Science & Nature

Little Grebe (Spágaire tonn)

The Little Grebe, also known as the Dabchick, is commonly found on lakes, large ponds, canals and slow rivers across Ireland. In the winter, it is also known to frequent sheltered coastal areas. One of our smallest aquatic birds, at just 26cm in length, it is dwarfed by ducks, Moorhens, Coots and other water birds.

Father of forestry

Augustine Henry (1857 – 1930), Ireland's greatest plant collector and botanical explorer, was born 150 years ago on the 2 of July 1857. Even though he was the archetypal absent-minded professor, he advanced through three brilliant careers, and made massive achievements in each. After hearing a recruitment speech delivered by Sir Robert Hart, in Belfast in 1879, he was inspired to travel to China. He trained as a physician, and was to spend 18 years working for the Imperial Chinese Customs Service, from 1881 to 1899.

Walks: Prague, Czech Republic

Walking is the way to see Prague as motor traffic is banned in the city's historic areas: the old and new town, Jewish Quarter and, across the river Vltava, the castle and little quarter. Start at the Old Town Square, one of Europe's finest public spaces. Windows on the medieval clock open and Biblical figures move around as the clock chimes hourly.

Getting on with the neighbours

An unauthorised development has taken place a few doors down from my house. A community of sisters has moved in and established a home, without as much as a by- your-leave. All day long the ladies go about their business, coming to and fro, bothering nobody and having no rowdy parties at night.But the neighbours are not amused. They fear that the members of the community will turn savage and carry out unprovoked attacks upon their persons as the summer advances.

Virtual Friends

The tentacles of ‘social networking' are unavoidable if you have an email address.

The future is 3-D

The head of US film studio Dreamworks Animation has predicted that the future of cinema will be three-dimensional. Jeffery Katzenberg, one of the founders of parent company Dreamworks SKG along with moguls Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, said that three “magical” factors were coming together to make the rejuvenation and triumph of 3D possible: the increased power of computers which allows clearer images, digital cameras and affordable 3D eyewear. From the studio's point of view, the advantage of 3D films is that they “cannot be pirated”, said Katzenberg.

The dangers of virtual smog

Ireland has the highest concentration of wireless hotspots in the world. At 18 per 1,000 head of population, we just about beat the UK to the number one spot. The US leads in sheer volume of these locations with 26,000. Japan, regarded as one of the most technologically-advanced countries, has actually moved beyond Wi-Fi, and now has over 30 million 3G mobile phone connections.

The ghost in your browser

A   survey by Google has discovered more than one million websites that contain Malware. This hidden software is capable of stealing your personal information and spreading computer viruses. By browsing the internet, a user can unknowingly be the victim of what the Google Anti-Malware Team calls a “drive-by download”. It may be the case that the owners of the websites that infect your system are themselves not aware of the presence of the surreptitious software.

Birch: nurse and provider

There are two species of birch native to Ireland, downy (Beith chlúmhach, Betula pubescence) and silver (Beith gheal, Betula pendula). The most common is the downy, which, like silver birch, is a delicate tree with fine branches and small leaves. In springtime the flowers, catkins, appear and remain on the tree and in autumn contain the mature seed.

Flat out futuristic

Village predicts that all technology in the future will be flat. Except movies, which will be in 3D, naturally