Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Saturday trivia (oops this should have been 3rd August)

Tater Tot: 1940
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Tater Tot: 1940
October 1940
“Near Caribou, Maine. The opening of school was delayed in sections of Aroostook County so children could help pick potatoes”
Does this beat Introduction to Algebra?
Photo by Jack Delano
View original post

==========================================
Worship at Tiffany’s
Colour, light, impurity, and devotion in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s forgotten chapel
via 3QuarksDaily by Morgan Meis in The Smart Set

A Willard Chapel window
Crosses, abstraction, and iridescence
Read the full article

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
For a German philosopher to revive the idea of the superman is risky. But Peter Sloterdijktakes his Nietzsche guilt-free… more

==========================================
Robots clean Sydney Harbour Bridge
Australia is using two grit-blasting robots to clean the Sydney Harbour Bridge before it is repainted.
Repainting work is a never-ending task, and the two robots - Sandy and Rosey - are to remain a permanent part of the maintenance team.
Continue reading and watch the video which I can't embed in here!

==========================================
How could a drone help a deer?
via BoingBoing by Xeni Jardin

By indicating to farmers who are operating heavy equipment where deer might be hiding and resting in their fields. Many deer are killed instantly or lose limbs when they’re run over by farming equipment, by farmers who have no idea they’re there. What a wonderful use of drones!
Video Link. It’s a Swiss TV news segment, and includes some other interesting new technologies Swiss farmers are using. I hope your French is up to it. mine definitely is not but you get the main idea. (thanks, @DeerRehab)

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote about food, it was about metaphors and ideas. “Cooking is a language through which society reveals its structure”… more

==========================================
Criminalising drugs, legalising murder, and the actual goals of our politics
via Big Think by Tauriq Moosa
Should things be banned because they destroy many lives? An initial response might be YES. But consider what we’re actually replying to by saying “YES”. We’re not saying we want banning in and of itself, really: we want the thing being banned to not have the negative effects and think the act of banning, removal, criminalisation will achieve this.
Continue reading

==========================================
Uncovering the cause of the largest mass poisoning in history
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Twenty-one children died in India yesterday [16 July 2013] after eating school lunch food that had been contaminated with insecticide. Authorities are still investigating what happened there, but the Generation Anthropocene podcast has a related episode I wanted to point you towards in the meantime. It's about the struggle to understand the causes behind the largest mass poisoning in history, which began in Bangladesh in the 1980s and is still happening. The 25-minute podcast covers the work of the epidemiologists, doctors, and geologists who figured out that the skin lesions and organ damage affecting millions of Bangladeshis were caused by arsenic ... and then uncovered where all that arsenic was coming from.
It is worth the time that it takes to watch one or more of the videos


==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
While the natural sciences have evolved – new fields, discoveries, methods – the social sciences have stagnated, answering the same questions with the same answers…more

==========================================
The Acts of God Committee
via The Royal Society: The Repository by Noah Moxham
Lightning-proofing St Paul’s and the Purfleet magazines.
It’s a well-attested fact that when a person embarks on a historical research project, however apparently specific, they start to see it everywhere. My commute to the Royal Society Library takes me under the Thames and past Purfleet, site of the Board of Ordnance’s gunpowder magazines after they were moved from Greenwich in 1765. You can’t see the one surviving magazine building from the train – the lines of sight aren’t quite right – but Purfleet is one of a couple of places on that route with a connection to the history of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Continue reading


Saturday trivia (2/8/14)

Slick and Quick: 1926
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Slick and Quick: 1926
Fairfax County, Virginia, circa 1926
“Freeman House Store – Vienna, Va.”
A historic structure that figured in the Civil War. Our title comes from a retail detail.
National Photo Company Collection glass negative.
View original post

==========================================
Is Genius in Your Genes?
via Big Think by Orion D Jones
Those who believe genius is more hereditary than environmental can now point to new research completed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis which has identified a specific gene that may help manage our skill level for organizing things logically.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When did “He’s a machine” become a compliment in praise of one’s work ethic? Probably around the time sleep became an affront to capitalism… more

==========================================
How Exercise Works on the Brain to Reduce Stress & Anxiety
via Big Think by Orion D Jones
Princeton scientists have found that mice are less anxious about experiencing stressors, such as entering a pool of cold water, when they are allowed regular exercise. The report, recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, explains the experiment and how the “[mice’s] brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety”. Princeton’s Elizabeth Gould said that by helping researchers pinpoint brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation, the study will work to create a better understanding of human anxiety disorders and help treat them in the future.
Continue reading

==========================================
How To Play A Piano Like A Guitar
via Big Think by Kecia Lynn
A team of designers, composers and musicians at Queen Mary-University of London has created a addition to the classic piano keyboard that uses touch-screen technology to produce sound effects, such as vibrato and pitch slides, similar to those heard through string instruments.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The travelling salesman problem provides the mathematical basis for modern transportation systems. It also suggests the limits of human knowledge… more

==========================================
Singing the Lesbian Blues in 1920s Harlem
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says:
Our own Lisa Hix has written a terrific article about how Bessie Smith and other blues divas of the 1920s led not-entirely secret double lives as lesbians, occasionally taunting their audiences with revealing lyrics. For example, in the 1928 song  Prove It on Me, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey—known as “The Mother of Blues”—sang, “It’s true I wear a collar and a tie, … Talk to the gals just like any old man”. While such lyrics might not seem like a big deal to us today, back then, pursuing same-sex relations could get you thrown in jail.

Read more in Music at Boing Boing

==========================================
Were Paleolithic Cave Painters High on Psychedelic Drugs? Scientists Propose Ingenious Theory for Why They Might Have Been
via 3 Quarks Daily via AlterNat by Steven Rosenfeld
Prehistoric cave paintings across the continents have similar geometric patterns not because early humans were learning to draw like Paleolithic pre-schoolers, but because they were high on drugs, and their brains – like ours – have a biological predisposition to “see” certain patterns, especially during consciousness altering states.
Continue reading
Lalala

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
For a people to resist tyranny, they must think of themselves as a people. Thus Stalin regarded free association as a greater threat than free enterprise… more

==========================================
We’re Never More Persuasive Than On Our First Day on Earth
via Big Think by Kevin Dutton
We are never more persuasive than on our very first day on earth. If you think about it on our very first day on earth, as newborn babies, we had to convince those around us, without intention, without consciousness, without any of the techniques of modern linguistic sophistry currently at our disposal, to take care of us, to see us on our way, to subjugate their own interests at the expense of ours. And you know what? We did it, didn’t we? Because otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here this afternoon talking about it.
Shutterstock_136116938
Continue reading

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunday trivia

Western Union: 1931
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Western Union: 1931
New York, 1931
“Western Union Telegraph Building, West Broadway. Ralph Walker, architect”
The hulking Art Deco pile now known as 60 Hudson Street, a TriBeCa landmark
Photo by Irving Underhill
View original post

==========================================
via Big Think by Nick Clairmont
“A drunk mind speaks a sober heart” is a saying often attributed to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, himself quite a drunk. The idea is that when we are drunk we lose our inhibitions and allow ourselves to verbalise our true thoughts and feelings.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Henry James and the Jews. Yes, the novelist was prone to clumsy analogies – likening Jews to worms, monkeys, squirrels, ants. No, he was not an anti-Semite... more

==========================================
via How-To Geek
How Epic Solar Winds Make Brilliant Polar Lights 
Have you ever been curious about the science behind the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis? Then sit back and enjoy as this terrific video looks at the solar winds and atmospheric reactions that help make these awesome visual phenomena possible.

==========================================
The Stone Age Was Not Stone-Age
via Big Think by Kas Thomas
Stonehenge
A fascinating read involving science that I simply had not appreciated before today.

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Doctor, anthropologist, archaeologist: Gino Fornaciari wants to know how kings, paupers, saints, and warriors lived – and how they died… more

==========================================
Control room at the Haunted Mansion
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
The Haunted Mansion Backstage tumblr has outdone itself with a set of photos from about 2002 showing the control-room at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. These are the photos I’ve dreamed of seeing all my life.
Photos of the Disneyland Mansion’s control room and corridors.

==========================================
Is Archaeology A Help Or Hindrance To Development?
by Jennifer chappell (Bircham Dyson Bell) via Mondaq.com
During recent excavation work for Crossrail, the Museum of London Archaeology ("MOLA") uncovered fourteen skeletons lying in carefully laid out rows on the edge of Charterhouse Square in Farringdon, London. The remains are believed to date back to the late 1340s and they may well be Black Death victims.
At Bloomberg Place in the City of London, MOLA continue to excavate a three acre site in the heart of the Roman city. The site is the well-known home of the Roman Temple of Mithras dating from 40 AD to the early 5th century, originally excavated in 1954 by eminent archaeologist W. F Grimes. The current archaeologists have excavated down 7 metres, removed 3500 tonnes of soil and revealed 10,000 findings from the Roman occupation.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“Plenipotentiary instrument”, “master member of the revels”, “maypole”: Oh, the creative heights a mind will scale when trying to write an erotic novel without an obscene word… more

==========================================
Study Advances New Theory of How the Brain Is Wired
in Columbia News via 3 Quarks Daily by Claudia Wallis
Speaking. Seeing. Hearing. Thinking. Remembering. Understanding this sentence and making a decision about whether or not to read on. All of this work is handled in the cerebral cortex, the deeply creased, outermost portion of the brain that is the center of all the higher brain functions that make us human. Humans have the thickest cortex of any species but, even so, it measures no more than 4 millimeters (.16 inches) thick.
Continue reading

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Saturday Trivia

Desert Guns: 1937
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Desert Guns: 1937
June 1937
“Idle men attend the morning movies. There are three such movies in one block. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma”
Photo by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration
View original post

==========================================
Using Sewage To Grow Algae To Produce Biofuel
by Kecia Lynn in Big Think
The Spanish resort town of Chiclana de la Frontera can now lay claim to the world's first municipal sewage plant that purposely uses wastewater to grow algae that is then converted into clean biofuel. Carbon dioxide from sewage produces the algae, the first crop of which was harvested last month. The resulting biomass will be made into vehicle fuel, which should be ready for use by December. Right now the plant is still in a pilot stage and fairly small, but plans are to have it fully operational by 2015, growing enough algae and producing enough fuel to run about 200 cars a year.
Read it at Scientific American

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Can grief at the death of a loved one be diminished by the way we think? Is there a philosophy that can prepare us for the death of others?… more

==========================================
Gorgeous Microscopy and Visual Journalism
by Katie McKissick in Scientific American via 3 Quarks Daily
This is, visually, my favourite.

Continue reading

==========================================
via BoingBoing
Fashion trends in “swinging London of the sixties”, captured in an archival short film


==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1931, Scott Fitzgerald parsed the word “jazz,” noting its progress toward respectability. “It meant first sex, then dancing, then music”… more

==========================================
Your fruits and vegetables can tell day from night – and even get jet lag
New science shows that cabbage, carrots and blueberries experience circadian rhythms, with potential consequences for nutrition
via 3 Quarks Daily and smithsonian.com by Joseph Stromberg
Read more


==========================================
Bookstore in a train-car

Here’s a mouth-watering set of photos from La caverne aux livres, a bookshop in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris. The store is in a converted train-car, and appears to be a magical wonderland. The pics were taken by the Gallifreyan Detective, and the whole set is wonderful.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Mr. Chan and the Machine by Caitlin Dwyer


A tale of ink and grease. In Hong Kong, a half-century old printing press – “The Windmill” – continues to churn out pages. “It sounds like a woman gasping”… more

==========================================
Segregated headstones reach over the cemetery wall

These grave markers -- pressed up against either side of an imposing wall, with a pair of clasped hands reaching over the wall's top -- date to a time in Dutch history when Catholic and Protestant graves were strictly segregated. A Catholic and a Protestant married couple, separated in death, arranged for this unique workaround in order to rejoin one another.
Continue reading and watching


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Trivia for 20 July 2014

Some Assembly Required: 1906
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Some Assembly Required: 1906
“Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan. Steamer James Laughlin at left”
Now where’d I put that instruction sheet?
View original post

==========================================
How much pressure did it take to pop the top off Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano?
On June 17 2013, the Popocatépetl volcano in the state of Puebla in Mexico belched out a pretty impressive looking volcanic plume. Fortunately for us, it was caught on webcam, at a town a safe distance away.
Aatish Bhatia presents a video and some very impressive maths in Wired.
Go read for yourself -- and thank whatever higher power you might believe in that we do not have lava flowing at upwards of 130mph in the UK.

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Darwin referred to humor as “a tickling of the mind.” But seriously: What actually happens in our brain when we laugh?… more

==========================================
via BoingBoing by Mark Frauenfelder
The Art of Manliness has reprinted “37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen” from a 1875 book entitled, A Gentleman’s Guide to Etiquette by Cecil B. Hartley.
The rules are still valid!
For example:
33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter”.
37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen

==========================================
Jewels from the Mud: The Elegance of Water Lilies
via Encyclopaedia Britannica by Richard Pallardy
Ponds aren’t often glamorous bodies of water. They lack both the grandeur of oceans and lakes and the racing energy of rivers and streams. They can, at their least pleasing, be stagnant and fetid, little more than lenses of water over pits of muck. Yet the langorous movement of their currents and the rich organic matter lining their bottoms support life-forms that defray their olfactory and aesthetic liabilities: the gem-like water lilies, otherwise known as the family Nymphaeaceae.
Continue reading
Water lily, Humboldt Park, Chicago. Credit: Richard Pallardy

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In 1943, after his parents died in Treblinka, Raphael Lemkin invented a word to describe the crime – genocide – and helped to make it illegal. Why hasn’t the law worked?.. more

==========================================
How We Confuse Time and Space
via Big Think by Lee Smolin
The whole history of physics has been a history of diminishing the nature of time and diminishing the role of time. Take a very simple example. When you see something move through the air – that’s something that happens in time. And then you could take a film that you made of that and call that an experiment or call that a record of motion.
Continue reading

==========================================
via Gizmodo.com
What is it about humans that make us love–and hate–being lost?
Since the time of ancient Greece, we’ve been figuring out ways to entertain ourselves within extraordinarily confusing structures. There are dozens of different types of mazes: there are standard mazes, which feature “multi-route” paths; and labyrinths, which only have single routes. Then there are indoor mazes, plain air mazes, hedge mazes, corn mazes and so on.
Here's the link to a collection of 23 fascinating examples that give us a glimpse into the cultural history of getting lost–on purpose.

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The Internet was supposed to open a golden age of global interconnectedness. Instead, it’s made would-be cosmopolitans of us all… more

==========================================
No, Everything Does Not Happen for a Reason. Thank God for That.
via Big Think by Nicholas Clairmont
“Everything happens for a reason” is my very least favourite thing for someone to say. It is bad philosophy, bad theology, bad thinking, and bad advice. It manages to combine the maximum of ignorance with the maximum of arrogance.
Continue reading

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday trivia (19 July)

Retarder Tower: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Retarder Tower: 1942
November 1942
“Chicago, Illinois. South classification yard seen from retarder operators’ tower at an Illinois Central Railroad yard”
Medium format nitrate negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information
View original post

==========================================
Color Zen is a Relaxing, Addictive Puzzle Game
via How-To-Geek
 
Are you ready to journey into an abstract world of colors and shapes? Then welcome to Color Zen, a relaxing puzzle game with no scores and no penalties for failure…just simple rules, intuitive controls, and awesome puzzles to keep you busy for hours on end.
Read all about it
NB. Costs $0.99

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Theoretical physicists, enamored of mathematical elegance, impose patterns on muddled reality. Is this a science or a genre of storytelling?… more

==========================================
Why are People Right-Handed or Left-Handed?
via How-To-Geek
Have you ever wondered why people have a preference for using one hand over the other? What is it that determines hand dominance? Is it because of evolution, is it hereditary, or due to something else? SciShow takes a quick look at the topic in this terrific video.
Why Are There Righties & Lefties? [YouTube]

==========================================
Your Beliefs Make You Healthy. You Just Need to Believe in Them
via Big Think by Andrew Newberg
Research that has shown the potential benefit of being a religious or spiritual person is a population-based answer. In other words, the overall population does a little bit better, but that has no implication for each individual.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
An octopus experiences the world as bright and tasty. Or so we think. Does imagining yourself as an alien creature reveal something about your own mental life?… more

==========================================
For a Better Night's Sleep, Should Couples Sleep in Different Beds?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
In search of a good night’s rest, couples are increasingly sleeping in separate beds, according to sociological surveys and architectural ledgers of new homes being built, an increasing number of which contain two master bedrooms.
Continue reading

==========================================
Daily Coffee Prevents Disease, Helps You Live Longer
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Coffee_cup
Several recent health studies confirm that people who drink one to three cups of coffee per day have a lower risk of contracting certain diseases, including dementia, and are more likely to live longer than those who abstain from the caffeinated drink. “In a 2012 study of humans, researchers...tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment...and then re-evaluated them two to four years later. Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.”
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Is time an absolute construct or merely a matter of perspective?
The theoretical physicist Lee Smolin offers an unsettling answer… more

==========================================
Why raindrops don't kill mosquitoes
via BoingBoing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
For a mosquito, every summer storm is like a million Volkswagen Beetles falling from the sky. How do they survive the deadly deluge?
Meghan Cetera explains at Popular Science.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday trivia (13 July 2014)

Airplane Mode: 1929
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Airplane Mode: 1929
Dec. 5, 1929. Ignition interference from airplane engines on aircraft is largely a myth according to C. Francis Jenkins, Washington, D.C., inventor who has designed a radio receiving set which he says does not pick up noises from a flying power plant. In this photograph is shown Mr. Jenkins (right) and his laboratory assistant.
Video pioneer Francis Jenkins, seen here last week, and an anonymous protege who has a telegraph key strapped to his leg. By our reckoning this counts as early mobile texting. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
View original post

==========================================
10 Literary Restaurants for Hungry Book Nerds Around the World
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
What’s even better than drinking while reading? Eating while reading, of course (hint: you can have a drink, too). With the news that Biblio, a book-themed eatery, was popping up in Williamsburg, Flavorwire took to the Internet to put together a guide to a few amazing-looking literary-themed restaurants from around the world. Indulge your eyes (and, if you’re close enough, your stomachs) at these bookish establishments.
06
Dublin is nearest to the UK.
See more here

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Edmund Burke: the father of modern conservatism? Perhaps. But his great political battles were thoroughly liberal causes... more

==========================================
Why Our Brains Are Hungry for Puzzles
via Big Think by Will Shortz
Shutterstock_50503615
There are general reasons why we like puzzles and then there are particular reasons why we like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and things like that. The general reason is we’re faced with problems every day in life. Most of them don’t have perfect solutions. We just muddle through the best we can and move onto the next thing. Also, there are very few things in life that we completely grasp or that are completely our own.
You drive a car, but do you really understand how the car was made? Do you understand all about how the engine works? Probably not, but all you need to do is drive. But the nice thing about a human-made puzzle is when you solve the problem, you feel a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get much in everyday life, because you’ve found the perfect answer and also you’re seeing the whole process. If you solve a crossword you know you’re carrying it through, literally from square one to the end and that gives you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get in everyday life.

==========================================
30 of the Most Beautiful Sci-Fi Book Covers Ever Made
via Flavorwire by Emily Temple
Science fiction cover art has a bad reputation. Not without reason: much of it is pulpy, overly brash, or just plain scary — it’s kind of the name of the game. Yet there are also plenty of science fiction novels and collections that buck the trend and manage to be not only palatable to those that (for instance) love the insides but hate that naked green woman on the cover, but downright gorgeous.
From the 30 covers I have to choose just one: you can see the rest here.
christopher-priest-the-is
It wasn’t in the end a very hard decision.
The patterns and colours on the islands fascinate me.


==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Once transgressive, revolutionary, anti-authority, street art now is the establishment. Did the artists grow up or sell out? more

==========================================
Love Hormone Oxytocin Draw Us Together, Keeps Us Apart
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Through experiments, scientists are coming to a more complex understanding of how oxytocin, a brain chemical commonly referred to as the love hormone, works in long term relationships as well as initial attractions. When men in long term relationships are given doses of oxytocin, they tend to keep a greater physical distance from attractive females than do single men also given the hormone.
Continue reading

==========================================
What Makes the Mind and Brain Different?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
Brain_art
Given the power of neuroscience to fascinate the public, it might seem that the brain has given us a window into human nature. Indeed we often look to brain scan images to help us understand what chemicals are working on the brain, and therefore on the body, in conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to drug addiction. But the brain and the mind are different frameworks.
Continue reading

==========================================
Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In defence of opera. Yes, the plots are often absurd, lyrics unintelligible, stagecraft over-elaborate. Opera is extravagant. But it isn’t in decline… more

==========================================
Can Physics Save Economics?
via Big Think by Big Think Editors
When the theoretical physicist Lee Smolin was asked to join a research group to work on economics his first response was “I don’t know anything about economics”. That’s okay, said Mike Brown, the former CFO of Microsoft, “because nobody does and the whole system is about to collapse”.
Continue reading