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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

Oops

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:

BALLAD.

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.

Supervillain/Superhero

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):

Sightlines

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.