Last Chance to Join the Pre-release List

In two days – Wednesday 22nd November – I will be pre-releasing a digital copy of “Why? Because Science!” to an exclusive list of people. If you want to join that list and be among the very first to clap eyes on this book, please send me your email in an comment below or privately to thea@thecontentqueen.co.za.

Is there a catch?

Too good to be true

The best things in life are free, my friends, and so I have decided to make the book free to those of you on my pre-release list. All I ask for in return is your help promoting the book on your social media channels (a simple shout-out and a link to the book on Amazon will do), and an Amazon review. There are no other T&Cs.

Why pre-release the book at all?

Amazon is essentially a search engine, which means that it functions like Google. If you want your business or product – in my case, a book – to appear at the top of the search results pages, it needs to be popular. The more the book is downloaded, the more reviews it gets, and the more traffic it receives, the more Amazon will perceive it to be popular. Since Amazon makes money every time the book is downloaded, it will do its best to help it sell well.

This is where the pre-release launch comes in. By giving a group of people my book (for free) and asking for a some promotion and reviews in return, the book gets off to a good start and (hopefully) attracts enough downloads, reviews, and traffic to tell Amazon that it is worthy of their support.

So, help a girl out!

help a girl out

Send me your email details and I’ll add you to the pre-release list. On Wednesday, you’ll get a link to the book as well as a little list of tasks you can do to help me promote the book, which will be officially launched on 1st December.

I’ll be extremely grateful for all your support!

 

Count Down to Book Launch!

Hello minions!

It’s been many moons – hundreds, in fact – since last I posted on this blog site. Many of you have rightly asked if I’m still alive. The good news is that I am indeed still alive. Why then the resounding year-and-a-half-long silence? I have a great excuse, I promise:

I have been writing the official Why? Because Science book! Here’s a sneak peak at the provisional cover… Why- Because Science (2).jpgIn just over two weeks’ time – on the 1st December 2017 – I will be launching it on Amazon. To begin with, the book will be in kindle/electronic format only. Once I have raised the necessary funds, I’ll be able to launch a print-to-order enterprise, which means hard copies! It’s a step-by-step process that’s utterly terrifying and satisfying at the same time. Very much like nipple clamps.

Keep an eye on this space and thank you so much for your loyalty over the years!

The Scientific Method in Memes

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Internet Memes: A Definition… or Approximation Thereof

For those of you who don’t know what a meme is, it’s a kind of visual or graphical internet trend or fad. Each of the above pictures is commonly used to express some sort of humorous comment or quip. The veloceraptor, for example, is often referred to as ‘hypothesaurus’ or better still ‘philosoraptor’ and says things like: “If practice makes perfect, and nobody’s perfect, why practice?”

The white cat, on the other hand always looks clever while making really bad yet somehow funny science jokes such as (and this is the worst I could find): ” would’ve gotten you flowers, but I never botany.”

*insert tumble weed into the desolate wasteland that is your sense of humour*

So now, if you haven’t learnt something about the scientific method, you’ve found out what a meme is, which makes you just that little bit cooler in the eyes of your 15-year old niece.

Cool Things Col. Hadfield Taught Us About Space Livin'

Colonel Chris Hadfield is pretty much the modern face of space exploration. In this video and others that have been uploaded to YouTube, he demonstrates the awesomeness of zero gravity and the various peculiars of space living, answering age-old questions asked by children everywhere: How do you sleep in space? How do you wash your hands? What food do you eat?

Video Source: “Cool Things Col. Chris Hadfield Taught Us About Space” Uploaded by Mixtape Master on YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy50lRbOpW8

Bird Watching: Making Your Safari Way More Awesome

Juvenile Bataleur Eagle
Picture: An immateur Bataleur Eagle taken at the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Thea Beckman (2015)

It can be said without a doubt that bringing a bird with you on your safari makes it way more awesome. Especially if said bird looks tight in a bikini. You can share in the joy of spotting that elusive leopard, watching cheetah chase ill-fated gazelle across the savannah and being stranded in a herd of elephant; desperately hoping that amorous-looking bull doesn’t take a fancy to your Jeep. But I’m not talking about THAT kind of bird. Birds, the feathered variety, are awesome. And the next time you drive home from Magaliesberg feeling short-changed because you didn’t see any lions AGAIN, perhaps you’d better start thinking about becoming a twitcher.

Bird-watching: A Definition

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Green-spotted dove, Kruger National Park in South Africa.

I’ve harboured a deep interest in birds since I can remember. Some people are addicted to nicotine, amphetamines or Robert Pattinson. I love bird watching. I really do. And I’m pretty sure that, psychologically, it has something to do with a love of collecting meaningful things. Every time my family would go for a weekend, week’s or month’s vacation somewhere in southern Africa, I would make and keep a list of the different species of birds we identified during the course of that holiday.

Bird watching and safari
This trusty field book has travelled with me all over southern Africa and bears the dirty smudges, rugged braai (barbecue) smears and cheap brandy stains to prove it.

 You experienced a shudder of awe and excitement when you saw a lion on your African adventure. I experienced a shudder of awe and excitement when I saw a Violet-eared Waxbill at the Karoo National Park. Partly because, against the drab semi-arid landscape, it is one of the most beautifully coloured creatures you could ever imagine; something straight out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. And partly because this particular species of waxbill didn’t appear on the Karoo National Park’s bird list, meaning that we were the first to report seeing it there. Essentially, we made history.

I See Your Lion and Raise You a Bataleur Eagle

Bataleur Eagle
Mature bataleur eagle, Kruger National Park in South Africa. Picture by Thea Beckman.

I experienced another shudder of awe and excitement when I saw a Drakensberg Prinia in Pilgrim’s Rest; a Pallid Harrier at the Blyde River Canyon; a Collared Sunbird at the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens; a Striped Cuckoo at the Pilansberg Nature Reserve outside Rustenberg and again when I saw a flock of Southern Bald Ibises in the Drakensberg. None of these are particularly striking birds – except perhaps the Bald Ibis, whose head resembles an unmentionable male body part. But they were all new! I had never seen them before! It’s like discovering the Mufasa marble in your Engen Garage lucky packet back in the day when the Lion King and marbles were all the rage.

For the record, the Lion King was, is and always will be awesome.

Identifying a brand new bird and ticking it off in your book may sound completely nerdy, inane and lame. But it actually makes you feel amazing; like you’ve accomplished something. It’s a tiny intellectual victory and one of those ingredients that makes life rich and exciting.

I saw a brand new species of bird!

You saw a lion.

I saw a Crowned Eagle!

You saw another lion.

I saw a Giant Eagle Owl!

You saw (oh wow!) another lion.

I saw a Carmine Bee-eater.

You saw (surprise) a lion!

Lion yawning 2

For every one species of awesome animal you see on safari. I see 10, maybe 20 different species of birds. This is no war, my friends. No competition. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you can culture and develop an appreciation and then a love of identifying birds, you can get so much more out of any holiday, any getaway and any safari experience. You’ll also totally impress your chick who, through your appreciation of soft feathered creatures, will see your softer and more vulnerable side.

And then you’ll get to show her your softer and more vulnerable body parts.

 Kgalagadi Case Study, August to September 2009

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African Ground squirrels (Xerus inauris) enjoy an eclectic diet of roots, seeds, insects, pods, fruits, grains, bird eggs, small vertebrates and pink marshmallows.

Many years ago, I went on a 10-day vacation to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles the three borders of Namibia, Botswana and the Northern Cape. The bird list I had kept for that holiday totalled 106 different species. The animal list I made totalled 12. Actually, it was more like 11. Animal #12, which we thought was a leopard prowling around the camp at night, turned out to be nothing more than my mother’s snoring. Or so we suspected after three consecutive nights of rhythmic zzzggghhhnnnnngggg, zzzggghhhnnnnngggg, zzzggghhhnnnnngggg-ing, which is actually quite similar to a leopard’s cough-like grunting.

We saw ONE lion that entire holiday. And it was a female so pregnant with zebra meat that she had hitched a leg up onto the bole of the acacia tree she was food coma-ing under in order to make more space for her distended gut. She didn’t so much as bat an eyelid at the rocks we were throwing at her to get her to move.

I am, of course, just kidding.

On that same trip, we spotted a beautiful Giant Eagle Owl in her nest in broad daylight; identified the tiny Pygmy Falcon killing machine; heard the haunting yelps of Pearl-Spotted Owls at night and kept the campsite company of the flamboyantly coloured Burchell’s starling.

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The handsome Burchell’s starling, Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Class Dismissed: The Take-Home Message

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Wahlberg’s Eagle? Malachite Kingfisher? Violet-eared Waxbill? Now that’s a handsome bird list…

I have always kept bird lists for the various holidays our family has been on. I also keep a list of animals on the occasions we go to wildlife reserves. Every single time, my list of different bird species, which has often stretched into the hundreds, dwarfs the list of different animal species. Nothing can be more exciting than actually spotting a leopard in a tree, seeing cheetah in action or watching a hippo emerge from the water (or doing that funny tail-thing when they poop.) But to go on safari and never notice the activity constantly going on around you, in the bushes, in the trees, on the ground, in the sky… well you are cheating yourself out of 90% of the fees you paid at the park entrance.

Open your eyes friends.

And whatever you do. Never, ever sit under a hornbill perched in a tree. They have impeccable aim.

African Birds and safari
Zazu, I mean, Yellow-billed hornbill, Kruger National Park in South Africa

How Black Holes Are Born

In this cool video, we learn how black holes are created from the death of massive stars, leaving behind a collapsed star so dense and with such skull-crushing gravity that not even LIGHT can escape it! Here’s a cool fact… if you were floating towards a black hole, the atoms in your feet would accelerate towards it faster than the atoms in your head and so effectively, you would be instantaneously ripped apart. Fun!

Video Source: “The Birth of a Black Hole” Uploaded by Alexander Guseff to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=8grTbzAo0PA.

Paranormal Video: Ghosts Caught on Camera

The most frustrating thing about the “ghost videos” and “real ghost footage” you find on the Internet is that they could so easily be the work of any amateur film student. How do you know what you’re seeing is real and that you aren’t being duped? Some of these videos are quite obviously terrible, staged or easily explained, while others seem to capture something truly paranormal going on. A few of the clips in the following ghost video compilation had my hair standing on end and I’m a skeptic… whether the footage is real or cleverly manipulated, we’ll never know!

To find out whether there’s any science behind the TV shows that purport to investigate the paranormal, such as “Ghosthunters,” check out our spooky blog Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!

Source: “Top 10 Ghost Sightings Caught on Tape” uploaded by Videoz Only on the YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwTQBBYKthQ