Every Picture Tells A Story: The Horoscope of Prince Iskandar (1411)

Ancient Word of the Day: Nadir

Nadir ˈnā-ˌdir (from Arabic) The lowest or worst point. The sunken place of great depression or degradation. Astronomically, it is the point to opposite to the zenith. Merlin by Ralph Waldo Emerson He shall not seek to weave,In weak unhappy times,Efficacious rhymes;Wait his returning strength,Bird, that from the nadir's floor,To the zenith's top could soar,The…

Book Review: All that Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black

Book Review: All that Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black

Scottish Forensic Anthropologist and Professor Sue Black's memoir about her life confronting death won the Saltire Book of the Year in 2018. Forensic anthropology (in case you are wondering) is the study of human remains in order to solve criminal cases. I was very excited to read this book. Yet the first few chapters of…

Fritz Khan's painting Der Menschen als Industriepalast in dreamy animation

Fritz Khan’s painting Der Menschen als Industriepalast in dreamy animation

Fritz Kahn's Der Menschen als Industriepalast by Henning Lederer.   Fritz Kahn combined industrial and mechanical functionality with the working wonders of the human body. He was a creative genius whose work remained undiscovered for many years. Until a curious curator Uta Von Debschnitz unearthed them. Kahn was a Berliner who did well for himself…

Book Review: Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell

Book Review: Medieval Bodies Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jake Hartnell

Art Historian Jake Hartnell takes us on a macabre and enthralling journey from head to toe in the medieval human body. This is fascinating because, even though we share the same bodies as our medieval ancestors, we had wildly diverging beliefs about the inherent symbolic power of parts of our bodies and what could heal,…

Ancient word of the day: Algorithm

Ancient word of the day: Algorithm

The ancient Muslim empire in the city of Baghdad was the birthplace of the word (and the concept of the) algorithm. In the year 820 AD, a Persian genius named Muhammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi created the concept of the algorithm and algebra in an ancient book called Kitab al-Jebr. The book Kitab al-Jebr (later latinised…

Book Review: The Abundance by Annie Dillard

Book Review: The Abundance by Annie Dillard

Creative non-fiction genius and nature writer extraordinaire Annie Dillard has won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay writing. She has a unique, warm and intensely spiritual, even transcendental way of writing that elevates her above most other writers. That’s big praise I know, but this is really great writing. She has the ability to probe…

Book Review: The Map of Knowledge by Violet Moller

Book Review: The Map of Knowledge by Violet Moller

Have you ever wondered where the original ideas in mathematics, astronomy, science, medicine, philosophy ever came from? The answers to these questions are in this remarkable history book that takes us on a tiki-tour through the highways and back alleys of some of the most vibrant and buzzing cities of the ancient world, where knowledge…

Book Review: The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis Williams

Book Review: The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis Williams

I grabbed a copy of this book fully expecting to love it. The Mind in the Cave is packed with information about ancient history, anthropology, archaeology and the Lascaux and Chauvet cave complexes – some of my favourite subjects. Although I have to say that this book was written in a style that was confusing to read, difficult to wade through and some of the information didn’t make sense, even to this non-expert on the topic.

Book Review: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

Book Review: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings takes its cue from medieval bestiaries. Author and playful intellectual Caspar Henderson sets out to write a modern compendium of beasts, and show, in the process, that truth is a lot weirder than fiction. Forget about dragons, cyclops and faeries, the world of extant species such as the thorny devil, nautilus and puffer fish are enough to inspire wonder.

Strange Victorian Journeys Into the Fourth Dimension

Strange Victorian Journeys Into the Fourth Dimension

The last gasp of Victorian spirituality infused cutting-edge science with old-school mysticism. Theosophy was all the rage; Many weird and and wonderful ideas being developed at the turn of the century around death, ghosts, the fourth dimension filled the Victorians with a palpable sense of possibility.

Book Review: The Origins of Creativity by Edward O. Wilson

Book Review: The Origins of Creativity by Edward O. Wilson

Ant-lover and Professor Emeritus of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, Edward O. Wilson has been arguing for the unity and connectedness of all human knowledge for many decades. In his latest book The Origins of Creativity, Wilson singles out creativity as humanity’s most important legacy which has allowed us to evolve and dominate other organisms on…

Five rare and awe-inspiring mountain and river maps

Five rare and awe-inspiring mountain and river maps

When it comes to design - the Victorians did it better. Nothing quite matches these 19th Century comparative river and mountain maps for exquisite hand-drawn detail, meticulous scale and luminous beauty. It makes me wonder, how can anyone not love old maps? A New Cartographic Convention One of the forerunners for this kind of map…

Summer in Melbourne Part 1: Mushroom Reef Sanctuary, Flinders.

Travel: Mushroom Reef Sanctuary, Flinders, Mornington Peninsula

Following on from my previous post about Tyabb Packing Centre, here is another little known wonder from the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne where I return to whenever I get the chance.  The Mushroom Reef Sanctuary is home to a gigantic mushroom shaped basalt reef near Flinders in Westernport Bay. Located 86 km from central Melbourne,…

The Most Beautiful Maps on Earth

Map Porn Part 2: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

Where Art Meets Science Scientific visualisations often can look just like objects of visual art. A few weeks ago in Part 1, we looked at how topographical surveys are visualised on both our moon and Jupiter's moon. This time, we are focusing on our own Pale Blue Dot. Both as art and scientific visualisation these…

Exquisite Marine Invertebrates of the 19th Century http://wp.me/p41CQf-rWG

Exquisite Marine Invertebrates of the 19th Century

In this blog in previous years, I've talked about how humans and cephalopods are oddly similar, explored the underwater realm of Sydney Harbour in great detail, and the invisible realm of microscopic creatures rendered by Ernest Haeckel. But in terms of delicate creatures, the Blaschkas were the 19th Century heavy-weights. I originally posted this post…

David Bowie’s Top 100 Favourite Books http://wp.me/p41CQf-3R

Starman, Bowie and the symbolism of SpaceX’s new world

Bowie needs no introduction in his ability to induce wonder, awe and beauty in anyone he touches. And now even after death, his legacy lives on in the form of a mannequin Star Man set to take a silence-filled orbit around our dark solar system and towards its final destination of Mars. The poetry and…

Book Review: The Domesticated Brain by Bruce Hood

Book Review: The Domesticated Brain by Bruce Hood

This is a riveting read from one of the leading lights of modern psychology, Bruce Hood of the University of Bristol. The book’s main premise is that 20,000 years ago our brains were 10% larger than what they are today. And that the reason for this is primarily the influence of social practices, culture and…

How slow-growing lichen opens up the vast universe

How slow-growing lichen opens up the vast universe

The Lichenologist from Matthew Killip on Vimeo. Hidden within this remarkable short film The Lichenologist is the slowly-growing story of the unassuming and vividly beautiful botanical wonder of lichen. Kerry Knudsen has the auspicious title of  Curator of Lichens at the University of California. He dispels common misconception between lichens and mosses. The latter being…

<3 The Internet: eSkeletons of primates, monkeys and homo sapiens

eSkeletons is an ingenious online resource that compares the skeletons of primates and including the most notorious of the bipeds homo sapiens. Created by the Department of Anthropology at the Univrsity of Texas in Austin, eSkeletons provides an interactive environment where visitors can examine skeletal anatomy through an osteology database. It's a very engaging and…

Microscopic treasures: Abstract art discovered under the microscope

Microscopic treasures: Abstract art discovered under the microscope

Sometimes the most unimaginable beauty comes from the world cannot be seen with the human eye, but yet still exists in the invisible netherworld of the microscope. Here are some artistic treasures, spied on the Reddit Microporn page, have a look and you will become hooked. Crystalline acetylsalicylic acid viewed under polarised light at 10X…

https://www.planetfour.org/?_ga=1.54777707.1175820507.1460107316#/home

Explore and classify galaxies and planets for real scientific studies

Nowadays, it's possible to become not just a participant in scientific studies, but one of the researchers. The internet and crowd-sharing knowledge has made this possible. We are now swimming in data, so rather than wade through everything themselves, scientists are asking the ''hive mind'' of the internet to help them to resolve challenges, and…

Dürer, Replicants and Flying Cars: Exploring Impressive Imaginary Cities with @Oniropolis

Dürer, Replicants and Flying Cars: Exploring Impressive Imaginary Cities with @Oniropolis

If you haven't already followed Imaginary Cities on Twitter @Oniropolis then you should right away! This is a curated treasure trove of architectural meanderings and inspiring cityscapes which have never existed other than in creative people's minds. Imaginary Cities are where the imagined possibilities of tech, science fiction, futurism and 80's pop culture are smashed…

Oxidised metal films photographed using a microscope and an Amazon Fire phone by Reddit user Friz Face.

One person’s trash is another’s treasure: oxidised metal film under the microscope

They could be a collection of post-apocalyptic planets viewed from space. However these pieces of enchanting art were not made by humans but by natural phenomena. Science is beautiful. The excellent Reddit page MicroPorn features close up microscopic images of materials. This collection of oxidised metal films were photographed using a microscope and an Amazon Fire…

Intricate paper cross sections of human bodies by Lisa Nilsson

Intricate paper cross sections of human bodies by Lisa Nillson

These true-to-life, anatomical cross-sections are entitled the Tissue Series by artist Lisa Nilsson. She uses a technique called paper 'quilling' that turns MRI and CT scans into something altogether more artistic and strangely pleasing to the eye. Nilsson painstakingly quills using narrow pieces of paper that are coiled together to fill up space. Quilling has…