30 April 2012

Leptocephalus


I posted a video of this amazing creature last year, but this still photo emphasizes how truly transparent they are.  Even the bones and digestive tract are virtually invisible.

Via the Mie Prefecture Fisheries Institute.

This is NOT the best full house to have in poker


I was surprised, because it seems counterintuitive, but the math (below the link) is irrefutable.

Think about it first before peeking.  Why would aces over 8s be better to have than aces over kings?

Movie stars "stayin' alive"

 
Video link. 

A mashup of the Bee Gee's Stayin' Alive with classic cinema dance segments featuring Rita Hayworth.  It's well done, though a bit long, requiring a looping of the melody.  I presume during film editing the film speed can be tweaked faster or slower to match the music?  Or does this just reflect selection of compatible scenes?

Via Neatorama.

A Northern Royal Flycatcher displays his crest

The Northern Royal Flycatcher is 16.5–18 cm (6½-7”) long, with an erectile fan-shaped crest, coloured red in the male and yellow-orange in the female. The display with the crest fully raised is seen extremely rarely, except during banding sessions.
Via animals, animals, animals.

Adolescent death rates around the world


Chart data collected by George Patton of the University of Melbourne for an article published in the Lancet on April 25th.  The abstract mentions the difficulty of collecting such data and making such comparisons.

Cradleboard


The photo, showing a Nez Perce baby in a cradleboard (with pinwheel motif, placed upright on a caned chair), comes from the digital collections of the University of Washington, via A Polar Bear's Tale.
Cradleboards are traditional protective baby-carriers used by many indigenous cultures in North America... used for the first few months of an infant's life, when a portable carrier for the baby is a necessity...

Cradleboards are built with a broad, firm protective frame for the infant's spine. A footrest is incorporated into the bottom of the cradleboard, as well as a rounded cover over the infant's head that arcs out from the cradleboard, similar to a canopy or a modern-day baby carriage hood... The Chippewa tradition was to make a lining for the cradleboard usually from moss growing in cranberry marshes, which is smoked over a fire to kill insects, then rubbed and pulled to soften it. In cold weather, the infant's feet may be wrapped in rabbit skin with the fur facing inward. The moss lining is surrounded by a birch bark tray insert placed into the cradleboard, which could be removed for cleaning...

In present-day South America, most indigenous cultures used slings or pouches, sometimes called a rebozo, for carrying infants rather than cradleboards... Cradleboard use and its effect on mother-infant interaction has been studied in Navajo communities. It has been shown that cradleboard use has no significant negative effect on infant development.* In the first few months of infancy, cradleboards have a soothing effect on babies.
*Addendum:  Reader Dora notes that "Studies of Native American Indians prior to the 1950s demonstrated a very high prevalence of hip dislocation in tribes that carried babies on a “cradle board” with the hips and knees strapped in an extended and adducted position."

This photograph was left on the moon


Universe Today has the story:
On April 23, 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young embarked on the third and final EVA of the mission, exploring the Descartes Highlands via Lunar Roving Vehicle. During the EVA, before setting up a Solar Wind Collector, Duke placed a small family photo he had brought along onto the lunar surface and snapped a few photos of  it with his Hasselblad film camera. This is one of the photos.

The portrait shows Charlie, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons Charles and Thomas. It looks like they are sitting on a bench in the summertime... It presumably still sits there today, just inches away from Charlie’s boot print — which, presumably, is also there.

To know that a family photo is resting upon the surface of another world is nothing short of amazing… while the missions to the Moon were a testament to human endeavor, it’s small things like this that remind us of the people that made it all possible. 
Image: NASA/JSC scan.  Via Palahniuk & Chocolate.

Growth of the Olympics


The small circles are icons of natinal flags, showing participation in the Olympic games from 1896 (iinnermost) to the present.

Designed by Alicia Korn, via Found Here.

Sports scandals - in the Paralympics


Der Spiegel reports on athletes pretending to be handicapped in order to compete in the Paralympic venues:
But there is even trickery, deception and lying in disabled sports. There are plenty of dissemblers among the participants, people who, in medical inspections, deliberately paint their state of health in more dramatic terms than it is, thereby competing under false pretenses in events that are becoming increasingly popular and also provide the opportunity to make a lot of money...

There are competition-like tests, in which the athletes, depending on the type of sport involved, have to demonstrate which movements they can perform on wheels, while throwing the javelin or in a sailboat. There are 41 classes in track & field alone. The lines between the classes are fluid...

In the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, 11 athletes were sent home after cheating their way into favorable classes. At the Sydney games in 2000, the Spanish mentally handicapped basketball team won the gold medal. It later turned out that 10 players were completely healthy. They had never completed the IQ test that was supposed to have been administered...

There are similar cases in winter sports. Athletes still joke about a Russian cross-country skier who competed as a visually impaired athlete at the Turin Paralympics in 2006. After she had reached the finish line with her escort, she turned her head to the display panel, which showed that she had won a medal. The allegedly blind athlete then threw her arms up into the air and cheered.
More at the link.

Photo credit: Reuters.

29 April 2012

A "tidal wave" of Red Admiral butterflies


Much of eastern North America is experiencing a sudden abundance of a particular butterfly - the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).  Population "explosions" have been reported in the past, but the current one is awesome in its size.  Here's a report by a knowledgeable observer in southeastern Wisconsin:
I looked down Hwy 14 with 8.5x binoculars (50 degree field) to a sign that was 1/5 mile away. I counted 61 Red Admirals crossing the road, heading north, in 60 seconds! Calculations are precarious but fun: that's 305 butterflies per mile per minute. Wisconsin's south. boundary is 149 miles wide. That's 45,563 butterflies streaming into the state each minute, or 2.7 million Red Admirals per hour.
The extrapolation is, of course, tongue-in-cheek, but his report has been echoed by observers all across Wisconsin.  And today I found this report from Canada:
Eastern Canada is in the midst of what’s believed to be the biggest springtime butterfly migration in history. Hundreds of thousands of butterflies have made their way north — many more than usual and much earlier than expected...

Glenn Richardson, president of the Toronto Entomologists’ Association who’s been observing butterflies since the late 1960s, called it “the largest migration that I’ve ever seen.” He estimates the population is 20 times higher than usual...

Although it’s difficult to pin down exact numbers, Kerr said there could be millions of butterflies across Eastern Canada. Larrivée said one man found an estimated 20,000 butterflies in the backyard of his London, Ont. home and there are other reports of butterfly-covered trees. 

The lost portrait of the Chevalier d'Eon


As reported in The History Blog:
British art dealer and art detective Philip Mould... came across an arresting portrait of what appeared to be a rather masculine middle-aged woman. Named “Portrait of a Woman with a Feather in her hat” and attributed to painter Gilbert Stuart...

A thorough cleaning revealed that the artist was not Gilbert Stuart... Old varnish and dirt had obscured the signature of the real artist: Thomas Stewart, an 18th century English painter who is not very well known today...

The cleaning also revealed another telling detail: a noticeable five o’clock shadow on the lady’s face. Moira is known to have owned a portrait of the Chevalier d’Eon, and the Chevalier was known to always wear a black dress and the medal of the Order of St. Louis, which he had been awarded by Louis XV for his work as a spy...

Connecting all the dots points to this portrait being of Charles Genevieve Louis Auguste André Timothée D’Eon de Beaumont, aka the Chevalier D’Eon, a biological male who spent his first 49 years dressed as a man, fighting in the Seven Years’ War, fomenting political intrigue as part of Le Secret du Roi, King Louis XV’s personal secret spy network, and serving as Minister Plenipotentiary in London in 1763....

By the time he returned to England permanently in 1785, he was wearing women’s clothes full time. According to witnesses, he made no attempt to adopt feminine mannerisms. He hiked up his dress to run up stairs and fenced with manly vigor. Yet, the question of his sex was widely debated in society at the time....

When he was examined by a physician after his death in 1810, many people were shocked that his genitals were found to be intact and entirely male. The Chevalier d’Eon was so strongly associated with gender ambiguity that psychologist and researcher Havelock Ellis coined the term “eonism” to describe cross-dressing and other transgender behaviors...

Although prints of the Chevalier in a black dress wearing the Order of St. Louis medal are extant, this portrait is the only known oil painting of him. It may be the first formal portrait of a cross-dressing man wearing women’s clothing.

Red and white giant flying squirrel


Photographed in the Qinling Mountains of China by Burrard-Lucas Wildlife Photography, via Sloth Unleashed.

A testoon of Henry VIII (1509-1547)


"Testoon" was a new word for me - had to look it up:
In the Kingdom of England, during the reign of Henry VII, the forerunner of the shilling, the testoon, was introduced. This coin was produced in extremely small quantities, probably around 1489, and the fact that there are only three known dies for this issue... shows clearly that the coins were not made for general circulation... they were probably trial pieces or patterns.

The testoon was struck in quantity during the last part of the reign of Henry VIII, with The Tower, Southwark, and Bristol mints producing testoons in 1544–1551. These testoons were made in the very poor base silver, as were all coins of this period, and are known as base testoons.
Via Uncertain Times.

Tsetse flies lactate ! And give live birth.

Are you kidding me?  No.  I read it in Discover Magazine's 80 Beats column:
Insects are generally negligent parents: a female lays dozens or hundreds of eggs and flies off, leaving the young to fend for themselves. Most will die but a few will survive to lay hundreds more eggs and keep playing the numbers game. Tsetse flies, not unlike mammals, have taken the opposite tack, investing a whole lot of energy in each offspring. She keeps her eggs and larvae in the safest place possible for the longest time: inside her uterus. That’s the evolutionary explanation for live birth.

With a hungry larva to feed in her uterus, the tsetse fly makes a liquid rich in fats that scientists dubbed “intrauterine milk.” This new study found tsetse fly milk contains an enzyme called SMase that is activated in the acidic conditions of the larva’s stomach. SMase makes the fat molecules that form critical parts of cell membranes. This enzyme has a similar function in mammals—tsetse fly and mammal lactation probably evolved independently given the evolutionary distance between us and an insect, so SMase seems like a curious case of convergent evolution.

Math puzzle

Three spaceships land randomly on a spherical planet.

What is the probability that all three will land in the same hemisphere?

Answer below the fold.

Dilbert


All the Dilberts are stored here.

Brassiere, 1820


From the collections of the Meropolitan Museum of Art.  It looks more comfortable than this lower one, from 1917, which almost looks more like a binder.

"Yes, minister" in real life

"In an interview on Australian Sky News, the country's employment minister, Bill Shorten, is asked his opinion on the return of Peter Slipper, the speaker of the parliament, after a sexual harassment claim. Shorten admits he does not know what his prime minister said on the issue - but says he supports whatever it was."
As I listened to this interchange, I thought I was hearing a Clarke and Dawe skit.

28 April 2012

Gene expression data


From a study entitled "Systems-wide temporal proteomic profiling in glucose-starved Bacillus subtilis," published in Nature Communications, via Fresh Photons.

The technology is way, way beyond me.  But the image is appealing.

Start with a white room


Totally white.  Walls and floor, ceiling, furniture, accessories.  And a piano.

Then, bring in children.  And give them stickers.
Over the course of two weeks, the museum’s smallest visitors were given thousands upon thousands of colored dot stickers and were invited to collaborate in the transformation of the space, turning the house into a vibrantly mottled explosion of color.

It's an art installation, of course, at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.  But it's one you could do in your own home or apartment.

Additional photos at Colossal.

A rather young Willie Nelson


Singing a medley of songs from his first album (Hello Walls, Funny How Time Slips Away, Night Life, and Crazy) at the Grand Ole Opry in 1965.

Via Neatorama.

Hoard of Celtic coins found in Switzerland


Details from The History Blog:
A hoard of almost 300 silver Celtic coins has been unearthed in the village of Füllinsdorf, near Basel in northwest Switzerland. They were found by a private individual who was working as a scout for the canton archaeological department. He recovered a number of coins that were just barely buried in a few centimeters of soil, and then he alerted the official archaeologist. They found the 293 silver coins spread over an area of about 538 square feet, all of them just under the surface. It’s by far the largest number of Celtic coins ever found in Switzerland...

The coins are of a type known as a quinarius, a small silver piece worth half of a denarius. When Rome first issued the denomination in 211 B.C., it was called a quinarius because it was worth five asses (the equivalent of 5 pounds in brass coin). When they were reissued in 101 B.C., they were still worth half a denarius, but monetary reform made the denarius worth 16 asses so the quinarii were now worth eight...

Roman quinarii had a helmeted figure of Pallas, later Victory, on the obverse, and the Dioscuri (divine twins Castor and Pollux) on horseback on the reverse. The Celtic version also has a helmeted victory on the obverse, but done in Celtic style and a single Celtic horse on the reverse.

What's it like having a transvaginal ultrasound?

The procedure has received a lot of press coverage because several states have passed legislation mandating that women seeking an abortion must have the procedure.  Megan Carpenter, writing at The Raw Story, describes her experience.
...woman after woman told me about having a transvaginal ultrasounds in other, medically-necessary contexts: to identify ovarian cysts, to help explain painful menstrual cycles and rule out cancer. All of them thought forcing women to undergo unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds to prove a political point about abortion was horrific; none of them wanted to go on the record about what it was like to have an ultrasound wand inserted into their bodies.

So, with the help of the generous staff at Preterm in Cleveland, Ohio, I stepped out of my skirt and onto an examination table to have a completely unncessary transvaginal ultrasound, and I documented the experience, which you can watch below...
[video - SFW - at the link]

As you might be able to tell, it was vigorously uncomfortable — more than a typical pelvic exam, with which most women are very familiar. In part, it’s more uncomfortable because the technician has to press the wand directly against the areas she wants to get an image of — your uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries — so there’s more movement and more direct contact with pressure-sensitive areas of your body...

It was not, however, like being raped, despite all the furor-generating headlines and “Doonesbury” cartoons that were printed. It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience) and something that no government should force its citizens to undergo to make a political point. But it wasn’t like being raped — and using language like that not only minimizes rape for its survivors but makes them and other women more frightened of the procedure, which has significant and important medical uses.

Baby name popularity charts


The Telegraph featured one this morning based on data from the Office of National Statistics.  Their interactive tool is based on the website England & Wales Baby Names.  I was surprised to see the name "Stanley" rising in popularity (roughly in proportion to the rising popularity of this blog, btw...)
More parents named their children after their favourite celebrity, with the numbers of children sharing a famous person’s name fluctuating according to popular culture.

The most popular girl’s name, in “absolute” terms, was Lily for girls and Oliver for boys. But the examination of 27,000 names found Nevaeh was one of the fastest growing popular names in Britain with it now ranked 163... in 2010 more than 320 children were named Neveah. This compared to the year 2000 when there were none. 
The equivalent tool for names in the United States is the Baby Name Wizard, or Baby Voyager, which I featured in a post in 2008.  Their interactive tool is absolutely fascinating to use.  I do note, curiously, that Stanleys in the United States are dying off at a precipitous rate...


But you're not interested in Stanley.  You're interested in your own name.  So go to one of the links and start clicking.  You're welcome to express your delight or dismay in the comments.

A "real-life Rapunzel"


That is a truly impressive head of hair.
The Brazilian girl used to spend four hours a week washing her hair and an hour-and-a-half brushing it every day. But now she has had it cut into a simple bob, washing it only takes five minutes.
She sold it for enough to buy her family a home.

From the Daily Record, via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

"The other Secret Service scandal"


The actual dollar figure is a bit soft; it appears to be based on the actual figures from the 2008 presidential campaign.
Secret Service spokesman Max Milien declined to say how much it is costing taxpayers now to protect a candidate every day... But in his 2008 testimony, Sullivan estimated that the cost of providing a security detail to a candidate would rise about $44,000 a day...

“Others on the campaign told me that some of the Secret Service members were even saying it was a waste of time and that he shouldn’t have it,” the source told TheDC. “Staff members thought it was ridiculous too, and just another example of Newt’s arrogance and self-importance.”

In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain didn’t request Secret Service protection until late April — months after the point he was considered the presumptive GOP nominee.
More discussion and commentary at The Daily Caller.  I still don't understand how it's possible to spend that much per day.  On what???

27 April 2012

Images of early post-contact North America


The two images above are crude photographs of pages from the book at right, Karl Bodmer's America - a huge coffee-table-type art book.  Bodmer was a Swiss artist who traveled to the United States in the 1830s to join an exploration of the Missouri River.

The images are watercolors; the subject matter consists of landscapes and people - the former being views mostly from the surface of the river, and thus somewhat limited in scope, but impressive nevertheless.  The people he depicted were Native Americans in everyday clothing and in full dress-up mode. 

I thought the lower image was particularly interesting for its depiction of what amounts to a "sky burial."  I think I remember seeing reports of that technique having been used by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, but I've not heard of it in the central or eastern U.S.

Addendum:  btw, I have oftened wondered to what extent sky burials reflect not philosophy or religion, but simple common sense and practicality.  The image above shows a sky burial in a deep woods; anyone who has ever tried to dig in a woods knows that the top couple feet of soil are a latticework of roots that would have been difficult to cope with in the era before steel tools.  The other place where sky burials are traditional and common is Tibet, where the "ground" is often rock.  

Deer in Richmond Park


Photo credit Alex Saberi (seventh image in this gallery), via Reddit.

Why Amazon wants your old CDs

Explained at Smart Money:
The online retailer announced Wednesday that has added CDs to the list of items it allows shoppers to trade, which includes books, video games, DVDs and electronics. Sellers get a free shipping label to mail in their items, and receive store credit based on quality of the discs. Just how much credit customers can expect to get remains unclear; at press time, Amazon’s trade-in page had not yet been updated to allow CD entries. (Amazon.com did not respond to requests for comment.) But retail experts say CDs could fetch as much as $2 to $3 apiece...

Amazon is hoping the service will eventually translate to more purchases — and more loyal customers. Studies have shown that when consumers redeem gift cards or credit, they tend to spend 40% more than the value of that credit...

To get the best deal, consumers can copy songs from the discs to their computer for free before selling... Consumers may find, however, that much of their music isn’t eligible. Most CD trade-in sites — as well as Amazon’s DVD trade-ins — require the seller to include the case with its artwork and UPC code. Scratched discs may also be rejected. So music fans who ditched jewel cases in favor of a “CD wallet” or didn’t keep their collection in pristine condition are likely stuck with it until their next yard sale.
I note it's a trade-in, not an outright purchase, so there's no advantage to cruising library book sales to buy quantities of CDs for a buck each.

Via The New Shelton wet/dry, where I also found this excellent post title:

It’s amazing how much more money I have when I’m drunk.

Edvard Munch created four copies of "The Scream"


You learn something every day.  I knew about "The Scream" and even how the red sky may have been the result of a volcanic eruption the year he painted it, but until reading about a sale of one version of "The Scream" in the Wall Street Journal this morning, I didn't know there were so many varieties:
One of four versions of "The Scream" that Munch created, this is the only one not in an Oslo museum and the first to ever come up at auction...

Top clients have visited the picture privately at Sotheby's in New York, sitting in high-backed chairs set a short distance from the work inside a locked room. "One of the world's great collectors said, 'I could sell all my pictures, put this on my wall, put my chair here with a cup of coffee and stare at it for the rest of my life and be happy,'" says Mr. Shaw...

The version of the "The Scream" up for sale at Sotheby's is a bright mix of 12 different colors, with the skeletal character in the foreground sporting one blue nostril and one brown one. The third in a series created between 1893 and 1910, the work was created with pastel on rough board. Some art dealers view the pastel as a mark against the work, though others say the lines and colors are more electric than even those found in the painted versions. The picture offers another standout feature: its frame, inscribed with the original 1892 poem Munch wrote that is said to have inspired the work. In it, he describes walking along that fiord, "trembling with anxiety" and sensing "an infinite scream passing through nature."
No way I could "stare at it for the rest of my life and be happy," but it's still interesting.  More at the link, and note BTW that the scream is not coming from the man in the painting.

9,000 U.S. marines to leave Okinawa

The story is at The Guardian:
By shifting a large number of the 19,000 marines on Okinawa, leaders in Tokyo and Washington said they hoped to reduce the US military footprint on the island while retaining a strong enough presence to deal with security emergencies in the region.

In a joint statement, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said the agreement would honour Washington's commitment to defending Japan and maintaining stability in an "increasingly uncertain security environment".
I will quickly admit to limited knowledge of military history and strategy, but I have never understood why so many American troops still have to be stationed in Japan to fulfill a WWII-era commitment.

Will this decrease the military budget?  Apparently not, because rather than returning to the U.S. or leaving the service, they are just being deployed elsewhere:
Up to 5,000 troops... will be sent to Guam, according to a US defence official quoted by Associated Press in Washington. The remainder will move to Hawaii or rotate between Australia and other parts of the region.

This is not a GIF -


- even though it appears to move.  I found this at Mighty Optical Illusions, where the explanation offered was that it "has something to do with microsaccades."

The same explanation was offered at Discover Magazine for this image:


As you’ll notice, the circles seem to rotate in response to where you look at the illusion. So Macknik and his colleagues tracked the movement of people’s eyes as they gazed at two of these wheels on a computer screen. Their subjects kept a finger pressed on a button, lifting it whenever they seemed to see the wheels move.

Macnick and his colleagues found a tight correlation between the onset of the illusion and a kind of involuntary movement our eyes make, known as microsaccades. Even when we’re staring at a still object, our eyes keep darting around. These movements, called microsaccades, help us compensate for a peculiar property of the eye: if we stare at an object for too long, the signals each photoreceptor sends to the brain become weaker. Microsaccades refresh the photoreceptors with a different input and breath new life into our perception.
More at the link, via The Dish.

Health care mandates and the Founding Fathers

From an essay in The New Republic:
In making the legal case against Obamacare’s individual mandate, challengers have argued that the framers of our Constitution would certainly have found such a measure to be unconstitutional. Never mind that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause indicates that Congress cannot mandate commercial purchases...

The founding fathers, it turns out, passed several mandates of their own. In 1790, the very first Congress—which incidentally included 20 framers—passed a law that included a mandate: namely, a requirement that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. This law was then signed by another framer: President George Washington...

That’s not all. In 1792, a Congress with 17 framers passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms. Yes, we used to have not only a right to bear arms, but a federal duty to buy them. Four framers voted against this bill, but the others did not, and it was also signed by Washington. Some tried to repeal this gun purchase mandate on the grounds it was too onerous, but only one framer voted to repeal it.
More at the link, although I think I've seen discussion elsewhere that the latter mandate was for all able-bodied men to have firearms, not necessarily to buy them.

How to make a "naked egg"


Soak a raw egg in vinegar, where the acetic acid will dissolve the calcium in the shell.  A series of photos are posted at Izismile without credit to the source*.   Exploratorium has a discussion with some details of the process.

* (if anyone knows the original source, leave a comment and I'll switch the link)

An early election map


From HuffPost, where the map is interactive, via The Dish, where it is compared to a second, similar but not identical, map.

There will be a boatload of this kind of analysis over the next six months or so; I plan to blog very little of it, because you can always find this information elsewhere, and while it's very important, it does become tedious with repetition.

Armadillidium ("pill bugs") are not insects


They are woodlice, which are arthropods (crustaceans), but not insects.  The number of legs should be a giveaway in making that distinction, but I'll admit I must have made this mistake on many occasions.  Discussed at Reddit.

I didn't find an explanation of the etymology of "armadillidium."  It should be interesting (related to armadillo?).

A collage of infidels


The faces of 41 people who have declared themselves to be atheists; I only recognized about half of them, but I think quite a few are celebrities in various media.  Via Reddit, where these (and some notable omissions) are discussed.

Addendum:  Nag on the Lake lists the identities of the persons in the photos.

26 April 2012

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)


Photographed in Texas by TexasEagle, via Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.

"The Great Dust Heap at Kings Cross"


Those who are appalled by photos of children picking through garbage piles in India, Asia, and South America would do well to remember that the same phenomenon was common in Britain as recently as the Victorian era (and in the U.S. during the 1930s).
Imagine living anywhere near this gray mountain of trash in the first year of Queen Victoria's reign. It's the "Great Dust-Heap at Kings Cross" as seen from Maiden Lane (now York Road), painted in 1837 by the watercolorist E. H. Dixon, surrounded by slum housing and adjacent to the Smallpox Hospital....

As for Kings Cross ... similar dustheaps featured in Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend (the "Golden Dustman" Noddy Boffin is one of the writer's most indelible creations) and were the subject of "Dust, or Ugliness Redeemed," an essay by the poet R. H. Horne that appeared in Household Words, the weekly journal Dickens edited from 1850 to 1859. Horne vividly describes the underclass of "Searchers and Sorters" who scaled the debris and painstakingly raked through the refuse, separating animal and vegetable matter from broken pottery, bones, rags, metal, glass, and other detritus. Everything was sold off and recycled: coarse cinders were sold to brickmakers, bones to soapmakers, threadbare linen rags to papermakers. [Shown here: The sifting process at a dust-yard in nineteenth-century London; Mayhew, 1862.]

The Kings Cross dustheap pictured at the top of this post was packed up and shipped to Russia in 1848 when city developers decided to convert the site into what is now the Kings Cross railway terminus. The Russians mixed ash from the pile with local clay to make bricks that were used to rebuild their war-ravaged country. 
Text and images via The Victorian Peeper.

This appears to be a disturbing photo...


... but not in context:
Tyler Fishlock was a typical energetic healthy 2 year old, when he started repeatedly bumping into furniture around his parents new home . Within a month Tyler had been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that attaches itself to retina. Tyler's retina was covered in hundreds of tiny tumors. After extensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the doctors were left with no choice but to remove Tyler's left eye. Then the unthinkable happened. The cancer had spread to Tyler’s right eye. Despite all attempts to save it, Tyler had his eye removed on Wednesday the 8th of February 2006. He was just three years old.

Tyler’s final surgery was followed closely in the Victorian media. The image of his beaming face partially covered in bandages taken hours after surgery became a symbol of inspiration and strength for many people.

This series picks up where the media left off. Completely blind, Tyler wears prostethic blue eyes ( he requested the colour of his favourite character Thomas the tank engine.) Tyler's blindness has never once inhibited his cheeky, playfull and energetic nature...
Photo credit Morganna Magee, via Ilovethatphoto.

Monarch fecundity


These are the only such data that I am aware of collected from observation of a single butterfly in a controlled environment.  Monarch biology was designed to overcome predation, but apparently it is less capable of coping with modern-day habitat loss caused by herbicides.

From Journey North, where the maps show that monarchs have been sighted at our latitude.  The milkweed in our garden is waiting for them.

Earthenware beetle trap (1851-1900)

"Encouraged by food placed within the trap, beetles and other insects would climb up the ridged sides of the trap and fall into the hole in the centre. Here they would become trapped. As the inside is smooth, they would not be able to climb out again."
Maker: Beetle Trap Company, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom.

From the Wellcome Collection, via A London Salmagundi.

"Jon Huntsman trashes the GOP"

As described at Buzzfeed:
Former Republican candidate Jon Huntsman took a battle axe to his own party, comparing it to China's Communist Party and criticizing its standard bearer in a wide-ranging interview at the 92nd Street Y Sunday night...

Huntsman, the former Utah governor and once President Barack Obama's Ambassador to China, expressed disappointment that the Republican Party disinvited him from a Florida fundraiser in March after he publicly called for a third party. "This is what they do in China on party matters, they punish you, if you talk off script," he said.

Huntsman jokingly blamed his failed candidacy in part on his wife, Mary Kaye, who told him she'd leave him if he abandoned his principles. “She said if you pandered, if you sign any of those damn pledges, I’ll leave you,” Huntsman recounted. "So I had to say I believe in science — and people on stage look at you quizzically as though you're an oddball," Huntsman said, explaining why he was "toast" in Iowa...

Airline food



The top photo is a publicity still for British Airways in the 1960s (which may or may not be true to life) from x-ray delta one, via Mark's Scrapbook of Oddities and Treasures.  The right embed comes from The World According To...

Large numbers of dolphins dying


As reported by MSNBC:
Conservationists counted 615 dead dolphins along a 90-mile stretch of beaches in Peru, a wildlife group said Wednesday, and the leading suspect is acoustic testing offshore by oil companies.

"If you can count 615 dead dolphins, you can be sure there are a great many more out at sea and the total will reach into the thousands,” Hardy Jones, head of the conservation group BlueVoice.org, said in a statement after he and an expert with ORCA Peru walked the beaches.

Indeed, the head of a local fishermen's association told Peru21.pe that he estimated more than 3,000 dolphins had died so far this year, based on what he saw in the water and on beaches.

BlueVoice.org stated that "initial tests ... show evidence of acoustical impact from sonic blasts used in exploration for oil." The ORCA Peru expert, veterinarian Carlos Yaipen Llanos, said that while "we have no definitive evidence," he suspects acoustic testing created a "marine bubble" -- in essence a sonic blast that led to internal bleeding, loss of equilibrium and disorientation.

BlueVoice.org noted that the U.S. has suspended similar testing in the Gulf of Mexico due to recent sightings of dead and sick dolphins. The ban was set to last through the dolphins' calving season, which ends in May. 
Photo via BoingBoing.

A dog will follow a human's gaze


An article at American Scientist discusses the well-known co-evolution of humans and dogs, and adds this interesting hypothesis -
A study by Hiromi Kobayashi and Shiro Kohshima of the Tokyo Institute of Technology showed that modern humans are unique among extant primates in having highly visible white sclerae surrounding the colored irises of their eyes, as well as eyelids that expose much of the sclerae. In other primates, the dark sclerae, similarly colored skin and concealing eyelids tend to mask the direction in which the animal is looking, according to the Japanese team. In humans, the white sclerae and open eyelids make the direction of a person’s gaze visible from a distance, particularly if that glance is directed in a more or less horizontal direction. The changes in the human eye may be adaptations to enhance the effectiveness of the gaze signal. Michael Tomasello and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, developed this idea as the “cooperative eye hypothesis.” They suggested that cooperation among humans was facilitated by the ability to recognize where others were looking...

Obviously, silent communication among humans would be advantageous for hunting in groups. But there is another skilled gaze-reader: the domestic dog.

A dog will follow the gaze of a videotaped human if the human first attracts the dog’s attention by speaking to it and looking at it, according to results published by Ernõ Téglás, of the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and his colleagues. Indeed, dogs perform as well as human infants at following the gaze of a speaker in tests in which the speaker’s head is held still.

Ádám Miklósi of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and his team tested dogs and wolves, and found that dogs were far more attentive to human faces than were wolves, even socialized wolves. Although wolves excel at some gaze-following tasks, perhaps suggesting a preadaptation for communicating with humans, dogs tend to look at human faces for cues and wolves do not. Miklósi’s team believes this major behavioral difference is the result of selective breeding during domestication.

Another way of looking at this phenomenon is that the white sclerae became universal among humans because it enabled them to communicate better not only with each other but also with dogs. Once dogs could read a human gaze signal, they would have been even more useful as hunting partners.
Via The Dish (whence the uncredited photo).
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