Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Here is a list of some of the IMDb's top-rated films, measured against the Bechdel Test. And here are some graphs.
So where are all the women? Well, probably the same place all the female screenwriters and directors are. In Hollywood, 19% of screenwriters are women. In television it's 28%.
And, far from getting easier, it's actually getting harder for women to get writing work in Hollywood. You can read more about that here.
As you'd expect, there's a connection between the number of women working as writers, directors and producers, and the number of female characters onscreen. More on that here.
From The Guardian:
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Thanks to the NZ Geographic for this link.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
The site of the impact, Chicxulub crater; is a circle 170km across, with half on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the other half in the water of the Caribbean Sea.
On land, a trough along the outer edge of the crater contains a vast semicircle of "cenotes", deep limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water.
This BBC clip explains:
Many of the cenotes are connected by an even deeper network of flooded caves which leads to the sea. Freshwater percolating down from rain on the surface and seawater flowing in from the Caribbean form "haloclines", distinct layers of water which don't mix. This clip shows the strange optical illusions caused at the boundary between the layers:
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
The text reads : Woodhouse's Balsam of Spermaceti or Pectoral Cough Drops for Consumptive or Other Coughs, also for Colds, Shortness of Breath, Asthma, Wheezing and other Afflictions of the Chest.
Spermaceti is produced by whales, you can read about it here. If swallowing bits of whale for the sake of your chest sounds silly, the discovery of streptomycin (the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis) had to wait until 1944. If you'd like to read about the history of tuberculosis and its treatments, the Wikipedia article is interesting.
In former times, the touch of your King or Queen was thought to be efficacious:
"Persons of royal blood were thought to have the 'God given' power of healing by this condition by touch, and sovereigns of England and France practiced this power to cure sufferers of scrofula, a form of tuberculosis of the bones and lymph nodes, commonly known as the "King's or Queen's Evil" or "Morbus Regius". In France it was called the "Mal De Roi". Curiously William the Lion, King of Scotland is recorded in 1206 as curing a case of Scrofula by his touching and blessing a child who had the ailment. Charles I touched around 100 people shortly after his coronation at Holyrood in 1630. It was only rarely fatal and was naturally given to spontaneous cure and lengthy periods of remission. Many miraculous cures were recorded and failures were put down to a lack of faith in the sufferer. The original Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church contained this ceremony."
"The custom lasted from the time of Edward the Confessor to the reign of Queen Anne, although her predecessor, William III refused to believe in the tradition and did not carry out the ceremony."
"Queen Anne, amongst many others, touched the 2 year old infant Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1712 to no effect, for although he eventually recovered he was left badly scarred and blind in one eye. He wore the medal around his neck all of his life and it is now preserved in the British Museum. It was believed that if the touch piece was not worn then the condition would return. Queen Anne last performed the ceremony on 30 March 1712. George I put an end to the practice as being "too Catholic."'
"The monarch himself / herself hung these touch piece amulets around the necks of sufferers. In later years Charles II only touched the medalet as he unsurprisingly disliked touching diseased people directly. He 'touched' 92,107 people in the 21 years from 1661 to 1682, performing the function 8,500 times in 1682 alone." [Wikipedia]
So now you know. The whole bizarre Wikipedia article on "touch pieces" (=healing talismans) is here.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
Sometimes nature comes up with something so funny-looking you can't quite believe it. Funny-looking to us, anyway. I wonder what we look like to them?
Check out this item on piglet squid. And Google offers a range of other images almost as funny.
In other crazy nature news, jaguars are attracted to Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men fragrance. This is a boon for animal biologists trying to study the elusive big cats, but you might want to think twice before wearing it on your rainforest holiday.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
'"Without a doubt he's the greatest player in our sport, ever," says national Scrabble representative Warner, who, like many serious exponents of the game, considers it a sport."
'"You go to international tournaments and everyone's sitting around at the end of the day telling Nigel-stories," says Warner. "Of course, he's never there, so the legend grows."'
"Richards' only two interests are obsessions: Scrabble, and cycling. He cycles 600km a week, including long rides before the 8am start of each day of tournament play. Everyone in Scrabble knows the story of Richards' first appearance at a New Zealand championship, when he knocked off his job in the Christchurch City Council's water department at 5pm, cycled for 14 hours to Dunedin in atrocious conditions overnight, played all his games over the weekend, then cycled home having won his division, spurning offers of a lift."
Read the whole Stuff article here.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Here is the Season 1 trailer (try and ignore the Spanish subtitles!):
And here are the award-winning opening credits:
Amazon has a good deal on box sets of the whole series. Click here to see them.
Monday, 31 May 2010
Or watch the animation:
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
The BBC recently had this nice story of a minute waterlily brought back from extinction through stored seed:
"Two years ago, this delicate bloom went extinct in the wild due to over-exploitation of its habitat.
Luckily its seeds were kept in storage - and were used by Carlos Magdalena to regrow the plant at Kew Gardens - just outside London.
It took him months to find the ideal conditions for growth. He hopes now that the Thermal Lily will flourish once again in the hot springs of Rwanda...." (read more)
There is also a passionate piece on the urgency of banking seed as a way of safeguarding species for the future:
"Kew's Millennium Seed Bank is a unique, global asset. It is the largest facility of its kind in the world and contains the world's most diverse seed collections.
Over the past 10 years, more than 3.5 billion seeds from 25,000 species have been collected and stored in their country of origin and in Kew.
Species are chosen by country partners according to whether they are rare or endangered or of particular potential use - for example as medicine, food, animal fodder or shelter.
Described by Sir David Attenborough as "perhaps the most ambitious conservation initiative ever", the partnership will announce on 15 October the banking and conservation of 10% of the world's plant species." (read more)
"There are four bodies lying and crouching in our tiny back garden. The ecologists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) got here only minutes ago, but, while the kettle boils, they are already grubbing about behind our bins, under our windowsills, in the lawn, flowerbed and log pile.
They are doing a "bioblitz" – trying to find as many species of animal and plant as possible in this small, suburban south-west London garden. Our back garden is only 12 paces long and seven wide, with, now I look at it through the eyes of ecologists, pitifully few flowers. Happily, they appear undaunted. "The great thing is, even with gardens like this that look fairly sterile, there's always something there," says the museum's insect specialist, Stuart Hine. "We'll move plant pots, and we'll have a look through your log pile . . . Lots of spiders, centipedes, woodlice, slugs – they'll all be there."" (read more)
Friday, 21 May 2010
Here is a video of Georg from Sigur Ros talking about Gogoyoko, a new music store designed for artists to sell directly to their fans.
Check out Gogoyoko here. It looks very smart.
Update: The Information Is Beautiful figures have been questioned as they exclude a number of important factors, such as marketing costs, recording costs (if these are paid for by the artist they get a much bigger share of the final proceeds, if not costs may be recouped before any royalies go to the artist). And a statutory royalty payment is always made to the writer(s) of a song whether or not the performers receive one. So remuneration in the music business is really very complicated!
The good news is that the Internet offers a multiplicity of options for artists. Some that seem to offer a very good return to artists are: CDBaby, which charges artists a flat $4 per CD sold, and allows them to set the retail price as they wish; Bandcamp, a site which currently delivers 100% of the digital download fee to artists who own their own recordings, less PayPal transaction fees; and Amplifier, which takes a 20% cut on music sold (this compares with the about 85% cut taken by itunes)
I'm indebted to Russell Brown, Simon Grigg, and Samuel Scott for explaining some of these matters to me.
If you're interested, this ars technica article graphs the market shift from albums to individual tracks and from download to streaming content. Things are changing in the music business, that's for sure.
Monday, 17 May 2010
The device used here is sometimes known as a "Zeusaphone", because of the, uh, lightning bolts!
According to Wikipedia:
"Zeusaphone, also called a Thoremin, is trademark for a high-frequency, solid state Tesla coil, when its spark discharge is digitally modulated so as to produce musical tones. The high-frequency signal acts in effect as a carrier wave; its frequency is significantly above human-audible sound frequencies, so that digital modulation is able to reproduce a recognizable pitch. The musical tone results directly from the passage of the spark through the air.
This is a variant of the plasma arc loudspeaker, designed for public spectacle and sheer volume rather than fidelity."
If you fancy the musical sparks, you can buy one, here.