Thursday, 30 June 2011

Summer Kitinen

Back in April (which seems like a long time ago now!) we took a photograph of the Kitinen River near Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory.

At the time we promised to take a photo in summer from the same spot. Well... here's one:

However, here's a better one! This is a panorama, taken at approx. 23:45 on 23rd June 2011 (just after the mid-sommer). There is a hint of a rainbow, and the sun would drop out of the clouds, about 30-40 minutes after this sequence was taken. (Click on the image for the full-resolution version.)


LOFAR Sweden LBA complete

It wasn't long ago that we forwarded the report from our colleagues at Onsala, that they had completed their HBA. Now, they've finished the LBA field too! This photograph was taken by Robert Cumming and posted on the LOFAR-Sweden weblog:

Congratulations Onsala!

Photo: Robert Cumming, OSO.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

HBA configuration

KAIRA is made up of two arrays... the Low-Band Array (LBA) covers the frequency ranges 30-80 MHz and the High-Band Array (HBA) spans from 120-240 MHz. Firstly, I should start off by pointing out that only the HBA is being built this year. Because the summer is so short in the Arctic, we simply do not have time to get the LBA constructed as well... especially with the added complication of difficult terrain! Instead, we're concentrating on getting the HBA done.

You may recall a long time back, we ran a couple articles (Part-1, Part-2) on the configuration of the High-Band Array. That was before the details calculation of beam patterns, site area planning and the destructive testing after the winter trial period. As we said, the array layout might get revised to adapt to our improved understanding of the array geometry options.

Well, here is the final decided layout.

The actual KAIRA deployment is shown in the darker grey. The faint grey outlines show the location of a LOFAR international station. As we mentioned, we would like to expand the array in the future to have a 'full' international HBA, in addition to the LBA which is already scheduled. This means that our HBA deployment must be made to the same 'grid' as the international layout.

Also shown on the diagram are the tile antenna identifiers (H22, H23, etc.). Again, the scheme used is consistent with the 'international upgrade' idea.

The layout is split into three 'blocks' of 6×4, 6×2, 6×2. By splitting the array into a semi-sparse configuration, it will allow us to try different sub-array combinations for EISCAT_3D. The 'corridors' between them will also be used for snow clearing.

Although winter tests have been carried out, we are still being conservative with our snow strategy and wish to ensure that we have a way of clearing the snow for winter observations.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cable pipes

The KAIRA array has a few places where the signal cables will need to go underground. Because of the thawing and freezing, the cables can't be dug in directly, but must be ducted. However, the ducting lines can't be too long either, as it would otherwise either require huge tunnel and thus be too expensive.

Instead there are a few areas where the cables will make short underground detours. These are protected with self-draining pipe.

The photo shows (apart from wet weather) a couple of these pipes, wiht the termination lengths (2×) and draw lines. The area where these will be dug in is also marked.

It is easier to level the entire site and then dig in the pipes, than to put them in to start with and then attempt to work around them.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Power pole route

While all the levelling work and surveying and all the other things have been going on at the main mound, from further south, there has been another KAIRA-related operation under way.

Electrical power to the site needs to come in from somewhere, and that place happens to be a power termination point about a quarter of a mile or so to the south of the HBA field.

During the week, the electrical contractors have been moving through the dense Arctic undergrowth, which at this time of the year is very thick, due to the vigorous summer vegetation growth. (How the team put up with the mosquitoes down there, I have no idea!)

To do this, they have used a combination of machinery, ranging from winches to drilles to tractors to off-road 'quad-bikes'.

The first step has been to mark out the route and deliver the poles to the area. Then each one is dug into the ground. Additional stabilisers are also provided to ensure that they do not fall (especially as Arctic ground is prone to huge shifts due to the freezing/thawing cycles).

Hopefully we will power to the site very soon!

LOFAR Sweden HBA complete

The station being installed before KAIRA is the SE607 LOFAR station at Onsala in Sweden. And, just in time for the midsommer break, the Onsala team have reported that they have completed their High-Band Array (HBA).

The completed LOFAR HBA field in Sweden. Photo: Onsala Space Observatory.

They also add that the tools are now on their way to Kilpisjärvi. That, combined with news that the shipment of tiles from the Netherlands has now also commenced means that we'll be ready to go soon.

But, for now, congratulations to the Swedish team on the successful completion of their HBA.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

HBA survey

With the High-Band Array (HBA) field finally level, it is time to start work on the survey for the antennas themselves.

The HBA tiles are actually 5×5 metre squares, which are spaced in a regular grid comprising a few sections (6×4, 6×2 and 6×2). Overall, however, the tile grid is regular, and the gaps are also 'tile sized'.

Because there needs to be a small gap between tiles for water run-off, fittings, anchors and so on, the actual 'grid increment' is 5.148 metres exactly. So the field is then marked out according to this.

A number of reference marks were taken first. From these the precise direction to the EISCAT VHF transmitter in Tromsø was calculated (azimuth = 314.1762 degrees).

The original corner reference mark was then checked with a multi-satellite receiver system (top left photograph) and the field corners were measured. At this point a slight correction was applied to optimally centre the array on the field (which helps with issues such as possible erosion and access).

With the new reference mark, the corners were re-calculated with the correct azimuth. Then all the intervening grid points were calculated.

In addition to this, four triangulation points were measured. These then served as the calibration points for the surveyors total station, which was used to do the final mark out.

Once the corners have been measured, small metal pegs are driven into the ground to mark their locations. These are quite fine!

Additionally, checks are made to ensure that the spacing is correct and that the grid is properly set out.

It is certainly interesting to see all the pegs in place. It happened very quickly (the work was completed in about 24 hours).

With the pegs in place, additional layout work can now start. This is for marking the location of the cable-tunnels and the position of the cable mausoleum. More on that later.

Photos: D. McKay-Bukowski

Friday, 24 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #10

The final day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event. This is our last instalment on the KAIRA web log of this public outreach event. To all those IAS2011 participants and followers, thanks for visiting us and for keeping in touch during the event. Hopefully, you'll come back and visit the project and find out how we've been getting on with our radio receiver array construction project.

So, without further ado, the winner of the Chromium Zone's June 2011 I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here event is...

... TOM!

After 10 days (and a bit) of solid questions, live chat sessions, e-mails and messages on Twitter, the students have spoken. Tom Crick (University of Wales Institute, Cardiff) was voted as the favourite scientist and wins the prize. No doubt he will admit the competition was tough, and I agree that we had a great team on #ChromiumZone. Hopefully, Tom will put up a final post on his web log: Computing, the science of nearly everything. A podcast interview with Tom was given on the Pod Delusion 24th June 2011 Edition.

Congratulations Tom (as well as Sarah, Tim and Dalya). It's been great fun, very productive and a great team experience. Stay in touch with us!

The mound

After all the work that the contractors have done, it is impressive to see how the edge of the mound has been built up to level the array field. This photograph was taken looking northwards across the west corner.

Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski

Thursday, 23 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #9

Although I've been evicted, some people might be interested in who actually did win the in the I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here event. And, as there are only two days to go anyway, I figured I'd put up those last to posts to keep everyone up-to-date with the final score. Today, the scientist voted off was Tim. Now only Sarah and Tom remain — congratulations to both of them for making it to the last day. The final is tomorrow!

Lorry loads

How many times has the gravel lorry visited the site?

I, for one, have certainly lost count.

Not far from the KAIRA site, there is a gravel pit, which we have been using to supply the HBA field with graded gravels, to provide a drainage layer and then a raised platform on which we can build.

Our original estimate was 912 cubic metres of gravel, but I've been informed that we've exceeded that now... not for the array alone, but for the surrounding works that have required attention due to unsuitable terrain or geo-conditions.

Of course, the main array itself is now complete, so these new loads that are coming in are for the storage, loading and turning areas at the southeast end of the array. These are essential for the building of the system and will also be used as a general staging area for the servicing of the antennas during the longer term operations phase.

After each load comes in, the lorry will dump it out on to the field, from where it can be scraped about by the 18-tonne digger. Although the laser level was used for the HBA itself, the access area can be done according to the local terrain. It still looks pretty flat though.

This is shaping up really well. One of the issues encountered at other site is one of access and delivery. This not going to be a problem at KAIRA!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #8

Eighth day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event, and...


This week, the students have been kicking us out one-by-one. Dalya went yesterday, but today I was voted out.

Wow! I can't believe it's over. It has been VERY intense and we have answered so many questions (according to Tom, it has now been c. 450), some of them have been challenging, some of them easy. Others have been superficial, but some were most profound.

For me, it has been a fantastic experience. It has also been a chance to look at my work, and the projects I've been involved in, in a different way. It has given me a chance to see things from a student's point of view again and, in a way, ask questions of my career, as if I was considering embarking on it all over again.

It has also been a great chance to improve my communication skills, reach out to a pretty non-standard audience and engage with scientists who are not in your regular cross-discipline fields (which often means a different office in the same department), but who are in completely different scientific universes. If you've ever seen one of those movies where the team are really diverse, and rely on each other's skills to get through, then this was exactly the same!

So, best of luck to Tom, Tim and Sarah. It has been great to be part of Team Chromium!

And thanks to the organisers, support team and moderators of the event. It is a wonderful and innovative project and you should rightly be very proud of that.

Now... get me out of here!

Concrete block

The RF-container needs a secure and stable location. This means that it has to be level, not subject to excessive snow drifts and allowing easy transfer of the signal cables from the array and into the input section of the 'container foyer'.

As it turns out, on the corners of the contain should be in contact with the ground — not the base as a whole. In fact, the corners themselves are not in direct contact, but are on raised rubber blocks.

These in turn can't be on the ground either, as they would sink into the soil.

So, at each end of the container, there will be a large concrete block. The first of these has now arrived on the site and will await the other block and then the RF-container itself before being put in place.

The photograph shows the trailer with the block, which is 3 metres long. Shortly after, we used the 18-tonne digger to lift it out and put it to one side.

Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski

Cable reel

We've another photo that we forgot to include in our article the other day about the delivery of the power cable equipment. This is the cable reel, fully mounted on the spool sled, ready for running out.

The cable from the nearest supply will need to run out over ground at first, before finally being buried in for the last short stretch near the antennas. This is actually a tricky business, as the cables need to be protected from ground freezing and all the problems that can bring with it.

In fact, even the above ground poles will require some special precautions. It is a common site to see leaning or collapsed power lines in the Arctic due to the soil movement at the permafrost interface.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #7

Seventh day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event — and today had a new bitter reality.


(You can probably cue the theme tune from Big Brother at this point.)

The students from the Chromium Zone have voted and this afternoon at 17:00 Finnish time, the results were announced. Dalya has been evicted! As I discussed with the team members, and as Tom posted on his web log today, it has been a nerve racking time, not so much worrying about our own demise, but because of the team work and camaraderie that had built up between the five of us. To see one of the group kicked out sort of hurt!

It's been great working with Dalya. We are so sorry to see you go!

Right, back the questions. There was no online live chat scheduled for today (just as well, as it was full-on at the KAIRA) site, but there is still a stack of the so-called offline questions awaiting us.

The Top Question for Day #7, posted by user "shivibains" was 'Do the poles (north and south) have any effect on electrical equipment and if so why?'

A brilliant geophysics question, but one that brought home the expert/novice dichotomy of scientists.

Allow me to explain.

For me, I sort of knew the answer. For a change, I'd got to the question first (the other scientists are usually really fast at that — despite my secret timezone advantage). As I typed up my response, however, I became more and more aware of how little I really knew. I was worried about the details and wondering whether it is really the alterations to the magnetic field were the cause... or was it the particles. Or both?

Of course, I had to think hard, go back to first principles and think it through. I want to make sure that I get it right! By the time I posted it, I was feeling like a complete novice. Painfully aware of the inadequacy of my knowledge on the subject, I wonder what the solar-and-terrestrial experts who read this web log would think? (Please post a comment if you can elaborate!)

And yet the responses from the others were all so positive! Does that make me an expert? Or a novice? Is this scientific acclaim? Did I get it right? Are they sure? Or do they simply trust me? And is that wise?

This, in my personal opinion, is a thin line to tread. We have work hard to ensure that we do our very best and maintain the integrity of our endeavour, but at the same time, should we be more critical of each other?

So maybe, in turn, I should be challenging my colleagues to answer this one?

Yet again, the IAS2011 event has shown up an aspect of our work that we often don't consider. A prompt for self-reflection is a powerful tool... as is critical analysis.

Another eviction will occur tomorrow.


When viewed from the earth, the sun appears to not only move from east to west each day (due to the earth's rotation about its axis), but it also appears to move against the background stars (due to the earth's motion about the sun). The times when the sun reaches its highest and lowest point with respect to the stars (specifically the maximum and minimum points of declination) are the solstices. At the moment of solstice, the sun stops moving north (or south) and starts heading back the other way.

This year, the summer solstice occurred at 17:16 UTC on the 21-June-2011. This post has been made at the exact moment.

The weekend following the solstice is the mid-summer break, which is widely celebrated throughout Fenno-Scandinavia. The KAIRA construction project will take a few day's break during this time (although we'll continue to post web log articles... if nothing but to try to catch up on the back log!).

PS: The photograph is genuinely the view across Siilasjärvi at midnight on 18th/19th June 2011. For the solstice itself (well, with 5 minutes to go as I type this), it was 5 degrees celsius... and raining hard.

Monday, 20 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #6

Sixth day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event — we're in the second week now. If you haven't been following the posts here, or would like a summary of our team's work so far, then I can highly recommend fellow-team-member Dr Tom Crick's web log: LINK

It gets serious now!

This week, the students will start evicting the scientists from all the teams — Team Chromium included! Tomorrow during the day will be our last hours as a full team. Then, the student vote will result in the least popular scientist being expelled from the team. And, if that sounds grim, it certainly feels it. So, while we are all still intact, let's have a look at the full team.

Tom is a lecturer in computer science at University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

Tim is a Lecturer in Pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, England.

Sarah is a PhD student in Bio-Organic Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, School of Chemistry, Scotland.

Derek (that's me!) is working on the KAIRA project here in Finland, of course!

Dalya is a Postdoctoral research associate at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, England.

And... when I post tomorrow's instalment, one of us will be gone.

My Top Question for Day #6 was posted by user "emmagrace" who posted a whole host of questions. However, the one that got my attention, and which resulted in the previous web-log post, was: 'What is a mosaic image?'

What is a mosaic image?

The question 'What is a mosaic image?' was posted by one of the students ("emmagrace") in the I'm a Scientist Event. Of course, I gave an answer, but this one really needed pictures to go with it.

So, as a special feature, here's what a mosaic image is, along with a complete example of how we make some of the panorama photographs that feature on the KAIRA web log. This has been written especially for the students so, for the imaging scientist experts out there, bear with me while I explain it!

Mosaic Images

Of course, as the other scientists answered on the website, a mosaic is indeed where an artist uses hundreds of tiny coloured tiles to make a picture. There are many splendid examples of mosaics both recent and from ancient times. A quick look at the Wikipedia article will reveal some spectacular examples.

In a way, any digital photograph is a mosaic of thousands, if not millions, of tiny squares called pixels. Some images, known as photographic mosaics are composed such that each pixel is, in itself, an image.

However, there is another type of mosaic image. And this one is directly relevant to many scientific applications. The term is particularly used in astronomy and microscopy, mostly as this is where the technique is needed due to limitations of the optics of telescopes and microscopes. In these cases, a mosaic is a large image, made up several parts of and image. You can do the same thing with normal photography, in fact. These images are also called mosaics, as well as 'stiched', 'composite' or 'tiled' images.

Mosaic images like this are wonderful when the field of view of the scene is far larger than the field of view of the camera. Because the receiver array at KAIRA is so big, and the scenery so wide, we often used mosaicing to create our panorama images.

Here's how it works.

Let's imagine that you have a scene that you want to photograph... something like this. It is a wide open space, with some mountains in the background, clouds and dirt. It is where the KAIRA construction project is happening and we want a photograph of it all!

The problem is that our camera has a limited field of view. It can't see everything at once. You have to choose which bit you look at. For example, maybe just the middle.

If you take this photograph sure, it looks great, but we miss out on the edges and can't see the mountains.

So, what we do instead is take 3 photographs. They need to be slightly overlapping (and we'll see why later). But for now, you could simply line them up. Not bad. You get a rough idea, but it is still not too good.

Of course, you can cut-and-paste the images a bit, but there are other problems. The images are not necessarily flat (meaning, that they are a bit distorted at the edges). Also, they may have different exposures, meaning that one image may be slightly darker than another.

Take a look at the images now. They overlap nicely, but it is still very obvious where the line between them is.

To fix this, we compare the images with a special computer programme. What we do is mark matching points in one image, with the exact matching point in the other image. It might be a peak on the mountain or a light-coloured stone, or a part of the timber. It doesn't matter. The point is that we are telling the computer that this point on this image, matches that point on the other image.

Here's what it looks like, with the matching points flagged with little numbers.

If you then run the programme, it will work out the distortion of the individual images and correct for them. Look at the red and blue outlines of the centre and right-hand image. Although you may not have noticed the distortion in the original, it is actually quite pronounced and this prevents us from getting a good match.

Additionally, the software can adjust the brightness of each image, so that they match.

Finally, the image is stitched together and blended smoothly. If you didn't already know, you may not realise that this image is not one, but three images... all neatly mosaiced together.

And that is what the KAIRA build site looked like on 14th June 2011.

As I mentioned, we have used mosaicing for other images on our web log, such as a view of Saana made from 17 images and a view of the winter testing made from 50 images. And this technique is used in astronomy and geophysics for mapping, imaging and aligning huge sets of data.

PS: You can click on any of the images to see larger versions. Try it... especially on the last one!

Fence posts arrive

Around the site, there will need to be a protective fence. This is primarily for the reindeer. For one, we need to stop the reindeer from damaging the antenna array.

However, more importantly, we need to make sure that the reindeer can't end up anywhere where they themselves can get hurt.

The posts for the reindeer fence have started arriving. The fencing project will be carried out over the course of the next few weeks. It will be the main activity in the gaps between HBA tile deliveries.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Saana's view of KAIRA

If you stand at the summit of Saana, the second highest point on the mountain obscures the view of the KAIRA site. However, if you go to there, or any of the next few ridges down on the northwest slope, there is a clear view of the road from Finland to Norway, Siilasjärvi (another lake) and KAIRA.

It's actually difficult to make out the site in the wide-angle photograph, so here's a zoomed-in view to point it out.

The cleared, flattened area just manages to stand out from the surrounding landscape. However, the stacks of timber HBA frames are very distinct.

As you can see, the site is actually closer to Siilasjärvi (although there is no town or village there, which is why it is named as it is). In fact, this image shows a piece of all three countries (Sweden, Finland and Norway). It is a very inspiring view.


Drain pipes — Part 2

As we saw in the first part, agricultural drains are being installed in the intermediate gravel layer on the KAIRA site.

There are multiple layers in the ground works. There is the initial rocky bed, which is the spoil from roadworks. It is good that the site can be deployed on what would otherwise be waste land. This base layer has been flattened and the intermediate gravel layer has now gone in. This gravel layer is very porous. A look at the photograph reporting on the levelled surface shows the size of the gravel. This size is pretty uniform, so that means there are not a lot of small particles to fill the gaps. It is into this layer that the drain pipes are put. These pipes will assist carrying away surplus water that accumulates in this layer.

The pipes themselves are 100mm in diameter. There are a number of them scattered across the array, and draining to the southwest, where the water will be distributed over the embankment (thus minimising the chance of erosion.

These photographs show the final stages of the installation of the drainage pipes. When completed, and the next layer of surface gravel goes down, then it will be difficult to know they are even there.

Photos: D.McKay-Bukowski

Saturday, 18 June 2011

More lemmings!

Remember the lemming hiding under the HBA tile? The fact is that they are very common and over the last weeks, we've seen countless of the little creatures.

However, it is rare to actually get close to them. They are timid and dart away quickly if you approach them. And, being so small, they are difficult to photograph.

But this little one was relying on its camouflage to protect it, allowing me to get a little closer. Can you see it... just the front part of its body is sticking out from under the rock.

If they don't move, these little creatures are extremely difficult to see. However, just after I took this photograph, this one decided to make a break for it, scampered over a snow drift and disappeared under a layer of ice.

Drain pipes — Part 1

Once the ground has been raised to the next level, the crew can install the draining pipe. This agricultural drain, is about 10cm in diameter. However, unlike normal pipe, it has holes in it so that the water can seem in, and then flow away.

Instead of putting it in up front (which hinders the movement of the digger), we are instead installing it afterwards by digging a trench, placing the pipe and filling it back in.

Each drain pipe crosses the entire HBA array and deposits its water off the southwest face of the mound.

Photos: D. McKay-Bukowski

Friday, 17 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #5

Fifth day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event.

Three live chats today, and the science team in the Chromium zone are really working well together. However, this is the end of the first week. Next week, things start to get serious. Students will be voting for the best scientists. Of course this is best in their viewpoint, so they are the ones wielding the power on this. This means that it is not just our knowledge or experience by itself, but our ability to put it into an understandable form that actually excites, motivates and inspires the students. That's actually a demanding thing.

One thing I've found, is how rewarding it is when you can achieve that. During the online chat session this afternoon, I felt that the students were starting to express not just ideas, but visions for their futures. It is easy for those in established careers to forget what it was like to be a student. Mind you, some of the questions, do cause you to go back and view your own life again from that perspective! And having been reminded, I think of some of the people that were inspirational to me and who answered when I once asked for advice. (Thank you, should you ever read this!)

My top question for the Day #5 (sent in by "mollyrose") is along those lines. Following a long chat discussion about geosciences, she posted the following question: 'im the girl that wants to work in geophysics! do you have any advice please ?! :)'

Event website:
Or via Twitter: @imascientist (or search for #ias2011)

View from the summit of Saana

As promised, here's another photograph from Saana. This one is taken from the top and wraps around to give a full 360-degree view.

To get a good idea of what it is like, you should click on the image to see a larger version. There are a few interesting features. One was a stone circle/labyrinth, that people have made from stones. It is about 20% of the way across (starting from the left). At about 40% across, is the summit cairn. The radio mast is clearly visible about 70% across and the direction to KAIRA is about 80% or so (but obscured by the rise on the mountain).

Have a nice weekend!

Unfortunately, this web log limits images to 1600 pixels width. I'll try to get a full-resolution version posted sometime soon.

Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski

Level surface

Here's a close-up photograph of the levelled gravel surface. It is very smooth and flat, but is easily disturbed at the moment by wheeled vehicles.

Remarkably, the digger can manoeuvre on it without too much disruption.

Once this gravel has been placed, then work can start on the installation of the special water drains.

Photo: D. McKay-Bukowski

Thursday, 16 June 2011

IAS2011 — Day #4

Fourth day of the 'I'm a Scientist – Get me out of here!' event.

There was only one 'live chat' today, but it was the best one we've had so far. There weren't quite as many students as usual, and I think that they (like the scientists) have calmed down a bit and are now starting to get more out of the sessions.

For instance, instead of a random barrage of questions, that are completely unrelated to each other, the themes tended to follow topics and explore them more fully. For example, one line of questioning was about how near and far a radio receiver can see, then they started asking about why was there a lower limit and what do you actually see at those heights. That led on to radars and how you can use them study the atmosphere and the to aurorae and so on.

Furthermore, we (the scientists) were able to then pass questions on to each other, letting a biologist pick up the thread when a 'So, what would be the impact on a person?' and vice versa when something more 'physics-related' came the other way.

After the session, one of the moderators, a couple of the other scientists and myself talked things through and we all agreed that the it had been a good day and that after the initial excitement, it had now turned into a genuinely productive learning environment (both for the students and for us!). We also noted how a degree of camaraderie was building up in the 'sci-team' and a great rapport with the moderators who are keeping things running smoothly. It is a good feeling.

Of course we are still ploughing through the questions. One thing I'd like would be a word-count done on the answers!

But of course, we are almost through the first week. Students will start voting soon. I perused some of their profiles to see if any were on my side yet.

So far?

Just the one (well, at least that I could find). Obviously, they are biding their time, or holding back so as not to discourage the other scientists? Or maybe I've got a LOT of catching up to do? No surprise there. The others on Team-Chromium are definitely inspirational.

The web site is and @imascientist on Twitter (search for #ias2011).

And my top question for Day #4 (posted by "hassan") was: 'i can see you don't get very much free time at all during the day, what is it about your work that keeps you working at the pace you do?'

Well, I did post an answer. But I forgot the mention the coffee... with just a reaaaallly teeny amount of sugar! ;-)

Levelling the gravel

As mentioned earlier, we use a laser level to work out the correct height to which each stage of the area is levelled.

The digger operator then works to this to ensure that the field meets the specifications.

Photos: D. McKay-Bukowski