Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From the Furaha Blog: Creating a planet (using Celestia)

I've been following a blog by Gert van Dijk, and his site, about his fictional planet lifeforms. A month or so ago I found a program called Celestia which allows you to explore known planets, stars, and galaxies In real time! I've also been slowly working on a renewed version of my boring old ringed planet avatar that I made in gimp 'years ago', :p By dissecting maps of Earth and applying the map to a sphere in blender. 

In his blog I linked you to, he shares a few tips of how he made a map of his planet, Furaha, to be seen in Celestia. What caught my eye was how he so easily resolved the problem of stretching textures near the poles by using a tool, in photoshop I guess, but I also saw it is in the free program Gimp, which I use. If you want to make planets, you may learn a thing or two from Gert's blog post. take a look at it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bugs, Insects and Arachnids, Oh My!

beetles, ants, bees, spiders. Many of us have them right in our yard, but have you really studied them closely? I thought I had, but recently I found out, Boy was I Wrong! It's amazing how many interesting little critters can be in your area that you never really knew about, until you happen to look closer at a particular bush(or under a log etc...). It can also be amazing how you can find out more about them - whether you previously knew about the creature or not - just by being more observant.

Note: I originally started writing this post in early September(?). But I just got to finishing writing and posting it.

This post is about my discoveries of, mostly insects, right in and around my yard. I live in a rural area in Colorado, that some might consider to be a bit homely,(that is except for the beautiful mountains decorating our valley) But after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I thought I had seen most of the insects and such around here, until I happened to look closer at a particular yellow kind of bush, that I've heard called a rabbit bush (Pictured) and found it really attracts bugs!(I just found it on Wikipedia under "rabbitbrush") The bush has little flower things that some 'bugs' really like. and because it attracts those kinds of 'bugs', it also attracts a good amount of little predators.(Reading on the Wikipedia page, I found these bushes are supposed to smell, but I haven't noticed it) Ok, so let me show you these guys...


When I found this little guy I first thought it was a bee or something like that. But look closer and you'll see a split in the abdomen, thus the shell protecting the wings, and you'll see longer antennas,(which bees and such have shorter ones to reduce wind drag when flying) and smaller eyes, unlike bee's compact eyes. But overall it just looks like a beetle! So I did some searching around and found out it's a kind of wasp beetle. The mimicry of a stinging wasp must be to discourage bigger predators(like a human :p ), and hopefully keep them away.

Then a couple of other beetles. The first, the Yellow, I've seen a lot since I first saw them in a rabbit bush, actually yesterday I must have seen three or four in one bush! Then the second one, the red, I've only seen one individual. Both have a long abdomen and shell, and long antennas, like the wasp beetle, but are a little fuzzy.

Stink [Beetles]

Not to be confused with stink [bugs],(which I've written a little bit about below) Stink beetles are familiar little creatures here, which I sometimes enjoy harassing! =) Although I hardly ever do smell them, They are sort of like an insect version of the skunk, sticking there abdomen up in the air and (supposedly) sending out a bad odor, that will hopefully repel predators like a bird, or me! But I had noticed that some of them would automatically stick up there abdomen, but yet others wouldn't no mater how much I pick on them. Then I looked closer and found that they must be two different beetles! One being the true stinker, and the other relying on mimicry of the latter for survival. Notice in the image above the actual stink 'bug'(the one with his abdomen up) has a smooth shell, where as the other mimic has little grooves running down his shell, as well as little plat spikes on the thorax(like the "shoulder" area).

I've seen two kinds of weevils out here, The light gray kind with black stripes I've seen numerous times, the the Black kind, however, I've only seen once. I like these guys because the shape of there proboscis ("nose") remind my of an echidna, and the big black eyes make me think of a racoon.

And of course what bush would be complete without a few ladybugs! I've seen five spotted ones(I think), seven spotted ones, and twelve spotted ones out hear.

[True] Bugs

I hadn't even really noticed true bugs out here, except a big o' water bug that my dad found our dog nosing around with. He must have flown in from another pond or lake in the valley somewhere, because it would be to dry for him out here(sadly no pictures of him :-( ). After looking at the rabbit bush, I found a few assassin bugs.

Assassin Bugs
When I found these I thought they might be some kind of mantis, because they had mantis-like arms for catching little flies and such(sort of like the water bug). Then I thought they were some kind of stink bug. However, it still puzzled me, because I have not seen on the internet any kind of stink bug with these mantis-like arms.(Btw, unlike stink beetles, stink bugs only stink when squashed.) But actually just as I was typing this I found out, by looking through assassin bugs on Wikimedia,(Phymatinae) I finally found they are actually also a kind of assassin bug! Which are in the same family, thingy, as stink bugs. I found that males are smaller then females, and that females are plane off-white, whereas males have blackish splotches. They are about the size of a pinky finger nail or smaller. I found this out by finding two or three pairs mating. So far these are my favorite 'bugs' out hear. =)
This guy was the first one that I found out was an assassin bug, although I had seen the other ones first, ones like This one matched the more common search results for "assassin bug". Being about the length of a finger nail, I've seen one eating a fly, only a little smaller than itself. I believe what I've seen is only this one individual.
This is a kind of milkweed assassin bug. Turns out these guys are a help to some farmers as they feed on the caterpillars of a moth that are pests of cornfields. Also seems these guys are sometimes confused with something called a box elder bug (might look it up more later).
Well There is more, but by now you are probably wore out from my lengthy post. :p (Edit: This was first entended to be a part 1, but never got part 2 posted, and it's been seven months! So I might post some more of the critters where I live this summer, but not as a part 2 of this post.)

Thanks for reading. =)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Terraluna(Terraformed Moon)

Recently I started this thing about terraforming, which is making an uninhabitable planet - like say Mars or our Moon - inhabitable. (However, terraform is not an already Earth-like planet, it means a planet that has become such because of technological tampering, witch humans haven't done yet) I have so far terraformed Mars and now our Moon - in blender.

Although incomplete (especially the clouds) I like the out come so far. I did this - with a few tips from Andrew Price's Earth Tutorial - by first adding a sphere, and then taking a map of the moon I found on the NASA site, and found a black and white elevation map of the moon, which I used as a bump map for the sphere. Then I made a water material and using the material nodes, I used the bump map to isolate where the land meets the water. Then I copied the Moon material and using different cloud textures turned it dirt-brown and green. and, once again using material nodes, combined the original Moon material with the brown and green one. and then made a material for the clouds and added it again with material nodes.(witch is one way where my technique differs from Andrew,s) And then added the atmosphere the way Andrew did,(and of course don't forget the sun!) and voila! You have a terraformed Moon, Terraluna!

The clouds are still not quite satisfactory, and I have a few things I wanna fix here and there, but I like the result so far and and just thought I'd share.

So by for now, thanks for reading, and comments are more then welcome! :D