Exquisite Feathers

Bird feathers are evolutionary wonders.

“As the saying goes in architecture, ‘form follows function,’ but when it comes to feathers I would say if form follows function, then beauty follows form.”

The book Feathers: Displays of Brilliant Plumage by Robert Clark  is brimming with exquisite photos and facts to tempt the curious mind to embark on a journey filled with beauty and ideas about how the thousand of varieties of feathers have developed throughout history. Feathers have been designed for warmt, camouflage and sexual competivesss. This book is a perfect marriage between art and scienc; detailed cl0se-ups of feathers is paired with text about the utility as well as the evolution of the feather on the photo..

Robert is taking us on a journey filled with elegance as well as the past and interesting uses of feathers.

“The ways in which feathers have evolved and manifested themselves over time is riveting to me; over millions of years the scales of a dinosaur deviated and began to grow upward in spines that covered the body of birds. Through many generations, these spines spread, evolving specific purposes for the regions on the body on which they grew; eventually these spinal structures were imbued with extravagant colors and features,” writes Robert.

The aim is to make the feathers “look as if you could pick them up” and I could not agree more. So pick up the book and enjoy!


The colour of scarlet macaw’s feather helps it live and blend in various different habitats. This is a secondary wing covert feather.


Bird of Paradise.


Golden Headed Quetzal (Pharomachus auriceps)
Golden-Headed Quetzal (Pharomachus auriceps)
FEATHER TYPE : contour feather from the flank   LATIN NAME: Ithaginis cruentus   ENGLISH NAME: Blood Pheasant   REGION: Asia   OTHER NOTES: The green colour stems from a rare pigment called Turacoverdin   Further Information contact : Dr. Peter Mullen Kirchplatz 6 42489 Wuelfrath email: petermullen@gmx.de cell: +491726411691
The green colour stems from a rare pigment called Turacoverdin. Blood Phesant.

FEATHER TYPE : Wing   LATIN NAME: Lamprotornis superbus   ENGLISH NAME: Superb Starling   REGION: Africa Further Information contact : Dr. Peter Mullen Kirchplatz 6 42489 Wuelfrath email: petermullen@gmx.de cell: +491726411691

Superb Starling












Ice Circles

Ice circles are a rare and beautiful looking

as well as sounding phenomenon.


The ice circles in the photos are from Sävar in the northern part of Sweden.  The circles look perfect as if they have been made by a ceramist.

If you listen you can hear the sound of the river or the sea flowing continuously. When you are watching the ice circles dance by you can hear very sharp cracks and groans.

The circles are formed when a large piece of ice breaks off creating an effect called “rotational shear” where the current slowly grinds away at the free-floating chunk until it is smoothed into a circle.


The first video is filmed by Kaylyn Messer in Seattle and in the second video you can hear the sounds of ice. Go here to read Jonna Jinton’s blog.

What can We Learn from Autumn?

The October air is raw and filled with goodbyes.

Goodbye green leaves and warm summer evenings.

Reluctantly I say welcome to spicy scent of colourful leaves and the shy October light.


The forest is coming to a standstill and animals are preparing for the colder weather.

Autumn is a busy time for many animals as they prepare for winter weather. Some animals such as swallows and martins, warblers,  nightingales, and cuckoos migrate to warmer parts of the world.  Hedgehogs and toads have another approach and they decide that it is better to sleep through the winter.

So maybe the real lesson that autumn teaches us is to let go and to rest to load our batteries for Spring.

Jonna Jinton is an inspiring blogger who lives in Northern Sweden in a village with 11 citizens – what a dream!  Her blog is brimming with beautiful photos and videos. Warmly recommended.





How to Move Heavy Things – Ants and Team Work

Teamwork can sometimes work wonders.

A team works better if everyone is focusing their effort on the same goal – something that is causing many human teams a great deal of problem. In the world of microrobots this aspect may be easier to overcome. Inspired by ants, researchers at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory at Stanford University have designed a team of microrobots that can pull a car weighing almost 1770 kg (3,900 pounds). The tiny robots weighing in total just 99 gram (3.5 ounces).

ant in nature. macro
ant in nature. macro

Interestingly, the idea behind the work is that the approach is counterintuitive. The team of microrobots work together but slowly, the idea is to limit the amount of friction to allow the team to move a really heavy object. Instead of powerful pushes the team of microrobots consider the effort of the team members. An army of ant that are moving something, use three of their six legs simultaneously. And by building a team of microrobots that are not only strong but also work as a team this team could move what would be equivalent of six humans moving a weight equivalent to that of an Eiffel Tower! Or three statues of liberty!

The underlying idea behind the Six hat approach to thinking is that by focusing the attention at the same direction, a team of humans can think better. Perhaps with practice humans can start solving really heavy problems!

You can read more about the research here.

Light in the dark

White feather 1A lone white feather drifts with the water

Stops and waits for the wind

It flies no longer

Has accepted its fate. Instead a new-born desire

To be part of life is born

One last journey as a loving couple

Give warmth to new life

The entry of Spring reawakens life

There is light in the dark



Hidden Patterns of Birds and Insects

Many patterns in nature are there for us to see, like symmetries, spirals, waves,  and stripes. Natural pattern can be see in the sand as the wind blows or the desert or in the sand dunes that has been worn smooth by the waves.

morning empty beach and footprints on sand

Some patterns are hidden and modern technology can be used to help us explore and discover these patterns. Dennis Hlynsky transforms footage of birds and insects into ethereal illustrations. He makes videos at the intersection of art and science by digitally tracing the paths the animals are travelling.
Can you find any hidden patterns where you are living?