Patented for Your Pleasure

What are the things we as a species enjoy? I’m going to go out on a limb and pick two- We enjoy sexual pleasure, and we enjoy tinkering with stuff. The confluence of these two interests have lead, over time, to more sexual gadgetry than you could shake an electrode covered phallus at, and it’s amusing for a couple of reasons. For one, I don’t think with all our noodling we’ve ever actually improved on good ol’ sloppy biology. Secondly, and this is the mouth of the comedy gold mine, all these endless inventions of ours must, if they are to ever to hit the market and enter the orifices at large, pass through the patent office. Can you think of a more incongruous pairing than brute sexuality and government forms? Or of the mysterious workings of human arousal and technical diagrams?

Particle Portraits

Quote: “Take a deep breath! You have just inhaled oxygen atoms that have already been breathed by every person who ever lived. At some time or other your body has contained atoms that were once part of Moses or Isaac Newton. The oxygen mixes with carbon atoms in your lungs and you exhale carbon dioxide molecules. Chemistry is at work. Plants will rearrange these atoms, converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, and at some future date our descendants will breathe some in.”

11.07. filed under: play. science. 6

Campi Phlegraei

or: Hamilton’s Flaming Fields

Paraphrased: The area around Naples was known locally as the Campi Phlegraei, or ‘flaming fields’, owing to the frequent and violent eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. William Hamilton (Britain’s envoy to the Spanish court at Naples) from his country house at the foot of the volcano, was ideally placed to witness and investigate the eruptions of the 1770s. The prevailing view at the time was of volcano was a purely destructive force. Hamilton sought to show that in a broader time scale, volcanoes had been responsible for the mountainous landscape and rich, fertile soils that characterized the area. Hamilton employed the Anglo-Neapolitan artist Peter Fabris to create sketches in situ to illustrate the work (Hamilton himself is pictured in many of the plates as the figure in the red coat). These were then reproduced in prints that were hand coloured individually by local artists by the application of gouache. The resultant work was published in 1776 (with a later supplement describing the great eruption of Vesuvius in August 1779) as Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies.

Take a closer look at this beauty at Glasgow University Library, Georgetown’s Campania site, Ingenious UK, Nortwestern’s Campania Felix, and Stromboli Online. Also Hamilton’s Apparatus.

10.30. filed under: art. history. people. science. 3

B-flat In The Dark Heart Of Perseus

Quote: “In the dark heart of the Perseus galaxy cluster, 300 million light-years from Earth, a supermassive black hole has been singing the same note for 2.5 billion years. Its tone registers 57 octaves below middle C and, according to scientists at NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Center, is a resounding B-flat. Yet, how is this possible in the vacuum of space? When relativistic jets, which contain material moving at close to the speed of light, slam into the hot gas that pervades giant elliptical galaxies and clusters of galaxies, they beat a ‘galactic drum,’ as it were. The jet acts as the stick, whereas the surface of the gas is the drum.”

There is currently a vote before the Galactic Senate to rename the entire area “The Ringo Quadrant.” Check out this Scientific American article for more. The image was adapted from here.

10.29. filed under: science. space. 1

Cockroaches that spent 12 days aboard the Russian orbital laboratory Photon-3 - Noah’s Arc, returned to Earth last week. Two of these cockroaches were pregnant, evidently becoming the first Earth creatures to have conceived in space and becoming the first members of the 100,000 mile high club. Russian scientists are expecting these two female cockroach cosmonauts to give birth to “the world’s first offspring conceived in microgravity.” That’s interesting, certainly, but do we really need to help these indestructible little buggers adapt their genes to space as well? Silkworms I’m not too worried about, but roaches?! If we keep this up, when we finally come across a monolith somewhere, there’ll already be cockroaches there, scuttling under it when we shine our flashlights.

In other science-factual news of a fascinating but highly questionable nature- Craig Venter has announced he’s built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals, in effect creating the first new artificial life form on Earth. Pants-crappingly good news ay?

10.08. filed under: headlines. science. space.

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