Thursday, 21 January 2016
Orbital perturbations of the outer most planets of our Solar System and perhaps the mysterious and unexpected geologically active surface of Pluto suggest to astronomers that a Neptune-sized world sweeping out an elongated path nearly twice as distant as Pluto at its aphelion might exist.
That far away and with such an unimaginably long year would be quite faint and the marauder would only make itself know, possibly with great disruption, only once in epochs, and so is naturally elusive—even if one’s telescope are fixed on the right patch of sky. If such a ninth planet does exist (and that seems to be a pretty big leap as other theoretical place-holders have dematerialised in the past), astronomers propose that it is an ice-giant ejected from the Solar System’s core long ago—or, even more exotically, a captured “rogue” exoplanet. That would really be something if we had been harbouring a galactic hitchhiker all this time. Native or not, maybe the new planet should be named after Thrym, king of the Ice Giant realm of Jötunheimr—which is a nemesis to the realm of men and their gods.
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
peak curtains: Swedish furniture purveyor concedes that we’ve got enough junk
man on the street: Latin American media giant purchases a controlling share of the Onion
ladders of light: rare phenomenon projects one icy village into the night sky
algorithmic: beautifully elegant approach to filtering out prime numbers
il tempo sepolto: gorgeous art nouveau era daytime hotel below the streets of Milan
rewritten by machine on new technology: the output of presenting sitcom scripts to neural networks
First appreciated by the doyenne Nag on the Lake—with the interesting disclaimer that this is in fact not the first blossom in microgravity—this image of a zinnia in space is pretty inspiring and marks at least a symbolic step towards making interplanetary voyages self-sustaining.
Not only does the absence of gravity to hold down soil and define up and down present particular challenges so too did apparently the bureaucracy that accompanies growing a flower on the International Space Station. Things were looking rather bleak for the plants until the gardener decided to break with the established protocol dictated by Mission Control and care for them as you would terrestrial counterparts and took the plants outside of the laboratory and into the station’s cupola to bask in the natural light of the Sun.
The ever brilliant Dangerous Minds gives us a gentle but dazzling reminder that in between these cross-quarter days and geographically too we are in the midst of the perennial animistic cycle of death and rebirth in this gallery of photographs by ethnographer Charles Fréger, who trekked across Europe in search of the archetypal Wild Mann. The author is hesitant to put too fine a point on it, as well, so I am reluctant to be pedantic either but dressing up and the associated rituals (and though perhaps not to vouchsafe a bountiful harvest or secure favour from the elder gods) seems suspended somewhere between cosplay and national garb. Rather than being disdainful, I think that there is surely something in the ceremony and associates that transcends fandom or avid re-enactors. What do you think? Are we guilty of chauvinism to dismiss partakers as engaging in a weekend hobby? Be sure to check out the entire gallery of bizarre and transformative regalia.
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Oslo’s City Hall (Olso rådhus)—perhaps most recognisable as the venue for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony—also boosts a grand carillon that’s been chiming away the hour with musical intermezzo for quite a few years already. Through the end of May, the belfry will ringing out David Bowie and Motörhead songs to be added to the daily performance. Sadly, one can be certain that more immortal classics, like Tequila Sunrise and Hotel California, will be forthcoming repertoire with the passing of Glenn Frey. This is a touching tribute on the part of the kingdom’s capital, but 2016 is starting to wear out its welcome and will have to really work in over-drive to make amends. RIP
Archivists and students of modern history—which I think reinforces that strange feeling of being ungrounded, of something being just out of reach because it happened prior to the spread of the internet’s meticulous and totum pro parte record-keeping—are finding that the teletext pages, the subspace of the airwaves, were also encoded and can be teased out of VHS recordings.
This service, which reaches back to the early 1970s, was invented in the UK but has apparently been phased out entirely by most broadcasters but is still quite prominently featured and utilized on German stations, but the technology remains in place, as it’s the carrier-signal for closed-captions as well—as the notices, headlines, weather, score-cards, schedules, page after page (“magazines”) of programme descriptions and supplemental material provided have been supplanted by the advent of the World Wide Web—which the scheme rather previsioned and anticipated, at least in popularity and accessibility as formatting and compatibility issues tended towards compartmentalization. Recovering this ephemeral—even though parallel and complimentary to what’s on the television in most cases, I think it’s nonetheless a fascinating little snap-shot of the everyday and pushes back the wayback machine by at least sixteen years.
Monday, 18 January 2016
a fifth of beethoven: brilliant remixing, superposition of classical compositions
sprockets: the future of dance according to a 1960s West German Sci-Fi series
just happy little accidents: out-of-focus stars reveal their true colours
duzen, tutoyer: the revolution that relaxed Sweden’s forms of address
blueprints: Atlas Obscura tells the story of the first publication in the world to be illustrated with photographic plates, a book on the algae of Britian
kineoscopic: Colossal features the newest hypnotic installations by sculptor Anthony Howe
At the risk of seeming totally and unapologetically loony, though that’s something everyone ought to hazard in the off-chance that someone else might be inspired by our addle-brained moments, I had a dream—which I struggled to recall more of—where H and I were taking a car ride and I either announced or silently deduced that the problem of the Cosmological Constant was like folding a map. It seemed terribly profound to me at time but the mysterious pronouncements of dreams usually do and usually are consigned to a deserving place in one’s mental junkyard. I was curious about the analogy as the “problem,” puzzle I think I was referring to does not even strike me, consciously, really as one of those honest ones that are deserving of worry and investigation:
the Cosmological Constant becomes problematic to scientists and theologians because it invokes the “best of all possible worlds” argument of German polymath Gottfried Leibniz (it’s strange than though calculus has become a rather feared and reviled subject best left to machines, both indepent discoverers are honoured with a snack named after them—Leibniz biscuits and Fig Newtons), that the fundamental values of the Universe are finely-tuned to host intelligent life as we know it. The ratios and numbers as we’ve figured them, though we don’t fully understand how they’re related to one another or what’s a prime notation and what’s derivative, had to have been exactly as they are and even the slightest change would mean that the Universe could not have come into being in any recognisable or sustaining form. While I think it’s equally as wrong to ignore one’s biases as it would be to not be in awe of that sort of coincidence, it does not seem to me to be a very big conundrum since we are the ones here, taking the measurements, but maybe it does figure large to my unconscious, seeing as I had that random dream—and it’s related to the Fermi Paradox. Though if there ever was a connection to begin with, I’ve lost the meaning of my analogy. Even though there’s apparently more than one right way to fold a map (which I’ve always found challenging), the solution is something that can be solved with algorithms, no matter how big the map—which might be significant in itself. I don’t know whether this will prove inspiring or not, but I think we should not be afraid to put our baffling dreams out there.
Sunday, 17 January 2016
Though just able to reach to the threshold of the microscopic and with magnification strength more akin to a jewellers’ loupe, we’ve been having fun investigating the details of the liminal world and preparing specimen with our plug-and-play laboratory.
It was by observing a shaving of cork that Robert Hooke first coined the term “cell” for the basic biological unit, likened to the private retreat and workshop of monastic cells—though we probably couldn’t make that leap at this resolution and with a wine cork. It’s interesting, nonetheless, what details show themselves—secrets of manufacture—like in the security features of a Euro bill.
I wonder what those micro-printed golden rings indicate off the Sicilian coast and in the Adriatic. What use could those perforated dots on the cuff serve in paper napkin making? Are they a thinble for us to get a purchase or for the presses that sort them? We’ll see what other invisible secrets we can discover.
It’s grown a bit colder over the last few days, more in keeping with the season, but I am fearful for the batch of earlier-adopters (bunnies and bulbs) that took the mild Winter as a cue that Spring had sprung. In Germany, accompanied by the rest of the world with the exception of America and perhaps Liberia and Myanmar, degrees (Grad) of temperature are of course registered in Celsius.
H informed me that the difference, though one might not often hear this in everyday speech, is expressed in degrees Kelvin. H was not sure about the reason and researching, I could not figure it out. Photo editing software—when referring to colour temperature use this parlance as well. A degree on the Celsius scale and one the Kelvin scale is of the same magnitude, and I wondered if there wasn’t some level of greater technical accuracy in putting it this way: Congratulations—you’ve lost two whole newtons! I think that formula would only work for someone being pushed off a ledge. Although Kelvins following the centigrade values (with 0° being the freezing point of water and 100º being the boiling), polymath Lord Kelvin, studying the laws of thermodynamics and the relations among temperature as understood at the time, pressure and volume, ingeniously realised that an ideal gas as temperature decreased would eventually shrink to a volume of zero and all molecular motion would stop. Later, this was reckoned to be -273° C, and presented a very useful tool, though no ideal gases exist. Fahrenheit might get a lot of bashing for not being as scientifically rigorous, but zero on that scale is the freezing point of brine, salt-water—which while not absolute zero, I suppose for all practical purposes might seem so. Does anyone know why in German, the gain or loss is said with Kelvins? I’d like to know.
One of the latest entries on BLDGBlog covers a fascinating and mysterious phenomena made visible by aerial surveying in the form of boreal rings of lighter pigmented, less thriving foliage that occur in the thousands throughout the forest landscape of Ontario.
Unlike crop-circles and similar occurrences that have either very mundane or other-worldly explanations, researchers are discovering a surprising and wholly unexpected account where ancient glaciation has pockmarked the woodlands with electromagnetic fields and the entire area is like a subtle circuit board. I just how that this exploration stays a geological and botanical one, rather than a tool for prospectors, though I suppose the latter could inform the former too.
I’ve really been enthralled lately with the discovery of a well researched and executed educational podcast series called Medieval Death Trip, which explores medieval chronicles and other texts more in depth than the usual footnoted references that they receive and the bidden commentary that they entail. Voraciously, I’ve been working though the extensive archive of episodes and am finding it a welcome change that a different light is cast on the Dark Ages, ethnographically speaking, rather than the usual cloistered and superstitious pall that’s afforded that epoch of history. As telling as linguistic developments and throw-backs are, one of the more illuminating points that revealed itself was in the urgency with which the need for family names came about.
Of course there was the administrate embargo of record-keeping in the form of the Domesday books that followed the Norman conquest of England for the assizers, but there was also a strong cultural emulation to give one’s offspring that patent of their usurpers, just like in the diglossic dissonance between the vernacular Old English—seen as backwards—and the courtly French. Quicker than ancient parlance fell away, giving one’s children Celtic and Nordic names went out of fashion. As few are called Cletus or Bethany any longer, within a single generation parents found it uncouth to draw on their heritage and no longer named their Æðelþryð, Ealdgyth, Ælfwine or Ælfgifu (respectively, friend or gift of the elves)—though Alfred (advised by elves) and Edgar (prosperous spear, rich prick) have survived. Old English and modern France, taken as an amalgam, have an embarrassment of names to choose from, but the Normans, though themselves of Scandinavian mercenary roots, only had a few: namely, Guillaume (reconquered as William) and Matilda (wife of said conqueror)—plus a few other crossovers, like Richard, Roger, Guy and Gilbert, which were not nearly as popular on the rankings of baby names in 1086. The potential for confusion was apparent soon enough, with brothers and sisters within the same nuclear family having to wonder who was being summoned. It sounds like a proverb, like how the camel got its hump or the Tower of Babel, to remove surnames from patronymic and codified reason, but it struck me as true and curious nonetheless. Incidentally, the name of the podcast refers to “Wisconsin Death Trip,” a thesis paper (adapted into a book and then as film) presented in a series of episodic newspaper clippings revelatory of the hardships of living in the US Midwest around latter decades of the 1800s.
Saturday, 16 January 2016
Though this rather pandering structure, implying to some at least that the station for a woman is barefoot and pregnant (though those seem to be generally Western voices and we don’t know the attitudes of the local throngs that have come to preview it), is touted as a church, this blue glass slipper pavilion is more of a wedding chapel.
Maybe not a shotgun, Las Vegas-type affair exactly, since the target patrons surely have had to have done some planning, dreaming, this well-healed edifice in Taiwan, meant as a draw for eligible females is not exactly inspired from a Cinderella type story, at least not a sanitised version. According to local lore, a bride-to-be in the 1960s was stricken with some terrible condition called “blackfoot disease,” which comes from drinking water with too much arsenic and causing subsequent clotting in the feet. Tragically, this suffered had to have both of her feet amputated, never married and spent the rest of her life in a convent. Considering that the incidences peaked around that time and was afterwards nearly eliminated due to better water treatment, the tragic bride may be an imagined heroine that stands for all that suffered. It does not seem so romantic but also maybe a little less patronising as well. Already attracting attention, the chapel is set to open on the Lunar New Year.
Friday, 15 January 2016
Through the daisy-chains that bind us, I was astounded to find this superbly fun and classy curated gallery of vintage film animations in a blog called Nitrate Diva. Lovingly maintained and with a vast archive that spans from the Silent Era through the 1960s, I found it to be too remarkable not to share. Of course, these pictures have a separate, fossilized mythos of their own, but finding these clippings moving under their own power opens up a whole new strata of arresting scenes. One won’t regret the visit.
quinceañera: Wikipedia celebrates its fifteenth anniversary
you sank my lanthanide series: a parent has developed a period table of Battleship to teach chemistry
independent order of odd fellows: a look at the iconography of the secret societies of America, via the Everlasting Blort
that’s a bad boy: a Roman mosaic unearthed in Alexandria reveals that pet-shaming has been a phenomenon since ancient times
yosemite sam: accommodations and attractions of the US national park compelled to re-flag because of an unscrupulous naming-rights dispute
powwww: a studious and hilarious collection of expository BAT LABELS from the original Batman series
Thursday, 14 January 2016
One tool the storyteller has in his or her quiver of tropes to perhaps fend off a fading suspension of disbelief—when the audience is no longer transported into that fiction or fantasy and is growing unwilling to buy what’s improbable (the most treacherous area for an author or actor is delineated by the inconsistency in which the impossible drifts towards the merely unlikely)—is called the lampshade hanging technique. Accorded with the principle that anything is less glaring than a bare bulb, the narrator calls attention to the offending material and tries to move on—hoping that the audience identifies enough with the characters to accept that everyone is finding the situation incredulous.
I was delighted to be informed that prior to her career as Medical Officer for the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise, Cheryl “Gates” McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher) played a pivotal, creative backstage role in many Jim Henson productions as dance choreographer and puppet director.
She helped compose the musical numbers for Labyrinth, as well as wrangling the skeksis for Dark Crystal and puppeteer in several muppet capers. Dr. Crusher presently has an active teaching career and has hosted several acting workshops. Finding this out was nearly as serendipitous as the time, a long time ago, when we went to the lost luggage outlet in rural Alabama and finding that gatekeeper Hoggle rather sadly went unclaimed or was left at the wrong terminal with no welcoming party. Since more people have discovered this oubliette, the goblin I think has become a mascot for that proverbial spot where all orphaned socks and other things gone missing end up.
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
The German Sprachraum Unwort of the Year has been announced, and among many other nominees vying for top spot, and it is Gutmensch—having already been accorded second place in 2011 and in common-parlance for far longer. Politically- and journalistically-speaking, it’s sort of a catty, backhanded tactile term, coded word for a group (Gutmenschtum) that counters counter-thinking.
Tuesday, 12 January 2016
now hist. and rare: the OED’s rather murderous beginnings and criminal contributors
memory & function (& memory): Scarfolk, the English town forever doomed to repeat the decade of the 1970s, is coming to the air-waves
life-long learning: adult Norwegian teaches herself to play the violin and documents her amazing improvement
presto the magician: an analysis and appreciation of the Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons
nengajo: beautiful collection of Japanese greeting cards for the Lunar New Year, via Everlasting Blort