Saturday, 28 February 2009

200+ years ago in the real Proceedings

The Royal Society (the scientific academy of the UK, not the Second Life organisation of a similar name) have been publishing scientific findings since 1665. That its journals have hosted an astounding array of seminal discoveries is praise enough, but there is new reason to laud on the Society.

The publishing section (curiously named "Royal Society Publishing") announced that until the end of March 2009, all content (even back to 1665) is open to the public, to celebrate their move to a new content-delivery system.

All content free for another month: I shall pause for a moment to allow my readership to catch its collective breath.

Their understated list "Featured Articles" has a few entries from Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, Alexander Volta, Edward Jenner, and J. Clerk Maxwell.

Naturally, I dove in to catch up on some back-reading.

In doing so, I came across several entries that seemed apropos given the recent increase in interest in minerals and metallurgy across the Commonwealth associated with the East Avaria Company goings-on.

John Hawkins
Account of the Discovery of Silver in Herland Copper Mine.
Proc. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1800 1:42-43.

Of a Peculiar Lead-Ore of Germany, and the Use Thereof.
Phil. Trans. January 1, 1665 1:10-11.

Charles Hatchett
An Analysis of a Mineral Substance from North America,
Containing a Metal Hitherto Unknown.
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1802 92:49-66.
(open the image for a better view, or follow this link to the full-text PDF)
I suspect now I must comb all the back issues for information on what one can do with mushrooms, as well.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Neanderthal music, heard 30,000 years too late.

As part of the exhibition 'Origins of Early Wales', the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru) commissioned an extraordinary composition: music of the Neanderthals. Musician Simon Thorne produced a 75-minute work of what he reckoned Neanderthal vocal and instrumental music sounded like.

Granted, we shall never truly know exactly what the Neanderthals sounded like*, but Mr Thorne has given us an intriguing reconstruction. His work is bolstered by findings in a couple of recent books concerning the topic (admittedly, a niche topic).
The Singing Neanderthals
The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
Steven Mithen, Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02192-1

The Mind in The Cave
Consciousness and the Origins of Art
David Lewis-Williams, Thames & Hudson, 2004. ISBN 0-500-28465-2
Results from the ongoing sequencing of the Neanderthal genome suggest that they share a conserved version of the FOXP2 gene, first speculated to spread through the Homo genus before the divergence of the species. The FOXP2 gene is thought to be closely associated with speech, and interested readers should read the linked references for further information. In short, FOXP2 confers some part of the vocal phenotype we humans enjoy.

As an amateur linguist, I found it thrilling to imagine the story of Beowulf being told around Anglo-Saxon hearths circa 500 A.D., and am even further intrigued by the concept of reconstructions of a Proto-Indo-European language, the language spoken 5 to 10 thousand years ago which gave birth to a majority of extant world languages today.

Imagine, then, my excitement at the possibility of hearing -- even just for 'show' -- singing from 30,000 years ago. The mind boggles, and I shall require a moment to recuperate afterwards.

* I have often accused my dear sister Sophie of sounding like a cavewoman when she would sing in the shower, but I suspect that's just a bit of sibling rivalry at work.
Neanderthal picture attribution is here.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Avarian Expedition: initial notes

I have received this via notecard from Prof Krogstad, who has travelled to Avaria and begun to examine the flora and fauna, looking for connexions to emerging Caledonian specimens.

This is all I have so far: the notecard, and a photograph. When pressed for more information, he cited some important sporting event as the reason he was out-of-world, and could not be bothered for additional discussion.

Avaria Sav
local night; 1445 - 1515 SLT
occasional rain showers
sickle tool

130, 122
large branch, branch, dandelion

151, 51
wild onion

167, 178
garlic, large branch

154, 190
grass sheaf, chevril

112, 190
basil, wild beet

101, 152

121, 150
bark chunk, sorrel, wild turnip

204, 154
branch, grass sheaf, large branch

225, 142
wild carrots, branch

228, 142
large branch, wild turnip

235, 168
bark chunk, garlic

241, 223
branch, bark chunk, grass sheaf

(1) HUD "locator" button turns from green to "?" when each harvest site empty
(2) all of these are labelled as one use only
(3) need to check sites out during local daylight

By my reckoning, Prof Krogstad found the basis for an interesting rustic stew, or the ex-Deutsche Demokratische Republik flag with the sickle and wheat sheath.

Ms Tanarian Davies has taken the lead in organising information on the Avarian discoveries, and I recommend her journal to you for additional reading.

By the look of things, a wealth of discoveries are poised for the, well, discovery. Knowledge of the Avarian biome will advance our understanding of the natural resources of Our Fair Caledon.