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Friday, March 18, 2016

Heh - 'Language of Love' from Norwegian group Ylvis (of 'What Does The Fox Say' fame)

Language of Love from Norwegian group Ylvis - about love when there's no way to understand what the other is saying:

What Does The Fox Say?:

via Viral Viral Videos

Friday links

It's Rimsky-Korsakov's birthday - quotes, bio, Flight of the Bumblebee and a lame joke.

Nobel Prize time: Disease-fighting beer.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include St. Patrick's Day, how peacocks look in mid-flight (spoiler alert - they're beautiful), and a 2,100 year old Roman tavern.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

History of the Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service Van

This is a hoot, especially if (like me) you're old enough to remember the old Adam West Batman TV series (wiki) - it ran from 1966 - 1968. If you haven't seen them, you should track them down and watch.

By the way, that theme song is really stuck in my head.


Infographic: The Price of Being a Superhero in Real Life, Then & Now.

The physics of Batman's cape.

via Miss Cellania

This Urn Turns Your Loved One's Ashes Into A Potted Tree After they Die

Your loved ones can nurture your ashes and create new life—and they don't even need a backyard.

Instead of visiting your dearly departed grandmother in a cemetery, now it's possible to watch her ashes turn into a tree on your balcony.

The Bios Urn, made from coconut shells, compacted peat, and cellulose, holds a person's ashes along with a seed for a tree. As the urn decomposes, the tree roots take up the ashes and break through the small pod. Though the urn can be planted in the ground, the designers realized that city-dwellers not have access to land—and might want to keep a family member closer.
"Everyone has mentioned that they want to be a tree after they die," Moliné says. "But since we’ve launched Bios Incube, we’ve seen that people are also excited for the fact that you can experience the growth of the tree that comes from your loved one's remains. I think this is really interesting because if we are able to turn the process of death—which is always related with grief and desolation—to an educative and emotionally appealing moment of life itself, we will have achieved a lot."

Thursday links

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, quotes, poetry, videos, and how to make your own green beer. Related, this excellent Biologist’s St. Patrick’s Day Song.

How Peacocks Look In Mid-Flight (spoiler alert - they're beautiful)

2,100-Year-Old Roman Tavern Unearthed, Empty Cups and All.

Anxious People Are More Likely to Walk Left When Blindfolded.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include bewaring the Ides of March, a series of 1917 photographs of the Lincoln Memorial's construction, the map of the United Repositioned States, and the forgotten history of fat men's clubs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beware - It's the Ides of March.

Today is the Ides of March - notionally, in the Roman lunar calendar, the day of the full moon that marked the midpoint of the month.* It was on this date in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar (wiki) was assassinated by a conspiracy headed by Marcus Junius Brutus (wiki) and Quintus Cassius Longinus, who feared Caesar's growing power in the Roman Senate. 

The most famous portrayal of the events of that infamous day is found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, based largely on Sir Thomas North's 1579 English translation of Plutarch's Lives and likely first presented at the Globe in the summer of 1599. 

Julius Caesar:

Soothsayer: Caesar!

Caesar: Ha! who calls?

Casca: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again! 

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, 

Cry "Caesar." Speak! Caesar is turned to hear. 

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.

Casca: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

Caesar: What sayst thou to me now? speak once again.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

~ William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act I, Sc. 2) 

Pulling Caesar’s toga was the signal to begin the attack
On the fateful day, Shakespeare's protagonist encounters the soothsayer again:

Caesar: The ides of March are come.

Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

~ Ibid., Act III, Sc. 1

Caesar: Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!

~ Id.

The corpse was still lying where it had fallen, abased and stained with blood - that of a man who had marched west to the British Isles and the Ocean,and intended to march east to the thrones of Parthia and India, so that they too might be made subject to a single empire and all land and sea be governed from one capital; but no one dared to remain and recover his body. Those of his friends who were present had fled, those who were outside were hiding in their houses; or changed their clothes and departed for the countryside and the nearby towns. 

~ Nikolaus of Damascus (fl. ca. 40-20 B.C.)** (Universal History, fragment) 

The Bard has Marc Antony saying:

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; 

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interrèd with their bones. 

So let it be with Caesar..." *** 

* In the Julian calendar (reformed in 46 B.C.), the ides were the 15th days of March, May, July, and October - and the 13th days of all the other months. From 222 until 154 B.C., the ides of March was the day on which the new consuls of the Roman Republic entered office. The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st) of the following month. The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.

** Nikolaus of Damascus was a Greek historian who befriended Herod the Great and Augustus Caesar, Julius's nephew, heir, and later Roman emperor. This excerpt from his fragmentary Universal History is believed to be the earliest account of Caesar's murder.

*** After the Roman people were aroused against the conspirators by Marc Antony, Brutus and Cassius fled to Syria and in 42 B.C. were defeated by Antony and Octavian at the battle of Phillipi. This left the way open for Octavian to seize power and - as Caesar Augustus - become the first Roman emperor. 

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar summary:

Tuesday links

Watching a Log Cabin Hand Built From Scratch Will Make You Want to Live in a Forest.

A series of 1917 photographs of the Lincoln Memorial's construction and dedication ceremony.

Why does Britain have such bizarre place names

The Forgotten History Of Fat Men's Clubs.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include people who can't stop making puns, Pi Day, cheese addictions, Albert Einstein's birthday (and the post-mortem saga of his brain), and the world's new largest aircraft, the Airlander 10 (it's 25% larger than a Boeing 747 and can stay airborne for 5 days).

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Links

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879: bio, videos, gravitational waves explained, and the post-mortem saga of his brain.

3.1416: Happy Pi Day: history, video explanation, and the digits of Pi set to music.

Airlander 10: World's largest aircraft prepares to take to the skies (it's 25 per cent larger than a Boeing 747 and designed to remain airborne for up to five days)

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a "best of" Mythbusters supercut, exploding killer lakes, lots of eyebrow interpretation advice from the 16th century, and the (court-ordered) unmasking of the Lone Ranger.

3.1416: Happy Pi Day

March 14 (3/14) is celebrated annually as Pi Day because the date resembles the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — 3.14159265359... or, rounded off, 3.1416. 2016, therefore, provides a particularly good reason to celebrate: 3/14/16.

Archimedes (wiki) (circa 287–212 B.C.) is credited with doing the first calculation of Pi. British mathematician William Jones came up with the Greek letter and symbol for the figure in 1706, the use of which was later popularized by mathematician Leonhard Euler (wiki), beginning in 1737.

Last year’s date (3.14.2015) was especially significant because it matched the first four digits after the decimal point. This year, some math lovers have already started calling 3.14.16 Rounded Pi Day rounding up those four digits.

Here's Vi Hart on 2016 Pi Day:

And a good general explanation of Pi (kid-oriented, but that makes it straightforward):

And here's what Pi sounds like:

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879: bio, video, gravitational waves, and the post-mortem saga of his brain

The greatest aim of all science [is] to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest possible number of hypotheses or axioms.

Einstein with an Einstein puppet**
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in the most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men.

~ Albert Einstein (What I Believe)

Our defense is not in armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order.

~ Einstein (New York Times Magazine, 2 August 1964)

If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German, and France will declare that I am as a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare me a Jew.

~ Einstein (address at the Sorbonne, December 1929*)

Worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow, that is the fate of people whom—God knows why—the bored public has taken possession of.

~ Einstein (letter to Heinrich Zangger, 1922)

Even though without writing each other, we are in mental communication, for we respond to our dreadful times in the same way and tremble together for the future of mankind ... I like it that we have the same given name.

~ Albert Schweitzer (wiki) (1875-1965) (of Einstein, letter, February 1955)

Quintessential theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (wiki) (1879-1955) was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. After an unpromising start in school, Einstein took Swiss citizenship at the age of 15 and while working as a patent examiner in the Swiss patent office in 1905, produced three seminal papers - on the photoelectric effect and the quantum theory of light, Brownian motion, and his theory of special relativity - that forever changed modern physics. 

The general theory of relativity (see video below on recent discovery of gravitational waves) followed in 1916, by which time he was professor of physics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, where he continued his theoretical work until 1934, when he fled Germany for the United States to escape Nazi persecution. He was among the prominent physicists who warned President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 about the destructive potential of nuclear weapons, which led to the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb. 

Awarded American citizenship in 1940, Einstein spent his last years at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, where he sought to develop the so-called "unified field theory" which still eludes physicists today. He is now recognized as the greatest physicist of the 20th century, if not of all time.

Here's a brief biography:

And an explanation of the recent discovery of gravitational waves (based on Einstein's general theory):

After his death in 1955, Einstein's brain (wiki) was removed - without permission from his family - by Thomas Stoltz Harvey, the Princeton Hospital pathologist who conducted the autopsy. Harvey took the brain home and kept it in a jar. He was later fired from his job for refusing to relinquish the organ.

Many years later, Harvey, who by then had gotten permission from Einstein's son Hans Albert to study the brain, sent slices to various scientists throughout the world. There's more here on the postmortem travels and travails of the brain, plus this: the first formal study of Albert Einstein's brain, which describes some differences in structure and morphology.

* N.B. An earlier variant of the same idea (in November 1919):
"By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England, I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be regarded as a bête noire, the descriptions will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English!"
** This photo was taken by Harry Burnett at Cal Tech in Pasadena where Albert Einstein was teaching. Einstein saw the puppet perform at the Teato Torito and was quite amused. He reached into his jacket’s breast pocket, pulled out a letter and crumpled it up. Speaking in German, he said, “The puppet wasn’t fat enough!” He laughed and stuffed the crumpled letter up under the smock to give the puppet a fatter belly.

Further reading:

Princeton's digital archive of Einstein's papers.

Prior to their divorce, Einstein had for his first wife a rather stringent list of behaviors that he put into writing. He produced another set of criteria for their divorce, including a promise to give to her the proceeds of his not-yet-awarded Nobel Prize.

The plot to kill Einstein