Monday 3 October 2022

7x7 (10. 191)

stanford torus: maybe if we solve Earth, we can have a little space donut as a treat—see previously

matriculation: Merriam-Webster’s Word Induction Ceremony for a class of 369 neologisms

industrial light and magic: a coming-of-age film set during the summer of Star Wars released after being shelved for twenty years—because of the prequels—via Miss Cellania  

elections matter: revisiting The Survey Graphic, February 1939 edition  

toyko build: exquisite scale models of structures and architectural elements from around the metropolis

gesprรคch einer hausschnecke mit sich selbst: a snail’s monologue in verse  

feline dynamics: the US Air Force tossed cats in zero-gravity to study its effects on human physiology—see also—via Everlasting Blรถrt

Sunday 2 October 2022

l'escargophone (10. 189)

Reportedly convincingly demonstrated to a journalist from La Presse on this day in 1851, though business partners remained sceptical and suspected a hoax, the apparatus known as the pasilalinic-sympathetic compass (la boussole pasilalinique sympathique, the snail telegraph, incredibly—see previously) was a heuristic contraption meant to take advantage of the supposed permanent telepathic link (a subtle form of animal magnetism that naturally drew in the public in parallel with the technical achievements of actual telegraphy) that mated pairs of snails form. Inventor and noted occultist Jacques-Toussaint Benoรฎt, called de l’Hรฉrault, constructed two remote scaffoldings each with one gastropod partner labelled with a letter of the alphabet, whereby the operator touched one that was supposed to cause a reaction in its corresponding mate that could be decoded by the receiver. Attempts to repeat the near successes of the first trial for the public failed and Benoรฎt promptly vanished.

Friday 1 October 2021

born to the purple

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we very much enjoyed learning about young aspiring chemist William Henry Perkin’s accidental discovery of one of the first synthetic dyes whilst trying to extract quinine, the sole treatment for malaria known to Victorian London, from coal tar—a considered a waste by-product of burning coke and coal but in reality quite useful. Purple was still very much en vogue—signalling that wearers were otherwise porphyrogenita though to harvest the mollusks that were its natural source, the Murex snail, was exceedingly hard to come (as the species was nearly driven to extinction by dint of the royal colour) by and substitutes were quick to fade and wash-out. The substance that Perkin’s experiments yielded stained fabric and appeared to be colourfast, and capitalising on tradition, originally deemed it Tyrian purple, later naming the product, the first to be marketed commercially and leading to an revolution in chemical research, to mauveine after the French term for the mallow (Malva sylvestris) wildflower.

Saturday 28 August 2021


letraset press: a collection of instant lettering dry-transfer sheets (see previously) from Coudal Partners’ Fresh Signals 

the woman who stared at the sun: the circumstance and contributions to astronomy of Hisako Koyama who helped hone our understanding of solar cycles 

a good walk spoiled: an in-depth look at how golf course exacerbate the housing shortage  

couch gag: a clever individual shares their construction of a miniature replica of the Simpsons’ purple television set that plays random episodes 

one week supply: a podcast discussing Damn Interesting’s curated links section 

the china syndrome: a super-tunnel simulator that illustrates the quickest, shortest routes to connecting points around the globe—see also  

tartu snail tower: the spiralling skyscraper in Estonia’s second city  

the art of letters: a typographical study from Mark Gowing

Friday 18 June 2021


here fishy, fishy, fishy: a tale of a talking fishing lure and sixty counts of mail fraud  

goldenrod: behind-the-scenes footage of droids C3PO and R2-D2 trying on their costumes  

plastic tracker: monitor the likely course of one’s discarded waste to the seas—see also—via Maps Mania 

discothek: a commercial photographer captured the golden age of nightclubs with all their eccentricities and exuberance  

juneteenth: America gets a new federal holiday to commemorate the end of chattel enslavement in the United States  

downfall: dรฉgringolade n. a rapidly deterioration of circumstance or position, from the French to take a sudden tumble 

foreign exchange: a beautiful animated short of grains of sand and fiat currency explores the tenuous, specious agreements that underpin capitalism and the global economy  

the most compact, neatest, cheapest, and durable reel on the market: advertising niche that distresses and antiques modern sundries

Friday 5 February 2021

don’t @ me

While the earliest known attested use is to be found in a fourteenth century translation of a Greek chronicle with the at symbol substituted for the ฮฑ of amen for unknown reasons and in commerce as a glyph representing the unit of volume and mass the arroba on the Iberian Peninsula—about two stone or twelve kilograms before signifying a going rate, despite its inclusion on most Western keyboards, it remained something of a mystery until the widespread use of the internet and social media. Traditions outside of English general ledger accounting (and in reality everyone prior to email) perceived the rather useless upper carriage key as something twee mentioned in a typo—as in Afrikaans, Dutch, Finnish, German, Macedonian and Polish where it’s a tail of a pig, puppy, cat or monkey. Astutely in Norwegian, Welsh, Korean, Esperanto, Italian, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Belarusian it is the word for snail, whereas in Catalan, Hebrew, Swedish and Slovak it is the word for a pastry roll. Though informal stylings probably prevail, in the Kazakh language, @ is officially called ะฐะนา›าฑะปะฐา›—that is, the Moon’s Ear.

Thursday 14 January 2021

escargotic commotion

Parallel to the introduction of the telegraph, people were eager to find alternatives that overcame the obstacles of time and tide and one such device was found in the pasilalinic (all prattling) sympathetic compass, build to test the hypothesis in the 1850s that snails formed a psychic bond after mating (see also here and here) by Jacques-Toussaint Benoรฎt de l’Hรฉrault. It was hoped that this supposed telekinetic connection could be used to send messages instantaneously.

Monday 28 December 2020


Previously we’ve covered this exciting find in the ruins of Pompeii suggesting a well-preserved snack bar, and appreciated the update regarding the excavation and research into this Roman fast food franchisee. Such stalls (from the Greek ฮธฮตฯฮผฮฟฯ€ฯŽฮปฮนฮฟฮฝ for “a place where something hot is sold” but colloquially known also as popina, caupona or hospitium) were common all over the Empire but this discovery represents the first complete short-order diner uncovered and is yielding insights into the dining habits and diets of the patrons from two millennia ago. Preliminary analysis shows that pig, duck, fish and snail were among the menu items.

Monday 1 June 2020


Though less well attested and possibly uncommon, there’s a type of seasonal animal dormancy that’s the corollary to hibernation. From the Latin for summer, รฆstivation is a state of torpor that some organisms enter—both terrestrial and aquatic—to protect themselves from overheating or desiccation. I’ve sometimes noticed snails scale fence posts or nest in crowns of flowers (that are the remains of an earlier season of growth themselves) along with other insects, apparently รฆstivating it seems, but the slumber is a relatively light one and easy to raise from.

Monday 21 May 2018

going native, going naรฏve

In a surprising experimental set-up that could possibly pose a challenge—and surely many nuances—to the commonly-held theory that memories and learned behaviour resides in the strength of the synapses (sort of a non-space, a gap when one thinks about it), researchers found that non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) transplanted from an acclimated snail to a non-acclimated, naรฏve snail can seemingly carry and impart training from one to the other.
Long term memories may have an epigenetic—the way the expressions of genes are regulated—component to them, while many are sceptical of the experiments claims, which makes sense to a degree on a chemical level as the transplanted RNA would be primed to encode for a stress-reaction and maybe such primal responses are meant to be contagious and empathetic regardless of direct exposure. No snails were harmed in this experiment but the technique and theory behind it references the research conducted by biologist and animal psychologist James V McConnell in the 1950s and 1960s in which flatworms were trained to solve a maze and then fed to untrained individuals who seemed to take on the knowledge and experience of those they’d just incorporated. Made into fodder for speculative fiction, McConnell’s unorthodox beliefs in the nature and fungibility of memory also made him on the targets of the Unabomber in the mid-1980s, surviving the attack but suffering hearing-loss.

Thursday 10 November 2016


Some weeks ago BBC Radio 4 featured the story of a lovelorn snail called Jeremy who because of a rare, one-in-a-million genetic mutation is coiled anti-clockwise and could never find a mate, being that the general population is right-handed.
The question of compatibility, however, does not come down to a matter of handedness and dominance we see in human dexterity—though this match-making is a tool for studying aspects of it, and is more akin (if parallels are appropriate) to the exceeding rare but viable mutation where some people have their hearts on their right sides: Jeremy’s sexual organs have the wrong orientation and would only work with another like him. This rare state however does not require extensive anatomical examination and is easily recognised by an attentive eye by the way the spiral of the shell radiates, clockwise or counter. The radio appeal, despite the odds, netted two potential suitors or sires for Jeremy (all snails being hermaphroditic and beyond gendered labels) one found by a snail-fancier (a conchologist) not far from the Nottingham labs where Jeremy was kept called Lefty, who’ve had their initial date. Jeremy’s other potential partner—yet unnamed and seemingly held in reserve, was rescued from the frying pan by a keen-eyed sous-chef in Mallorca and given that your garden variety snail is rather polyamorous, and they are scheduled to meet up at a later date.

Sunday 22 February 2015

blast me barnacles

Possibly surpassing spiders’ silk for its tensile strength, biologists may have discovered a new candidate for a new class of more efficient and durable housings and casings in the humble but unmoveable but not immoblie limpet.

This sea-snail has evolved a rasping, conveyor-belt type of tongue called a radula in order to graze on the rough surfaces of inter-tidal rocks, plus to keep it in place whilst being bashed by waves or pried at by predators. Researchers found out that what’s preventing the snail’s drill-bit “teeth” from being ground away is that the creature’s chemistry incorporates nanoscopic fibres of a mineral called goethite, named after that Goethe, who was also an attested rock-hound, having assembled the largest collection in Europe. Such refinement was unexpected and is inspiring.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

conservation of energy or green-washing

Alexander Neubacher, writing for Der Spiegel’s international section (auf Englisch), presents a clever look at trenchant German environmental policies and psyche, suggesting that outcomes are sometimes marginalized for the sake of the movement and solidarity. Though I do believe that many ecological initiatives of Germany and the inchoate care and concern for the planet’s health are positive, like indoctrinating everyone at an early age to develop sustainable practices, wind- and solar-power and preservation of natural habitats, it is interesting to explore how some aspects of environmentalism, in practice, have perhaps become counterproductive and have been victimized by their own success.

Some of the more convoluted efforts, with no net gain or possibly a negative impact, seem more there to uphold the laws of thermo-dynamics (that neither energy nor matter can be created or destroyed) rather than help the ecosystem. The article addresses two of the biggest perversions, bio-fuel—ethanol, which takes the incentive away from farmers to raise food crops and practice traditional methods of sustainability, like crop-rotation, and must be harvested with diesel burning tractors—and energy-saving light-bulbs—which are poisonous and have the potential to make one as mad as a hatter and are a nightmare to dispose of, but there are other unintended consequences welling up from the best intentions no longer so well managed. The deposit programme (Pfand) on single-use containers has led to a reduction on truly reusable containers, extreme water-conservation has left the sewer systems of larger cities clogged up and extra water must be used just to flush it all away, abandoning nuclear energy only to import the shortfall from neighbours, the latest craze of insulation does save on heating and cooling but the siding suffocates homes and offices and promotes growth of mould. Germany is a model for environmental activism and stewardship, and no one should be discouraged by the estrangement of policy from outcomes but rather work within that same framework of recycling, conservation and improving efficiency towards a better means of execution.