July 26, 2006
From HASTRO-L comes news of the live unveiling of the Archimedes Palimpsest at 4pm PST on August 4, which is midnight onwards GMT, or 1am BST. The press-kit states “Join us at the Exploratorium or online as we watch ancient text revealed and read for the first time in a thousand years!“, which makes them much more honest than me. I’d have made sure my panel of experts knew exactly what was going to be revealed so they could coo appreciatively and say something useful to the webcam.
It also adds useful information about what a palimpsest is. “His thoughts were inscribed on goatskin parchment, but the letters and diagrams were scraped off and written over by Greek monks in the Middle Ages.” This sort of thing was usual in the middle-ages, so a lot of ancient texts have been lost. The reason we can read this one is that high-tech imaging equipment is allowing to peek at what was originally on the parchment. Archimedes’ work is the most famous material found, but the book appears to have leaves from other older texts too.
The material found could potentially cast knew light on how the Greeks practiced mathematics and prove a few pet theories completely wrong.
There’s an hour long video on Google with more information.
You can download the video from Google.
technorati tags: archimedes, math, maths, ancient+science
July 25, 2006
Just in case you were in any doubt about how hot it is, satellite images show you in exquiste detail:
BBC News reports Dr John Remedios, Head of Earth Observation Science at the University of Leicester, saying: “The latest satellite data shows a perspective of the environment in which we live that can only be obtained from space. The images show temperature increases and increased pollution for every region in the UK. It is particularly striking to see the extent of temperature and pollution increases in the large cities, which have such a detrimental effect on the quality of life in those locations.”
Phew, tell me about it!
July 21, 2006
Virus particles are pretty darn smart for something so small. For one thing, they know how to assemble themselves using only the information contained in the particle itself (did someone say nanotechnology?
They’re also pretty tough – about as tough as bullet-proof plastic. Not bad!
The MicrobiologyBytes podcast reveals all!
July 20, 2006
This was in THES recently. It’s Jonny Woodward doing his Harry Potter event in Chemistry. I’ve seen him come to meeting in his gear, but haven’t had chance to see him in action yet.
July 19, 2006
A new edition of the Tangled Bank, looking at what’s happening in science blogging is online at Salto Sobrius. There’s plenty to read from a variety of sciences.
The BBC reports on an apartheid society in early Anglo-Saxon Britain. By combining genetic and archaeological data researchers think they may have more evidence to show that relatively few Saxons came over, but had a large influence on sub-Roman Britain. The original paper is online at the Royal Society, but not publicly accessible. You can buy it for £25. Or not.
Some papers from the Royal Society are available for free download for a while, including Ancient DNA by Eske Willerslev and Alan Cooper if you want to see a preview of what sorts of things might be making the headlines in the next couple of years.
July 18, 2006
This is a test of YouTube and the movie function on my cheap but usable camera.
It’s a frog and insect arranging to meet for lunch near by my pond. The insect might be hard to spot, so I’ve drawn a diagram. Yes I am that sad.
July 14, 2006
Via NewScientist’s Short Sharp Science comes the news that the Eiger is no longer the mountain it was. A glacier supporting the East face of the Eiger has melted due to global warming. Additionally water is falling into the crack that has now formed, adding pressure. A chunk of rock about twice the size of the Empire State Building is expected to fall sometime soon-ish. Swissinfo has a video and there’s always Google.
Photo by Anaulin.
July 13, 2006
Inkycircus points to the news that the Western Black Rhino has probably become extinct. We were talking about preservation strategies in what would otherwise have been a management meeting last week. Alan Cann raised the topic about how you would preserve endangered animals when you have few of them. In vivo by cross-breeding them with a similar sub-species or else in vitro by storing their DNA?
We didn’t have a perfect answer. I’m against cross-breeding as a solution. What you would have is a hybrid, so you lose the old species, but it’s not so much that that bothers me. Where would you release the new hybrids to live? The reason the Western Black Rhino has gone extinct is that it lives in a rhino-hostile zone. The new rhinos would run into exactly the same problems unless we could cross-breed them with a kevlar-coated rhino. Otherwise how to you set up and monitor a reserve with sufficient space for rhino to thrive in an affordable way?
That leaves DNA sampling as the solution. That’s not perfect either. There is a common belief that DNA is the instruction book for putting a life-form together. That’s not 100% true. Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart explain it in… umm… What Does a Martian Look Like? (I think). In the case of Human DNA, there’s the material there to build a human, so long as it’s inside a human. The DNA doesn’t contain information like what sort of temperature it should be stored at, or what the uterine surface should be like because it can take those details for granted. Similarly if you have Western Black Rhino DNA in a fertilised egg then do you need to implant it into a Western Black Rhino?
You might get away with a Northern Black Rhino as the mother, but the problem there is that you’re assuming by the time we’re able to release the rhinos again that there’ll be other suitable sub-species that can act as host surviving. It seems more likely to me (the non-biologist) that if you have the DNA, you’ll only have the DNA. It’s a useful record, but it won’t bring the rhino back.
July 12, 2006
Via the Focus Forum, I see the PBS programme The Elegant Universe is available for download in a collection of chunks. It might be a useful introduction to String Theory.
July 8, 2006
Mixing Memory points to an online toy for creating art in the style of Jackson Pollock.
There’s been a been a lot of ink spilled on what it is that makes Pollock’s work attractive. A paper in physics world, Fractal expressionism by Taylor, Micolich and Jonas says that it could all be about fractals. They also point out a that the idea was recently revived by Mureika, Dyer and Cupchik in Multifractional Structure in Nonrepresentational Art [PDF]. Fractals are frequently found in nature, and the attraction of the painting is that in an abstract way is describes Nature, without distracting the viewer with trees, frogs or anything else specific that might be seen in Nature.
If you prefer the forces of order to chaos then there’s also the Mondrian Generator. It’s hit ‘n’ miss at producing something interesting, but you can decide for yourself whether that suggests that Mondrian knew what made something geometrically attractive, or if he was just lucky.