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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ideas Worth Spreading is

the tagline for the TED website. And it's good to see a tagline with truth.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 150 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.
Ted is a goldmine of ideas and information. For instance, below I've embedded the TED video of a talk by former MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte about the One Laptop Per Child project.

Friday, October 26, 2007

How much rice is your vocabulary worth?

Find out at FreeRice.* Here is a litte quote from the site's About page:
FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site,

FreeRice has two goals:

1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

They may be optimistic — who can say? But it's an addictive little exercise. Give it a go.

*The link arrived in an email from a friend.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

[99] Lift Balloons

Okay, I made the 99 part up -- but seriously, a balloon carrying a solar telescope reached an altitude of almost 23 miles above the earth:*
The Sunrise project has presented engineers with a number of extraordinary challenges. The balloon is designed to carry 6,000 pounds of equipment, including a 1-meter (39-inch) solar telescope, additional observing instruments, communications equipment, computers and disk drives, solar panels, and roll cages and crush pads to protect the payload on landing. The equipment must be able to withstand dramatic changes in temperature, and the steel and aluminum gondola cannot vibrate in ways that could interfere with the operation of the telescope.
6,000 pounds!
This is the future of space travel.

Who needs rocket science?

*I found this via Sci Fi Tech.

Privacy Threats Video (and lawful access legislation)

Update: To get a feel for the direction in which lawful access legislation points us, watch PBS Frontline's "Cheney's Law." (Synopsis here.)

Michael Geist, author of the weekly column 'Law Bytes,' made the concluding remarks at the recent (end of September, 2007) International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner's conference in Montreal. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has posted a video of those remarks on youtube.

Geist has been following the efforts of the Harper "government" [sarcastic quote marks inserted by me] to introduce "lawful access" legislation to Canada. The aim of lawful access appears to be to eradicate any notion or illusion of privacy we hold as citizens by giving law enforcement agencies to listen to any phone call and to requisition any and all data on the activities any ISP's subscribers with one phone call to the ISP. Here is a partial list of entries on Geist's site which deal with lawful access.

Watch the video, read up on lawful access. Help find a way to stop this erosion of our rights as Canadian citizens. Booting Harper and his Bush-licking conservatives out of office would be a good way to start.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why Does God Hate Amputees?

And why won't he heal them? Any believer in the christian god as a supreme being is helpless to answer that last question without resorting to self-delusion and intellectual dishonesty.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Short Pier at Baltimore

JC Bradbury of Sabernomics looks at the Baltimore Orioles' firing of manager Sam Perlozzo.

Bradbury makes some good points. Personally, I think that the best thing that could happen to the Orioles would be for owner Peter Angelos to take a long walk off a short Baltimore pier, or at least sell the club to someone who is interested in fielding a winning team.

Why pick on Angelos?

Well, first of all he's a lawyer. Beyond that, Angelos is responsible for hiring the mismanagement team who put together the overpriced "major league team" that currently constitutes the Orioles. A glance at some of the contracts that comprise the poorly constructed roster can be found here. Until top-level management begins to make sensible (don't even hope for inspired) roster decsions, the O's will continue to lose no matter how many field managers they fire.

Update: It appears there's also been an upper-management shakeup in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have hired Andy MacPhail as their new Chief Operating Officer. Looks good on paper, as MacPhail presided over two World Series winners in Minnesota (1987 and 1991). However, it should be pointed out that MacPhail inherited the '87 Twins team and that the '91 Twins might reasonably be called a fluke.

MacPhail also spent much of the past 10 years as president of the Chicago Cubs during which time the Cubs' roster construction and player management has been questionable to say the least. How much of the blame for the above is on MacPhail's head is not clear.

Looks like Angelos is actually trying to do something to get the O's moving in the right direction. We'll have to wait and see how MacPhail pans out, though I'm not optimistic about his ability. Off the top of my head I'd have to say that with this hiring Peter Angelos is in the right church, but the wrong pew.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Frost-Damaged Sonnet (near the end of a long, cold May)

Here's a poem I wrote last Friday. Anyone who is familiar with my stuff will probably notice that this one tumbles among my apparent obsessions like a pebble in a streambed.

Frost-Damaged Sonnet (near the end of a long, cold May)

Some June when lilacs aren't in bloom
and willows are bare of bark,
when there's no chickadee, no bumblebee,
no baseball’s parabolic arc,
when lips and tongues aren't among
the universe's graces,
and gravity and entropy
finally erase us

may this mind of mine be left to find
the equations of her beauty
in echoes of her hands’ and thighs’ collapse to singularity —
all curvature of Space defined
in the ache of eyes
for the sway her hips impart to Time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Picking Up (the) Pieces

A month into the 2007 baseball season the most interesting story to me is that of the injury-wracked Oakland Athletics team. So far this year, they've suffered injuries of various sorts to Rich Harden (their best starting pitcher), Mark Kotsay (their best center fielder), Milton Bradley (their best right fielder), Dan Johnson (their second-best first baseman -- though he's back now), Nick Swisher (their best left fielder and best first baseman), Mike Piazza (their best designated hitter and back-up catcher), Esteban Loaiza (their #4 starting pitcher) Adam Melhuse (another back-up catcher), Bobby Kielty (fourth outfielder) and Travis Buck (a Triple A outfielder) who performed well as an emergency call-up pressed into everyday duty.

In spite of all this, the A's have a 13-14 record and are holding down third in the AL West, a mere 2 games back of the division-leading Angels.

How are they doing it? Well, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton have looked great leading the rotation in the absence of Harden, and Chad Gaudin has done everything that was expected from Loaiza while Joe Kennedy has been serviceable at the back of the rotation (fortunately the schedule through April left little need for a fifth starter). And the bullpen has been strong. Yep, they've been doing it with pitching.

Their bats have sucked. It's been all ass-bats (a fine word coined by BatGirl) all the time. Which isn't surprizing considering the line-up flux -- must be tough to get an offense going when the components change on an almost nightly basis.

Through all this, Billy Beane, Oakland's GM, has never stopped trying to improve his team, for now and for the future. In the last few weeks, he's traded minor leaguers for Chris Denorfia (a fourth outfielder type who's out for the season -- and was at the time of the trade, he's a player for next year), and Ryan Langerhans, a good defensive outfielder and league-average hitter who can play all 3 OF positions well. Then Beane turned around and traded Langerhans to Washington for Chris "Doyle" Snelling, a good hitter and better than average defensive outfielder with a reputation for being injury-prone who was languishing on the Nationals' bench while lesser players started everyday (don't ask why he was sitting -- you can't know the mind of a squid). After the Snelling trade and the Piazza injury, Beane traded a player-to-be-named later (or cash) to the Orioles for minor league walking fiend, Jack Cust, a classic three-true-outcomes hitter with no defensive upside -- he's fit only for DHing.

I don't expect Snelling or Cust to be in the A's lineup all season, but I do think they'll be useful parts when they do play.

At The Hardball Times, Jeff Sackmann has an interesting article on Billy Beane and whether he's discovered a new baseball inefficiency to exploit. Whether or not Beane has found a new strategy is a fascinating question -- certainly most of his recent signings and trades seem to point that way. Other interesting (though perhaps moot) questions if the strategy exists are whether or not Beane consciously developed and pursued it, or if it is something he stumbled into while dealing with his team's injuries over the last few seasons and found a way to make work for him. Two things do seem certain to me: Beane shows no fear, and he is the most fascinating GM in sports.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Found Poem

Bouncing around today, I found How To Catch a Lion in the Sahara Desert.

I'd call its original form an unintentional prose poem, but I've taken the liberty of inserting line breaks and doing some editing to turn it into the following (which I may attempt to record sometime in the next few days):

Found Poem (How To Catch a Lion in the Sahara Desert)

1. Theoretical Physics Methods

The Dirac method

Assert that wild lions can
ipso facto not be observed
in the Sahara desert.

if there are any lions at all
in the desert, they are tame.

The capture of a tame lion is left
as an exercise for the reader.

The Schrödinger method

At every instant there is
a non-zero probability
of the lion being in the cage.

Sit and wait.

The Quantum Measurement method

Assume that the sex of the lion
is ab initio indeterminate.

The wave function for the lion
is hence a superposition

of the gender eigenstate
for a lion and that for a lioness.

Lay these eigenstates out flat
on the ground and orthogonal

to each other. Since the (male)
lion has a distinctive mane,

the measurement of sex can
safely be made from a distance,

using binoculars. Because the observer
affects the observed the lion then collapses

into one of the eigenstates, which
is rolled up and placed inside the cage.

The Nuclear Physics method

Insert a tame lion into the cage
and apply a Majorana exchange
operator on it and a wild lion.

As a variant assume
you would like to catch
(for argument's sake) a male lion:

Insert a tame female lion
into the cage and apply the
Heisenberg exchange operator,
exchanging spins.

The Newton method

Cage and lion attract each other
with gravitational force.

Forget the friction. The lion will
arrive in the cage sooner or later.

The Special Relativistic method

Move over the desert
at light velocity.

The relativistic length contraction
makes the lion flat as paper.

Take the lion, roll it up,
and put a rubber band around it.

The General Relativistic method

All over the desert distribute
lion bait containing large amounts
of the companion star of Sirius.

After enough of the bait has been eaten,
send a beam of light through the desert.

This will curl around the lion,
confusing it completely.
The lion may then be approached
without danger.

The Heisenberg method

Position and velocity
of a moving lion can not be measured
at the same time.

As moving lions
have no physically meaningful position
in the desert, they cannot be caught.

The lion hunt can therefore
be limited to lions at rest.

The capture of a lion at rest
is left as an exercise for the reader.

2. Experimental Physics Methods

The Thermodynamics method

Construct a semi-permeable
membrane which lets everything
but lions pass through.
Drag this across the desert.

The Atomic Fission method

Irradiate the desert with slow neutrons.
The lion becomes radioactive
and begins to disintegrate.

Once the disintegration process
is far enough along
the lion will be unable to resist.

The Magneto-Optical method

Plant a large, lens shaped field
with cat mint (nepeta cataria)
so that its axis is parallel
to the direction of the horizontal
component of the earth's magnetic field.

Put the cage in one of the field's foci.
Throughout the desert, distribute
large amounts of magnetized spinach
(spinacia oleracea) which has,
as everyone knows, a high iron content.

The spinach is eaten by vegetarian
desert inhabitants which in turn are
eaten by the lions.

Afterwards the lions are oriented parallel
to the earth's magnetic field
and the resulting lion beam may then be
focused on the cage by the cat mint lens.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Them Irish Are Some Keeners, Wha?

Always in the vanguard where death is concerned. An Irish funeral parlour now offers, um, live streaming of funerals for people unable to attend in, er, body. They do seem to be using a tasteful and considerate approach (which is more than can be said for me)

Just last week, he said, the funeral home negotiated with an internet service provider in New Zealand to upgrade one woman's connection temporarily to high-speed broadband so that she could see her sister's funeral without freezing screens or dropped audio.

Not just anybody can log on to eavesdrop on the grief. The service requires special software downloads and password access controlled by Clarke & Son [sic].

S. Clarke & Sons, funeral directors. Est. 1918.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How To Make A SteamPunk Keyboard

Call me a geek if you like, but I think this is a seriously cool DIY project. Though if I were to attempt it, I'd probably not even bother looking for an old typewriter to salvage keys from. I'd simply go with the brass-edged buttons for all the keys. Also, while it would be much more work (all those holes!), I think I might at least attempt to make a thin brass or wooden face to lay over or in place of the felt.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Chicago Homer

Even before I found the Chicago Homer tonight (more on it below, with a link) there were many things to like about Chicago — even for me, who has never been there. And probably never will be.

For instance, in the middle of the 19th-century she became the livestock centre of America, butchering and shipping delicious beef and pork all over the USA.

There is Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914.

And there was Chicago Stadium, with its awesome Barton organ, demolished in 1995 to my utter horror and dismay and eternal resentment (I have not watched hockey since).

There is the old "Abby" — the icebreaker MV Abegweit, which carried passengers and freight between Borden, Prince Edward Island and Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick until she was retired in 1982 — now serving as the headquarters of the Columbia Yacht Club (picture of the Abby) in Chicago.

There is humble servant, a somewhat frequent and very thoughtful commenter on this blog.

And now there is The Chicago Homer, a great resource for anyone interested in ancient Greek Literature

"The Chicago Homer is a bilingual database that uses the search and display capabilities of electronic texts to make the distinctive features of Early Greek epic accessible to readers with and without Greek. Its component parts are

1. Standard electronic editions of the texts, revised for maximum utility in a searchable database, and translations by Richmond Lattimore and Daryl Hine that closely observe the line structure of the originals and lend themselves to interlinear display.

2. A set of database tables that support lexical, phrasal, morphological, and narratological searches.

3. A Web-based user interface that gives access to the texts and supports queries to the database.

The most salient feature of the Chicago Homer is its ability to make visible the network of phrasal repetition that is so distinctive a feature of Homeric poetry. We reserve the rest of this introduction to a brief discussion of repetitions before turning to a detailed account of the texts and translation, the database and its parts, and the user interface."
I believe I will be making some use of The Chicago Homer in both the near and the distant future.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is a fascinating book written by Julian Jaynes, and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1976.

Maybe many of you folks have read this book already. And if you haven't, maybe you should (I find Jaynes' writing very accessible). I managed to borrow a copy a little while ago (but it's apparent to me that I am going to have to acquire my own copy to have available at my leisure). I cracked it open Friday night at work, and can't stop. The idea, if you're unfamiliar with the book, is that what we call consciousness (that is, the subjective "I" we imagine behind our eyes and everyone else's) emerged as a result of language (and specifically through the heightened attention, examination, and comparison we are able to achieve through proliferations and permutations of metaphor) and that before the "I" the mind was bicameral.

What Jaynes meant (or seems to have meant [he died in 1997] — I haven't finished the book yet, or managed to fully absorb or understand the chapters I've read) by bicameral is that the mind functioned as two parts — and neither part conscious — the "man" part, based in the left side of the brain and using, as we do, Wernicke's area to communicate through language, which performed everyday tasks such as learning, fulfilling social/civic/ familial obligations, everything that needed to be done on a day-to-day basis, and the "god" part, based in the right side of the brain, which performed organizational and analytical tasks, and which, in times of stress or decision (i.e. novel situations) collated/parsed/synthesized past experience, formed a response, and, using the area equivalent to Wernicke's, coded that response into speech and sent it to the left side of the brain where it was perceived as the voice of the god (or the king, chief, or a parent), this hallucination being auditory, but often accompanied by corresponding visual hallucinations.

Jaynes wasn't just pulling this stuff out of his ass. He develops his thesis slowly and carefully, with great attention to detail (and objections), citing, for example, much research done on, and case histories of epileptics and schizophrenics.

Part of Jaynes' ideas are expressed through a study of the absence of subjectivity and volition in the Iliad — the Iliad as a psychological document is, or seems to me to be, quite central to the book.

I'm sure I'm not doing the book justice. I'm certain I haven't gotten across the absolute (beautiful) strangeness of what he postulates, nor how his discussion of metaphor resonates in me. As I said, Jaynes develops his ideas slowly. This is purposeful, and utterly necessary to understanding even a part of what he is saying. This is not a book to be nibbled at, it is a book each bite of which must be chewed and chewed over and over in the mind to have a hope of capturing its full savour and nutritional value.

To be read and listened to before, after, or in conjunction with Jaynes' book I'd also recommend Vilayanur S. Ramachandran's 2003 Reith Lectures, The Emerging Mind. Ramachandran is the Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California (San Diego).

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The God Delusion, etc

(A comment by Rob L on this post at Alone On A Boreal Stage led me to write this post.)

"He [Richard Dawkins] does not quietly acknowledge the etherial [sic] quality of religion, but instead scorns it as an escape from the earthly responsibility of being a human being in the here and now (sounds a lot like Marx, actually...and Freud...).

"The ethereal quality of religion." If the emphasis there is meant to be on ethereal, I have to ask why anyone should quietly acknowledge something for which there is, and, by definition, can be, absolutely no evidence?

If religion is the emphasis, then I'd have to say that the evidence is in: it has indeed been used for centuries as an escape from responsibility and accountability. Its great miracle is to turn questions of responsibility and accountability immaterial by passing the buck to an idea of a thing without any measurable substance whatsoever. "God" is indistinguishable from magic.

Monday, January 15, 2007

That Silent Evening (a Galway Kinnell poem)

That Silent Evening audiofile (2:38).

As requested in the comments to a previous post, here is Galway Kinnell's That Silent Evening. Text here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I ran into a small technical difficulty (misplaced the 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adaptor for my input jack). I won't be able to record until I get a new one tomorrow. My apologies.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Return of the Audioposts

I'll be able to get back to posting audio renditions of poems this weekend. If anyone has any requests, let me know.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pequeno Vals Vienes (Federico Garcia Lorca)

"Pequeno Vals Vienes" is the poem on which Leonard Cohen based the song "Take This Waltz." I have long wanted to do my own translation of the piece. So I have. It's below. The original, Spanish text can be found here.

update: I've done another version and posted it in the comments.

Little Viennese Waltz

In Vienna there are ten girls waiting
for death to sob on their shoulders;
there's a forest where the doves fall
to pieces every morning,
and their feathers are five thousand windows
in a gallery in the museum of frost.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz
with its flavours of cognac and death,
and the sea splashing salt on its tail.

I need you, I want you, I'll love you
in the armchair with the book of the dead,
in corridors with their shadows of sadness
and the irises’ scent in the dark,
in our bed as pale as the moonlight
where we dance to rhythms we invented
with the shells of ourselves for drums.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

In Vienna there are four broken mirrors
where the echoes of your mouth still play,
there's a piano whose keys are all dying
and boys wishing to wear something blue.
And the poor people tie freshly-wept garlands
to the tiles of their roofs every day.

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

Oh I love you, I want you, I need you,
in an attic where young people play
speedy Hungarian polkas
on quiet July afternoons
and sing of the lamb-white snow iris
(its petals open so slowly,
like your silent face in the dark).

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Take this waltz with its lips pressed together,
Take this waltz with the coin in its mouth.

We'll dance it together in Vienna,
this waltz disguised as a river.
But there'll be a ocean of hyacinths around us,
their petals and my mouth on your legs.
Keep my soul in photographs and lilies,
and in the dark undulations of your thighs.

And I want, my love, to leave you
this violin with the dark in its hollow,
this violin with the tomb built in,
this violin and the tape of this waltz.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Wood Song (Eugene Lee-Hamilton)

I never heard of Eugene Lee-Hamilton before today, the poem below (found at the preceding link) made me like him immediately. It reads, to me, somewhat like You Are My Sunshine (a very, very sad song). I also hear it being sung (in my head) by an alto, or a high tenor.

Wood Song
When we are gone, love,
Gone as the breeze,
Woods will be sweet, love,
Even as these.

Sunflecks will dance, love,
Even as now,
Here on the moss, love,
Under the bough.

Others unborn, love,
Maybe will sit
Here in the wood, love,
Leafily lit;

Hearking as now, love,
Treble of birds;
Breathing as we, love,
Wondering words.

Others will sigh, love,
Even as we:
'Only a day, love,'
Murmurs the bee.

Is it just me, or do the simplicity and the sentiment combine in a poignant and clarified beauty?

Speaking of clarified, I discovered the poem while looking for John Clare's The Shephard's Calendar, which is available month by month on in the sidebar on the right of the linked page.

Oh, and here's a John Clare poem:


A WEEDLING wild, on lonely lea,
My evening rambles chanc'd to see;
And much the weedling tempted me
To crop its tender flower:
Expos'd to wind and heavy rain,
Its head bow'd lowly on the plain;
And silently it seem'd in pain
Of life's endanger'd hour.

"And wilt thou bid my bloom decay,
And crop my flower, and me betray ?
And cast my injur'd sweets away," -
Its silence seemly sigh'd -
"A moment's idol of thy mind?
And is a stranger so unkind,
To leave a shameful root behind,
Bereft of all its pride?"

And so it seemly did complain;
And beating fell the heavy rain;
And low it droop'd upon the plain,
To fate resign'd to fall:
My heart did melt at its decline,
And "Come," said I, "thou gem divine,
My fate shall stand the storm with thine;"
So took the root and all.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tums In Space!

Here's a sweet youtube video of gravity-free sphere of water. If you watch past the two-minute mark, you'll see an antacid tablet dissolve in water in freefall.

(Also, the narrator could be used as a generic example of the Poetry Reading Voice.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Remote Astronomy

This article at Universe Today has some background on robots as it works its way toward astonomers accessing their telescopes from home via the internet. Also some fine shots of Orion.


What can I say? I like comic books. And apparently I have the characteristics of my favourite supervillain and favourite superhero. Go figure.

You are Dr. Doom

Dr. DoomBlessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test

You are Green Lantern

Green LanternHot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

History of Neuroscience

The University of Washington has a Milestones in Neuroscience page. For some reason I've gone through and picked out years marking research on vision (I may have missed some, because I don't know quite everything; and I've inserted some links):


ca. 500 B.C. - Alcmaion of Crotona dissects sensory nerves
ca. 500 B.C. - Alcmaion of Crotona describes the optic nerve
ca. 500 B.C. - Empedocles suggests that "visual rays" cause sight
ca. 100 - Rufus of Ephesus describes and names the optic chiasm
ca. 1000 - Alhazen compares the eye to a camera-like device
1025 - Avicenna writes about vision and the eye in The Canon of Medicine
1088 - Abu Ruh writes The Light of the Eyes describing several eye operations
1550 - Bartolomeo Eustachio describes the brain origin of the optic nerves
573 - Girolamo Mercuriali writes De nervis opticis to describe optic nerve anatomy
1583 - Felix Platter states that the lens only focuses light and that the retina is where images are formed
1583 - Georg Bartisch publishes Ophthalmodouleia: das ist Augendienst with drawings of the eye.
1587 - Guilio Cesare Aranzi describes ventricles and hippocampus. He also demonstrates that the retina has a reversed image
1601 - Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente publishes Tractatus de Oculo Visusque Organo describing the correct location of the lens relative to the iris
1604 - Johannes Kepler describes inverted retinal image
1623 - Benito Daca de Valdes publishes the first book on vision testing and eyeglass-fitting
1644 - Giovanni Battista Odierna describes the microscopic appearance of the fly eye in L'Occhio della Mosca
1665 - Robert Hooke details his first microscope
1668 - l'Abbe Edme Mariotte discovers the blind spot
1709 - George Berkeley publishes New Theory of Vision
1750 - Jacques Daviel performs the first cataract extraction on a living human eye
1782 - Francesco Buzzi identifies the fovea
1784 - Benjamin Franklin mentions bifocal eyeglasses in a letter to George Whatley
1786 - Samuel Thomas Sommering describes the optic chiasm
1786 - Georg Joseph Beer founds the first eye hospital in Vienna
1798 - John Dalton, who was red-green colorblind, provides a scientific description of color blindness
1801 - Thomas Young describes astigmatism
1832 - Sir Charles Wheatstone invents the stereoscope
1838 - Eduard Zeis publishes study about dreams in people who are blind
1851 - Heinrich Muller is first to describe the colored pigments in the retina
1851 - Hermann von Helmholtz invents ophthalmoscope
1855 - Bartolomeo Panizza shows the occipital lobe is essential for vision
1862 - Hermann Snellen invents the eyechart with letters to test vision
1869 - Johann Friedrich Horner describes eye disorder (small pupil, droopy eyelid) later to be called "Horner's syndrome"
1876 - Franz Christian Boll discovers rhodopsin
1879 - Hermann Munk presents detailed anatomy of the optic chiasm
1879 - William Crookes invents the cathode ray tube [see also Karl Ferdinand Braun]
1881 - Hermann Munk reports on visual abnormalities after occipital lobe ablation in dogs
1887 - Adolf Eugen Fick makes the first contact lens out of glass for vision correction
1889 - F.C. Muller-Lyer discovers the Muller-Lyer illusion
1893 - Charles Scott Sherrington coins the term proprioceptive
1911 - Allvar Gullstrand-Nobel Prize-Optics of the eye
1916 - Shinobu Ishihara publishes a set of plates to test color vision
1921 - Hermann Rorschach develops the inkblot test
1967 - Ragnar Arthur Granit, Halden Keffer Hartline and George Wald share Nobel Prize for work on the mechanisms of vision
1981 - David Hunter Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel-Nobel Prize-visual system

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

One God Further

Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, has been out for a while. I haven't read it yet. But I will before long. Here's a fun little video clip of Stephen Colbert interviewing Dawkins.

A Reason for (some guarded) Optimism

is the freely available information (such as below) archived randomly on the internet. As long as the power stays on, we may be okay.

The paper which first suggested the double helix structure for DNA [asterisk and links mine]:

A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid
J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick (1)

April 25, 1953 (2),
Nature (3), 171, 737-738

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable* biological interest.

A structure for nucleic acid has already been proposed by Pauling (4) and Corey1. They kindly made their manuscript available to us in advance of publication. Their model consists of three intertwined chains, with the phosphates near the fibre axis, and the bases on the outside. In our opinion, this structure is unsatisfactory for two reasons:

(1) We believe that the material which gives the X-ray diagrams is the salt, not the free acid. Without the acidic hydrogen atoms it is not clear what forces would hold the structure together, especially as the negatively charged phosphates near the axis will repel each other.

(2) Some of the van der Waals distances [more van der Waals] appear to be too small.
The whole paper is worth reading. It's fairly short.

*That's some fine and beautiful understatement.

Monday, January 01, 2007

One liter of bile per day

I just discovered Molecule of the Day and deoxycholic acid (a regular man is a happy man); which means I have one more site to read every day. Which is one more thing to keep me from posting regularly.