Friday 31 March 2017

Sequoiadendron giganteum

The Sequoiadendron giganteum - the Giant Sequoia, or what John Muir simply called the Big Tree, can be found quite widely in the UK.  There are two wonderful specimens in the town park in leominster (HERE).

Image above from Cone-bearing Trees of the California Mountains by Chase, J. Smeaton (1911). 

Compact Multiple Copies

If you have some information that you feel is of high value, then a good approach is to make compact multiple copies of the information as a means to increase the probability that the information will not disappear altogether. This works for trees in a forest as well as for books.  

Inspired by a thought from a Robert Bringhurst talk HERE.

Roterdam (1599)

Raccolta di le piu illustri et famose citta di tutto il mondo

From HERE.

Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts (1914)

From HERE.

La Pyrotechnie de Hanzelet Lorrain (1630)

HERE is a richly illustrated French treatise on Pyrotechnics and other military techniques by Jean Appier-Hanzelet (1596-1647), published in 1630.

La pyrotechnie de Hanzelet lorrain, ou sont representez les plus rares & plus appreuuez secrets des machines & des feux artificiels, propres pour assieger, battre, surprende & deffendre toutes places.

Monterey Cypress (1919)


Margaret Downing Brainard.

Within a radius of scarcely five miles together with an inland tension of only a few rods, there stands on Point Lobos and Cypress Point in Monterey County, California, a most interesting group of prehistoric trees widely known as the Monterey Cypress, or, Cedars of Lebanon

On the Points overlooking the Ocean the constant action of the fierce winds have forced a peculiar growth. Gnarl-trunked, some two to four feet in diameter, their limbs usually twist out from the bowl of the tree into long flat sprays which form table-like tops at the height of fifty feet from the ground.

Other specimens, from the same cause, develop into grotesque shapes, the most spectacular being that of a striding ostrich and long-necked crane, weirdly silhouetted against the sky. Back from the granite shore, partially sheltered from Ocean winds, the trees produce a more open top while long straight branches extend down the less rugged bodies close to the ground. Inland, shut back by advancing Monterey pines and entirely cut off from the ocean winds, the habit of growth is pyramidal.

The tree is a cypress and not a cedar. La Perouse discovered it in 1786, but, not until Hardweg rediscovered it in 1846 did it receive from him its first name, Cupressus Macrocarpa, the Greek for `large fruited cypress'. The flat-topped growth around Cypress Point bears so strong a resemblance to the Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus Libana) that people non-versed in tree lore have naturally fallen into the error of using the misnomer. Writers, too, overshadowed by the wonderful stories told by the old stage-drivers of the Monterey Peninsula, constantly refer to the Monterey Cypress as the `sacred cedar of the Holy Land'.
More HERE, on the story - that involves five Chinese Buddhist monks in 420AD finding Monterey and somehow bringing this tree with them. 


Mechanick Exercises (1683)

From a Facsimile of the original 1683 edition of Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon published in 1901 (HERE).

Thursday 30 March 2017

Sphaera mundi (1501)

By Johannes de Sacro Bosco from HERE.

Merely advertising of the scholarship (1995)

From twenty years eaelier - 1995: WaveLab and Reproducible Research. Jonathan B. Buckheit and David L. Donoho HERE

When we publish articles containing figures which were generated by computer, we also publish the complete software environment which generates the figures.

An article about computational science in a scientific publication is not the scholarship itself, it is merely advertising of the scholarship. The actual scholarship is the complete software development environment and the complete set of instructions which generated the figures.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life (2017)

A great piece in the Guardian on the work of Peter Godfrey-Smith's book Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life (HERE)

Streets for People (1969)

Streets for People by Bernard Rudofsky 1969.

"...for the street is not an area but a volume. It cannot exist in the vacuum; it is inseparable from its environment. In other words, it is no better than the company of houses it keeps. The street is the matrix: urban chamber, fertile soil, and breeding ground. Its viability depends as much on the right kind of architecture as on the right kind of humanity."
Image (left) from Streets for People and (right) an advert from New York Magazine 25 May 1970.

Gaussian Correlation Inequality (2014)

A nice story HERE about a retired statistician who solved the Gaussian correlation inequality in 2014 and because it wasn't published in a well known journal it was then ignored for a few years.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

On Endpapers

From HERE.

A sculptor of his own brain.

A great piece in The Paris Review on the work of the Spanish pathologist, histologist and neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934). Including mention of his dream diary HERE. Above a self-portait of Cajal in his years of medical student in zaragoza from HERE.

Sunday 26 March 2017

A Journey Round my Room (1794)

In The Art of Travel, the writer Alain de Botton mentions a book called A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre. This book was written by de Maistre based on his experiences as a 27 year old in the army of the Sardinian Kingdom. In 1790 he was placed under house-arrest in Turin for fighting an illegal duel. During the 42 days of his incarceration he wrote what would become Voyage autour de ma chambre

Botton uses de Maistre's book to argue that all of our experiences, the prosaic as well as the exceptional have something to teach us. He also cites Nietzsche: 
When we observe how some people know how to manage their experiences - their insignificant, everyday experiences - so that they become an arable soil that bears fruit three times a year, while others - and how many there are! - are driven through surging waves of destiny, the most multifarious currents of the times and the nations, and yet always remain on top, bobbing like a cork, then we are in the end tempted to divide mankind into a minority (a minimality) of those who know how to make much of little, and a majority of those who know how to make little of much.

The book by de Maistre, translated into English in 1871 by Henry Atwell is HERE

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Aratea, with extracts from Hyginus's Astronomica in the constellation figures (9th Century)

From HERE.

Pantograph (1631)

The Pantograph was invented by Christoph Scheiner in about 1603, but his book on the subject, Pantographice, was not published until 1631. 

The full title of the book is: Christophori Scheiner, e Societate Iesu Germano-Sueui, Pantographice, seu, Ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cauum, mechanicum, mobile : libellis duobus explicata & demonstrationibus geometricis illustrata, quorum prior epipedographicen, siue planorum, posterior stereographicen, seu solidorum aspectabilium viuam imitationem atque proiectionem edocet


The Parish Review

The Parish Review is the magazine of the International Flann O'Brien Society.

The Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, also worked as Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and too many other pseudonyms for scholars to track. 

Blackboard (2008)

Two stills from an Blackboard, an animated oil painting video by David O'Kane, from HERE

Image Copyright David O'Kane.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Interference experiment with electrons (1963)

The diagram from 1963 that shows Feynman's original thought experiment on electron diffraction. From  The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume III

Quantum Mechanics

Chapter 1. Quantum Behaviour

“Quantum mechanics” is the description of the behavior of matter and light in all its details and, in particular, of the happenings on an atomic scale. Things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience about. They do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen.


In this chapter we shall tackle immediately the basic element of the mysterious behavior in its most strange form. We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery. We cannot make the mystery go away by “explaining” how it works. We will just tell you how it works. In telling you how it works we will have told you about the basic peculiarities of all quantum mechanics.


We should say right away that you should not try to set up this experiment (as you could have done with the two we have already described). This experiment has never been done in just this way. The trouble is that the apparatus would have to be made on an impossibly small scale to show the effects we are interested in. We are doing a “thought experiment,” which we have chosen because it is easy to think about. We know the results that would be obtained because there are many experiments that have been done, in which the scale and the proportions have been chosen to show the effects we shall describe.
From HERE.

Controlled double-slit electron diffraction (2013)

A more recent version of the double-slit electron diffraction experiment, from 2013, is Controlled double-slit electron diffraction by Roger Bach, Damian Pope, Sy-Hwang Liou and Herman Batelaan New Journal of Physics 15 (2013) 033018

In this paper, the authors are arguing that the results they present are the first true implementation of an electron double slit experiment.

The general perception is that the electron double-slit experiment has already been performed. This is true in the sense that Jonsson demonstrated diffraction from single, double, and multiple (up to five) micro-slits, but he could not observe single particle diffraction, nor close individual slits. In two separate landmark experiments, individual electron detection was used to produce interference patterns; however, biprisms were used instead of double slits. First, Pozzi recorded the interference patterns at varying electron beam densities. Then, Tonomura recorded the positions of individual electron detection events and used them to produce the well known build-up of an interference pattern. It is interesting to point out that the build up of a double-slit diffraction pattern has been called ‘The most beautiful experiment in physics’, while the build-up for a true double-slit has, up to now, never been reported.

No doubt they will not be the last authors to claim they are the first. 

Monday 20 March 2017

The Most Beautiful Experiment in Physics (1976)

In 2002 readers of Physics World voted Young’s double-slit experiment with single electrons as “the most beautiful experiment in physics” of all time. Although not credited by Physics World at the time, the physicists Pier Giorgio Merli, Gian Franco Missiroli, and Giulio Pozzi had carried out this experiment in a collaboration between the Italian Research Council and the University of Bologna almost three decades earlier.

The Bologna team had also made a movie for teaching purposes because the experience of watching an interference pattern build up electron by electron was so moving to them that they wanted to share this.

The stills above are from a wonderful movie made in 2010 that describes how the Italian physicsts carried out the experiment, the original movie they made and what they now think of their experiment ( HERE).

From the 2010 film, Gian Franco Missiroli explains why they made the original film:
For the experiment it was important to visualize it not just as a few shots that one can show in an article, but as a detailed sequence of hundreds of frames where you see the step by step growth of the interference pattern, with a psychological and emotional impact stronger than the one given by watching a photo in a scientific paper.

...because the growth of the interference pattern was something so ...touching so - from an expressive point of view - ...convincing, that a movie was the right way to show it. 
A recent appraisal of this beautiful experiment is HERE

The original paper: P. G. Merli, G. F. Missiroli, and G. Pozzi, “On the statistical aspect of electron interference phenomena” American Journal of Physics 44 (1976), 306–307.

Demonstration of single‐electron buildup of an interference pattern (1989)

The build up of an electron interference pattern one electron at a time as an electron beam passes through two slits in a barrier is not explainable with classical physics. Richard Feynmann "...absolutely impossible to explain in any classical way, and has in it the heart of quantum mechanics."

Here, from a paper by Tonomura and co-workers from 1989, is a series of experimental images of this phenomena. 

The Abstract:
The wave–particle duality of electrons was demonstrated in a kind of two-slit interference experiment using an electron microscope equipped with an electron biprism and a position-sensitive electron-counting system. Such an experiment has been regarded as a pure thought experiment that can never be realized. This article reports an experiment that successfully recorded the actual buildup process of the interference pattern with a series of incoming single electrons in the form of a movie.
The sequence of images shows what happens as electrons go through the pair of `slits' one at a time. Each white dot is a detected electron, point like and discrete. Over time as more and more electrons pass through the pair of slits an interference pattern builds up - a phenomena of continuous waves. Figure caption: (b) 100 electrons detected, (c) 3,000 electrons detected, (d) 20,000 electrons detected and (e) 70,000 electrons detected

Demonstration of single-electron buildup of an interference pattern. A. Tonomura, J. Endo, T. Matsuda, T. Kawasaki, and H. Ezawa. American Journal of Physics 57, 117 (1989); doi: 

Image from HERE.

Monday 13 March 2017

Chances with Wolves

A superb piece HERE in The Paris Review by David Ramsey on the Internet radio station Chances with Wolves and the role it played as he cleared out his parents house in Nashville.

As we worked, I would find a photograph to keep, or I would find detritus to trash—say, the jewel box of a CD I bought in high school—and it was like uncovering old stories, a prior self, a lost language. A remembered moment or thought, long buried, would arrive with the jolt of discovery. Objects are sacred not when they become signifiers of nostalgia but when they collapse time altogether, when they are restorative of memory. When they are connective strands of the self, of the family, of the community. Our histories are fragile in flimsy recollection. Stuff is the durable stuff of our lives. Music, too, is like this.

Where else are you going to discover Watch ‘n’ Chain by Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation?

Image Copyright Chances With Wolves.

Thursday 9 March 2017

...happiness is no more than a faculty for being surprised (1906)

It seemed to me a wonderful thing that at last I should see oranges growing on trees; and I felt so happy that morning that I could not but wonder at my happiness, and seeking for a cause for it I stumbled on the reflection that perhaps after all happiness is no more than a faculty for being surprised.

The Lovers of Orelay, printed in the Memoirs of my Dead Life by George Moore (1852-1933). Published 1906. HERE.

Painting of Moore by Edouard Manet from HERE

Wednesday 8 March 2017

The “buena vista” hypothesis (2017)

Massive increase in visual range preceded the origin of terrestrial vertebrates
Malcolm A. MacIver, Lars Schmitz, Ugurcan Mugan, Todd D. Murphey, and Curtis D. Mobley

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1615563114 PNAS March 7, 2017 


Starting 385 million years ago, certain fish slowly evolved into legged animals living on land. We show that eyes tripled in size and shifted from the sides to the top of the head long before fish modified their fins into limbs for land. Before permanent life on land, these animals probably hunted like crocodiles, looking at prey from just above the water line, where the vastly higher transparency of air enabled long-distance vision and selected for larger eyes. The “buena vista” hypothesis that our study forwards is that seeing opportunities far away provided an informational zip line to the bounty of invertebrate prey on land, aiding selection for limbs—first for brief forays onto land and eventually, for life there. 

Paper HERE.
Commentary HERE.
Image from HERE.