Monday 15 April 2024

wunderzeichen (11. 490)

We quite enjoyed pursuing this collection of sixteenth century German woodcuts cataloguing ominous signs in the heavens, the unexplained and inexplicable occurring with enough frequency to create a carve-out—and still does—parallel to the nascent publishing industry for special bound editions of pamphlets and broadsheets circulated on the topic, “wonder books” as sort of a personal log to curate, update and hand down of the phenomena, preserving an otherwise ephemeral record of strange occurrences happening too often to otherwise commit to the historical record, sightings and encounters spurred on by sightings and sermonising speculation that was also propelled by the printing-press. Much more from Public Domain Review at the link up top.

Monday 8 April 2024

penumbra (11. 477)

Visible for totality in a narrow corridor of the Pacific Ocean, as North America is watching the skies, when the shadow of the Moon’s ascending node (where the orbit of the satellite intersects the plane of the solar ecliptic from our perspective) obscured the Sun, crossing the international dateline and beginning on the ninth and ending on this day in 1995, this relatively rare hybrid eclipse with phases of the complete and the annular (when the lunar disc does not quite obscure the sun) as it progressed across the globe. Observers in extreme northwestern South American, Central America and the Caribbean were afforded near totality.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

ltc (11. 465)

Underscoring the need for synchronised communication for astronauts and orbiting satellites with terrestrial counterparts, the Biden administration has directed NASA in conjunction with other federal and international authorities to develop a standard of time for the Moon (Coordinated Lunar Time, like UTC) and other celestial bodies by 2026, coinciding with Artemis. First proposed by the European Space Agency last year, presently activities on the Earth’s satellite are coordinated based on the launch site and headquarters—for instance, the Apollo expeditions were on US central time with Houston’s Mission Control and Chang’e were on the Chinese time zone, ironic considering how lunar cycles have set time on Earth since we began reckoning. Gravity affects the passage of time relative to Earth and the shifting discrepancies could lead to mapping and ranging errors, with America hoping to establish a benchmark for all space-faring operations to adopt as more venture outward.

Thursday 29 February 2024

prime directive (11. 389)

Supposedly using his foreknowledge of a lunar eclipse that night, Christopher Columbus (previously) on this day in 1504 frightens a group of hostile Jamaican natives. The ominous but not singular celestial was predicted by astronomer Regiomontanus, where the Moon passes through the umbra of the Earth turning shades of orange and red, enough to rattle superstitious sailors, and reportedly Columbus hoped to convince the caciques, the group’s leaders, of his supernatural prowess and threaten them divine retribution from their Christian god if they didn’t agree to barter for supplies, the crew facing starvation without their help. Cowering in fear once the eclipse started, so the account goes, Columbus fabulistically forgave them their indigence and restored the Moon, promising that they would be spared pestilence and failed crops.

Saturday 17 February 2024

selenology (11. 356)

From the Amusing Planet’s archives, we are directed towards the 1874 work of engineer and hobbyist astronomer and photographer James Nasmyth of Edinburgh through his speculate volume on lunar geology called The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, a compendium of research and observations, supplemented by a number of highly detailed photographic plates produced during a time when it was not technically possible to take such striking images directly through a telescope. Instead, Nasmyth improvised by making sketches from what he could see through his self-made observatory and transforming them into plaster relief scale models and photographing those under electric illumination to highlight the shadows and contours of his topographic globes. This work carried out after retirement from heavy industry, having invented the hydraulic press and the steam hammer and other machine tools, an impact crater (he had incorrectly theorised volcanic origins, though later research confirms lava flows) on the Moon is named in honour of Nasmyth himself, just to the west of the pictured Wargentin, for his lifetime of accomplishments.

Friday 9 February 2024

zoozve (11. 335)

This is an excellent constellation about how our Cosmos is appearing much harder to classify than at first glance, language and definitions and the predictability and reproducibility of familiar models—even in our own backyard—which Kottke invites us to contemplate in a podcast from Radiolab about a mystery on a child’s poster of the Solar System.  Better than a just-so story, it reminds us of the fictive hamlet of Agloe, New York, sort of a trap-street, that became a real settlement then vanished again. The companion satellite labelled for Mercury (a moonless planet as we learn in school) seemed to be sloppy work coming from NASA (the poster’s publishers)—or a bit whimsy—but meriting further investigation yielded some dead ends, googlewhacks or less, but eventually led to the discoverer of the quasi-moon, with the designation for the year of its finding 2002 VE68, the captured asteroid and the first found of its kind (see also) since renamed. Much more at the link up top.

Thursday 18 January 2024

7x7 (11. 278)

you are not a product: the demise of the social network Ello’s ambitions  

right: US to UK export Word of the Year—see previously  

mystic pizza: a new popular regional style from the US state of Connecticut  

arbustum: ancient Roman wine-growing techniques and forest agriculture may help battle modern climate change  

sora-q: Japanese space agency is poised to land a transforming robot on the Moon  

gloogo: a lexicon of words that don’t exist yet but should (see also) from Burgess Unabridged—the source of the term blurb  

๐„: time spent pausing is a worthwhile pursuit—see also on the fermata

Friday 29 December 2023

7x7 (11. 221)

pivot point: this year and the next will be judged as humanity’s failure to tackle the climate crisis  

fact check: a selection of debunked fake news from the past year  

sears & roebuck: through to 1971, a US department commissioned Vincent Price to assemble a collection of fine art to be sold in stores  

chronophoto: a challenge similar to GeoGuessr except one has to date an image on the map 

 ๐Ÿพ: the natural wonder material returning to the Moon and beyond 

jealousy list: articles that Bloomberg contributors wish they had scooped—see previously  

1%: the world population will stand at eight billion on the new year


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: 2021 in review

three years ago: 2020 in review, Brexit on tech plus cleaning up space junk

four years ago: the legacy of Thomas Beckett, nanotechology, a visit to a bunker museum plus flat-earther and other science denialism

five years ago: the Fifth Day of Christmaslong-lived trees, dinosaurs of the year plus the competition to host Amazon’s second headquarters

Tuesday 29 August 2023

7x7 (10. 970)

pagerank: Google has lost the quarter-century battle over overindexing versus useful search results—via Waxy  

1 346 000/km²: a tour of what was once the most densely populated area in the world, a largely ungoverned Chinese exclave within the territory of Hong Kong—see previously here and here  

corner suite: a visit to a unique corporate headquarters in Czechia with an office in an elevator—see previously 

lunar codex: an archive and time capsule of human creativity launched to the Moon—see also  

motor overflow: sticking out our tongues during complicated manual tasks reveal truths about our brains’ connections—via Damn Interesting  

gone to pasture: an abandoned luxury development in China overtaken by farmers and livestock—via Messy Nessy Chic

cryogenics: Wordpress offers to archive one’s digital estate for a century


one year ago: another MST3K classic plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the chemical element meitnerium, the founding of Greenland, white-winged doves and saguaro cactuses plus introducing Nirvana (1991) 

three years ago: mystic Manly Palmer Hall, Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn, inventor Otis Frank Boykin, liturgical cheese plus Netflix (1997)

five years ago: Trump lashes out against perceived social media bias against him plus Keith Houston on the history of emoji

Friday 25 August 2023

the secret of the selenites (10. 964)

The first of a series of six articles published on this day in 1835 by the New York newspaper The Sun, blatantly plagiarised from a short story from Edgar Allen Poe began just a month prior in a literary journal though further instalments were pre-empted by the appearance of this series about a voyage to the lunar surface in a balloon, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall (lifting some of the tropes in turn from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), what became subsequently known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” rather libellously attributed to Sir Jon Herschel, one the great astronomers of the day, caused a not insignificant bump in circulation with its account on observations that revealed various selenographic features with terrestrial analogues and the existence of flora and fauna and lunarians—bat-winged humanoids described as “Vespertilio-homo.” Further studies were called off when the magnifying power of the telescope caught a glimpse of the sun’s rays and burned down the observatory. Herschel found the stories exciting and aspiration at first but became annoyed with the press coverage once people started to take it seriously.

Saturday 19 August 2023

8x8 (10. 951)

egress: the oldest door in Britain, a side-entrance to Westminister Abbey—via Strange Company  

hold on to my fur: another collaboration with the Kiffness—this time with a talkative orange cat from China  

isokon estate: Lawn Road Flats housed those displaced by WWII and its share of espionage  

i want to believe: vintage UFO photos taken by Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier in Switzerland in the mid-70s made iconic when featured on the X-Files up for auction—via Things Magazine 

meow-practise: a limited-run series in the tradition of American day-time soap opera classics like General Hospital and All My Children but with a feline twist   

countdown: both Russia and India have Moon missions next week with the goal of being the first to reach the lunar south pole—via Super Punch  

no dark sarcasm in the classroom: impressively, researchers recreate Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” by analysing listeners’ brain scans but we wonder—like in the above duet—there isn’t an element of backmasking and suggestion—via Kottke  

ingress: the oldest known cat door at Exeter Cathedra


one year ago: the daguerrotype process is gifted to the world (1839) 

two years ago: the Ninety-Five Theses as an email, the Treaty of Rawalpindi (1919) plus the Lithuanian sun goddess

three years ago: the launch of Sputnik 2 (1960) plus the album cover art of Milton Glaser

four years ago: more Brexit omnishambles plus the Pan-European Picnic of 1989

five years ago: assorted links to revisit

Saturday 10 June 2023

8x8 (10. 799)

within the wok’s embrace, the dance begins, as secrets blend with savoury sins: Scott D Seligman asked ChatGPT for a pad thai recipe in the style of Emily Dickinson and got an epic 

dockhands: the latest line from Faith O’Hare is inspired by the workwear of the shipyards of the Cylde

hongmeng project: China’s space agency is placing a ring of telescopes in orbit around the Moon to explore the cosmic Dark Age just after the Big Bang  

take care now: inclusive Pride post by Cracker Barrel provokes conservative fury over the loss of this family-friendly bastion—see previously 

reference material: Ars Technica contributor Benj Edwards purchased a copy of the only encyclopaedia still in print  

supergranulation: Parker probe exploring the Sun offers science clues on the origin of solar wind 

blitz kids: a celebration of the fashion of Gary Kemp and Spandau Ballet—previously here and here

 expandart: B3ta community teaching AI how to think beyond the frame—see previously—via Waxy

Sunday 28 May 2023

path of totality (10. 774)

Hailed by Isaac Asimov and others as the singular advent of science though some doubts persist to the accuracy of the claims of having forecasted the event in advance and what method was used, the 585 BC solar eclipse over Anatolia predicted by Thales of Miletus (the first philosopher to have broke with the tradition of mythology as a explanation for the state of the Cosmos, used deductive reasoning, proposed navigating by the stars and credited with the maxim “Know Thyself” as well as being a shrewd entrepreneur, having bought up all the olive presses in his archontes ahead of what was a very good harvest) that occurred on this day is a cardinal date used for triangulating other historical events, and, if true, is the earliest instance known of such an advanced vaticination. The announced event happened during a skirmish in the protracted war between the Medes and the Lydians, under the leadership of Cyaxares and Alyattes respectively, at Halys—the river bordering the two kingdoms, with the belligerents taking it as an omen to call a truce, though Miletus had no dog in this fight. Though astronomical knowledge at this point in history was not sufficiently advanced to know that the shadow of the Moon caused eclipses (not an avowed flat-earther, he provisionally believed that the continents floated on an infinite ocean under the dome of the firmament until a better idea came along)—that would come a century later—it is speculated that Miletus had noticed patterns in the periodicity, known to the Babylonians and programmed into the Antikythera Mechanism.

Wednesday 3 May 2023

but that that learn these letters fair, shall have a coach to take the air (10. 715)

Written by Irene Zacks and illustrated by Peter P Plasencia (previously and with another mission out of this world), we thought that this 1964 “Space Alphabet” was pretty keen and inspiring although we wonder why the authors went a bit dark with “M is for the Moon—a dead, dead world” and took exception with “U”—our United States as seen from outer space—instead of going for something existential like Universe. This abecedarium otherwise still holds up.  What topics would you include on your adventure?

Thursday 30 March 2023

8x8 (10. 645)

maximum fun: Jessie Thorn is turning the podcast network into a worker-owned cooperative  

gearing-ratio: a nifty explainer on the physics of riding a bike—via Waxy  

glass-bead game: fascinating insights into the lunar water-cycle and stellar mist—see also 

stop making sense: David Byrne on his Big Suit  

retrotopia: Berlin’s Kunst-gewer-bemuseum explores Socialist design—see previously here and here  

sit up & listen: a Thames Television station closedown (see also) routine  

the panopticon effect: 99% Invisible explores the nineteenth century prison of Breda—see also

Tuesday 21 March 2023

goodwill sample displays (10. 626)

Reversing his tone from a wide-ranging and contentious press conference delivered five days before that forbid the Federal Bureau of Investigations from turning over its findings to a special congressional committee investigating the Watergate burglary and threatened to re-enter the Vietnam War and eliciting such a negative public response that a law was passed prohibiting the US from engaging in conflict in Indochina without the approval of Congress, Richard Nixon on this day in 1973 distributed fragments of lunar rocks to the fifty states of American and every country of the world collected during the final Apollo mission. Presented on wooden plaques with a miniture flag that went into the orbit around the Moon and back, each gift (see also) included a message of peace, acknowledging that the exploration of our satellite was an international effort and than humankind could surely achieve harmony on Earth.

Sunday 26 February 2023

8x8 (10. 575)

of bunkers and bridges: the government fall-out shelter behind Reykjavรญk’s Bรบstaรฐakirkja 

the outfit says soundgarden, and the zine says bikini kill but the bedroom set definite says chemical brothers: the new historical American Girl Doll is from the 90s  

hobbyist for hire: a tribute to the amateurs that inform so much of our professional base knowledge 

tiger by the tail: exploring the forgotten history of the big cat on the edges of Hong Kong  

a project for a metropole: the impossible, monumental architecture proposed eighteenth century influencer ร‰tienne-Louis Boullรฉe—see also 

ahh ridiculous: the 1960 space exploration film 12 to the Moon, with an international crew, which also received the MST3K send-up 

internyet: a look inside the obscure Russian agency charged with censoring the web

Saturday 11 February 2023

7x7 (10. 541)

sky survey: a massive, high resolution picture of the Milky Way with three billion distinct objects  

pachyderm prototype: presenting the Platybelodon—see also

braggoscope: using machine learning to create affiliative indices of the extensive archives of BBC4’s In Our Time with Melvin Bragg—via Web Curios 

hobohemian: a primer for Tramp Art  

book renewal: the New York Public Library has found that the majority of literature published prior to 1964 may already be in the public domain—via Kottke 

opuntia: invasive cacti are spreading in the Swiss Alps  

stardust to dust: researchers propose kicking up lunar debris to create a sunshade and cool the Earth—see also

Monday 30 January 2023

7x7 (10. 510)

loft apartment: a unique flat inside St Louis’ City Museum up for rent—via Miss Cellania  

relaxed minimalism: a happy medium combining clarity and comfort  

namensverbreitungskarte: an interactive maps illustrating the distribution of surnames in Germany  

nocebo: even when the patient is aware of taking an inert pill, a substance designed with no therapeutic value can lessen feelings of guilt and loathing—via the new shelton wet/dry  

synodic and sidereal: the question of lunar standard time is a challenge—particularly with multiple missions operating at once—via jwz 

kurashi: tidying guru Marie Kondo have accepted messiness after the arrival of her third child  

arragon mooar: the purportedly the most complicated home ever built—by inventor John C Taylor—on the market—via Things Magazine

Wednesday 14 December 2022

6x6 (10. 384)

strife wins out: ๆˆฆ (ikusa, tatakau meaning war) is voted kanji of 2022—previously, see also—via Language Log  

dunston checks in: Poseidon’s Underworld reviews the 1996 comedic film starring Jason Alexander, Paul Reubens, Rupert Everett and Faye Dunaway  

hearth and home: more animated Yule Log loops—see previously—via Waxy 

twitterpated: a survey of possible dinosaur vocalisations  

mission highlights: arresting imagery from Artemis I—see also 

diwhy and regretsy: a collection of jargon and slang terms from the crafting community