Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds

His name was Bernard Le Bovier De Fontenelle and his book, Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes, (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds) is a fascinating, though I suspect largely forgotten, bit of science history. Published in 1686, the book is remarkable, not so much for its literary merits as for the ultimate function its publication served. Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds holds the admirable distinction of being one of the first books of “popularized science” ever published, which is to say, a book of scientific ideas aimed directly at “the average reader” rather than natural philosophers. It became quite fashionable and in as much might be considered the Brief History of Time or Cosmos of it’s day. 

The Jimsonweed Junkies

Across the Americas, during the twilight hours of the summer, a poisonous perennial weed unfurls its ingeniously folded conical wildflower and offers itself to all comers. Every bit of the weed is toxic, and its nectar is held deep within it’s corolla tube, so there are few takers. One family of moth, however, happens to have just the tools for the job; Its proboscis is long (longer in most cases that the rest of its entire body) and its proclivities… well… let’s just say this moth likes to get high baby.

09.23. filed under: science. 6

Boom Computing

He kept his homemade, oversized, “nuclear weapon effects computer” in a room packed floor to ceiling with puzzles. To me, smugly distanced from the fearful zeitgeist of the atomic age (and its pragmatic preparations) this choice seems perfectly fitting. I can think of none better in fact. Circular slide rules manufactured to calculate the various effects and time lengths of a post nuclear landscape were once fairly common items. If you handed me one today and expected an important calculation in return you might as well hand me a icosahedron-shaped rubik’s and expect in return a nice slice of strawberry pie.

Quote: At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland. Now it’s filled with so many mosquitoes that it’s turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs.

In case you missed the news in August officials at Lake Tawakoni State Park in Texas found a truly enormous spider web that completely engulfed multiple trees and shrubs and which, in it’s entirely, covered about 200 yards of trail. Entomologists were in a tizzy because this sort of thing is exceedingly rare. The Tetragnathidae spiders native to the area are cannibalistic and solitary but this mega-web was evidently built cooperatively, by over 12 different types, to take advantage of unusually good feeding conditions brought on by heavy rains in the early summer. Now at the end of summer its being reported that the web is laden with egg sacs… Wow. Spider cooperation? Is this evolution in action? Would another good feeding season lead to a continuation of spider city? New behavioral patterns continuing on? Lets hope not because you just know what it would ultimately lead to...




09.15. filed under: headlines. science. wtf. 10

The image above is a color composite I created combining 6 hand drawn black and white images, each by a different astronomer, of a total solar eclipse which occurred on July 18th 1860. Although photography already existed at the time of this eclipse it was nowhere near precise enough to make truly useful astronomical observations. The astronomers who recorded it continued on with the method of hand drawing observations, which they’d employed long before the invention of the telescope, let alone the upstart photography. This particular eclipse was special in that the drawings are now thought to be the first known representations of a coronal mass ejection. See below for the original images, which are beautiful in their own right, and a bit more info.

09.10. filed under: science. space. 9

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