Monday, 13 December 2021

pearls before swine

An investigation into sudden-onset meat allergies comes full-circle with the recognition of a particular sugar called Alpha GAL that can cause intolerance for some and results in in an expansion of organ-donor base for others raises some thorny philosophical questions for us, cheerleaders, the lonely survivor and commodifying dissenters alike airing our objections over the brashest of enthusiasm for progress.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


dress rehearsal: for a quarter of a century, an individual attended his own funeral  

dominical letters: how the artificial unit of the week came to govern our lives—see also  

carceral publications: a collection of US prison newspapers  

yes or no questions: celebrate the conclusion of Futility Closet’s eight plus year run with a final episode of lateral thinking puzzles  

hvorugkynsnafnorรฐ: despite progress in the choices for human naming conventions, the Icelandic governing body for horses is still highly gendered  

regenerative medicine: researchers develop “xenobots” capable of biological self-replication—via Waxy  

amigone: aptly named mortuary services—via Super Punch

Monday, 4 October 2021

the final programme

Adapted from the eponymous Michael Moorcock novel and premiering in UK cinemas on this day in 1973, the Robert Fuest sci-fi, action production (thanks to the introduction from The Flop House), the plot centring around the quest for post-humanism beings—perfect and self-propagating—is a post-modern Prometheus story that shares a lot of energy and aesthetics with the roughly contemporary Abominable Doctor Phibes. Bent on carrying out the taboo and contro-versial plan of a recently deceased mad scientist and bring human kind into a new age and out of an existence condemned to near post-apocalyptic wasteland, Miss Brunner—a sado-masochistic techno-magician—instigates the epiphanical sequence, causing her to merge with the protagonist, a suave playboy physicist and son of the man scientist called Jerry Cornelius and dispatching with the henchman named Dmitri who had helped bring their plot to fruition—briefly manifesting as some sort of messianic figure to herald a new age before devolving into a caveman (see also). The creature, as it escapes the secret lair, observes that it is indeed “a very tasty world.”

Tuesday, 14 September 2021


moo-loo: calves are being toilet-trained to mitigate some of the greenhouse gasses the livestock produce

รผber die bestimmung des weibes zur hรถheren geistesbildung: a look at philosopher Amalia Holst, whose 1802 work is comparable to Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman  

ferryman: an interesting look at legally-mandated river-crossings in Manchester  

the colour of money: a mesmerising video to accompany the Blake Mills song  

microcosmos: outstanding photographs of the world not visible to the naked eye  

charismatic megafauna: a biotech firm is raising funds to de-extinct the woolly mammoth—see previously

Thursday, 8 July 2021

cheveux incoiffables

Though familiar with the rather unkempt cautionary tale of Struwwelpeter—Shock-headed Peter, we did not know that such laments and portrayals were rooted in what’s described as UHS (Uncombable Hair Syndrome, Syndrom der unkรคmmbaren Haare). A genetic, structural disorder, those affected generally grow out of this state of wiry hair by early adolescence with their scalp becoming much more manageable.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

a modest proposal

Via the ever-engaging Weird Universe, we are directed to a 1983 edition of OMNI magazine and the ponderings of the doctoral theoretical biologist, literary critic and prolific science-fiction author Thomas A. Easton (Mood Wendigo, Wallflower, Alien Resonance, Micro Macho) proffering essentially the thesis of the 2017 film Downsizing through selective breeding, shrinking the average human stature to curb our unsustainable appetite for range and resources. As of yet undeveloped technologies could accelerate the process across all populations by introducing desirable genetic traits through a viral delivery system with this atavistic twist netting health benefits as well. Though indubitably bad stewards of the environment, the popular 1970s and 1980s trope of over-population was somewhat of a red-herring and the argument could be twisted in rather nefarious ways. More to explore at the link above.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021


Formally launched in 1990 with sequencing, mostly sponsored by governmental research grants taking place in over twenty university laboratories in the UK, Germany, China, Japan, France, the US and Spain the massive, global collaboration to map the genes of human DNA from a structural and functional stance was declared complete with 99% sequenced of a composite sample to an accuracy rate of 99.99% on this day in 2003. Published in May of the following year, the approximately three million base pairs of any individual can now be mapped and analysed within a matter of minutes.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

listen to me coppertop—we don’t have time for twenty questions

Going into general release in US theatres on this day in 1999, though the tropes and themes have been to an extent ironically co-opted by more right leaning and extremist elements, The Matrix (previously) written and directed by the siblings Wachowski, whom years after their movie debuted came out as transgender women, acknowledged some subtle allegory in the plot and dialogue:“an error in the Matrix,” that sense that something is fundamental wrong—“like a splinter in your mind” suggests body dysphoria and the red pill that for some in the above-mentioned circles has become representative for throwing down the gauntlet for seeking truth inside conspiracy did for others draw comparisons to red oestrogen pills that transitioning individuals might take. In the original script, the character of Switch (quoted above) was to be portrayed as male in the real world and as female in the Matrix but that idea was dropped during filming.

Saturday, 13 March 2021


zaouli: a traditional dance of the of the Guro people of central Cรดte d’Ivoire 

line-dry only: experimental living apparel sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produces oxygen  

everydays—the first five-thousand days: the digital artist better known as Beeple sold an artwork as a non-fungible token (previously) for nearly seventy million dollars at auction, more here  

: Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette, passes away, aged ninety-four 

 upward mobility: theory that Flintstones and Jetsons take place simultaneously with an elite technocracy and a post-apocalyptic underclass—see also  

ikebana: a vintage guide to the art of Japanese flower arranging, previously  

life finds a way: using parallel processing and stochastic algorithms, one programmer generates Mona Lisa from John Horton Conway’s game  

personรฆ: short documentary Beyond Noh filters through thousands of colourful and evocative ceremonial masks from cultures around the world

Monday, 1 March 2021

casanea dentata

Previously we’ve written about the consequences of blight and efforts to reintroduce the American chestnut tree with generic engineering but failed to appreciate the devastating magnitude that the loss of a keystone species had for industry and ecosystem until acquainting ourselves with this extensive Sierra Club article, excerpted by Super Punch. Crucial as building and construction material, the westward expanse of Old World settlers would not have been possible with log cabins and later railroad ties made out of the durable, rot-resistant wood, to say nothing of its sheltering branches and bark, the food-chain of fauna it supported or its pharmacological merits. Cutting or coppicing the tree didn’t kill it and rather it re-sprouted and was ready again to be harvested in a couple of decades, leading to the strangest, tortured Promethean twist in this study: as the blight only damaged the surface part of the tree, extensive root systems still exist, an estimated half a billion individuals and every once and a while grow new saplings, though these too succumb to the fungal disease within a few years.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

mammalian transgenesis

Born this day in 1921, embryologist and genetic engineering pioneer Beatrice Mintz contributed enormously to the understanding of inheritance, growth and cellular differentiation. After a Fulbright research fellowship afforded her studies abroad in Paris and Strasbourg, Mintz came to Philadelphia in 1960 to continue cancer research, perfecting techniques for reprogramming tumour cells, cloning and using viral messengers to introduce foreign DNA. Mintz remains on the faculty of the Fox Chase Cancer Centre.

Friday, 4 December 2020


three blind mice: researchers restore sight by reversing the epigenetic clock in laboratory animals, re-endowing youthful characteristics—via Marginal Revolution  

big drunk girl energy: the dumbest coup is still playing out in the courts  

a touch of cabin fever: this is what stir-crazy looks like—the Year on TikTok—via the morning news

manifest destiny: a scrollytelling art histories (previously) that recounts the mythology of North America—via Maps Mania  

alpenhorn: disappearing, defaced and duelling phallic totems in the mountains of Germany and Austria 

for the longest time: dispel the zoom and gloom with this quarantine rendition from the Phoenix Chamber Choir 

 home box office: Warner Brothers is simultaneously releasing its cinematic productions on subscription television for 2021—via Kottke  

oceanus procellarum: Chang’e probe (previously)has lifted off of the lunar surface and will return with the first samples of moon rocks since 1976—via Slashdot

Saturday, 28 November 2020


a midnight train going anywhere: take the nightline through an infinite metropolis—via JWZ  

็‚ฌ็‡ต: a giant, living room sized electric blanket from Japan called a kotatsu 

pop culture c-span: mining the US government archives for movie and television references and reviews—via Waxy  

doctor zaius, doctor zaius: researchers splice human genes into embryonic marmosets to increase their brain size 

just a little plastic bag with little handles on it: the arbiter of packaging 

peripheral drift: an interesting rotating circles optical illusion  

zoomquilt: follow the thread for an infinite exploration—via the New Shelton wet/dry

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

recapitulation theory

Having before seen some of the precocious handiwork of Charles Darwin’s children, we enjoyed this curated collection from Open Culture of the early drawings of the immanent scientist whose offspring matured beyond test subjects and objects of academic curiosity into laboratory assistants and apprentice researchers themselves with several becoming scientists in their own right. Interest born to a degree out of melancholy and self-preservation, these illustrations and what they prefigure provides a nice counter-balance.  Much more to explore at the link above.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020


bouncing here and there and everywhere: a Finnish maths rocks band—via Things Magazine

wrr-fm: the strange and wonderful account of the first radio station in Texas—via Miss Cellania’s Links

infinity kisses: Carolee Schneemann (*1939 – †2019) experimental montage of her smooching her cats

smashedmouths: an all deep fake rendition of All Star using wav2lip subroutine—via Waxy

the medium is the message: hunting down the first mention of cybersex

eeo: Trump bans diversity training, citing them as divisive, engendering resentment and fundamentally un-American

recessive traits: heredity illustrated with gummy bears

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

acquired immunity

Seemingly to spite the World Health Organisation and China (plus the some one hundred seventy nation strong coalition who have so far signed up to participate) and avoid any obligations to share with the rest of humanity, the US under Trump’s direction will not join a global effort to develop a vaccine and therapeutic interventions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
By snubbing the Covax initiative and its solidarity trials—which pledges to prioritise aid and delivery to the most vulnerable populations first (once that presently hypothetical inoculation is developed—that is), Trump is forcing the US to wager big on the promise that America can on its own come up with its own treatment hedged with an escalating corona-driven arms race with contracts to buy out the stock of whatever intervention seems viable.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

naming conventions or format cells

Via Kottke’s Quick Links (now archived) we learn that rather than trying to carve out exceptions in the programming of the world’s most prevalent spreadsheet software that is a little notorious in trying to anticipate one’s intentions and be helpful or trust that the next person to collaborate on a research project remembers to disable automatic formatting, geneticists are modifying gene names and initialisms so that Microsoft Excel doesn’t misconstrue (see also here and here) them as dates.
Personally my biggest frustration is inheriting a Frankenstein of a document that has conflicting source margins and artefacts of older surprises built into it unsuspecting of its future consequences and accom- modations but it’s rather astounding and frightening to read that fully twenty percent of known errors in published papers can be attributed to errant aliases like SEPT-1, gene that encodes the protein septin needed for cell division and may play a part in Alzheimer’s disease, or MARCH1 (Membrane-Associated Ring-CH Type Finger 1). Scientists and universities are working on reforming the nomenclature retroactively and going forward (though I imagine it is hard to future proof such things) to reduce the chance of misinterpretation by a computer try-hard, like Mister DNA from Jurassic Park.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

256 byte boundary

First encountered here, we really appreciated learning about Memories and the economy of engineering that went into coding this MS-DOS demonstration, via Waxy, and wonder if anyone else is practising constrained programming, sensitive to limitations, legacy and backwards compatibility. Considering how enduring Voyagers’ primitive operating systems are or the two-bit viruses that can bring the world to a stand-still, tiny code can have outsized implications.

Saturday, 18 April 2020


paracosm: Things Magazine digs through its rough drafts to bring together a montage of private homes that represent the complete, the self-contained

your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should: researchers isolate a sample of possibly viable dinosaur DNA, via Slashdot

ursine alignment chart: lockdown coping levels gauged by cartoon bears

ะฒะตั‡ะตั€ะธะฝะบะฐ ะฝะฐ ะฑะฐะปะบะพะฝะต: solo techno raves are the latest challenge in Russia under social distancing rules

covid corridor: absent leadership on a national level, new names proposed for regional alliances forming in the disunited states

domus: Sony World Photography Awards winners and runners-up announced in the category of architecture—via Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

fringe theory

Whilst the rollout of Fifth Generation (5G) cellular networks—argued as essential to support the Internet of Things (which seems a bit of an exaggeration and if there are connectivity bottlenecks, a lot of that stems from being bogged down by adware) to include self-driving vehicles—is not free from controversy, for instance its lockstep integration with jurisdictions to enable seamless surveillance and its general portrayal as technology’s be all and end all, it most certainly does not infect people with the novel corona virus nor is COVID19 a front for the ailments that the global pandemic is causing, a false narrative inspiring some to destroy cell phone masts and sow distrust—that the errant strands of RNA that researchers interpret as a new viral strain is actually genetic material expelled from our own cells, taking with it toxins built up by the non-ionising radiation of cell towers.
Jesus wept. The same social media for whom the contagion of such paradigm is their bread-and-butter have agreed wholesale to not amplify such dangerous missives, knowing full well that popularity and endurance of conspiracy theories is not sustained by being mainstreamed but rather sidelined. Recently reading about a reportedly parallel phenomenon that took place during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, I heard that people were fearful of using telephones for fear that the sickness might be transmitted by wire, and while allowing that there might have been one of two attention-seekers raising those alarms, I should think that the aversion was chiefly sourced in the idea that proximity to a shared mouthpiece was not the most hygienic thing to do. Perhaps future generations will look favourably, naively back on this vandalism as an attempt to disrupt Facebook’s stream of disinformation that is the most virulent than any contagion. Misinformed and dangerous as those views maybe, those whom irresponsibly espouse such theories are not stupid and are studied and creative enough to know that governments, businesses and marketers have not been transparent and forthcoming in matters of public and muting those most able to spread these ideas won’t address underlying causes, like a frayed social safety-net that make alternative medicine more appealing for the precarious classes—not to mention charlatans who can speak to and perpetuate these insecurities, attended by industry whose lobby dictates regulation with no regard for consumer protection.