“Space Dust Si02” by Celia Berrell

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Space Duster SiO2 by Celia Berrell


A man-made material

Silica aerogel

recently travelled in outer space

collecting the particles

shed by a comet’s tail

bringing them back to a NASA base.

A frothy glass matrix

of mostly air – sandy mix

lighter than feathers and stronger than steel

is brittle-snap crazy

and seems smoky-hazy.

When rubbed on a surface it gives out a squeal!

This stiff-sponge sensation

has great insulation

preventing the passage of heat through its layer.

Like a piece of blue sky

that is crisp, light and dry

its edges look fuzzy, like snap-frozen air.


Lawrence Livermore Quest Lab video

“Cosmic Glitter”  by Celia Berrell

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Cosmic Glitter


Twinkle twinkle, cloudless night.

The stars are sparkling clear and bright.

Those pin-prick suns send rays of light

that blink and wink to our delight.


Most stars don’t twinkle at their source,

it’s just some rays get knocked off-course.

Their glittering images appear

because of Earth’s own atmosphere.


The layers of air around our world

like flimsy see-through curtains swirl,

and dapple starlight passing through.

So, does the moonlight twinkle too?


first published in CSIRO’s Scientriffic magazine issue #78 March 2012

“True bugs are suckers” by Celia Berrell with Notes

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True bugs are suckers


A true bug’s an insect

but insects aren’t bugs

if they eat by chomp-chomp

instead of glug-glug.


Ants are not bugs.

They’ve got mandible jaws.

While a bug’s beaky tube

will get used like a straw.


Bugs feed on liquids

like plant-juice or blood

by piercing the skin

and then sucking, glug-glug.


Cicadas and bed-bugs

are glug-sucking guys.

But ladybird beetles

aren’t bugs – so get wise!


First published in Double Helix (September 2016)

Reproduced with permission of CSIRO




True bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

Including shieldbugs, plant bugs, bed bugs, pondskaters, cicadas, water bugs, aphids and scale insects.

The Hemiptera are called ‘true’ bugs because everyone – entomologists included – tend to call all insects ‘bugs’. That is a loose term, whereas the true bugs are just those contained within the insect order Hemiptera.

This group of insects is very large, with around 75,000 species worldwide. Around 1,700 of these can be found in the British Isles. Many of them are very different from each other, but all of them have piercing mouthparts with which they can suck the juices from plants or animals – usually plants. Their mouthparts are contained in a beak (or rostrum) which is usually held underneath the body when not in use.

As plant feeders, some bugs – such as the aphids, for example – are serious agricultural pests, not just because they damage crops but because they can transmit viral diseases too. However, most bugs are not pests.

The true bugs often have long antennae divided into a small number of segments, and the front wings can be somewhat hardened. Some bugs resemble beetles, but beetles have wing covers that do not overlap, unlike the bugs.

Bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis – their life cycle stages include the egg, adult-like nymphs, and winged adults.


Hemiptera: bugs, aphids and cicadas

The insects in this order are extremely diverse in their size, shape and colour. There are about 6000 described species in Australia, ranging in size from 1 to 110 millimetres in length. The name Hemiptera means ‘half wing’ and all hemipterans share the following features:


2 pairs of wings, although some species may be wingless and others have only forewings. Wings are generally membranous but in some species the forewings may be hardened at the base
Piercing or sucking mouthparts appearing as a sharply pointed tube known as a proboscis or rostrum, which extends from the underside of the head
Compound eyes of various forms
Up to 3 ocelli present
Antennae vary and may be either short, or long and conspicuous

The young of hemipterans look like small adults. Some bugs may be mistaken for beetles but can be distinguished by their mouthparts as beetles have mandibulate mouthparts while bugs have sucking/piercing mouthparts.

Most species of Hemiptera are plant feeders, sucking sap with many causing considerable damage to crops, ornamental garden plants such as roses, shrubs and trees. Some species are bloodsuckers of mammals and birds while others are predators that feed on other invertebrates, including some pest species and are therefore beneficial to man.

Proboscis of an assassin bug



What is a bug? It’s not something you come down with. (A bacterium is not a bug; a virus is certainly not a bug.) A bug is not any old thing that crawls. It’s not a tick, not a mite, not a gnat. A ladybug is not a bug. (It’s a beetle.) Certainly, a butterfly is not a bug. Bug, it turns out, is a technical term: “true bugs” are insects in the order Hemiptera.

The stinkbug is a true bug. So are the squash bug, the toad bug, the red bug, the seed bug, the box elder bug, and the assassin bug. Assassin bugs capture their insect prey with sticky front legs and stab them with their little beaks. There are ambush bugs. Ambush bugs sit like statues on flower petals, waiting, waiting … Waterbugs are true bugs. The bedbug is a bug. Ugh.

Besides being an insect with the usual six legs and three main body divisions—head, thorax, and abdomen—bugs have sucking, beak-like mouth parts and their life cycle occurs in a pattern called “incomplete metamorphosis.” They go from egg to nymph (a baby that looks like a small adult) to adult, with no larva stage.

“Sun-Star Far” by Celia Berrell

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Sun-Star Far

(distance matters) 


Our Solar Sun’s diameter’s 

four hundred times as wide as Moon’s. 

Its distance from the Earth’s about 

four hundred times as far. 


So when we look up in the sky 

at night-time then again at noon 

the Moon appears exactly as 

the same size as our star. 


Although our Sun-star’s really huge 

compared to Moon’s small sphere 

it’s far enough away from us 

to look the same down here!


“Battle of the Bulge” by Celia Berrell


Battle of the Bulge

(Earth-Moon gravity) 


Like many love relationships 

the Earth and Moon are falling out. 

Despite their great attractiveness 

there’s friction they don’t talk about. 


When first they met, they twirled and danced. 

Their gravitation’s fondness showed. 

But by degrees, as time has passed 

rotations of their dance have slowed. 


The Moon no longer pirouettes 

within her orbit round the Earth. 

Instead one side is always set 

to face the world (and watch his girth).


Their gravity distorts their crusts 

and makes them bulge at closest side. 

Earth’s oceans rise as though to thrust 

a beckoned hand to Moon’s fine pride. 


For she creates the ebbs and flows 

of all the seas that make our tides. 

But honestly, that friction slows 

her down and makes her really tired!


Four centimetres every year 

she moves away from Earth’s embrace. 

Our Moon is drifting off, I fear, 

and nothing else could take her place.


from The Science Rhymes Book – second edition (Jabiru Publishing 2018)


Valued Gifts

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Valued Gifts 

Perhaps the most enduring gifts

from Christmas-tide festivities

are not the items bought in shops

but things that make prized memories.


From moments filled with laughter at

some zany fun activity

to having simply helped someone

through using our proclivity.


Your Grandma will delight in any

art or craftwork made by you.

Our love and personality are

captured in the things we do.


Our presence time and talents shared

are valued gifts both rich and wise.

They’re cherished in fond memories

much more than any merchandise.


It is always wonderful to receive a valued gift – especially at Christmas.  Something made with care from a family member is a grandmother’s treasure.  But sometimes we are bought things we don’t really need or want, then get in a bother about what to do with them.  Would you pass those kinds of gifts to someone who might enjoy them more?

by Celia Berrell