Sunday 21 April 2024

10x10 (11. 503)

knock, knock, knock—who’s there: the authorship debate between William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson over the joke format  

charlotte braun: the untimely demise of the Peanuts’ foil to Charlie Brown 

yay, newfriend: more on the ELIZA experiment and AI paramours 

io: Juno space probe reveals a gigantic lava lake on the Jovian satellite’s surface 

he mad: Trump has to sit quietly through court proceedings 

occult chemistry: a 1908 theosophical text by Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater with diagrams by Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa 

captive market: private equity comes after US prison commissaries 

democracy dies in darkness: news media and the paywall dilemma 

the colour of pomegranates: more on Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov 

is this a red flag: the Jane Eyre edition


one year ago: more efforts to offset Labour Day plus a hitch-hiking companion on a Martian rover

two years ago: another classic from Prince (1985), the burial place of the Red Baron plus Disney and the culture wars

three years ago: the Tomorrow Show with special guest, duplexes in the Rรผhrhgebiet plus a mystery photo

four years ago: the Principality of Hutt, the founding of Rome (753 BC), a curatorial showdown, MS DOS coding, oil prices go negative, Texas exploits a crisis plus the Sabre Dance

five years ago: Easter greetings plus a return visit to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Monday 18 March 2024

insatiable birdie (11. 433)

Via Miss Cellania, we not only learn the rather elegant physics and chemistry behind those sippy bird toys but also that researchers have given it an upgrade as a device to generate energy.

Sometimes mislabeled as a perpetual motion machine, the thirsty mechanism is a heat engine, two evacuated glass bulbs linked by a tube pivot on a crosspiece and turns the temperature gradient along the body into a pressure difference that translates to the mechanism. Water evaporates from the head (usually adorned with something absorbent like felt) and lowers the temperature and pressure and causes some of the vapour in the chamber to condense (usually ether, alcohol or chloroform) and the liquid is forced up the neck, causing it to tip forward. The ambient air temperature warms the bottom bulb and causes the cycle to repeat. The toy, originally called a Pulshammer was a German invention improved by Benjamin Franklin, after seeing one in action around 1768 and illustrates the principles of capillary action, wet-bulb temperature, heat of condensation as well as several laws of thermodynamics and idea gases and with the latest modifications also demonstrates the triboelectric effect (static electricity), harnessing it to power small appliances and seems overall like a pretty good educational apparatus, provoking thought while charging.  Who knew? More technical details and a video demonstration of the prototype at the link above.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Yugoslavian fashion plus climbing Everest (1923)

two years ago: more links to enjoy, two probes passing in the night, more shibboleths plus Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appeal to the people of Russia

three years ago: RIP Yaphet Kotto, more links worth the revisit, Motown on tour (1965), mourning rings, fear of covering up plus the fashions of Birgitta Bjerke

four years ago: an iconic photograph from the battlefield (1942)

five years ago: Transit Driver Appreciation Day

Friday 8 March 2024

hycean world (11. 408)

Hosted by a red dwarf around seventy light years from Earth nestled in the southern constellation of Equuleaus Pictoris (the painter’s easel, the majority of asterims of the hemisphere named after instruments representing the Age of Enlightenment and exploration), astronomers, building on earlier observations by Hubble, are studying the outermost exoplanet, TOI-270 ฮด, of the star system with the keener eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope and are coming to the conclusion that this temperate Neptune may be a water planet—above a portmanteau of hydrogen plus ocean. Though probably much hotter than conditions we are accustomed to, the pressure of the dense atmosphere (which the JWST can effectively lens through starlight and submit to spectral-analysis) and the fact it is tidally-locked with one side forever simmering and the other cast in an unending night reveals a chemical mix of water vapour and methane, suggesting a steamy global seascape.


one year ago: Evil Empire (1983)

two years ago: assorted links to revisit 

three years ago: more links to enjoy plus a World War I flying ace

four years ago: Mars’ Peacock Mountain

five years ago: Frauentag, writer and illustrator Dick Bruna, a namer of clouds plus a Simpsons’ episode pulled from rotation

Saturday 18 November 2023

terraforming (11. 125)

Via Good Internet, we learn that AI-powered robot chemist, analysing Martian meteorites as a proxy for available materials in-situ (see previously) the Red Planet, has devised an efficient method for splitting the abundant reserves of water ice into its components—hydrogen and oxygen not only for air for potential human explorers to breathe but also for fuel—by trialing millions of molecular compounds (metallic ores bonded with those component elements are normally inert) apparently readily present in the Martian terrain to find the best catalyst to set off the reaction with the least need for extra energy to trigger the reaction and least effort of extraction. Though accomplished without human-intervention—drawing on the sum of human learning—the proposal would still need to be vetted by scientists for unintended consequences or biases for Earth gravity and weather. If proven safe and effective, maybe as an encore, the robot chemist could come up with the best way to capture and store carbon back home.


one year ago: The Mouse and his Child (1977), the first book printed in English (1477) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: bias in photo developing, the consecration of Old and New St Peter’s plus not all symbols are universal

three years ago: your daily demon: Haagenti, more medieval remixes, a Star Trek TOS fashion show plus the origin of the asterisk

four years ago: the Triadic Ballet reprised, Super Robot manga, separating texting from emails plus the Rabbrexit tapestry

five years ago: exterior walls of Japan plus a 1950s scrapbook of Moscow

Monday 23 October 2023

mol (11. 071)

As the unit of measurement for the amount of substance—proportional to the elementary entities (atoms, molecules, ions or other particles) within a volume, a way of bundling masses of into a magnitude of quantity after the conventions of a teaspoon, a dozen, a baker’s dozen or a gross so that chemical reactions, scientists can accurately express the concentration—recipe—of reactants. Despite the different natures, a mole of water (a chemical compound) and a mole of mercury (an element) have the same number of discrete particles in them—which is Avogadros’ Number, 6,022 ๏ฝ˜ 10²³ mol, six hundred two sextillion, two hundred quintillion. It’s useful to have such a normalising proxy for grasping the number of atoms in a given object. Enthusiasts and educators celebrate Mole Day on this day (US calendar conventions) from 06:02 in the morning until two after six in the evening as a way to drum up interest in chemistry and scientific literacy.


one year ago: visiting Crete 

two years ago: your daily demon: Sabnok plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: circuit judge Roy Cohn, a pretend Communist coup, more links to enjoy, the beginning of the world plus an appreciation of the colour russet

four years ago: more links worth revisiting plus more on the far future night sky

five years ago: the canals of Mars, swing sixties cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers, the first Russian rapper plus noteworthy files from the US National Records Archive

Friday 14 July 2023

๐Ÿœ‚๐Ÿœƒ๐Ÿœ๐Ÿœ„ (10. 881)

Via the always excellent Web Curios, we are referred to quite a grand and ongoing project soliciting nominees and showcasing one molecule per month, without fail, since 1996, which is not only impressive for its longevity but also for its accessible scholarship for each chemical compound. Recently showcased molecules include the alchemists’ White Phosphorus, Androstenone, the porcine pheromone that can stop dogs barking, wine lactone that gives the drink its fragrant notes and astaxanthin, the ingredient responsive for making flamingoes pink. Check it out and let us know what you’ve learned or what molecule you’d like to know more about.

Thursday 13 July 2023

ask sherloc (10. 878)

Whilst not definitive proof of past life in the form of preserved or residual biological matter, exploring the Martian Jezero crater the Perseverance rover has detected organic molecules, gaining insights about the Red Planet’s carbon cycles and the potential to host life as we know it—utilising its deep ultraviolet laser instrumentation with the title acronym for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals. The non-uniformity of these deposits—which will be sampled and hopefully returned to Earth for further study in 2030, suggests that different catalysts were in action to synthesise or metabolise these chemicals over time, preserving them under distinct conditions, possibly consistent with biological processes.  Learn more at the links above.


one year ago: a Brian Adams power ballad (1991) plus a summer research project on artificial intelligence from 1956

two years ago:  your daily demon: Aim, plus more adventures in Sweden as we drive to the Glass Realm

three years ago: assorted links to revisit plus a review of audio recording and playback formats

four years ago: remixed Gregorian chants, assorted links worth revisiting, Manhattanhenge plus artist Judith Jans Leyster

five years ago: White House recording device revealed (1973), Karlheinz Stockhausen’s musical zodiac, Trump Baby, the book cover art of Manuja Waldia plus reimagined propaganda for the current state of civil discourse

Tuesday 11 July 2023

operation sober popeye (10. 872)

Also known under the codenames Motorpool and Intermediary-Compatriot and repudiated as an unacceptable tactic in warfare after leaks in the Pentagon Papers and unwelcome press coverage with a US Senate resolution passed on this day in 1973, the military cloud-seeding program carried out from 1967 to 1972 attempted chemical modification of the weather with the aim of extending monsoon seasons and disrupting the North Vietnamese supply-chain along the Ho Chi Minh Trail by soften road surfaces and causing landslides. Operations in secret extended over Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Despite its highly classified nature, the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the unit chiefly responsible for the tests, publicly and prominently used the slogan “make mud, not war.” The American people deciding that such measures had no place on the battlefield, weather disruption falls presently under the auspices of the Environmental Modification Convention.  


one year ago: the Hollywood Bowl (1922), Avogadro’s Number (1811) plus Fischer v Spassky (1972)

two years ago: Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac (1975) plus a megalithic stone ship in Sweden

three years ago: a visit to the Ehrenburg on the Ehrbach

four years ago: a delayed release of “Space Oddity” (1969), the uncontrolled deorbit of Skylab (1979) plus France approves a digital services tax scheme

five years ago: a collection of samurai clan banners, a disclaimer on social media that comes too late, America’s garbage politicians sit for a family photos plus Trump attends a NATO summit

Thursday 8 June 2023

9x9 (10. 794)

all star festival: the 1963 charity concert sponsored by the UN for refugee aid with headliners Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and Louis Armstrong  

smoke from a distant fire: New York City’s air quality falls to the most hazardous in the world—see also  

progressive punishment: a speeding driver in the ร…land region gets a six-figure ticket  

bezold-brรผcke shift: the Sun shines green  

better living through chemistry: a glossary of manufactured terminology  

wopr: Nicolas Temese creates dioramas of miniature vintage computers—see previously  

espionage act: Trump summoned to the federal courthouse in Miami on charges of illegally retaining classified files  

cop 28: the warming weather cycle of El Niรฑo is upon us  

wall of sound: the logistics of touring that defies credulity

Friday 7 April 2023

exposome (10. 658)

We learn via the New Shelton wet/dry that the field of exposomics was coined in 2005 to describe the aetiology of chronic disease and cancers due to environmental factors and has since been expanded as a heuristic approach to gauging exposure to pollutants and how toxins are metabolised and change in the body once incorporated. Taken rather dismissively like the statistic that we swallow a fair share of spiders annually, the idea that we ingest a credit card per week of microplastics ought to be a cause for alarm and what’s inert and what’s potentially reactive and enduring is a big unknown for public health and well-being as we continue to trash our planet.

Sunday 5 February 2023

tomorrowland 2055 (10. 526)

Due to budget cuts which already limited the number of planned attractions, Disneyland reluctantly opened up its last themed land to commercial sponsorship, becoming something of a showcase of corporate America, including Dutch Boy Paint, the agrochemical giant Monsanto and its Hall of Chemistry and General Electric with its Carousel of Progress. Space Mountain was proposed initially as a functioning space port for Disney World in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral.

Sunday 8 January 2023

breaking bread (10. 399)

Published in 1903 with the express purpose of linking bakery and laboratory and advocate for the miller the downstream supply-chain, Owen Simmons, FCS (Fellow of the Chemical Society) ensures that the science that goes into loaves and biscuits is not taken for granted with the rather costly tribute in the form of one of the first photobooks—a deluxe edition that spared no expense in detailing and documenting the fusion of techniques, with exacting instructions, to make the perfect slice. More from Public Domain Review at the link above.

Friday 2 December 2022

al taglio (10. 356)

Via Web Curios, we appreciated the referral to Planet Pizza, a Pioneer or Voyager space probe style project to impart to extraterrestrials not only the the basic concepts of maths, space-time coordinates of our Solar System, chemistry and the nature of the sender (and recipient) but also—as an express end in itself—wonderfully detailed and over-thought set of instructions on how to make said sender’s universally enjoyed dish, which is a bit defining and representative of all humanity in its variety and variation as well.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

innerspace (10. 307)

Designed by astrophysicist Frank Drake (see previously) with input from Carl Sagan and others as a proof-of-concept demonstration rather than an attempt to enter into to dialogue with extra-terrestrials and criticised as being too low-resolution to be recognisable to future recipients, the Arecibo Message (see also here and here) was beamed from the radio observatory in Puerto Rico on this date in 1974, aimed in the direction of the globular star cluster M13, some twenty-five thousand light-years from Earth. When encoded graphically, the some sixteen hundred bits of data produce the pictured image with seven elements, from top to bottom: the decimal system, the valance of the elements that make up DNA, the chemical formula for the constituent nucleotides, the approximate number of said organic molecules in the human genome with representation of the double-helix structure, the average dimensions of a human male plus the Earth’s population (four billion, compared to eight billion presently), a representation of the Solar System and finally in purple, the Arecibo telescope. The precise number of bits, 1 679, is a semiprime—that is, the product of two prime numbers, seventy-three and twenty-three, to prompt one toward the right orientation, the alternate arrangement producing static. An answer came in 2001 in the form of a crop circle near the Chilbolton radio telescope in Hampshire—rather intricately replacing the carbon-based DNA with silicon and the pictogram of the human figure looks alien—though this reply was unfortunately an elaborate hoax.

Thursday 4 November 2021


Via friend of the blog par excellence Nag on the Lake, we are directed towards this interactive periodic table of the elements (previously)whose one-hundred and nineteen members are regaled with pithy,

descriptive haikus whose rules somehow reflect the trends and predictability that the heuristic tool represents. We especially liked how the role of sodium in neurochemistry is celebrated: 

Racing to trigger
every kiss, every kind act
behind ever thought. 

Visit the links above to learn more, peruse more patterned poems—especially for the obscure and fleeting—and learn how one can contribute their own.

Sunday 26 September 2021

biosphere 2

Under construction since 1987, the environmental research facility in Oracle in the US state of Arizona host to the largest closed vivarium—that is sealed ecosystem—ever built, more than a hectare in size and meant to demonstrate the viability of artificial and self-sustaining life-support systems in outer space, began its first forty-eight month mission on this day in 1991, with a crew of eight impounded under the dome. With the crew enduring oxygen deprivation and near starvation over the two year trial and not all biomes that were to represent the different regions of Spaceship Earth thriving plus pests, lessons were learned and changes implemented, although by the time the second mission was to commence, there was vicious fighting amongst the project managers and accusations of bad science and bad methodology, including the engagement of Steve Bannon who put the programme into receivership incorporated under the name Space Biosphere Ventures. All this took place outside of the framework of competitive reality television and the era of business sectarianism. Since 2007, Biosphere 2 has been owned and operated by the University of Arizona, conducting experiments in atmospheric research, soil geochemistry and climate change and holding special week-long space-camps for students.

Sunday 29 August 2021


First synthesised on this day in 1982 at the Darmstadt Institute for Heavy Ion Research (GIS, Gesellschaft fรผr Schwerionforschung) the synthetic meitnerium (Mt) was given the above provisional designation following Grigory Mendeleev’s nomenclature for undiscovered atomic elements—the convention becoming a placeholder shortly before its discovery with the controversy over the honours and naming-system being overhauled.
The research-team wanted to recognise the previously overlooked contributions of physicist Lise Meitner for her pioneering work in nuclear fission and her co-discovery of the element protactinium with Otto Hahn. Curium being named for both Pierre and Marie Curie, meitnerium is the only element named for a non-mythological woman. Because of its half-life of mere seconds even in the most stable isotope, few of its chemical properties are known though study continues, and its periodic neighbours, hassium and darmstadtium, are both named for the above laboratory.

Thursday 22 October 2020

scarlet gn

The above compound also known as Red Dye Number 4 (E number, European standard, E125—that’s a strange tale too) was banned for use in all foodstuffs or ingestibles—still used in cosmetics, by the US Food and Drug Administration when the chemical was found have carcinogenic properties including horrendously causing tumours in the bladders of dogs. Formerly cocktail maraschino cherries were exempt with the rationale that they were mostly decorative and not to be eaten.  There are now safe alternative but red-colouring is mostly avoided by association.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

kardashev scale

From Kottke’s Quick Links, we are treated to another lucid and illuminating vignette from Kurzgesagt on anthropic limitations when comes to looking for intelligent life elsewhere in the Cosmos and how energy signatures might be the one common thread of evidence, as it were, when it comes to recognising alien civilisation and looking beyond our limited and biased horizons.
Proposed in 1964 by astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev (*1932 – †2019), the eponymous scale was a way to gauge the technological state of a culture—terrestrial or otherwise—based on the amount of energy that they are able to use efficiently and to what ends. Type I can effectively harness all the light and heat energy that falls on the planet from its home star(s)—which is about four magnitudes greater than what humans generally generate mostly from fossil fuels but possibly attainable if we continue with scientific advancement. Type II would be capable of harvesting the net energy of its solar system, possibly isolating itself and obscuring its existence with a Dyson Sphere. Type III could harness the energetic output of their entire galaxy. Alternatively, mathematician John David Barrow has inverted the scale and finds greater economy in miniaturisation and what he has classified as microdimensional mastery—going from human scale construction and manipulation down to chemistry, nanotechologies, genetic manipulation, atomic tinkering and eventual alternation to the fabric of space-time.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

erbario farmaceutico

Building on a history of reference, anecdote and experimentation already established for millennia at the time of publication of this fifteenth century volume from the Veneto, we appreciated the prompt to learning more behind this category of guidebook known as the herbal (Herbarius, Erbario).
Pairing images that aid in identification with others that represented supposed pharmacological merit—as well as toxic, tonic, culinary and magical properties, extensive accompanying texts and captions inform modern ideas (but certainly do not supplant them—a feature of such collections is that they advance and improve tempered by science and scholarship but are always good to peruse for perspective and perhaps insight) of taxonomy, chemistry and medicine. Much more from Public Domain Review at the link above.