About Simon Perks

Writer, trail runner, hill walker, astronomer, kayaker, paddleboarder, photographer, nerd, tea drinker, lover of the sea, labrador wrangler

With the clocks gone back

Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights truly are drawing in. Here in Somerset, the sun sets well before 5pm now and it’s pretty much dark by six. Which means that, for the days when I’m working at home, we’ve had to switch to our ‘winter’ evening schedule. But, to be honest, I’m struggling. Continue reading

Being a dog (A book review)

Anyone who has a dog will know that their sense of smell is far superior to our own. But how does their nose work? What is it capable of? And what can we learn from our dogs about the world around us?
Being a Dog - Book Cover

In ‘Being a dog: Following the dog into a world of smell’, psychologist and animal behaviourist Alexandra Horowitz sets out to answer these questions.

She learns from experts in all things scent and scentwork, from perfume creators to truffle dog trainers. And she observes her own dogs in their scent-based world.

Horowitz also works to improve her own sense of smell, engaging with ‘scent tours’ around the city, participating in experiments and training herself to be more aware of the smells around her.

I really like this book, with its fusion of scientific investigation and personal experiences. Sure, it does go off on a bit of a tangent at times, but overall it’s a highly enjoyable read.

It also provides an excellent overview of the different ways in which dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell, from search and rescue to the detection of explosives, cancer and (my personal favourite) Orca scat (yes, that’s Killer Whale poo).

There are lots of books about how the sense of smell works. And there are plenty about the different ways in which dogs use their sense of smell to help us. But there are very few that explore both. And I have yet to find one that does it as well as this one.

You can find the book on Amazon, but I’d much prefer you ordered it from your local independent bookshop. Or order it from my local bookshop, which is Books on the Hill in Clevedon, Somerset.

An unexpected day of rest

Having been away for a couple of days during the week, I started the day today with a long list of things I wanted to get done. A bit of work, some projects in the garden, a good long walk or two with the dogs, perhaps lunch out somewhere, catching up with some reading, and a training session or two with Ozzy*. But I think we all know, of course, that was never really going to happen. Continue reading

Paying tax is important. And fun.

While tax isn’t everyone’s first choice of topic for dinner party discussions, it really should be. Because tax is important. And paying tax is important. It is how we fund the things that our society needs. Like healthcare, roads, defence and environmental protection. And so, with this week just gone being Fair Tax Week, I thought I’d take a few moments to talk about my own company, Sockmonkey Consulting’s, approach to paying tax fairly.
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Growing time

I don’t really have a favourite time of the year. Because every one of the seasons is special to me in its own way. Summer is about spending quality time in the outdoors. Autumn is about enjoying the changing colours of the trees and getting ready for winter. Winter itself is about hunkering down and staying indoors with a good book and a nice cup of tea. Continue reading

New article alert: Capturing new worlds

Capturing new worlds: How to image an exoplanet. A feature article exploring how astronomers are seeking to take direct images of planets orbiting stars other than our own. Including what they have achieved so far, what they are planning next and how we may one day be able to see an ‘Earth-twin’ orbiting a star like the Sun. Published in the May 2019 issue of Astronomy Now magazine. Read it here.

New article alert: Strontium isotope maps

Agricultural lime may affect validity of strontium isotope maps. A news article exploring claims by Danish researchers that the application of agricultural lime to the soil may cast doubt on the validity of strontium isotope maps used by archaeologists to understand the origin and mobility of prehistoric peoples. Perhaps understandably, this has not gone down well with archaeologists. Published by Chemistry World. Read it here.

New article alert: Long-baseline neutrino experiment

Physicists propose huge European neutrino facility. A news article introducing plans by researchers in Russia and Europe to use a particle accelerator near Moscow and a new detection facility at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea to learn more about neutrinos and their effect on the standard model of physics. Published by Physics World. Read it here.

I want my country back

It’s just over six weeks until the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. Whether our Government will manage to agree a deal on our departure, though, or whether we’ll just ‘crash out’ without a deal (or, indeed, whether we’ll decide to not leave at all, or to not leave quite yet, or to have a second referendum, or perhaps to have another general election) remains to be seen. It’s all a bit of a mess. And it’s making me quite cross. But what angers me most is not the act of leaving, but rather the mess that this whole sorry affair has made of our country. Continue reading