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The Undara Lava Tubes

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Another ‘Learning Through Activity’ initiative for Primary School children from The Bucket’s Education Department.


Hello boys and girls.

Grandpa GOF here again, and today we are going to learn all about Australia’s awesome Undara Lava Tubes. When you finish reading this I’ll show you how to do an experiment at home to demonstrate how it all came about.

Handsome young man and his beautiful daughter in a lava tube

190,000 years ago in the Cainozoic Era, slightly before God was invented and well before Pythagoras discovered the lost hypotenuse, the small volcano Undara made a liar out of all the highly-paid Vulcanologists who had been pretending for years that they knew what was going to happen.

Undara suddenly spewed lava at the rate of 1000 cubic metres every second which is like, well you know, it’s like a really really awesome and cool amount of lava except that it was like really really hot, like 1200 degrees Celsius which is like enough to singe your grandma’s moustache at a really really long distance of like 5 miles or something.

In total 23 cubic kilometres of lava flowed out of the Undara volcano following one dry creek bed 90 km to the North, and another 160 km to the North-West.
As it flowed, the outer layers cooled and crusted over while the hot lava inside continued to flow out, leaving these really cool massive tunnels for us to explore today.

Practical experiment  (wait till Mom and Dad go out first)

1. Clear the kitchen table. This will now represent the surface of the Earth around Undara.

2. Spread the best tablecloth you can find over the table. We will now call this tablecloth “granite” for the surface of the earth here was already covered with granite rock before the lava flow.

3. Find two of Mom’s best and strongest cups. Turn them upside down on the floor and place two table legs on top of them. See, now the earth and it’s granite layer  have a slope towards the North.

3. Collect all the dry ingredients you can find in the pantry.
Flour, rice, sugar, pasta, salt, cocoa….it doesn’t matter…..just empty them all out onto the table, mix them up with some water then mould them into the shape of the countryside with a volcano near the top and a valley leading down towards the bottom.

4. Somewhere near the back of the kitchen cupboard you will find a large container of Treacle or Golden Syrup. If you can’t find it then honey or maple syrup will do. Tip all the contents of the container onto the top of the volcano. See how fast it flows down the valley? Now, if you quickly grind up some ice cubes in the food processor and sprinkle it all over the top of your lava you can actually make your own lava tubes.

5. If Mom or Dad are surprised at what they find when they get home, just tell them that it was all your very own idea and that you’ve just scientifically demonstrated the plasticity of flowing lava and the creation of lava tubes.

They will be so proud of what you have just done, although it may not be immediately apparent.

Now, here’s some other cool stuff you can see at Undara Lava Tubes.

Queensland bottle tree

Totally cute Antilopine wallaroos

Extremely attractive tour guide pointing out extensive savanna woodland

You can stay in 2-person or 4-person tents

Or refurbished old railway carriages

Scientific subterfuge

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It is an International disgrace.

I have half a mind ………… pack up my laboratory, turn my back on civilised society and head for a plot of land somewhere in the middle of the jungle to spend the remainder of my life reading rain gauges and chasing feral pigs out of my garden.

I am of course referring to the following insult upon my intellectual property;

The Mouse Grimace Scale. 

This inferior scholastic treatise came out of McGill University and the University of British Columbia in Canada and has now been accepted as the standard scale for measuring the degree of pain and discomfort suffered by animals during experimentation.

Well let me tell you exactly what it is.

It is nothing more than a thinly-veiled plagiarism of my 1974
ground-breaking profound gift to the biological sciences;

GOF’s  Wombat  Anal-Sphincter  Clench  Scale

0  volts …………………….  ۝

10 volts …………………..   O

20 volts ………………….    0

30 volts ………………….    Ϙ  

40 volts ………………….    Ố  

50 volts ………………….    Ѳ

60 volts ………………….    ỗ  

70 volts …………………    ☼

80 volts ……………………  ᴕ

90 volts ……………………  ¤

100 volts ………………….   ו


I am enraged that the developers of the Mouse Grimace Scale have been lauded with academic recognition when all I received after conducting seven years of diligent scientific experimentation was a six-month term in Boggo Road Jail for animal cruelty.

It is indeed a cruel world.


I don’t want to talk about it.

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Stirring up some scientists

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I am convinced that one day humans are going to evolve into large blobs of cerebral matter encased in sallow skin with a texture like tripe, where all means of self propulsion have been lost through neglect. They will be totally reliant upon mechanical locomotion.

"Rumination genes" will become dominant, and "common sense detector genes" recessive, while all of our accumulated artisan and practical physical skills will be lost forever.

The early signs are evident.

Our world is increasingly populated by philosophers, cogitators and theorists who would not know a grommet from a gimlet, or be able to identify a wigwam for a goose's bridle even if it came up in broad daylight with sirens blaring and bit them on the arse five times in a row.

Furthermore, many of those with all the brains are wasting their lives by concentrating on minutiae.

I, of course, have an example for you, just to annoy any critics who might like to suggest that I write nothing but unsubstantiated rubbish.

Three researchers spent 5 months at the MacFarlane Burnet Institute in Melbourne cooking up the following piece of intellectual swill;

"Longitudinal Cohort Study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research Institute"

Motivated by the regular disappearance of teaspoons from the tearooms in this boffin sanctuary, the erudite trio wasted somebody's money determining eventually (with a statistical significance P=0.88) that indeed 80% of teaspoons disappeared from the tearooms during the trial period.  
Spoon replacement cost; $A100 per year.

So what practical recommendations or solutions did this educated-beyond-their-intelligence lot come up with?

None. Zero. SFA.

Instead they provided one little gem of bureaucratic equivocation;

"Development of effective control measures against the loss of teaspoons should be a priority."

Now this piece of academic drivel was published in the highly respected British Medical Journal, (whose motto incidentally is; "helping doctors make better decisions") and presumably doctors all around the world made the stupid decisions to read it when they could have been doing something useful…like treating patients.

So, for the benefit of the three geniuses who were bereft of practical solutions, please allow GOF, the intellectual mouse, to help you out.

1. Anchor the spoons to some anvils, wall studs or concrete pillars
    with short lengths of towing chain welded to the spoon handles.

2. Superglue the spoons into the ends of 6 foot long broomsticks.
    If you see someone who looks suspiciously like the Wicked
    Witch flying out the door after work you can make a reasonable
    assumption that she probably has one of your precious
    teaspoons tucked between her legs.

3. Buy a hundred battered teaspoons from the Lifeline Opportunity
    Shop, then further disfigure them with my 12 inch fencing pliers.
    Then you can waste another 5 months longitudinally and
    cohortionally studying just how many of them your light-fingered
    staff knocked off in comparison to all your poncy silver
    fancy-pants $100 a year cutlery.

4. Compulsory strip searches for all staff leaving the tearooms.
    (Any volunteers? Prior experience and knowledge of what a
    teaspoon looks like and the places where they can be hidden
    will be viewed favourably.)

5. Provide plastic spoons or wooden stirrers.  Or is that beneath
    your collective over-educated dignity?

Sheesh!  Why do I bother.

Now, in what nook of our cave did Mrs GOF hide my spears this week.

I'm going out on a very long trek to see if I can catch me a hairy mammoth for dinner.

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Shooting for the stars

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Occasionally I entertain my mind by giving consideration to the technical and scientific achievements of mankind that have occurred since our ancestor constructed a rudimentary circular object and presented to civilisation "the wheel".

Our lives today, dominated by technology and labour-saving devices, rarely slow down sufficiently for us to give adequate tribute to those whose minds saw beyond the boundaries of the stadium, and dared to dream about playing ball in the universe beyond.

To illustrate the extent of human knowledge in just one single field of endeavour, I have, for us, designed a hypothetical.

This involves just the two of us dear reader.
Yep, thats you and GOF.  Nobody else.

We will be transported back in time 100 years. It is 1909.
The Supreme Benevolent Dictator has ensured that we both will have a singular focus on our task by taking care of all the other distractions in our lives.  We shall be comfortably accommodated, have no family or financial difficulties, and no ill health or death will intervene.

Our mission in life together will simply be to lob any piece of earthly matter of our choosing on to the surface of the moon.
Just the two of us starting with a1909 knowledge base.
Aviation and aeronautical knowledge is at this time very basic. 
The first powered takeoff, flight, and landing (by Orville Wright in the Kitty Hawk) only occurred in 1903.

Now I understand that you, relatively, are a genius, and that I will inflict a mental hamstring injury upon our partnership.
I do, however, have a little real world experience to offer. 
In 1961, after the yo-yo craze died out, (we had all perfected "walking the dog", "round the world" and "rocking the baby")  there was the much more exciting "Cap Rocket".  These "toys" were designed like a playing dart, except that the sharp point was replaced by a blunt metal chamber which could be loaded with gunpowder "caps".
The loaded device was thrown into the air, and it then exploded into orbit (exercising literary licence and exaggeration) after it landed on the playground bitumen.
This craze also rapidly died out along with the eyesight of numerous children, and most of our several hundred rockets ended up on the second storey roof of the Bendigo School of Mines.

So, let us consider what may be on the agenda for our first discussions over a cup of coffee. 
(SBD for some obscure reason removed all alcohol from our reach)

We might have to concern ourselves experimenting with, and understanding the physics involved, along with other technical considerations.
1.  The structure of the atmosphere.
2.  The energy required to propel a given mass through and beyond the  troposphere.
3.  The relative effects of both earth and moon's gravity upon trajectory, to ensure that our anvil, pussy cat or frying pan does not end up at some place other than the moon's surface.
4.  Proving eventually to the SBD that our earthly artifact actually got there.
5.  We might also need to show some planning consideration to our neighbours who may occasionally be intolerant of shrapnel wounds or "friendly fire", and assorted "space junk" prematurely returning to earth on their side of the fence.  

In order to secure ongoing funding the SBD would like for us to provide an estimate of our completion date. 
She said it would be OK to round it off to the nearest century.
We should not be overly optimistic, because with the conditions of employment being so good I think I will be tempted to sabotage a lot of your good work.

And of course I shall also enjoy your company for an additional century or two.

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L = Y and R = X ?

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The human knowledge base deserves our appreciation of all the research work previously done by students, academics and scientists from all around the world.

Many scientific discoveries eventually find practical purposes in our daily lives.  Some, however, either never quite make the grade, or indeed go on to conclude the bleeding obvious.

A recent study of dementia patients found that if they did a lot of walking, then, on average, their cognisance skills improved significantly . 
Before being impressed by such findings I would need to know just how many patients they got back, and how many are still on the loose.

Sugar cane is a crop which is harvested annually…..stalks cut off at ground level, and allowed to shoot again to provide a ratoon crop for harvesting in the following year.
For reasons known only to themselves, agricultural scientists found it necessary to evaluate whether driving heavy harvesting tractors on top of  the cut plants, instead of, as common sense and normal practice would dictate between  the rows, would effect the regrowth of the cane. In effect to determine whether severely trampled cane would regrow at the same rate as kindly nurtured cane.
They eventually proudly announced results which any kindergarten kid could have predicted. No, it does not regrow all that well at all.

I have witnessed highly paid animal behaviourists spending years lurking daily in tropical rainforest adjacent to GOF's paradise, humanely trapping and tying cotton thread onto the tails of musky rat kangaroos (guinea-pig size Australian marsupial) before letting them go again.  The following day, the intelligentsia come back to map exactly where the critters had travelled during the night by tracking the trail of thread unwound from the reel.
Now I could have told them where they went without going to all that trouble. Where do you think they are going to go when some persistent intruder keeps tying ropes on their arses. They went further into the rainforest you bloody twits, to get away from you, and all your molesting, as no doubt your useless never-ever-to-see-the-light-of-day thesis will expound.
Some research is just plain stupid.

GOF, on the other hand would like to conduct the final phase of a scientific experiment begun 17 years ago, which will revolutionise our conventional understanding of genetics.

My neighbour once owned a very large Brahman bull.
I had a small number of cows of more dubious and indistinguished parentage.  I think the bull loved my cows. That is understandable, for my cows were very attractive cows in a bovine sense. The bull loved them all so very much that the barbed wire fence between our two properties provided no impediment to his passion.
Over the years, on both sides of the fence, he sired 12 progeny, all of which were bull calves.  No heifers. 
The masses of mathematicians and statisticians reading my blog at this moment will be experiencing orgasmic delight at this extraordinary example of statistical significance.  But there is more;

Mr Brahman Bull only had a single left testicle.

Now, in order to complete my research, if its not too much trouble, could I please impose upon one of my loyal vox readers to lend me one of your bulls possessing only a single testicle of the right hand persuasion, so that I will be able to conclusively prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the left one always contains only Y chromosome bearing sperm, whilst the right one is full of little X's.

Such a finding could have widespread repercussions for human family planning. It will eliminate all that lengthy and noisy messing around in the bedroom with grandma's advice on the correct way to conceive either a boy or girl child.  
One little snip, and the choice is yours.

GOF will happily share all the forthcoming fame, accolades and money with the donor of our testicularly deficient bull.

I will personally launch a worldwide surgical crusade.  There is a huge market out there to help all those men and cultures whose reproductive policy is predicated on the fundamental belief that boy children are superior to girls.

You have the dream.

I have the scalpels.

My hand is, however, occasionally, a little unsteady, and I have in the past been known to show a devotion to duty somewhat beyond my original job description.

Now gentlemen, who would like to be first?  Get in before the rush.

Do they have a Nobel Prize for genetics so I can put it on my mantelpiece already cluttered with those I got for peace and literature?

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