Wednesday 13 December 2023

7x7 (11. 186)

itsy-bitsy: a performance on the SpiderHarp, a large scale model originally developed to study vibrations and triangulation on a web  

origin story: how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer began as a department store promotional giveaway  

owl001: BBC hacked live on the air in 1983—see also—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

marie mathรฉmatique: the adventures of the younger sister of Barbarella, scored by Serge Gainsbourg—see more  

ggwp: the E3 gaming conference has been shuttered permanently  

the great toy robbery: an animated classic from the National Film Board of Canada 

ikea monkey: the happy life of Darwin the macaque after its moment of fame—previously

Sunday 19 November 2023

milbenkรคse (11. 126)

Strange Company directs our attention to an attempt to revive a foodway, a half a millennium old tradition that had all but died out during East German times when the government (perhaps wisely, and continues to inhabit a grey regulatory area) banned the production and distribution of live-mite food, thanks to the concerned efforts of two individuals in the village Wรผrchwitz, south of Leipzig. Also known as Spinnenkรคse, it was discovered accidentally (see also) by leaving curd (Quark) to age in a wooden box and then finding it ripened and edible, with a bit of a zesty after-taste thanks to an infestation of microscopic arachnids (Tyrophagus casei, memorial erected in 2009 in the only locality that makes it) whose bodies form the rind. It wasn’t until much later that people understood how it was being formed and apparently pairs well with beer or wine. More from Atlas Obscura at the link above.


one year ago: ASCII meme templates, the micronation Rose Island, an Egyptian surrealist movement, a word-generating bot plus vox populi out of context

two years ago: visiting Gdaล„sk

three years ago: the Arecibo radio telescope decommissioned, a sad Christmas tree plus an just passed, much anticipated wine release

four years ago: the first Monรฉgasque television station plus assorted links to revisit

five years ago: The Last Unicorn, a 3D printed architectural pavilion, the German Youth Word of the Year plus artificial flowers to help the pollinators

Monday 13 November 2023

predatoroonops (11. 117)

Via Kottke, we learn that a genus of goblin spiders native to the forests of Brazil and described in 2012 has the above taxonomical designation in honour of the 1987 movie Predator, owing to their facial resemblance to the unmasked extraterrestrial hunting party, with individual species like Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri named for the creatures, quarry and guerilla fighters.

Saturday 23 September 2023

life finds a way (11. 017)

Runner-up in the category of Urban Wildlife in the annual competition sponsored by Nature TTL, we were especially taken with this surreal image of a spider by Simone Baumeister captured from a pedestrian bridge’s railing that passes over the main intersection of Ibbenbรผren in the Mรผnsterland region using an analogue lens to diffuse the traffic lights and passing cars at night and produce a bokeh effect. Much more superlative photography at the links above.

Sunday 15 January 2023

spider web castle (10. 420)

Considered among the finest adaptations of the Scottish play with production and development deferred for six years after learning that Orson Welles directed his own Macbeth in 1948, Akira Kurosawa’s (previously) transposition of the plot of Shakespeare’s masterwork to feudal Japan (่œ˜่››ๅทฃๅŸŽ, Kumononsu-jล—literally the above title but released in English-speaking markets as Throne of Blood) premiered in Tokyo on this day in 1957. Under contract to produce three samurai movies (jidaigeki—period, costume dramas) for Toho studios, Spider Web Castle was originally slated to go to director Ishirล Honda, best known for his 1954 kaiju classic Godzilla but Kurosawa ended up making the trio of films. His 1960 The Bad Sleep Well was informed by Hamlet—though not a direct correspondence—and Kurosawa’s final work Ran, which is based off of King Lear. Throne of Blood in turn influenced Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Macbeth and the death of Taketoki Wasizu (the Lady Macbeth analogue) inspired the death of the mother of the titular Carrie in the 1976 horror classic.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

9x9 (10. 032)

iron monger: a preserved Victoria shopping alley hidden underneath an Edwardian arcade in Yorkshire  

u1ke: a constrained coding experiment from Frank Force (previously) lets you strum on a 1024 byte ukulele—via Waxy  

put a tiger in your tank: a brilliant, bizarre vintage ESSO filling-station commercial from Italy  

white-washing: researchers develop a highly radiative paint that cools the ambient air—see also  

call me ishmael: imagining a multinational coffee purveyor as other characters from Moby Dick  

carbon-negative: biogenic limestone grown by algae as a concrete substitute 

future farming: an exploration of sustainable, incidental agriculture  

transcorporeality: bug-swallowing in fiction  

spectacular vernacular ii: more architectural quirks, including witch-windows

Tuesday 4 September 2018

your friendly neighbourhood draughtsman

Everlasting Blรถrt introduces us to the amazing artwork of illustrator and author Jeffrey Veregge whose portfolio includes figures from popular culture adorned with kinetic references to Native American, specifically of the Pacific Northwest tradition of his ancestral Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, motifs.  I really like his use of negative space. Check out more of Veregge’s works at the links up top.

Monday 9 July 2018


For hundreds of years people have observed the phenomena of ballooning or kiting behaviour by small spiders that allow them to launch themselves and glide for hundreds of kilometres over land and sea, suspended aloft on gossamer leads.
Even the German term for “Indian summer,” Altweiber-sommer, references the season when the winds fill with errant webs, but for nearly as long as people have noticed this mode of transport, we learn via Dave Log, something has also struck naturalists as aerodynamically incomplete about the explanation that they were just haplessly bobbing along. Researchers, experimenting on past suppositions, are discovering that spiders are not only harnessing the wind but also electrostatic forces to take to the skies, steering their course by sensing and negotiating the Earth’s inchoate magnetic field and the discharge of lightning. 

Saturday 5 May 2018

exoskeleton and arachne

The Verge reports on an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers who are not only looking at the amazing strength and tensile properties of silk—both from silk worm cocoons (previously here and here) and spider webs—to make lighter and stronger combat gear and body armour and for internal medicine as well.
Naturally flexible and less likely to be rejected and breakdown inside the body than the screws and plates meant to hold us together while we heal, doctors could use threads of silk to stitch us up. The researchers are also experimenting with engineering silk (previously) that has disinfectant properties and materially fortifying bones with a protein (fibroin) isolated from silk.

Monday 17 August 2015

sampler or some pig

My mother shared with me this striking photo- graph of a rather inti- midating spider she spied in her garden. I’d seen such a big spider, called an argiope (silver- faced and named after a water nymph), once before, for whom a humming-bird or minnow wouldn’t be out of its weight-class (predators take on weird, liminal proportions when they’ll take on something bigger than a fly and especially with its doubled-up pouncing stance that announces it’s beyond the arthropods and in fact quadrupedal) but the web its weaved is particularly striking. I wonder whether the distinct zig-zag pattern, the signature I learnt of a male of the species, represents a kind of stitching sampler (and may well come to spell out something, like Charlotte’s Web, or suitable for framing or a throw-pillow), a repair to damage caused by some bumbling giant, or reinforcement executed with foresight. Any answer is pretty remarkable.

Sunday 18 May 2014

wild-vines or foilage

Researches in the jungles of Chile have discovered a species of ivy that has advanced chameleon-like abilities to blend into its surroundings—hitherto a trait almost exclusively reserved to select members of the animal kingdom.

Such talents were exceeding rare amongst the motile members, as well, with really only the chameleon and certain squids and octopuses able to really change their stripes to dynamically hide themselves, and in most cases, the camouflage is a fixed attribute, looking like twigs or more (or less) formidable challenges to fool predators. For the Boquila trifoliolata, when it creeps into the branches of host trees, it is able to change the size and shape of its leaves to appear as part of the tree—even if one individual growth spans across different kinds of trees, the plant will develop other leaves to match the backdrop. Botanists believe that the ability came about in order to evade leaf eating insects—trees often entering into symbiotic relationships with ants or birds to eliminate these parasites (and parasitic vines, too) or have developed their own specific toxins that make their leaves odious to a range of potential pests, and the ivy is safe in these sheltering boughs. What they do not know for sure, however, is how the vine knows how its host's leaves look to intrepid researchers or to native herbivores.

Sunday 30 March 2014


When trying to recall, with a little help, the details of a science brief we saw on the news a couple weeks ago, about an engineer whose water-collection system—an alternative to water-filtration on a mass-scale, especially for communities where access to clean water is prohibitively expensive and no one seems forthcoming—I was only looking for the name of the Onymacris unguicularis, also known as the fog-basking darkling beetle.

This clever little bug lives in the one of the most arid places on Earth but manages to survive due to a morning ritual, lifting its hinder up to the sky and collecting dew and condensation on microscopic bumps that flow down its waxy abdomen to its mouth. Scientists took a cue from the resourcefulness of Nature and designed a domed surface that harvests moisture with the same principle. The novelty was something revisited perennially, but no matter as I found some other very interesting and ingenious adaptations during the search, which are solid arguments for protecting Nature's diversity, if one needed more reason: the iridescence of butterfly wings rely on prismatic reflectors that require only ambient light, which translated into human, sedentary and unremarkable terms, could power a monitor or a television screen with virtually no electricity—or the fact that birds rarely collide with spider-webs, unlike with windows, because spiders don't want a false Red Rover moment to spoil their handiwork and create webs that are visible to a bird's spectrum while remaining invisible to manageable insects and doltish humans. Any one of Nature's hacks, however, require a measure of moderation and consideration for the consequences down the line, like what it would means to steel the water from the atmosphere before it could complete its cycle naturally.