Gear Up for Animal Magic

We saved most of our Science investigations for the day after our New Forest marathon. This was because we had agreed to meet with Helen Robinson, one of the New Forest’s Education Officers and her colleague Aynsley. Our meeting place for the day was the Forest Leisure Cycling Centre in Burley, where Luke had kindly agreed to loan Pam and I two bikes for a couple of hours to do some demonstrations. After meeting up with Helen and Aynsley, we picked up our bikes and rode along the road to one of the many cycle tracks. Pam and I really enjoyed the freedom of being on a bike again and letting our legs spin underneath us. The large comfy seats were much appreciated as our gluts were still screaming at us from our run the day before.


Pam, Helen, Aynsley and I Enjoying Some Fun on the Bikes

Once we were out on the track, we had fun with Helen and Aynsley discussing how energy efficient bikes are, how we keep them stable by shifting our centre of mass and how gears are designed to assist us. We will be generating some resources on the physics of bikes as there is so much physics involved and they are great fun to ride!

Helen and Aynsley were great sports and threw themselves into all the activities we had planned for them. Aynsley even agreed to race Pam, a fun way to demonstrate which gear combination gave the biggest advantage when racing a short distance down the cycle track. The race was closely matched but with Aynsley on a higher gear and hence able to reach a greater maximum speed, she just beat Pam over the line. However, she did have to do more work, to apply a greater force, in order to get the bike moving at the start!


Demonstrating Stability



The Great Gear Race!

After our activities came to an end, Pam and I enjoyed a leisurely ride back to the cycle centre. We then dropped off the bikes to head over to the New Forest Reptile Centre to observe some animal magic. With Helen as our guide and the warm conditions ensuring that the reptiles came out to play, we were in for a real treat. Not only did the Reptile Centre house all the reptiles which were native to the UK, it was also free to enter and in a beautiful setting. Many of the reptiles were in a prime position, basking on warm surfaces like logs and tiles when we arrived. This is where my FLIR infrared camera enabled me to capture infrared images of a Common Lizard, an Adder and a Smooth Snake.


A Common Lizard Warming up on a Log


An Adder Warming up on a Log

They were all in the process of warming their cold blood via the surfaces on which they lay and the warmth of the environment around them. We could observe this by measuring the amount of infrared radiation the reptiles emitted. All living objects emit infrared radiation which forms part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, a cold blooded animal does not use internally generated energy to regulate its body temperature, so it requires far less energy than warm blooded animals, or endotherms. Warm blooded animals, such as humans, other mammals and birds, have internal mechanisms that maintain their body temperature within a certain range, regardless of the ambient temperature of surroundings. This self-regulation requires vast amounts of energy that is obtained through frequent meals. A cold blooded animal does not need to eat as often and might eat one meal every few weeks. As a result, cold blooded animals are able to thrive in remote areas such as small islands and deserts where food is too scarce to support warm blooded animals.

We could have marvelled at the animal magic at work all day. However, Dartmoor National Park was calling, so after a quick and inspiring chat with Richard who ran the centre and a big thank you and goodbye to Helen, we got on the road.


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