Thursday, May 31, 2007

The forum and the Palatine

Outside the Colosseum is the ruins of the Forum (where daily life took place.)

Down the road is the Hill they called the Palatine.

The Palatine came to prominance during the reign of Augustus Caesar (who started out as plain Octavian until he was named as Julius Caesars heir).

Augustus wanted to build a summer residence the like of which had never been seen before.

So he built a house, like no other house. It was larger than any house that had been built before. As our guide said "Who of you has a stadium and a stables attached to your home?"

They needed a new word to describe the new house that he had built. It became known as The Palatine, after the hill it had been built on. The word still survives in our modern language. We know it as Palace. :)

The walls were covered with tablets of marble and other semi precious stones like Porphyry, a volcanic rock that the Romans mined from existance in Egypt.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Flavian Amphitheatre

The what? Its not the Colosseum, its the Flavian Amphitheatre, which is the family name of the Emperor Nero. Stood next to the amphitheatre was a 40 meter high statue of Nero. The statue was Colosso, and that is where it got its nickname from.

In the 4th centuary Rome converted to Christianity under the emperor Constantine (It is his arch that stands outside). As it was Nero who had St Peter and St Phillip matyred, the early Christians had his statue melted down and made into Christain iconography. That'll teach him!

Inside you can see the ruins of the slave and animal cages under where the arena was. When it was built there were free games for the first 100 days. During that time 600 gladiators and 9000 wild animals were killed! And all for free for the citizens. Only the best seats were for sale because they were closest to the action.

The amphitheatre had 80 entrances, but only 4 went to the lower levels; the rest took you to the higher levels.

The Amphitheatre lasted for 450 years until the fall of the Roman Empire. The Pope at the time then ordered any brick or marble that was needed for Christian building projects should be taken from the pagan temples around the city. And the Colosseum was pilaged and ruined for a thousand years until some time in the 1700's when calmer heads prevailed and preservation of the Roman monuments started.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I have returned from The Eternal City. I had a fantastic time and look forward to boring you over the next few days with my photos and video clips (after I have uploaded them to Youtube). I actually filled my memory card on my camera (512MB) and had to delete some at the end.

In four days I did: The Colussium, The Palatine, Fort Sant Angelo, The Vatican, The Valican museum and Sistine Chapel, National Museum of Archeology in Naples, and Pompeii. Phew!

And I have a blister the size of a 10 pence on my foot that I had to open with a can-opener! :)

(Much) more to follow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


This first stunning photo of the Northern Lights was the BBC Photo of the Year 2006.

The final photo is the Aurora from space.

Thanks to Nick for the heads up. One day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My new TV (or the story of the boy who went shopping on Ebay when ver' ver' drunk!)

So there I am, surfing Ebay at 2.oo am after a heavy cards night when I receive an email from Ebay saying "Have you thought about a new TV?"

Well, who hasnt? Especially when I have just been paid £28,000.

So I am trawling through Ebay pages for new HD Plasma TV's when I come across this bargin. Ex display, knock on the corner, 50" HD flat screen plasma TV; £559 or Best Offer. So I type £500 and go to bed.

Next day a another email. "Congratulations your bid was accepted. You are the winner". I had actually forgotten about the night before so I have a small funny turn. But now it is here, and it is massive! I am now HD ready, and as anyone in the UK knowns we will all have to be in the next 2 years, as they are turning off the anologue signal.

Horray, I have a massive TV!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Earth from Galileo

I read a wonderful quote from ex US astronaut Walter Schirra Jr, who died recently aged 84. He was one of the pioneers from the Mercury programme.

"I left Earth three times and found no other place to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth"


I told you moons was where its at. Mars is geologically inert (no volcanic activity), Venus is too hot to visit, Mercury is a cinder, and rest are gas giants (because Pluto is no longer a planet!).
Its the vast array of moons that we have where the most spectacular things are happening.

Io, Jupiters moon is a hotbed of activity. Jupiter is playing Io like an accordian. The surface is being pulled upto 250km upwards to Jupiter at its closest orbit, and back down at its furthest orbit. This constant back and forth creates incredible friction inside Io, and as a result it constantly spews sulphur volcanoes. Mapping Io is impossible as the surface never remains the same, due to constant eruptions.

We even caught a volcano on camera. It is estimated that this eruption of sulphur and methane is 500km high.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Lunar eclipse over Paris.

A cool time-lapse photos of a recent lunar eclipse over Paris.

Tres Bon!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Moons and Rings

You know I like moons. These fantastic photos show just some of the many, many moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

1. I love this photo! This shows Saturns moon Enceladus creating one of Saturns rings. Like a comet, when the Sun hits the moon, the ice evaporates and creates a tail. Due to Saturns immense gravity the ice vapour follows Enceladus in orbit around the planet. We have never seen this view before because the Sun was behind us. It was only when the Cassini probe flew to the other side of Saturn and looked back, and Enceladus was silloutted could we see this ring creation in action.

2. Saturns moon Epimetheus against the rings.

3. My favourite moon Europa (still the best hope for extra terrestrial life, IMHO) rising over Jupiter.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The sky over Death Valley

This amazing shot (click for larger image) is a 360 degree photo of the sky above Death Valley.


PS. Going to Rome for 5 days on 20th May. Will see the Colossium, the Pantheon, and 150km down the coast Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and Pompeii. Cant wait!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Health & Safety at work

I'm not sure what country these photos are from; but I had to post them.

Health & Safety in the workplace!

Now how do I join the union?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nine minute clip from Pixars "Rattattoille"

Good old Pixar. Everything they touch turns to gold. Why? Because they care about story above all else.

Pixars next flick, about a talking rat who wants to become a top Parisian chef (as you do), looks amazing and touching, as usual.

This is a pair of clips from the upcoming movie, introduced by the director Brad Bird (The Incredibles). Toy Story 2 is one of my all time favourite movies, and Pixar have never done a bad one in my opinion, with A Bugs Life and The Incredibles being two films I also love.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Deep space monster

"Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The monster, actually an inanimate pillar of gas and dust, measures over a light year in length. The star, not itself visible through the opaque dust, is bursting out partly by ejecting energetic beams of particles. Similar epic battles are being waged all over the star-forming Carina Nebula. The stars will win in the end, destroying their pillars of creation over the next 100,000 years, and resulting in a new open cluster of stars. The pink dots are newly formed stars that have already been freed from their birth monster. The above image is only a small part of a highly detailed panoramic mosaic of the Carina Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released last week. The technical name for the stellar jets are Herbig-Haro objects. How a star creates Herbig-Haro jets is an ongoing topic of research, but it likely involves an accretion disk swirling around a central star."

Cool, huh?