Tuesday 13 February 2024

comet and cupid (11. 347)

Via fellow internet peripatetic Messy Nessy (much more to dsicover there), we are introduced to the eighteenth century artist Michelangelo Maestri and his school through his series of water-colours of putti, cherubs driving chariots pulled by various creatures as an allegory to depict different types and stages of love—agape, eros, xenia, philia. Inspired by the frescos of Ancient Rome, especially the then recent excavation of well-preserved examples in Herculaneum and Pompeii, his studio’s works were extremely popular and produced en masse and were often purchased as souvenirs by those on their Grand Tour.

synchronoptica

one year ago: spec scripts for Star Trek: TNG plus a webring to check out

two years ago: more Excel art, West African musical artists plus separated by a common language

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, a dinosaur park plus animation techniques

four years ago: more links to enjoy

five years ago: out-of-place archaeology, Sony World Photography winners, Mandombe script plus more links worth revisiting

Tuesday 6 February 2024

8x8 (11. 328)

the scholar & his cat: a resonant ninth century reflection by Pangur Bรกn 

bring your own beach owl: mimicry and semi-automated genre fiction—via Kottke  

riverwalk: a one kilometre-long museum that undulates with the reservoir it crosses in Shandong province

steelmaster: a 1966 office furniture catalogue  

television stone: the unique optical properties of the mineral ulexite 

๐Ÿ›‹️: the Eames Archive open to the public—see previously 

vesuvius challenge: a trio of researchers share the honorarium for deciphering charred scrolls from Herculaneum with the help of AI  

ombre: Alexander Pope’s card game

synchronoptica

one year ago: Facebook’s social engineering experiments plus a ska version of the Tetris theme

two years ago: multiple zoom maps, Computerwelt, Sesame Street light jazz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: quotation marks, Zardoz (1974), more links to enjoy, the founding of Liberia, I Ching in melting snow plus barbarian tongues

four years ago: Deciminisation Days, Trump acquitted, classical architecture plus photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

five years ago: Anguilla independence, the Irish border, dress uniforms plus Orson Welles on creeping intolerance

Saturday 30 December 2023

mmxxiii (11. 224)

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2024, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place during the past year. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together.

january: Hundred of thousands pay their respects, attend funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, presided over by his predecessor in Vatican City. Supporters of defeated president Jair Bolsanaro stormed the capitol in Brasilia.  Caches of official records and classified files have been discovered mishandled and stored in offices used by Joe Biden after his vice-presidency. Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck passes away, aged 78.  Lisa Marie Presley, artist and singer, has died, aged 54.  Wracked with successive and endemic problems, Haiti descends into anarchy after the last of its elected officials depart the country.  Singer David Crosby has passed away, aged 81.  Jacinda Arden steps down as Prime Minister of New Zealand.  US and Germany agree to send tanks to Ukraine.  A group of five police officers in Memphis, Tennessee brutally murder Tyre Nichols with no justifiable provocation. After speaking out against the criminalisation of same-sex partnerships and denial of basic civil rights, the Pope will journey to South Sudan, joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Church of Scotland for a dialogue with local church leaders preaching a gospel of intolerance.  Lisa Loring, the original Wednesday Addams, passes away, aged 64.

february: After announcing that conflict with China was on the near horizon, the US acquires additional bases in the Philippines to encircle its rival and potential adversary.  Just days ahead of US Secretary of State’s visit to Beijing, NORAD announces the detection of a Chinese spy balloon over western America, prompting Blinkin to cancel his trip. Fashion designer and perfumier Paco Rabane passes away, aged 88.  The EU holds a summit in Kyiv on Ukraine’s bid for membership.  Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf passes away, aged 77, after contending with a long illness.  A powerful earthquake on the border of Syria and Tรผrkiye claims over five thousand lives, the death toll soon quadrupling.  Songwriter Burt Bacharach passes away, aged 94.  Facing a series of crises and increasing pressure from the war in neighbouring Ukraine, the government of Moldova is dissolved.  Top-tier Czech footballer Jakub Jankto comes out as homosexual, the first professional player to do so.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon surprises her party by announcing her departure with no clear successor.  Actor Raquel Welch passes away, aged 82.  North Korea resumes missile tests in the Pacific and the US warns that China may attempt to arm Russia and delegates at the Munich Security Conference urge immediate fortification of Ukraine in order to prevent imminent defeat.  Stand-up comedian and tv detective Richard Belzer dies, aged 78.  Humanitarian and former US president Jimmy Carter enters hospice care.  Just ahead of the one year anniversary of the start of the invasion, Joe Biden makes a surprise visit to Kyiv.  Tech companies and media outlets continue tranche after tranche of staff layoffs.  US House Speaker gives previously unreleased trove of January Sixth insurrection footage to conservative pundit Tucker Carlson.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks its one year anniversary.

march: Evidence emerges that Ukrainian saboteurs were responsible for the underwater explosions that ruptured the NordStream I pipeline though questions remain.  In the second largest bank collapse in the history of the US and the first of its kind since the 2008 crash, the Silicone Valley Bank servicing tech-sector start-up has become insolvent and went into government receivership.  Thousands of civil servants in France go on strike in protest of legislation to raise retirement age.  After Manhattan district attorney investigation into Trump directing hush-money to Stormy Daniels, US presidential candidate announces that he expects to be arrested and calls for protests.  Mounting evidence seems to vilify suggestions that COVID originated from a lab leak in Wuhan.  Despite attempts to contain the contagion, the fall out from the crisis with California fintech institutions cause havoc with banking stocks worldwide.  UBS absorbs a beleaguered Credit Suisse.  Xi and Putin enter an apparent entente against American influence.   UN warns that time has run out on combating runaway climate change.  Deadly, hour-long tornado strikes ravage rural Mississippi and Alabama.  Intel Corp founder and thinker behind the eponymous law about the exponential improvement of technology Alan Moore passes away, aged 94.

april: Trump arraigned in the Manhattan district court over falsifying business records pursuant to hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels.  A US federal judge in Texas suspends the 2000 approval by the country’s food and drug regulatory body on the safety of an abortion pill, restricting its use.  Demanding stricter gun-laws in the wake of another school and church mass-shooting, the Tennessee state legislator expel two Black lawmakers for their stance.  Preoccupied with filibusters over trans-rights, the Nebraska state senate fails to pass a single law in this year’s legislative session.  Tory ministers begin to walk-back plans for a full-scale repeal of EU regulations following an inter-party revolt against the post-Brexit arrangement.  Phasing out of nuclear energy entirely, Germany closes its final remaining reactors.  Revival military leaders have brought Sudan to the brink of civil war as factions of the regular army face the paramilitary rapid response force in Khartoum.  More media organizations fold as ad revenue dries up and newsrooms turn to AI to generate copy, like BuzzFeed and Vice being the two latest to declare bankruptcy and curtail operations.  Comedian and creator of Dame Edna Barry Humphries has passed away, aged 89.  Civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte dies, aged 96.  Joe Biden declares his party’s candidacy for a second term for president of the United States.

may: Gordon Lightfoot, folk legend, dies, aged 84.  The WHO declares the global COVID-19 health emergency over.  Charles III and Camilla are enthroned during a lavish ceremony in London.  A jury finds Donald Trump guilty on the charge of sexual abuse and battery, labelling him a predator and pest.  Elon Musk appoints a former television advertising executive as head of Twitter as he announces plans to transform the ailing social network into a multi-purpose app similar to China’s WeChat.  Harry and Meghan are recklessly pursued by paparazzi in New York—with strong echoes of the death of his mum’s fatal encounter.  China begins to call in loans to some of the world’s most impoverished countries after making them dependent on cheap credit.  Tina Turner passed away peacefully, aged 83, in her home outside of Zurich—Simply the Best.  Florida governor Ron DeSantis announces his presidential candidacy on Twitter.

june: The death toll of a catastrophic train crash in India approaches three hundred with countless more injured.  After months of drama and tension, the US raises its debt ceiling to avoid default.  A dam breach, blamed on Russia, causes massive flooding along the Dnipro river and forces tens of thousands to
evacuate.  Astrud Gilberto, the Queen of Bossa Nova, and original singer of the infinitely covered ‘Girl from Ipanema,’ has passed away, aged 83.  Wildfires rage in Canada, smoke enveloping the Eastern Seaboard.  The awaited Ukraine counteroffensive begins.  Four children who survived an airplane crash in the jungles are Columbia are found alive having survived the forty day ordeal.  Donald Trump is indicted on federal charges for retention of classified documents imperilling US national security. Boris Johnson quits Parliament ahead of an official rebuke from the House of Commons over Partygate. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber and CIA UK Ultra test subject, is dead, aged 81.  Media tycoon and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi passes away, aged 86.  NATO holds large scale military exercises in Germany.  The whistleblower and leaker behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, passes away, aged 92.  A submersible taking a compliment of five tourist to the wreck of the Titanic is lost.  Mercenary Wagner Group turns critical of the invasion of Ukraine and stages a mutiny after announced take-over by the Russian defence ministry, occupying Rostov-on-Don and proposing a march on Moscow, reaching half-way to the capital before a truce is negotiated by the Belarusian president.  France riots over the death of a teenager after being shot by a police officer.  US Supreme Court overturns affirmative action in college admissions, student loan forgiveness and LGBTQI+ anti-discrimination laws, though at least on the last case, it looks as if evidence was fabricated.  

july: Joseph Pedott, marketing virtuoso, passed away, aged 91.  Israel conducts a major military raid into a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin.  Despite warnings from humanitarians and a ban in place for their use by over a hundred countries, the US is sending surplus cluster-bombs from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts to Ukraine.  Catastrophic flooding devastates Vermont and other parts of New England.  Hollywood’s Screen Actors Guild joins the writers’ strike.  Jane Birkin, singer, activist and French icon, dies aged 76.  Crooner Tony Bennett passes away, aged 96.  After months of media hype and anticipation, the Barbieheimer phenomenon comes to cinemas.  Singer Sinรฉad O’Connor has died, aged 56—nothing compares 2 u.  Hunter Biden appears before court on charges of tax evasion and illegal gun-ownership, days after boudoir photos of him enter the congressional record, possibly in violation of laws against revenge porn. The Nigeria government falls to a military coup d’etat with the president taken into custody.  Paul Reubens, the actor who portrayed Pee-Wee Herman, passed away aged 70, after a private bout with cancer.  Voyager 2 after two weeks of radio silence has re-established contact with Earth.

august: Donald Trump is indicted for his role in fanning the flames that culminated in the January Sixth raid on the Capitol and attempts to over turn the 2020 election.  Wildfires devastate the Hawaiian island of Maui and the town of Yellowknife is evacuated as forests are engulfed in Canada.  A rare hurricane, the first in eighty years, passes over Baja California, causing flooding and heavy rains, a year’s worth in a single day.  Ex-Wagner chief and senior leadership perish in an airplane crash.  Indian lands a probe at the lunar south pole.  Trump is arrested, booked and released on bail after in Fulton County Georgia.  Long-time US game show host Bob Barker dies, aged 99 (playing by Price-is-Right rules until the end).  An unprecedented hurricane strikes Florida’s Big Bend region between the panhandle and peninsula.  “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett passes away, aged 76.

september: Drought and wildfires are followed by flooding in Greece. An earthquake strikes the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, killing hundreds and destroying parts of Marrakesh.  Rupert Murdoch steps down from News Corp.  Fighting erupts in Nagorno-Karabakh, the breakaway region of Azerbaijan. After more than five months, the Hollywood Writers’ Guild reaches a deal with the studio and ends its strike.  In solidarity with striking autoworkers, US president Joe Biden joins the picket line, the first for a sitting holder of the high office.  As counter-programming to the second Republican debate, Trump also makes an appearance with union workers.

october: Hamas and other terror groups launch a surprise attack on Israel, causing Tel Aviv to declare war against Gaza with thousands killed on both sides.  Earthquakes in Afghanistan leaves over a thousand dead.  An eastern Pacific tropical cyclone devastates Acapulco with hundreds killed and many more displaced. 

november: Three-hundred thousand marched for peace in Palestine through London during Armistice Day celebrations after earlier rallies drawing in huge numbers to urge Israel enact a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.  Pope Francis dismisses an ultra conservative bishop in Texas who criticised the pontiff's more progressive stance on non-gender-conforming members of the Church. OpenAI’s board of directors have ousted founder and CEO Sam Altman, the chief representative of the chatbot revolution and proponent for regulatory framework, for his lack of candour and transparency.  Microsoft immediately hired Altman and fellow defectors.  Humanitarian and former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter passes away.  Rightwing populist Geert Wilders wins a controlling share of the Netherlands’ parliament. A temporary cease-fire is called in Gaza to allow the release of hostages and more humanitarian aid to enter the beleaguered city.  Henry Kissinger dead at one-hundred.

december: Fabulist and fraudster George Santos expelled from the US congress.  Israel renews attacks on Palestine after a temporary truce. Legendary television producer Norman Lear passes away at 101. Israeli forces extend attacks in southern Gaza, where many fled to avoid the violence.  Ousted US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy tenders his retirement from Congress, leaving the Republicans a controlling majority of only two seats.  The EU enacts the world’s first comprehensive AI regulatory framework.  A volcanic eruption occurs on the Icelandic Reykjanes peninsula with Sundhnรบkagรญgar dumping lava and prompting evacuations.  Trump confidant and former New York City mayor Rudi Guliani declares bankrupcy after being ordered to pay nearly one hundred-fifty million dollars in restitution for libelling Georgia election workers.  Houthi pirates attacking cargo ships in the Red Sea cause transportation to round the Cape of Good Hope.  A mass shooting in Prague leaves fifteen individuals dead.  Missing Russian opposition figure Alexei Nalvalny emerges, detained in a penal colony above the Arctic Circle.  A heavy barrage of missiles hit Kyiv as US financial and materiel backing driess up.Veteran German parliamentarian Wolfgang Schรคuble passes away, aged 81.  Jacques Delors, statesman who helped shaped the European Union dead at 98.  Entertainer Tommy Smothers dies at 86.  Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues, with the death toll of civilians surpassing twenty-thousand.

Friday 21 July 2023

7x7 (10. 897)

equity: UK’s actors’ union in solidarity with American counterparts in protest

spatula city—where your thirteenth spatula is free: the Weird Al Yankovic (previously) tribute to public-access television premiered this day in 1989—via our faithful chronicler 

litli-hrรบtur: Icelandic volcano watch  

magical mystery tour: revisiting the ‘lost’ Ashram of the Beatles in the Himalayan foothills

american songbook: Tony Bennett, crooner, Nazi hunter, civil rights champion, RIP—via Super Punch

barbie once commanded the stage with the rockers—now, the last thing she wanted to do was talk: channelling Ernest Hemingway on his birthday to narrate modern happenings  

watership down: disturbing film adaptation given a PG rating after forty-five years of indelible nightmares

  synchronoptica 

one year ago: a concert to commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall plus more adventures in Scotland

two years ago: the experimental nuclear cruise ship NS Savanna, the Scopes Monkey Trial plus Sweden’s Bohus Fortress

three years ago: more on The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World plus some scream therapy in Iceland

four years ago: Japan’s broadcast daily constitutional

Wednesday 28 June 2023

10x10 (10. 840)

⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️ ⚫️: Neal Fun’s (previously) infuriating password game  

ceiling cat: the European Souther Observatory in the Chilean mountains discovered a feline nebula

bad odds: wagering on climate change to bring the danger and risk to present and personal 

backstage: newsletters (from 1962 to 1980) published for Disneyland crew members, scanned in full—via Super Punch  

homage to magritte: a 1974 tribute in five vignettes to the Surrealist artist 

independent legislature theory: US Supreme Court strikes down suit that would cut checks and balances and judicial review of laws passed 

monkey bars: the first jungle gym (see previously) was built in hopes of teaching children about three-dimensional space and Cartesian coordinates 

magma: mining volcanoes could provide a more ecologically-friendly way to extract metals  

power of ten: NASA’s coding commandments focused on testability, readability and predictability that keeps critical systems safe and running in outer space  

goodnight phone: an interactive web comic for our shared present—via tmn

synchronoptica 

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus a surprise session of the January Sixth hearings on the US Capitol Insurrections

two years ago: body language, the UN International Criminal Court (1993), Miss Continuous Towel and other spokesmodels plus Pitman shorthand

three years ago: a corporate typeface, a performative masculine simulator game, Martian meteors plus cataloguing one’s possessions

four years ago: the Stonewall Riots (1969), surveying Titan plus bringing back the chestnut tree

five years ago: Paul Simon on Sesame Street, silent cooking videos, assorted links to revisit plus combating fake product reviews

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

pangaea

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

6x6

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

novarupta

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

maulwurf

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.