Saturday, 20 May 2023

mustafar (10. 756)

Discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) orbiting a red dwarf with the same stellar designation in the southern hemisphere constellation Crater (from the Greek for mixing vessel or a type of cup used to water down wine), the middle world LP 791-18 ฮด, the Earth-sized planet ninety light years away albeit covered with volcanos and seismic activity and despite hostile appearance may be ideal for hosting biological life as we understand it. Tidally-locked with one side always facing its sun and the other hemisphere veiled in darkness, the extreme conditions could theoretically prove idea for the formation of an atmosphere conducive to the development of life.

Sunday, 14 May 2023

ascraeus chasmata (10. 740)

Although less well known than Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the Solar System (at least by some measures), there are other enormous shield formations on the Red Planet, including the 18 kilometre high Ascraeus Mons—named in 1973 for the rustic birthplace of Greek poet Hesiod, which has yielded recently some rather amazing imagery of its terrain to Mars Express of “sinuous rilles,” features thought to be collapsed lava tubes. Not only towering by terrestrial standards, the gently sloping flanks cover a huge area, a footprint roughly the size of Romania or the state of Arizona. More from Universe Today at the link above.

Friday, 30 September 2022

7x7 (10. 180)

ron’s house: a bid to save an immersive, eccentrically decorated apartment—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

hermetic students of the golden dawn: an honest-to-goodness magic duel between William Butler Yeats and Aleister Crowley—via Boing Boing  

there’s a hole in my head where the rain gets in: medieval wound man, a medical diagram meant to assist surgeons of yore—see also  

it’s been zero days since the last catastrophic hurricane: more stats from Neal Agarwal (previously)  

self-paced: an AI powered language learning tool—via Web Curios  

photosculpture: a century before 3D printers, there was the rotoscoping technique M Franรงois Willรจme  

mid-management mezzanine: a tour of the S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

7x7 (10. 176)

moonage daydream: an interview with Brett Morgen on the subject of his latest documentary—see previously 

rupture: Nordstream pipelines have sprung a leak, sabotage suspected 

afforestation: a volcanic eruption is helping to rewild island  

eyewall: Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction as it reaches Florida 

omnishambles: the budget plan of PM Truss and Chancellor Kwarteng garners rebuke from Germany, the US and the IMF as the Pound Sterling approaches parity with the dollar  

mahsa: the death of a young woman in the custody of Iran’s morality police has touched off protests against the government  

let all the children boogie: an Australian museum brought the original hand-written draft of David Bowie’s Starman at auction

Thursday, 7 July 2022

campi phlegraei

Envoy Extraordinary to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies based in Naples, diplomat, antiquarian and keen vulcanologist William Hamilton spent the majority of his consular career (spanning from 1764 until 1800) in the shadows of Mount Etna and Mount Vesuvius and witnessed multiple eruptions, engaging illustrator Pietro Fabris to bring to life his recorded observations of this Field of Fire. Hamilton was also a noted collector of vases and one Roman glass piece acquired from the Barberini family and during a leave of absence in 1884 sold to the Duchess of Portland was an exquisite example of cameo work—inspiring Josiah Wedgwood’s jasperware.  Much more at Public Domain Review at the link up top.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

land of fire and ice

Architect Arnhildur Palmadottรญr revealed a monumental lavaforming proposal that would harness and redirect volcanic eruptions in order to create durable and sustainable buildings and pavements. While there are scaling and technical hurdles—plus ensuring that these controlled eruptions don’t release more carbon into the atmosphere than they save and sequester, this radical reassessment of geothermal potential as something bold and innovative, engineering a closed system, like a reverse Dyson Sphere.

Friday, 29 April 2022


Via Hyperallergic, we are referred to a nifty tool that lets one explore the geography and lifeforms that would have informed one’s hometown over the รฆons. Developed by engineer and palaeontologist Ian Webster, Ancient Earth ploughs through millions of years of tectonic shifts and rising and receding oceans with insights about fossils found nearby at the time and events defined the particular age and epoch. Despite the until recently relative inhospitability above the waves, one is always hoping that one’s home stays above water—especially in our current Anthropocene. Much more at the link above.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020


nestbox: Czech firm designs a modular trunk extension to turn any car into a camper

kintsugi court: a rundown basketball blacktop restored with the ancient Japanese art that cherishes the cracked

your 2020 bingo card: researchers discover a population of sharks thriving in an undersea volcano

earth science: a treasury of minerals mapped out—via Maps Mania

green tea ice cream: Linda Diaz’ soulful rendition wins the NPR Tiny Desk competition

cosmic architechtonics: multipart exploration of Eastern Bloc monolithic housing estates

Thursday, 30 July 2020

bathymetric globe

The always interesting Map Room directs our attention to a centenary celebration of the pioneering cartographer and oceanographer Marie Tharp (*1920 – †2006) whose contributions mapped the Atlantic floor (see also), revealing detailed topography and landscape features no one suspected. Her discovery of rift valleys on the bed of the ocean caused a rather seismic shift in the accepted understanding of geography and earth sciences and convinced colleagues to acknowledge the relatively new theories of continental drift and plate tectonics. Much more to explore at the source and with Columbia University at the links above.

Saturday, 6 June 2020


Located in the present day Katmai National Park and Preserve covering the Kodiak archipelago, Kenai Peninsula and Bristol Bay of Alaska, the caldera and volcanic dome of ะะพะฒะฐั€ัƒะฟั‚ะฐ, Latin for “newly erupted” began forming on this day in 1912, expelling ash and lava over the next sixty hours in volumes that equalled thirty Mounts St. Helens.
The largest event of its kind under the twentieth century, it is only comparable with the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. One notable legacy to be found in the reserve originally established as a monument to protect the volcanic field is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, hewn out by the pyroclastic flow of the eruption, which still colour the canyon to the present day, the feature having been named by a member of the National Geographic Society, Robert F. Griggs—a botanist by training, who came to study the aftermath of the volcano in 1916.

Monday, 18 May 2020

channelized blast zone

Here pictured just a day before the eruption four decades ago that left the peak without its northern face and scarred by a massive crater, one can appreciate how it had earned the title of Fuji-san of North America, Mount Saint Helens (known to aboriginal populations as Lawetlat’la or Loowit) began its crescendo of seismic activity back in late March venting steam before dramatically exploding with ash and pyroclastic columns and flows. According to most sources, fifty-seven people lost their lives, debris from the resulting landslide buried sixty square kilometres of the surrounding area, two hundred homes were destroyed as well as vast tracts of forested land and rivers clogged with ash and pumice.

Thursday, 14 May 2020


After more than a year of inactivity due to the unexpected impacted character of the soil where it landed and deployed, NASA and DLR (previously) can report that one of the instruments included on the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) payload on the lander InSight is slowly, carefully making progress, burrowing below the surface.
Nicknamed “the mole,” the probe has the technical designation of a mobile penetrometer, a sort of self-hammering nail—will dig to a depth of up to five metres and generate (albeit miniscule, truly a mountain out of a mole hill) seismic activity that can be used to determine the composition of the core and study heat flows from the planet’s centre through the substrate and to the surface.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

approaching pavonis mons by balloon (utopia planitia)

A few days ago, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day featured this collapsed opening in a shield volcano (Peacock Mountain) in the Martian Tharsis region—originally discovered during the Mariner 9 mission in 1971 with the gentle rise and general topography near the planet’s equator making the feature a good candidate for the anchor of a space elevator, tethered to the captured asteroid of Deimos—and teased that the protected environment within the cavern could be a promising refuge for hold-out Martian life forms. Long before being imaged again by a Mars orbiter in 2011, it was the subject of the eponymous Flaming Lips’ song from their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The next phrase of the exploration programme, due to land February 2021 includes a rover called Perseverance equipped with a drill to extract and study core samples and an aerial drone, which could peer down into such places.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

daytrip: milseburg

Bright through very windy, H and I took a trip to another of the nearby peaks of the Rhรถn highlands (Mittlegebirge, mountain ranges that tend to not rise above the treeline and are forested the entire way up) and hiked up the Milseburg with views of the Wasserkuppe and the valleys beyond. This trapezoidal massif and extinct volcano is most significant for the remains of its ancient Celtic settlement—oppodium, which was one of the first well researched and preserved sites of its kind in central Germany and led to the establishment of societies to maintain places of cultural heritage and accord them protected status, beginning nearly a century and a half ago.
Though now covered in moss, the basalt stones still in parts comprise the base of defensive walls (see also) and foundations of domiciles and the abrupt abandonment of the fortress, first in 1200 and then again in 400 BC, suggests that the site set the scene for a clash of cultures between the Celts and the Germanic tribes of the area. At the top of the mountain is a chapel dedicated to Saint Gangolf, a Burgundian knight and wealthy landowner under King Pippin the Short, whom was killed 11 May in 760 for his express wish to renounce his worldly possessions by his wife’s lover.
Prior to his martyrdom, however, Gangolf had several heroic exploits including, reportedly, no less than vanquishing the giant Mils, who in league with the devil was preventing people from taking the sacrament of baptism by a monopoly of water sources—and generally causing crops to fail by withholding irrigation access. They shall not pass—Gangolf fought valiantly but had no refreshment to regain his strength for the next attack, and a local farmer, himself desperate, refused the knight any relief unless he paid an exorbitant price, which for all his wealth Gangolf could not muster. Resigned to defeat, he removed his helmet and on the spot where he laid it down, a new spring broke forth, still flowing to this day, and gave the knight the resolve he needed to finish off the giant and furnish the locals with a new source of clean water.
The devil entombed the defeated Mils and hence the Milsburg. No recent excavations have been undertaken but the mountain is protected from an archaeological standpoint as well as a being a nature preserve that welcomes visitors and remains a popular destination. Being stormy, it wasn’t the best conditions to be exposed on a summit but it is one that we’ll be able to explore again soon.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

daytrip: schneekopf

Wanting to see a bit more snow, H and I travelled back through Oberhof and beyond to the summit of the second highest (only falling short of the neighbouring Beerberg by a few dozen metres) mountain in Thรผringen, the Schneekopf, whose summit—owing to a strong wind storm in 1946 that uprooted all trees has been an open space since and presently hosts a communications and weather station and observation tower with a panoramic view and a climbing wall on its exterior that pushes the elevation just above that of its neighbours and just barely places the site into the class of a thousand metres above sea-level (Normales Null).

The peak and the range it is a part of are extinct volcanoes active in the Permian Epoch and are composed porphyry. We had a nice stroll through the forest and enjoyed watching the snow and ice whipped up by the wind glint in the noon sun.

Sunday, 15 September 2019


Via Boing Boing, we are quite the privileged witnesses to a solar eclipse caused by the shadow of Io moving across the dappled clouds of Jupiter (previously). One of the Galilean Satellites discovered by the artist and polymath in 1610 and designated Jupiter I, this innermost moon is the most dehydrated body known and also the most geologically (ionically) active with over four hundred volcanoes driven by gravitation pressures and tidal heating from its host world.
The mythological figure (whose name means moon) was one of Hera high priestesses at Argos and caught the wandering eye of Zeus, whose advances she steadily rebuffed. Unhappy with the extra divine scrutiny, Io was turned out of the temple, whereupon Zeus transformed her in a resplendent white heifer in order to hide her from his wife. The deception was rather transparent and Hera dispatched an obnoxious gadfly to pester the poor cow and drive her to wonder the Earth without rest.
She crossed from Europe into Asia at the Bosporus (oxford), where she met Prometheus chained, whom despite his own torture was able to console Io was the prophesy that her humanity would be restored. Returning to Greece, prodded still ever onward, she sought relief by taking the sea route to Egypt (the Ionian), when upon arrival, Zeus was able to disenchant her. With Zeus, Io bears Apis, king of Egypt—identified with the historical pharaoh Apophis (*1575 – †1540, BC), and primogenitor of many of the ancient, semi-legendary great houses of the Mediterranean.  Among the most frequented bodies in the Solar System and well studied, inhospitable Io has been rather ignominiously described as having (the namesake—that is) the colour of pizza.

Sunday, 11 November 2018


that’s like comparing apples and mass shootings: idioms updated for American contemporary culture

store brand: Christmas advertisement aimed to educate the public on habitat-loss due to palm-oil plantations banned for being “too political”

across the stars: John Williams’ fresh arrangement for the Star Wars prequels—which if nothing else continued the tradition of arch and on point scores

perhaps not forty-two after all: the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything is instead one hundred and thirty-seven, the fine-structure constant that haunted Richard Feynmann and Wolfgang Pauli—via Strange Company

sacred and profane architecture: this is the church you go to when God is in the volcano forging a ring of power, a Twitter thread via Art of Darkness

bauhaus 100: the next instalment profiling Herbert Bayer who helped create a universal typographic identity for the movement

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


Though the seven continents that we are best acquainted with have corresponding landmasses that rise above the waters, there’s no reason to hold landforms to this requirement, there being no universally accepted geological definition of what constitutes a continent, and there’s a movement, we discover thanks to TYWKIWDBI, to have an eighth land-mass adjacent to Australia so recognised. Most of Zealandia (or alternatively, Tasmantis) remains submerged below the surface of the Pacific with only New Zealand, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island peeking above the surface. What do you think? It struck me at first as the same sort of technicality that downgraded Pluto, but I do wonder how much sense our thresholds and naming-conventions make outside of sentimental attachments.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

geodesy or tectonic fictions

The always brilliant and imaginative BLDGBlog has a feature about Danish geomancers that are getting close to unveiling an “atlas of the underworld,” won through ground x-rays and computerised tomography—that is, CT scanning.
While it’s amazing enough to be able to peer into the depths of what lies beneath (and I thought it would take the whole array of gravitational wave detectors on opposite ends of the globe to bring into any sort of focus what’s under the crust), these early images also narrate an inferred history of continental drift and whole islands, oceans and mountain ranges that are now lost to us ephemeral beings. Realising how short of a time our present map of the world has existed in its recognisable form is really humbling and it makes one wonder what other artefacts—not just fossils or treasure—might have been buried and forgot.

Monday, 26 September 2016

crucible or lacrymรฆ batavicรฆ

When one drips molten glass into a vessel of water, a little tadpole glass droplet forms that has some amazing physical properties. The bead can withstand blows from a hammer but if the tail is snipped, the whole droplet violently explodes. Previously known as Dutch tears (the Latin name above), there was a paucity of scientific investigation until they were reproduced and experimented on in the ducal court of Mecklenburg.
Prince Rupert gave British King Charles II an exciting demonstration and Prince Rupert Drops as they became known in England (called Bologneser Trรคne auf Deutsche—Baloney tears, however, owing to the reputation of the Italians as glassmakers) were taken up by the Royal Society for further studies in the mid seventeenth century. Though mostly taken up as a party-favour or a parlour-trick, volcanologists found the laboratory trials valuable as the drops approximated the pyroclastic forces found in eruptions and lava-flows, as did polymath Robert Hooke, whose puzzlement over the store of potential energy led to the development of the idea of elasticity, strain and compression and a scientific, predictable toolkit for ever more intricate mechanisms.