rather fetching Kiwiana walkway that has cabinets that tell you stories about New Zealand. Nobody listens to the stories they just press every button, play every story and tune simultaneously leaving the brain wrenching cacphony for the next unwitting tourist that passes by. Otorohanga is a fantastic little town, if you want to understand New Zelanad culture just take a wander around; you’ll learn more here about New Zealanders and how they think over lunch and a stroll than you will in five hours at a museum (oh and make sure you visit the Haddad’s shop, it’s a tourist attraction in its own rite).

NUMBER 3 – Paeroa (Pie-row-ah) L&P Bottle

Lemon & Paeroa

Lemon & Paeroa

L&P (Lemon & Paeroa) is New Zealand’s answer to Cocacola. It is “World Famous in New Zealand since ages ago” and a national treasure. Some ingenious Kiwi guys in the 1940s flavoured the local mineral water with lemon and an icon was born!

NUMBER 2 – Manaia (Man-eye-ah) Loaf

Nerd Dad and Handmade Mummy with the Manaia Loaf

Nerd Dad and Handmade Mummy with the Manaia Loaf

What do you do if you are a small town whose main employer is a bakery? You have a giant fibre glass loaf of bread made to welcome people to the town of course. They have been making bread in Manaia for over 100 years so it is a pretty important industry to the town. Unfortunately the giant bakery has gone into receivership so the loaf now stand as a reminder of times gone by and gives passing tourists a chance to add to their “photo with a crazy fibreglass sculpture” collection.

THE MAGNIFICENT NUMBER 1 – Ohakune (oh-ha-koo-knee) Carrot

Handmade Mummy gives the Ohakune carrot a cuddle!

Handmade Mummy gives the Ohakune carrot a cuddle!

To us the carrot is a glorious sight as it means fun on the snow is about to begin. Ohakune is a ski town being the gateway to the Turoa skifield on Mount Ruapehu (a live volcano, how rock and roll is that!). It is also in the middle of veggie growing country, hence the carrot. It was originally used in an ANZ Bank advertisement but was given to the town afterwards to recognise the fact that the majority of carrots grown in New Zealand come from here. The towns people were delighted and erected the carrot on the edge of town so everyone would know that Ohakune is built from carrots. It is a patriotic carrot too, turning black to support the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup, I’m sure the team felt much happier knowing the carrot had their backs!

So that concludes our guest Top 10 for Russell’s blog. There is much more to see in New Zealand, come and visit us some time! As they say here it’s CHOICE!

Nerd Dad and Hand Made Mummy.

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Nerds are awesome? Really?

So, Will “Wesley-Crusher” Wheaton says nerds are awesome. They are awesome because they love TV or something else and get obsessed? That’s awesome? Really? No!

Nerds are awesome, but not necessarily for the reasons he gives. There is nothing cool about being engrossed in something obscure for hours on end, often without any useful outcome. Being able to name every Star Trek Voyager character in order of appearance is impressive but useless. NOT awesome.

We will always be the inept kids in the playground who can’t kick a soccer ball straight but can count to ten in Swahili. The kid that sits on the school bus reading a book and not blowing spitwads at the girls. We will be the ones that are picked last at sports, the ones that come last in races, the ones the popular kids despise and the rest of the kids try and ignore.

What these popular cool kids don’t understand is that us nerdy-geeky-losers with spots, glasses and unfashionable hair will grow up and will also be the ones that treat their cancer, that make their cars safer, plan their towns, the ones that keep their power stations and water running and possibly even the ones that design the computer they use at their till in Mc Donalds. They will need us. They will need us far more than we need them.

Being a nerd IS awesome. But not because I have an unhealthy interest in Firefly or that I get engrossed in making idiotically complex cups of tea. It’s awesome because through being nerdy I am now treating peoples diseases and changing lives. As a doctor I am nothing special, but being a doctor IS special. I will never need the validation of others to tell me I am worthwhile. I don’t give two hoots about how “fashionable” my hair is or how “on trend” my shoes are. My hair is the same mess it was when I was 15. My shoes are the same boring black ones they were in school. Nobody cares. The cool kids are still trying to be cool, now competing with the cooler younger people emerging behind them. Their “Glory Days” of being the popular kid are gone, it’s downhill from here Mr/Ms Former Sports Captain, your sun is setting. The nerds have plodded on and have transcended the nonsense.

Nerds will always overcome, we will always be there and it’s no longer a case of us jokingly saying “Nerds will inherit the earth”, WE HAVE ALREADY GOT IT!

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