Tuesday, 15 June 2021

durgan script

The always engrossing Language Log of the University of Pennsylvania acquaints us with a endangered and diffuse language—spread across Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Mongolia—in the Sinitic (Chinese) family but written with Cyrillic and uniquely not Sinographic characters (see also). The continuum of Gansu, Mandarin and Dungan (Kansu) is mutually intelligible to a large extent. Tones are marked with the glyphs front yer and back yer (ะฌ / ะช) from the Old Church Slavonic (see above and here too) and the current orthography is a compromise dating back to the 1920s when the Soviet Union banned Arabic and Persian-based writing systems, looked on disfavourably from the beginning as merchants along the Silk Road could conduct trade deals in a language that was secret to their neighbours.

Monday, 14 June 2021


dit-dot: via Web Curios (a lot more to see at this latest instalment), we’re invited to learn the basics of Morse code (previously) with this well designed, gamifying tutorial 

passeggiando: be a virtual flรขneur in these composite Italian cities 

broadcast energy transmitter: delivering renewable energy from where it is plentiful to where it’s need via submarine transnational supergrids 

flock together: a TED Ed presentation on the evolution of feathers  

pyramid power: Duns Scotus and the esoteric history of the dunce cap—via Boing Boing  

essential reading: The Atlantic’s Ed Yong won a Pulitzer Prize for his COVID reporting  

รครค: a collection of essays from the Times Literary Supplement on defence of endangered, indigenous languages

Thursday, 6 May 2021

flash crash

Triggered by a combination of human error—so called fat-finger trades that if not invalidated within thirty minutes after execution are considered legitimate—automated trading protocols set on edge by the sovereign debt crisis in Greece, over the course of thirty-six minutes of the trading on this day in 2010, US stock indices collapsed, loosing over a trillion dollars in wealth. The markets for the most part recovered quickly and additional regulatory safeguards were put in place to prevent the same thing from happening again. It held the record for the most volatile day for American stocks with the largest intraday change in valuation until August of 2015 when global markets faltered over concerns about the viability of the Chinese economy, but both events were pushed way down in the rankings by the crashes of 2020 caused by the pandemic.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

guilty feet have got no rhythm

Just ahead of the duo’s ground-breaking pair of concerts in China, the first Western pop band to play to this venue, Wham! released its album Make It Big in Chinese markets—with the hit singles “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Freedom” and “Careless Whisper”—on this day in 1985. Having taken a break from the studio George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley embarked on an extensive world tour that included coveted stops (see previously) in Beijing and Guangzhou. Knowing what a publicity coup the concerts meant, the negotiations with authorities were not entirely above-board, as one of Wham!’s managers later owned up to, admitting that he presented his group as pleasant, clean-cut and conservative whereas with the competition, Queen, he emphasised the flamboyance of Freddie Mercury, also securing approval over the Rolling Stones.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

ping-pong diplomacy

Marking a significant improvement in Sino-American relations and enabling a visit by Richard Nixon the following year, the US Table Tennis team competing for the world championship in Nagoya, Japan received an official invitation on this day in 1971 to come to Beijing. Aside from delegations of eleven members aligned with the Black Panther political party (W. E. B. DuBois, Huey P. Newton) that followed Maoist principles who visited from 1959 through the early 1970s, these players and entourage of journalists—arriving on the tenth—were the first US citizens to enter the PRC since 1949, due to an embargo imposed by America that cut all diplomatic and economic ties over its involvement in the Korean War. Using this friendly competition as a segue to thaw relations, China opened and America was receptive, hoping to win over China as an arbitrator for the war in North Vietnam, and China was hoping to find a counterbalance for increasingly strained dealings with the Soviet Union.

Thursday, 25 March 2021


a tree grows in brooklyn: a map of New York’s great perennials  

no wine before its time: an interview with the director of Orson Welles’ infamous commercial for Paul Masson’s California champagne  

foley artists: the talented individuals who help make supplemental sounds for nature documentaries  

what level of wood panelling is this: McMansion Hell yearbook 1979—previously  

riding the rails: the portfolio of Wang Fuchun (RIP), celebrated photographer best known for capturing the narrative train travel  

schwarzschild radius: the Event Horizon Telescope—previously—takes another picture of the black hole  

hempire state: New York poised to legalise cannabis

Tuesday, 29 December 2020


As a long-standing tradition here at PfRC, here is our annual recap of this most extraordinairy year. We‘ve come all this way together and here‘s to us ploughing on. Thanks for visiting and be good to yourselves and one another.

january: Bushfires rage across Australia, taking the lives of an estimated billion animals.  We had to bid farewell to historian and Monty Python member Terry Jones and veteran reporter and newscaster Jim Lehrer.  Tragically basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna with seven others died during a helicopter accident.  Trump signs a trade deal with Canada and Mรฉxico to replace NAFTA.  The United Kingdom and Gibraltar formally announce their intention to leave the European Union, initiating an eleven-month transition period.

february: Veteran actor Kirk Douglas passed away, aged one hundred and three as well as fellow actors Orson Bean and Robert Conrad.  A detailed study of the most distant planetary body explored by a space probe, now called Arrokoth, is released.  World stock markets respond early to unease surrounding the spread of the novel SARS virus.  Luxembourg makes all public transportation free to the public. 

march: Actor and singer-song writer Kenny Rogers passed away and we said farewell to Max von Sydow. Playwright Terrence McNally (*1938), actor Mark Blum (*1950), architect Michael Sorkin (*1948), influential Indian chef Floyd Cardoz (*1960), Romanian dissident author Paul Goma (*1935) and saxophonist Manu Dibango (*1933) passed away due to complications of COVID-19.  Composer Krzysztof Penderecki (*1933) whose music scored The Exorcist and The Shining also succumbed after a long bout of illness as did musician Bill Withers (*1938, Lean on Me, .Lovely Day, Just the Two of Us) from heart complications. Breonna Taylor (*1993) was murdered in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky by police conducting a groundless, no-knock search of the premises. 

april: We had to say goodbye to award-winning musician Adam Schlesinger (*1967) of Fountains of Wayne fame, Alexander George Thynn, Marquess of Bath (*1932), veteran rhythm guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (*1926), jazz pianist and educator Ellis Louis Marsalis, Jr (*1934), folk musician and storyteller John Prine (*1946) and polymath John Horton Conway (*1937), inventor of among other things of The Game of Life, and comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor (*1940) succumbing to COVID-19.  We say farewell to veteran actress Honor Blackman (*1925), known for her roles in The Avengers and in Goldfinger as Bond Girl Pussy Galore.  We also say farewell to teacher Harriet Mae Glickman (*1925), whom persuaded Charles M. Schultz to include a black character in his comic strip Peanuts, cartoonist and long-time contributor to Mad magazine Mort Drucker (*1929), veteran actor Brian Dennehy and lesbian and civil rights advocate Phyllis Lyon (*1924).

may: founding member of Kraftwerk and electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider (*1947) passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer.  Entertainer and illusionist Roy Horn (Uwe Ludwig, *1944) of Siegfried & Roy, and Ken Nightingall (*1928), audio engineer and famously known as the Pink Shorts Boom Operator from Star Wars passed away after succumbing to complications of COVID-19.  Pioneering singer and performer Little Richard (*1932) died after a long struggle with cancer as did techno DJ and producer Pascal FEOS (*1968) and rhythm and blues singer Betty Wright (*1953), known for her ability to sing in the whistle register, above falsetto. Veteran actor and comedian Jerry Stiller (*1927) passed away, aged 92.  Monumental artist Christo (*1935 on the same day as his partner in life and professionally Jeanne-Claude, †2009, previously here and here) passed away of natural causes.  Costa Rica legalises gay marriage, the first Latin American country to do so.

june: Rallies and marches rage across the US in response to the brutal murder of Floyd George while being detained by police. Actor Ian Holm (*1931), known for his roles as Napoleon in Time Bandits, Ash in Alien and Bilbo Baggins in the Tolkien adaptations, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease.  Influential graphic designer Milton Glaser (*1929, previously) passed away on his ninety-first birthday.  Iconic comedian and fixture of Japanese television for decades, Ken Shimura (*1950) died of COVID-19.

july: Veteran civil rights activist and politician John Lewis (*1940) passed away after an extended bout with  cancer.  Founder of Fleetwood Mac Peter Green (*1946) has died. Actress Olivia de Haviland (*1916) died of natural causes in her home in Paris, aged 104. The US gross domestic product plummets by a third, prompting Trump to suggest that the November elections be delayed until such time as people can vote safely in person.  Long time Trump and Tea Party supporter and once-time presidential candidate Herman Cain (*1945) died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting the virus during Trump’s rally in Tulsa.

august:  Veteran actor and musician Wilford Brimley (*1934) passed away, dying in hospital suffering from multiple health issues.  John Hume (*1937),  architect of the peace accords in Northern Ireland and instrumental in passing the Good Friday Agreement, has departed.  A giantic explosion occurred in the port of Beirut when chemicals stored in a warehouse there detonated.  Actor and singer behind such standards as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree” Trinidad “Trini” Lรณpez (*1937) died due to complications from COVID-19.  Media mogul Sumner Redstone who created the production company Viacom, recognising that content was king, passed away, aged 97.  Linguist and long-time contributor to Public Radio Geoffrey Nunberg (*1945) died after coping with a long illness.  The Joe Biden campaign selects Kamala Harris as its running-mate, and both parties hold their conventions virtually.  Kremlin-critic and chief opposition candidate to Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, is presumably poisoned on a flight back to Siberia and is subsequently medically evacuated to Germany.  Black Panther actor and humanitarian Chadwick Boseman (*1976) dies after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Long-time Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announces his retirement from elected office over health reasons.

september: Economist and anarchist David Graeber (*1961) passed away at a hospital in Venice, dying from undisclosed causes.  After a short struggle with cancer and last months spent with family and contented reflection, accomplished actor Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg (*1938) has died.   Interviewed for a new expose by Bob Woodward, Trump admitted on tape months ago that he downplayed the danger of COVID-19, though this revelation seemed to barely rise above the general din of the news cycle and receded quickly in voters’ conscience.  The Polish-government allows twelve municipalities to declare themselves LGBT-ideology free-zones.  Protests continue in Belarus over the disputed reelection of long-serving, Russian-aligned leader Alexander Lukashenko.  Jurist and US Supreme Court associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (*1933) died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving a court vacancy just before the presidential election.  A grand jury in Kentucky declined to file homicide charges against the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor.  Australian singer and actor Helen Reddy (*1941) passed away after succumbing to complications from dementia.  During the first US presidential debate, devolving into a messy, nasty political food-fight, Trump refused to denounce white supremacist groups. 

october: After White House aid Hick Hopes tested positive for coronavirus, Donald and Melania Trump were also screened and found to both be carriers.   The nomination ceremony for the US Supreme Court justice to replace the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the White House rose garden turned into a superspreader event.  Iconic fashion designer Kenzล Takada (้ซ˜็”ฐ ่ณขไธ‰, *1939) died from complications of COVID-19.  Singer Eddie Van Halen (*1955) passed away after a long battle with cancer.  The FBI in conjunction with other domestic law enforcement authorities foil a plot by a white supremacists to kidnap the governor of Michigan.  Jacinda Arden remains Prime Minister of New Zealand after her party wins the election in a land-slide victory.  Space probe OSIRIS-REx (previously) arrives at asteroid Bennu and collects mineral samples to bring back to Earth.  Magician and scientific sceptic James Randi (*1928) passes away, aged 92. Despite the US presidential election only being a little more than a week away, the Republican-controlled Senate rush through the confirmation of a young, conservative justice with questionable qualification and adjourn until after the ballots close, leaving those negatively impacted by the continuing pandemic no fiscal relief package.  Actor Sean Connery passed away, aged ninety.  

november: Terror incidents occur in Paris and Vienna.  With most of Europe entering a second quarantine as a firebreak to slow the spread of COVID-19, Germany goes into lockdown-light for the month.  Election Day comes for the United States with nearly one hundred million voters casting their ballots early.  The election is called in favour of Biden and Harris.  Team Trump refuses to concede.  Long time television game show host Alex Trebek (*1940) dies after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer.  Veteran Middle East negotiator Saeb Erekat dies, aged sixty-five, from complications of COVID-19.  The purge of the Trump administration continues with the dismissal of the Defence Secretary for not authorising the mobilisation of the army against protesters and the chief of cyber-security for countering Trump’s false narrative and rightly proclaiming the election the best safeguarded vote in modern US history, and halving troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan by executive decree.  A historic Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, having barely recovered from the last, Hurricane Epsilon.  Not conceding defeat Trump allows the Biden transition team to begin its work.  Argentine footballer, one of the greatest of all time Diego Maradona (*1960) dies of a heart attack.  

december: Courts, including the US Supreme Court, rebuff Trump’s efforts to overturn election results in a nacent coup attempt.  Massive protests in reaction to legislation that liberalises farming practises leave India paralysed.  The first vaccinations against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are administered.  With last-ditch Brexit negotiations poised for failure and the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal, Britain moves to deploy naval warships to protect fishing stocks in its national waters.  Pioneering Country and Western singer Charlie Pride (*1934) passes away due to complications from COVID-19.  Intelligence officer and master of the spy novel, John le Carrรฉ (*1931) has died.  French president Emmanuel Macron contracts COVID-19 and goes into quarantine.  The archbishop of Canterbury tells parishioners, especially the vulnerable, that it is not necessary to attend church services on Christmas day, echoed by the Pope and other religious leaders.  Compounding Brexit uncertainty, the final week of the year sees the UK cut off from much of the rest of the world over concerns about a new coronavirus strain that is significantly more transmissable.  A final deal was arranged for the UK leaving the EU at the last minute which spares Britain the worse fate of crashing-out with no deal but is significantly not as good of a trade pact had the UK remained in.  A powerful earthquake shakes Croatia.  French fashion designer Pierre Cardin passes away, aged ninety-eight.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020


tanssinopettaja: a few dance lessons from the reigning king of disco, ร…ke Blomqvist

haunted bohemian shrine aunt: a truly cursed real estate listing from McMansion Hell (previously)—via Pluralistic  

ascertainment: Trump directs General Services Administration to credential President Elect Joe Biden’s transition team 

philately: United Nations honoured with a beautiful, retro series of postage stamps for its seventy-fifth anniversary 

mons rรผmker: China launches a unscrewed mission to the Moon to retrieve mineral samples from a young crater—all to be accomplished in the span of one lunar day (a terrestrial fortnight)  

after school special: times when television grappled with social issues in affecting ways—via the morning news  

monumenta antiquitatis: a scribe’s quill and quiver 

linus & lucy: tag your Charlie Brown dance—via Swiss Miss

Saturday, 31 October 2020


no wait, that was the prince of tides: researchers identify neural cells responsible for episodic, cinematic memories 

there goes the neighbourhood: a five-storey historic building in Shanghai walks to its new location, avoiding demolition, via Slashdot 

utopia planitia: future Martian settlements will not be colonies beholden to terrestrial governments

anti-pop: Danny Elfman—previously of Oingo Boingo, releases his first surprise single in three-and-a-half decades  

stingy jack: the legend behind the Halloween lantern from Nag on the Lake  

brototype: the baked-goods based photography of Jill Burrow 

haute couture: Ken Tanabe’s annual DIY ideas for stylish Halloween costumes  

brain-in-a-vat: laboratory-cultured neural organoids could be conscious, via Miss Cellania’s Links

Saturday, 10 October 2020

wuchang clan

Under the pictured banner that would go on to become that of the People’s Revolutionary Army circa 1913 to 1928, the eponymous uprising that began on this day in 1911 in the Hubei capital city marked the beginning of the revolution that deposed the Qing dynasty. Originally designed by revolutionaries in exile in Japan, the “iron-blood flag” had eighteen stars, representing each of the imperial provinces at the time.

These actions and decisions ushered in the establishment of the Republic of China, the resentment and dissatisfaction of the people with ruling dynasty focused and galvanised by the government’s announced intentions to nationalise local railway development projects and cede, sell control to foreign investment banks, in part to generate capital to pay indemnities and reparations incurred from the Boxer Rebellion of 1901 to oust Christian missionaries and the earlier Opium Wars. Seizing advantage of the popular sentiment, the revolutionary forces stormed the viceroy’s residence, the regional plenipotentate of the emperor with oversight of military and civil affairs, who quickly fled the province and the united protesters established a provisional military government for Hubei and Hunan, quickly taking more ground and encouraging vast swaths of territory in central and southern China to secede and join their cause over the next two months.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

little birdhouse in your soul

Spotted first at Pasa Bon!, the designation third space—which this apartment tower in Beijing also carries (2010 by architect Li Xinggang, ๆŽๅ…ด้’ข)—usually denotes a vanishing though often idealised hang-out spot that’s not work or home (Central Perk, the Peach Pit from 90210 but I think that these architectural accents, these roosts like birdhouses that project off each unit do qualify as somewhere liminal to escape to. Less like crowded apartments cheek-to-jowl, these flats seem more like stacked, vertical villas.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020


dry dock: a drone surveys a cruise ship graveyard  

one of these things is not like the other: match memes described as having the same energy—via Waxy 

anti-trust, anti-social: leaked documents show how viciously Facebook (previously) plans to fight regulations and its forced break-up

verticalisation: photographer Manuel Alvarez Diestro has Chongqing in frame a decade after his first visit 

rephotography: vis-ร -vis, the above, staging the same photos decades later—via Things Magazine  

we bid a hasty retreat from his lair: School House Rock’s Unpack Your Adjectives  

begagnade varor: IKEA to open a second-hand outlet in Sweden—via Kottke  

space ghost coast-to-coast: a retrospective of comics illustrator Alex Toth 

even keel: a tiny, personal boat to navigate Amsterdam’s canals

Sunday, 27 September 2020

panda diplomacy

Via Nag on the Nag’s expertly curated Sunday Links (always a lot to explore here), we are introduced to the latest obsession, research rabbit hole from the contributors of Artsy magazine in this 1861 portrait of a pedigree Pekingese by German transplant painter Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, who specialised in the subject and received many commissions from the court of Victoria and Albert. Though living a contented to all appearances and happy eleven more years in the lap of luxury, there’s a dark side to little Looty and her role as a political prop—sort of like Nixon’s Checkers speech.

Charmingly called after the diminutive for the spoils of war by the queen, this example of the exclusive companion breed reserved for the Imperial family of China was one of five Pekingese dogs found guarding the corpse of a lady who took her own life in 1860 as an Anglo-French exhibition force advanced on the Old Summer Palace (The Garden of Perfect Brightness and royal residence) and under the orders of Lord Elgin in retribution for an earlier failed peace treaty began to ransack the place at the height of the Second Opium War. The plunder and destruction took a force of four thousand men three days to carry out, owing to the palace’s monumental size. The sentimental portrait takes on new meaning when looking at it through the fraught historical context of colonialism and is still a matter that the European powers are coming to terms with. Not to be outdone by his father that stole the Marbles, Elgin’s (who also served as governors of Jamaica, Canada and India) wanton act forced the capitulation of the Qing Emperor and ceded the rest of the Kowloon Peninsula to the crown colony of Hong Kong. Posing before a Ming vase that was surely also part of the pilfered treasure, you can detect a hint of saudade and longing her eyes. We’d like to give back Looty her old name as well.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

palabra jot

Probably at least a semi-legendary figure though charged with an onerous task nonetheless, court historian, secretary and studious bureaucrat Cangjie (ๅ€‰้ ก) was tasked with the job of inventing written language around forty-six centuries ago when the Yellow Emperor expressed his dissatisfaction with the available method of recording information—that is, knots in string.
Though gifted and determined, Cangjie was at a loss until he began to contemplate the tracks and footprints left by animals and humans. Encountering an unfamiliar impress, Cangjie inquired with a hunter what sort of animal could leave such a mark. On learning it was the print of a Pixiu (่ฒ”่ฒ…, the equivalent of a chimera), Cangjie was inspired to create a set of logograms that would become written Chinese. Traditionally depicted with four eyes, it is said that at his eureka moment, the deities and ghosts wailed and wept as the living could be duped no longer thanks to a written record and the heavens rained down millet and grain. This figure is the namesake of the first Chinese language dictionaries and the method for adapting Chinese for Western keyboards.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

overseas logogram

The peripatetic polyglots at the helm over at Language Log direct us to a host of for the nonce Sinographs from Hong Kong which could be described as neologism—rather neographisms or visual portmanteaux inventing characters by mixing the component parts and meaning-bearers from different glyphs to form something nuanced and paraliteral.  The pictured example seems to borrow selectively from ้Žฎ้œ (zhรจnjรฌng, that is combined calm, poised) but taking on a new context in this form as equanimous and not un-dispassionate, unshaken.
As one reader commented, this zhรฌzร o (ๅˆถ้€ , making characters) is reminiscent of the 1987 publication originally to be entitled Mirror to Analyse the World: The Century’s Final Volume by artist Xu Bing but was instead ultimately called after the Chinese term tiฤn shลซ that itself originally was reserved for divinely inspired writing (akin to speaking in tongues) but came to signify gibberish in “A Book from the Sky.” Very much up to the interpretation of the reader, the bound edition limited to a single print run, the book is composed with a set of four-thousand characters (comparable to the lexicon of modern Chinese writing) and imitate natural language on the page in terms of diversity and frequency but are wholly made up, nonsense words, as if a book in a Latin script were filled with Wingdings. The above banners, however, have a meaning and message that can be puzzled out.

Thursday, 3 September 2020


cut-throat competition: gig workers are tethering their smartphones in trees to gain an edge of miilliseconds over others for a limited number of contracts

the hackney year: season after season of recorded back garden bird song and other sonic gems via Things Magazine

october surprise: a cynical campaign ploy threatens to erode public trust in science and medicine

a transparent corridor in the air: a design firm completes the longest glass-bottomed suspension bridge along the approach to Three Gorges

ascii art: artists creates “typicitions” on his vintage typewriter

snitches get stitches: the prohibition against social gatherings are polarising college campuses

eula: monopsonistic on-line retail giant deploys union-busting tactics to perpetuate myth of “freelance” work-force and maintain their impressment

Wednesday, 12 August 2020


Foregoing the space bar, the United States of America’s newest military branch has outlined its vision and mission couched in very jingoistic and war-like language how it will establish and maintain dominance in the firmament. Unlike the Space Race that ran parallel to the nuclear build-up that was marked by achievements and milestones of one-upmanship that the Soviets indisputably won—with the exception of the crowning technical success of landing a crew on the lunar surface and bringing them back safely repeated over several iterations—there’s not so much a spirit of competition and exploration, with shining moments of cooperation, but rather sabotage and denial of access for those aspiring to join.

Sunday, 9 August 2020


r.o.u.s. (rodent of unusual size): a LEGO Princess Bride playset

fifteen men on the dead man’s chest: beach sand skeletal impression kit

colouring london: an ongoing project amassing architectural statistical data from Maps Mania

antimandering: redistricting software that illustrates the trade-offs of proportional representation, via Waxy

splinternet: discouraging trend championed now by the US towards compartmentalising the once global web—via Slashdot

duly appointed rounds: another one of Trump’s antithetical department heads bent on dismantling the institution he is in charge of (see previously)

mind the gap: subway and metro announcements from around the world

Wednesday, 5 August 2020


Though arguably characterising the popular short video montage application as some Trojan Horse infiltrating Americans’ households and siphoning their data to China is a hackneyed red herring with it hitting closer to home with many taking to the platform to insult and ridicule Donald Trump, it is instead worth noting the change in tenor on allowing TikTok to continue to operate within the US from an outright and immediate ban to suiting a quick and slapdash takeover. User data is still collected, presumably pursuant of the same sort of demographic profiling but will graciously be stored on domestic servers and not exported. Though TikTok is Chinese-owned, the app is not available in China. Pressuring the parent company to divest itself of a big part of its business under duress is the stuff of mafia bosses—especially so when Trump thinks that the US government deserves a cut of the sales for having negotiated such a favourable deal.

Friday, 31 July 2020

parting shot

Launched on 23 July, China’s mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, beamed back this postcard of a crescent Earth and its satellite from a distance of a little over a million kilometres as it accelerates towards the Red Planet.
The image joins a growing gallery of iconic photographs that help bring perspective and humility. The alignment of the two worlds mean that this is among the fastest and most efficient times for Martian travel and Tianwen-1—the first probe of a series of planned excursions and is named (ๅคฉๅ•) for the eponymous ancient work of epic prose that begins asking how the universe was created, thus Heavenly Questions—was joined during this auspicious launch window by and orbiter from the United Arab Emirates and NASA rover named Perseverance. All three will arrive in February 2021, touching down at Utopia Planitia.