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"In February 1917 the SS Mendi, a First World War troopship, was carrying 802 men of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC), bound for the Western Front. Many had never seen the sea before. The men had signed up because they believed that, despite being oppressed by the white South African government, if they demonstrated loyalty to the British Empire, it would gain them a voice in their deeply divided land." so writes Historic England writing about one of the more tragic events in British history:
"On 21 February 1917, the British ship, the SS Mendi was sunk off the Isle of Wight. It was hit not by a German torpedo, but by another British ship, the Darro, in thick fog....The Darro made no attempt to rescue the men in the water, and the Mendi’s Royal Navy escort ship was able to find only a very few."
posted on Feb-17-17 at 10:18 AM

"The purpose of the European Tree of the Year is to highlight the significance of old trees in the natural and cultural heritage that deserves our care and protection. Unlike other contests, the European Tree of the Year doesn't focus on beauty, size or age but rather on the tree's story and its connection to people. We are looking for trees that have become a part of the wider community."
Get your votes in now for the 2017 European Tree of the year!
The current leader is The Brimmon Oak of Wales, a beloved tree that has been in a family for generations - although a fierce contender is an 800-year old Lime tree that guards a Czech village. Past winners include an Oak tree that lives in the middle of a football field in Estonia and an old Lime tree in Hungary which is said to protect the forest with its magic power.
posted on Feb-13-17 at 11:38 PM

While we have all been diverted by other things, Edward Snowden tweeted last week that "The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes farther than many autocracies."
He is referring to the Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snooper's Charter, which has passed Parliament and is now set to become law in the UK. Here's a Wired overview.
ZDNet: "civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online". It's no wonder, because it basically does".
Guardian: Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper
posted on Nov-23-16 at 4:59 AM

"In 2001, Belgian police called curators at one of London’s top museums and told them that two J.M.W. Turner paintings valued at $35 million had been recovered in a sting operation. Lost since 1994, the Tate Gallery scrambled to get a professional down to Antwerp to see them. Sitting at home in Berlin a few days later, Evgeni Posin was reading an article in the newspaper about two men arrested for trying to pass off the Turners as original. He knew immediately the paintings were fakes. How? Because he and his two brothers had painted them."
Evgeni Posin works with his two brothers Michail and Semyon in Berlin. They are originally from Russia. The three are the first family of Art Forgery.
posted on Nov-17-16 at 12:50 PM

If you have driven in the UK, perhaps you have been curious about those little brown signs with tempting drawings of castles or quirky attractions. Amanda Hone was.
"Whenever I was bored it became a bit of thing for me to jump in the car, drive in a random direction and when I spotted a brown sign I’d follow it and visit wherever I ended up, just for fun. I found myself at places I wouldn’t ever have thought of going to before; an otter and owl sanctuary, The National Motoring Museum, an ornate Indian maharajah’s well in the middle of a country village and heading underground into Cheddar’s caves, to name just a few of the early delights. "
What started off as a distraction became a dedicated hobby.
She tells us the 93 different brown signs in the UK.
The history of the brown tourist signs.
Her blog documents some of her quirkier discoveries.
If you want to know more, just Follow the Brown Signs....
posted on Sep-3-15 at 3:35 AM

The book An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin, published in 2006, tells, for the first time, the story of a lost art and one that was eventually supressed by the Church.
"During the Protestant revolution in Europe, a new kind of music emerged, one that ultimately sought to recognize the deceased and to individuate the sense of loss and grief. But the tradition was virtually wiped out by the Great Funerary Purges of the 1830s and 40s. Kriwaczek tells the fascinating story of this beautiful music, condemned by the Catholic Church for political as much as theological reasons, and of the mysterious Guild of Funerary Violinists that, yes, defends its secrets in our time."
The 220-page book is written in an academic tone and outlines the entire history of the Society along with biographies of some of its key figures - George Babcotte and Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss and even Paganini.
posted on Feb-24-14 at 2:57 AM

The work of the statistician Joseph Chang in 1999 showed that it was almost certain that all Europeans are descended from Charlemagne. Now, a new genomic analysis of European populations titled The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry across Europe, shows that Chang was essentially right.
As the paper concludes " long as populations have mixed sufficiently, by 1,000 years ago everyone (who left descendants) would be an ancestor of every present-day European. Our results are therefore one of the first genomic demonstrations of the counterintuitive but necessary fact that all Europeans are genealogically related over very short time periods, and lends substantial support to models predicting close and ubiquitous common ancestry of all modern humans"
The paper is quite accessible and includes much more data about the interrelatedness of different European populations. But for those who have more questions, the authors have prepared a FAQ.
posted on Aug-27-13 at 12:44 AM

"Articulate Silences is a blog which focuses on the introduction of 20th and 21st century classical music to listeners wanting to investigate beyond popular music. Through a series of posts focussing on major pieces, as well as the occasional more obscure work, this blog attempts to act as a gentle entry point for further exploration and discovery of similar sounds."
posted on Sep-20-12 at 1:02 PM

Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance.
"A particularly important nucleus of the [Harvard] Photograph Archive's collection consists of a group of images of Renaissance Italian paintings that Berenson famously classified as “homeless,” that is, works that were documented by a photograph but whose current location was unknown to him....Berenson published some of his photographs of artworks “without homes” with the express invitation and hope that their owners, public or private, might come forward and claim them as their own...It is in this spirit.. that we have developed the project to catalog, digitize and make available online the Photograph Archive’s images of "homeless" paintings by Italian artists between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries. By the project’s end--scheduled for the summer/fall of 2012--we will have published on the Internet records and images, often rare or unique, of around thirteen thousand pictures."
posted on Apr-15-12 at 5:23 AM "is an open-source project for the visualization of solar and heliospheric data. The project is funded by ESA and NASA."
See also the Wiki and the JHelioviewer application.
Go back in time to prominent events (June 7, 2011 for example), create layers from different observatories and even create your own movies.
posted on Apr-11-12 at 11:51 PM

Nipples at the Met: "A database of all the nipples on view in the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Updated regularly
posted on Mar-22-12 at 12:18 AM

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a Harvard man through and through.
"From 1900-1904, young Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with his Groton chum Lathrop Brown, rented rooms in Westmorly Court, (now B-17 of Adams House) the newest and most luxurious building on Harvard's Gold Coast. Equipped with all the latest innovations – central heat, electricity, a modern "hygienic" bathroom – the suite contained over 600 sq. feet of living space spread over 4 rooms, with 14' ceilings, French doors, and a working fireplace. These spacious quarters, which were originally decorated in high Victorian style by FDR and his mother Sara have been recently restored to their pristine Gilded Age condition...
posted on Feb-13-12 at 5:11 AM

Sensory Maps is an attempt by Kate Mclean to chart the Taste, Views and Touch of Edinburgh. More details in this post on Edible Geography.
In the Victorian era, Edinburgh earned the nickname “Auld Reekie,”for its smog. Now, according to McClean’s map, it “emits a plethora of scents and smells; some particular to Edinburgh, some ubiquitous city aromas.” Among the latter are fish and chip shops and vomit, while the peculiar smell of the Macfarlan Smith opiate factory, the fishy pong of the penguin enclosure at the zoo, and the ammoniac stench of the boys’ toilets at South Morningside primary school are more city-specific, as is the way that the prevailing south-westerly winds distribute these smell combinations.
Also related, the Sheffield Smellwalk.
posted on Jan-7-12 at 3:39 AM

Cesaria Evora once described the music of Cape Verde, known as Morna, as "a lot of things…Some say it’s like the blues, or jazz. Others says it’s like Brazilian or African music, but no one really knows. Not even the old ones."
Although Evora's singing voice had attracted attention even when she was a small girl, she did not gain recognition until later in life when she performed in Paris and the French newspaper Le Monde proclaimed that she "belongs to the world nobility of bar singers." Cesaria Evora, known as the Barefoot Diva for performing without shoes, passed away today at the age of 70 in her native Cape Verde.
You can listen to Evora performing Miss Perfumado and Sodade online.
posted on Dec-17-11 at 12:36 PM

Woodchester Mansion is in many ways the perfect setting for a Haunted Mansion (flickr photos). A favorite of ghost-hunters, its not hard to see why. It is a neo-Gothic mansion whose construction was suddenly abandoned in the 1870's and it remains virtually untouched since then -- scattered Victorian tools, fireplaces hanging in mid-air, stone gargoyles.
It also sits by itself in a secluded valley, now owned by the National Trust, where cars are not allowed. Oh, also, did I mention the bats? As of July 2011, 181 adult bats and 91 babies were recorded living in the mansion's belfry. There's a bat-cam.
posted on Aug-9-11 at 6:19 AM

The Grant museum of zoology in London has been called "A restored Victorian treasure-house crammed with specimens from a bottle of preserved moles to extinct zebras and (just identified) the legs of a dodo. And all this was put together by the man that taught zoology to Charles Darwin"
The entire collection has been closed for almost a year as all 67,000 specimens were moved from a tiny (but charming) space to a new larger space.
The new Grant Museum and its reopening.
posted on Mar-15-11 at 8:01 AM

El Quijote Interactivo is a site from the Biblioteca Nacional de España displaying the 1605 edition of Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote.
You can of course turn pages and zoom in and out. But, you can also search text, get a map of Don Quixote's travels, read associated books and expert commentaries, forward through 50 editions of the book, listen to music referenced by Don Quixote and, yes, share pages with your Facebook friends.
This Youtube video walks you through it.
posted on Oct-28-10 at 2:49 AM

The Wellcome Library Blog is the accompanying blog to London's Wellcome Collection.
Each post examines new acquisitions or existing holdings of this fascinating and eclectic collection. This week's post is about Graphic Medicine - the intersection of Graphic Novels and Medicine. Interesting posts in just the past few months include Japanese colour printing, Do the English really have bad teeth?, A hot night in Bengal, Murder - He telegraphed and a post on Early Cycling.
posted on Sep-30-10 at 4:25 AM

Flickr user Urtica posts pictures of elusive luna moths, surly bees, gregarious aphids, insect eggs, and of course beetles.
Most of these she finds in her backyard in Framingham, MA. She posts a new Bug picture every single day.
I give you Urtica's Bug of the Day!
posted on Jul-23-10 at 2:15 PM

In Sometimes Making Something leads to Nothing (video), the artist Francis Alys pushes a block of ice through Mexico City until it melts.
In When Faith Moves Mountains, (video) he convinces 500 Peruvian students to move a huge sand dune a few feet.
He walks through Mexico City waving a handgun and he drizzles green paint in Palestine.
Also, he walks into tornados (video).
The Tate Modern opens an exhibition on Francis Alys.
posted on Jul-4-10 at 3:22 AM

The Klencke Atlas of 1660 (video), the world's largest book.
Grayson Perry's Map of Nowhere (video)
Many more maps and videos at the BBC's The Beauty of Maps site.
Would you like to see these maps in person? The British Library has just opened their exhibition Magnificent Maps where you can see these among 80 treasures from their map collection, many never seen before.
posted on Apr-30-10 at 4:43 AM

The cartoonist Ronald Searle turns 90 today (March 3)! Hurrah for St. Trinians!.
The Cartoon Museum in London opens Searle's first-ever show in Britain. In this interview, Searle , at 90, recalls the bad girls of St Trinian's and his time as a prisoner-of-war and the abrupt leaving of his wife and children. Fleeing to France in 1961, he never returned. His archive was donated to the Willhelm Busch museum in Germany which is also holding a Searle exhibition.
posted on Mar-3-10 at 3:13 AM

If you're in London these days and are serious about your coffee, then you'll know what a Flat White is. It is part of the emerging coffee scene in London, host of 2010's World Barista Championship and home of last year's winner - Gwilym Davies. Here's a guide and map from London's TimeOut to the city's best coffee shops, many of them staffed by antipodean baristas.

Predictably, Starbucks in the UK wants a piece of the action.
posted on Feb-27-10 at 6:48 AM

As a recent New York Times article notes: "Mexicans, despite their reputation in Latin America for ultrapoliteness and formality, curse like sailors, a recent survey found. They use profanity when speaking with their friends, with their co-workers, with their spouses and even with their bosses and parents."

This then: Effective Swearing in D.F.: Towards a Manual of Communication for English Speakers visiting Mexico City
Because, remember: Hablar español sin caló es de hueva.
posted on Jan-25-10 at 4:57 AM

"Gripped by war, poverty and plague, the villagers of Oberammergau, in Bavaria, southern Germany vowed to put on a 'passion play' every ten years… That was back in 1633. They survived, and performed the first Oberammergau Passion Play in 1634. Ever since, their descendants have carried out that pledge. For the past four centuries the tradition has continued, every ten years. Only villagers have been allowed to take part. And that is what will happen yet again in 2010."
posted on Dec-9-09 at 6:53 AM

Eskimo Grasshoppers - French Children's books of the 1930's and 1940's.
Also, Cornebuse et Cie (1945). Also, Animaux domestiques articulés (1941). Also, Histoire de Perlette (1936) Also, gymnastique scolaire (1933).
And finally Baba Yaga (1932)
posted on Dec-1-09 at 5:18 AM

Drilling a Square Hole. Can a drill be constructed which makes square holes?
Previous attempts have focused on Reuleaux triangles (a shape of constant width - useful for manhole covers) - but these produce square holes with rounded edges.
However, in 1939, in an anonymous article in Mechanical World magazine, plans were published for a device which uses circular motion to make perfectly square holes.
In their new book, How Round is your Circle, John Bryant and Chris Sangwin, build and demonstrate this device (scroll down for a video of the working device).
posted on Aug-31-09 at 1:13 PM

An Armadillo running and sniffing
The Mole-Cam
Cow Staring at Cow.
These and many more at the Museum of Animal Perspectives, a site run and curated by Sam Easterson.
posted on Aug-27-09 at 4:31 AM

"My Quest for Corvo was started by accident one summer afternoon in 1925..." so begins A.J.A Symons book The Quest for Corvo, an experimental biography of the bizarre genius Baron Corvo, much admired by D.H. Lawrence and by Graham Greene among others.
Mention Baron Corvo and bookdealers get excited. Only 5 copies (proofs) of his Don Renato existed. Symons sold his copy to Cecil Woolf, another biographer of Baron Corvo. This copy was later bought by an American Donald Weeks who, after reading Symons book, left his job and moved to England to become part of the growing cult of Baron Corvo. He was said to have amassed an enormous collection of Corviana. Weeks died in 2003: "He died ... of natural causes... Because, however, he left no will nor details of next of kin, he was officially classed as a missing person. He was "no one".' The fate of his rare-book collection has been a source of speculation.
Last week, Leeds University announced that "The University of Leeds has acquired a collection of books and manuscripts relating to Baron Corvo, one of the most controversial English novelists of the early 20th Century." Previews of the catalog. As to what makes Corvo so fascinating, readers can discover for themselves.
posted on Aug-6-09 at 12:52 PM

"Loot the Baedeker I did, all the details of a time and place I had never been to, right down to the names of the diplomatic corps." - Thomas Pynchon from Slow Learner.
Baedeker's were the de facto travel guide for international men of leisure: "Baedeker’s publications, which covered most of Europe, became so popular that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was quoted as saying that he stationed himself at a particular palace window each noon because “It’s written in Baedeker that I watch the changing of the guard from that window, and the people have come to expect it.” Baedeker maps online. Baedeker books online.
Are the old ones the best ones?

posted on Mar-11-09 at 2:03 PM

"He was sentenced to death after the military coup in 1980, a few months later he was pardoned but put under house arrest. While under arrest, he began to write a collection of poems; the aim of which was to create portraits of all the people he had ever met in his life" [Maninbo, or Ten Thousand Lives]. To date, 26 volumes from the ongoing collection have been published. Meet Ko Un. Ex-Buddhist Monk and one of South Korea's greatest poets.
posted on Feb-25-09 at 8:17 AM

The year is 1932. Hitler is rising in power. Harold Urey announces the discovery of deuterium, a hydrogen isotope. James Chadwick discovers the neutron. Heisenberg receives the Nobel Prize for his work in Quantum physics. It is a miracle year in Physics, matched only by Einstein's advances in 1905. A few of the most brilliant physicists in the world decide to convene in Copenhagen and ... write a play! Written on the 100th anniversary of the death of Goethe, The Blegdamsvej Faust is a remarkable document from a turning point in Physics.
posted on Feb-17-09 at 2:31 PM

The Tiling Database. Browse some random patterns. Or narrow down your search here.
Looking for an ornament in the Alhambra? Or a spiral tiling? Or perhaps a Topkapi scroll?
posted on Jan-13-09 at 11:13 AM

"Two people emerged from the ship, a man and his wife. .. Mrs. Wise immediately called for a doctor to look after the woman... The husband and wife were shown to Room 8, where the woman's condition continued to deteriorate... Eventually, the husband summoned the doctor, hotel staff and even the owner’s wife to Room 8 to ask a very unusual request: He asked that everyone present swear an oath never to reveal their identities." So, begins and essentially ends Alexandria Virginia's mystery of the Female Stranger.
posted on Dec-4-08 at 5:23 AM

In the 1940's the British Government set about creating eight deep level shelters underneath central London. Now, one of them is up for sale (Photos)
posted on Oct-17-08 at 3:51 AM

Prospect/Foreign Policy release their list of the world's top public intellectuals(full list). Number 1? The Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen.

The rest of the top 10? The microfinancier Muhammad Yunus, the cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the writer Orhan Pamuk, the politician Aitzaz Ahsan, the evangelist Amr Khaled, the philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush, the philosopher Tariq Ramadan, the cultural theorist Mahmood Mamdani and activist Shirin Ebadi. Sense a theme? Yes, all Muslims.
This is a striking turnabout from the 2005 poll topped by Chomsky, Eco and Dawkins.
What happened? Prospect Magazine explains. The Turkish newspaper Zaman weighs in. The UK's Independent is outraged. Fethulah Gulen defends himself.
posted on Jul-3-08 at 10:17 AM

"It so often happens that I receive mail - well-intended but totally useless - by amateur physicists who believe to have solved the world. They believe this, only because they understand totally nothing about the real way problems are solved in Modern Physics...It should be possible, these days, to collect all knowledge you need from the internet. Problem then is, there is so much junk on the internet... I know exactly what should be taught to the beginning student...I can tell you of my own experiences. It helped me all the way to earn a Nobel Prize. But I didn't have internet. I am going to try to be your teacher. It is a formidable task."
posted on Aug-29-07 at 4:22 PM

"At a convocation of writers in Seville, Spain, six weeks before Bolaño died [in 2003], he was declared to be the most influential Latin-American writer of his generation." (NYer)
And since then, Roberto Bolaño's reputation has been growing (NYRB:"The Great Bolano"). A man who dismissed magical realism as "shit" is more the heir of Cortazar and Borges (his two idols) than Garcia Marquez or Vargas Lllosa yet he is also something entirely new. Bolano was also the founder of infrarealism, a movement whose manifesto proclaims "A new lyricism springing up in Latin America, nourishing itself in ways that continue to amaze us.... Tenderness like an exercise in speed. Breath and heat. Experience at full tilt, self-consuming structures, stark raving contradictions."
Why has the English speaking world not heard of Bolaño? His great novel, The Savage Detectives, a sprawling work about youth and poetry and chaos (with no less than 52 narrators across several continents) has only this year been translated.
posted on Aug-27-07 at 10:27 AM

Brazilian Blogger Bashing! The respected Brazilian newspaper Estadao decided to promote its new online presence by jokingly producing a series of ads with obvious misfits and asking such questions as "Is this the guy giving you dating advice?" and a video (youtube) comparing bloggers to monkeys. Bloggers are outraged "Why would you read a newspaper that compares bloggers to monkeys?". In today's newspaper, Estadao offers no apology but instead dryly recounts the facts. Meanwhile, the resulting controversy, with thousands of blogs weighing in, has driven a lot of traffic to their new site.
posted on Aug-21-07 at 10:35 AM

The Quinta de Regaleira, completed in 1910, was the dream palace of the Portuguese millionaire Antonio Agusto de Carvalho Monteiro who was a devotee of mysticism and lost arts. The enormous gardens include a Templar initiation well,underground labyrinths, hidden doorways, fantastic grottos, lookout towers, and of course the palace itself (hunting room, outside detail, gargoyles) More photos here and here.
posted on Aug-18-07 at 9:05 PM

The Space Shuttle Atlantis and The International Space Station ...crossing the Sun.
posted on Sep-20-06 at 9:40 PM

Mapping the StarMaze A tale of mathematical obsession: "Before I can explain my decades-long quest to map the starmaze I must acquaint you with a small puzzle...I have a habit of seeing everything (cities, organizations, computers, networks, brains) as a maze, so I named this puzzle the starmaze....The first problem I ran into was that there were a lot of rooms...I invented wacky names for each room...But something funny happened...In that instant I finally grasped that the starmaze was arranged on the edges of a nine-dimensional hypercube..."
posted on Jun-4-06 at 9:10 PM

"In 1953, while working a hotel switchboard, a college graduate named Shea Zellweger began a journey of wonder and obsession that would eventually lead to the invention of a radically new notation for logic. From a basement in Ohio, guided literally by his dreams and his innate love of pattern, Zellweger developed an extraordinary visual system - called the “Logic Alphabet” - in which a group of specially designed letter-shapes can be manipulated like puzzles to reveal the geometrical patterns underpinning logic."
posted on Apr-17-06 at 11:06 PM

"CabSpotting traces San Francisco's taxi cabs as they travel throughout the Bay Area. The patterns traced by each cab create a living and always-changing map of city life. This map hints at economic, social, and cultural trends that are otherwise invisible."
posted on Apr-6-06 at 4:39 PM

The Roofless realm. Prestes Maia, is a colossal abandoned clothes factory that towers over central Sao Paulo: "At first glance Prestes Maia, which sem-teto members occupied in 2002, resembles a chaotic, multi-storey shantytown; cardboard spews out of its cracked windows, graffiti litter its walls and children rattle through its wide corridors on bicycles. But the community is meticulously organised." It was first occupied as part of the Movimiento dos Sem Teto, an organized movement of homeless families and workers and now houses over 468 families. But, now, an injunction has been issued for the repossession of the building. Everyone must leave by February 15th but there is no plan and the authorities fear violence will erupt. There's a Flickr community.
posted on Feb-14-06 at 3:38 PM

UTATA "is a collective of photographers, writers, and like-minded people who share a compelling interest in the arts. We began (and continue to exist) as a salon-style gathering of photographers who came together on flickr." Interesting projects such as the gorgeous Trains project and the current Utata pays homage, including works reminiscent of Arbus, Man Ray and Wegman.
posted on Feb-2-06 at 11:25 AM

Ring of Letters
The Einstein-Freud Correspondence (Einstein furthers the cause of peace)
The Freud-Jung Correspondence (Freud is Jung's father-figure)
The Jung-Pauli Correspondence (A QM founder buys into Jung's synchronicity)
The Pauli-Heisenberg Correspondence (The Uncertainty Principle was a letter to Pauli)
The Heisenberg-Bohr Correspondence (Was Heisenberg a Nazi?)
The Bohr-Einstein Correspondence (What is the fundamental nature of reality?)
posted on Jan-6-06 at 4:32 PM

The Secret of Nimrud Hey! What's down in this basement here? Looks like Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky! And, hey, a golden Assyrian mask from 800 BC! A photo-essay on the re-discovery of treasures in Iraq.
posted on Dec-15-05 at 9:50 PM

The Charts of Clarence Larkin A mechanical engineer by training, Clarence Larkin later found his true calling as a pastor and an author of influential books on religion. He is best remembered, however, for his detailed charts on topics such as: The Underworld, The Failure of Man, The Threefold Nature of Man, and an incredibly detailed The Book of Revelations from his book on Revelations.
posted on Dec-2-05 at 1:24 PM

OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the whole world, using uploaded GPS traces. So far: London and several other cities have been mapped. (via dataisnature)
posted on Nov-30-05 at 8:49 PM

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