Archive for Science

Time Freeze

Science fiction grabbed me as a teenager. I was an impatient reader and loved short sci-fi stories packed with ideas. They had cool surprise endings too, like Arthur C Clarke’s All the Time in the World about a man who freezes time; and Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder where an insect changes history. I still treasure my copy of Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun – cost me 65c new in 1970; about an hour’s raspberry picking then.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was also great with it’s spiritual physics and the ending when the disembodied alien brain is defeated. It’s the inspiration for a sci-fi novel I’m working on. I like what L’Engle said about writing too:

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

I loved sci-fi movies too, like Planet of the Apes (1968, final shot pictured), and movies where scientists battled giant insects – the stop-motion animation so endearing. The monsters often attacked Tokyo so I made this the setting for my latest novel Wings, about bees battling giant hornets.

That’s all for now about the stories that made me. Tune in next blog for some writing tips.

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Science Alive at the Library

CoverIf you’ve ever been to Science Alive, you will know that science can be heaps of fun. Now Science Alive is bringing their mad scientist skills to Christchurch City Libraries!

Every day after school, Science Alive is presenting a free, fun programme. You don’t even need to book, just turn up, ready to be amazed, shocked, and possibly grossed out.

Check out our events calendar to find out where and when …

And why not read some books about shocking science

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The Flytrap Snaps by Johanna Knox

Spencer Fogle is an ordinary kid who lives in the extraordinary town of Filmington.  His hometown used to be called Flemington, until film and TV crews discovered its range of landscapes, from fiery volcanoes to snowy mountains and lush rainforests, and took over the town.  The town’s richest resident, Jimmy Jangle, controls most of the business within Filmington and holds alot of people’s futures in his hands.  When Spencer is walking home from school one day, he hears blood-curdling screams coming from one of the science labs and goes to investigate.  Spencer uncovers a dark plot involving carnivorous plants, genetically modified flies and a mysterious, hidden file.  However, Jimmy Jangle and his thugs are willing to do anything to keep the truth covered up.

The Flytrap Snaps is the first book in The Fly Papers series, by New Zealand author Johanna Knox and illustrator, Sabrina Malcolm.  It’s a quirky story with action, mystery and plenty of laughs.  I love the idea of Filmington, with it’s different companies set up for the movie and television industry.  There’s the science labs that create experiments to be used in films, catering companies to supply food and drink for the film and TV crews, and the BodySlam Stunt Wrestling Club where they train stunt people for the movies.  I really liked Spencer because he’s just an ordinary kid who has to deal with an extraordinary situation.  I can’t wait to read the second book to find out what Spencer, Dion and Tora get up to next, and to solve the mystery of The Fly Papers.

Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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New Zealand’s ‘devils of the night’ – the giant weta

cristy burne and headsHi! I’m Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

July is nearly over, so don’t forget to enter our Make a Monster competition and win a copy of Takeshita Demons! We’ve had some awesome entries so far!

As some of you already know, I love writing about monsters and crazy, spooky things.

Well, some of the craziest, spookiest things are not imagined in books or stories. They’re real!

A great example — and a spooky creature I  love — is New Zealand’s giant weta.

What a weta!

Giant weta have been around for about 190 million years, and they look like it too. The giant weta on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of New Zealand, are known as ‘devils of the night’.

Their Maori name, ‘Wetapunga’, translates to ‘god of ugly things’.

Here are some cool facts about weta:

– Giant weta are orthopteran insects of the family Anostostomatidae. They look like wingless, leggy grasshoppers, and their bodies alone can reach around 8cm in length.

– They can weigh more than 70 grams, or about three times the weight of a house mouse.

– Many giant weta are not really so giant, and smaller species such as the Nelson Alpine Weta tip the scales at a not-very-scary average of 7 grams.

– Wetas are more likely to dine on treetop leaves than small children. They’re too heavy to jump, have no wings, and are slow to get around, making vegetarian cuisine the more affordable menu option.

– In a fight, wetas are sadly ill equipped, with only their spiky back legs and devastating bad looks for defence. Some will even roll over and play dead in an attempt to trick would-be predators.

– New Zealand’s new predators — the rats, cats, stoats and hedgehogs — often find that giant wetas make a decent-sized snack. This means giant weta populations are dwindling, and where Wetapunga were once common in the north of the North Island, they are now found only on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of Auckland.

– One weta species, the Mahoenui, returned from mainland extinction when it was discovered in 1962 hiding out in some gorse bushes in the North Island; the spikes of the introduced gorse had kept hungry hunters at bay. This weta weed patch has since been declared a protected area, and more than 200 endangered weta have been relocated to Mahurangi Island, in the hope of baby wetas on the way.



Aren’t weta awesome?

I find when I am having trouble thinking of something to write about, I can find inspiration in real life and amazing science. There are always strange things happening in the real world.

Where do you get your writing inspiration?

Anyone ever written a story about a giant weta?

If you want extra weta inspiration, you can get more weta-riffic facts from NZ’s Department of Conservation.

Happy writing and reading!

Cristy


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

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Earthquake. What do you miss most?

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Naughty Kids Book of Nature by Des Hunt

Des Hunt mentioned in his last post that he likes to look at roadkill because it “provides that opportunity to take a close look at animals.”  Des also shares his fascination with roadkill in his new book The Naughty Kids Book of Nature.  As the title suggests, this is a book about Nature for naughty kids who want to know about squashed hedgehogs and dead pukeko,  and want to see blood, guts and maggots.

It’s a fascinating book, chock-full of information about all sorts of New Zealand birds, insects, amphibians and pests.  You can find out about roadkill, bludgers, reproduction, and living and extinct animals.  Throughout the book there are detailed drawings by Scott Tulloch and fact sheets about the animals.  One thing I really like about this book are the questions and keywords at the end section so you could do a search on the library catalogue or a search engine to find out more about each animal.

This is the perfect book for naughty kids (and not-so-naughty kids) to find out about New Zealand’s wildlife.   10 out of 10

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First post from Des Hunt – The start of a new novel

Sunrise at Wollongong - the start of a new day and a new novel

I’m thrilled to be selected as the November 2010 Star Author. Over the next month I’ll keep you posted about a new book I’m working on. I’ll take you through the research and planning stages and onto the first few chapters of writing. In a month I should be able to get about 10 of the 30 chapters written.

Every book I write always starts with an idea or a place. This one started with an idea. For some time I’ve been thinking of writing a story that has chemistry as a theme. I have a degree in chemistry and began my teaching career as a chemistry teacher. I know that many readers of this blog will find chemistry interesting: particularly things such as colour changes, poisons, stinks and explosions. When I visit schools I use several chemical reactions to illustrate the writing process. They are always popular and I thought that a novel with a chemistry theme could be interesting for me to write and for kids to read.

Next step is to dream up a situation.  If the idea was going to become a story, I needed to have characters who had the opportunity and desire to mess around with chemicals. I decided that a couple of boys who experimented with pipebombs could be exciting. It allows for the possibility of something going terribly wrong. They would have to be friends, but I know that stories become more interesting if there is conflict between characters. So I decided that friends that fell out with each other would create the chance for lots of conflict: imagine two kids arguing over an armed pipebomb and you’ll get an idea of the tension it could create.

When I was eleven I broke off with my best friend because we couldn’t agree with who would look after a frog that we’d found. It took three years before we made up. Breakups can be over the silliest of things, but often they are brought about by a change in the life of one of the friends. That’s the situation I chose: one of the boys’ parents would move town and that would strain the friendship. I decided to go a bit further and have the boy’s family shifting country, from Australia (Oz) to New Zealand (NZ). This allows for the boy shifting to NZ to experience many difficult situations in a new country. It also gives the opportunity for him to make a new friend. Thus when the Oz boy comes to visit we can have jealousy between the three – throw in some bombs and we could have an explosive mix.

All of this took about half a day to work through. I then had to sort out the locations: the first part in Oz and the second part in NZ. In line with my theme, I made the father of the family that shifts a chemical engineer. He works in a chemical factory in Oz before getting a better job in NZ. That restricted the places I could choose, because each would need to have a big chemical plant. I chose Wollongong in Oz and Glenbrook in NZ. The next step was to visit Wollongong in Australia. That’s one of the fun parts of writing – you get to travel to some interesting places. I’ll tell you about that in the next posting.

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