From 1851 to 1858, Henry David Thoreau noted a number of natural occurrences in detail, including the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord. Additionally, Alfred Hosmer, a botanist in the same area
, had recorded the flowering dates
of over 600 species of wild plants in 1878 and from 1888 to 1902. With that data, Richard Primack
, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing
spent years aligning old plant names with current names to study the change flowering patterns
from the recorded past to present. Their phenological
study concluded that plants in Concord, on average, are now flowering 10 days earlier than they were in Thoreau's time
(full article for the journal BioScience). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief
on Mar 25, 2014 -
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia
was written by Pliny the Elder
between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian
, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum
, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Dec 16, 2013 -
is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe
(later The Cartoon History of the Modern World
), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies
) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit
. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn
chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States
, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides
to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment
, and (yes!) Sex
. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention
, assorted math comics
), the Muse magazine
mainstay Kokopelli & Co.
(featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"
), and more
. See also these lengthy interview snippets
, linked previously
. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Jun 6, 2011 -
Sparks of Life.
"That the electric 'spark of life' figured prominently in debates over the nature of life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is well known. Less well known is the fact that prior to this period, gunpowder was often identified with the substances that were necessary to life, if not as a vitalistic spirit, then as an essential element in the animation of the body. The idea of a spark of life went back to ancient times, likening living beings to the glowing embers of a fire. In the Old Testament, for example, the wise woman of Tekoah begs for the life of her son, pleading 'they will stamp out my last live ember.' But from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, this vital flame was often equated with gunpowder. There was fire in the blood: not electric, but pyrotechnic fire."
posted by homunculus
on Feb 20, 2009 -
How We Evolve:
"A growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change, making us — for the past 10,000 years or so — the inadvertent architects of our own future selves." [more inside]
posted by homunculus
on Oct 9, 2008 -
Tired? Need a boost?
Everything you ever wanted to know about one of America's favourite energy boosters. This website contains 25 pages covering the history, uses (both legitimate and illegitimate), and biological characteristics of cocaine and the coca plant. An interesting read for those with time to kill (like me). Possibly NSFW.
posted by LunaticFringe
on Dec 17, 2004 -
'Provided for your delight are a small number of the world's butterflies and moths, taken from Dru Drury's three-volume monograph entitled Illustrations of Exotic Entomology.'
Related :- Schreber's Fabulous Beasts.
'In 1774 Johann Christian Dan Schreber authored a multivolume set of books entitled Die Saugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen. Focusing on mammals of the world, these books were lavishly illustrated with 755 hand-colored plates ... '
posted by plep
on Jul 5, 2003 -
Oldest liveing organism
found in salt cave in New Mexico. 250 million and counting. What gets me is this quote: ``If something can survive 250 million years, what's the difference .. another 250 or longer,'' wonder if digital data can be stored in bacterium.
posted by stbalbach
on Oct 20, 2000 -