Sunday, 16 December 2012

Today's dose of fun, jollity and education

Charleston: 1865
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Charleston: 1865
April 1865, Charleston, South Carolina
“St. Philip’s Church with ruins of Circular Church and Secession Hall”
Casualties of the Great Fire of 1861
Wet plate glass negative by George N. Barnard
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Gay men call one another many things - “Dinge Queen”, “Potato Queen”, “Rice Queen”, “Princess Pencil Meat”. But how do they learn to be gay?... more

How Did Milk Help Found Western Civilization?
via 3quarksdaily by Robin Varghese
Benjamin Phelan in Slate:
To repurpose a handy metaphor, let’s call two of the first Homo sapiens Adam and Eve. By the time they welcomed their first-born, that rascal Cain, into the world, 2 million centuries of evolution had established how his infancy would play out. For the first few years of his life, he would take his nourishment from Eve’s breast. Once he reached about 4 or 5 years old, his body would begin to slow its production of lactase, the enzyme that allows mammals to digest the lactose in milk. Thereafter, nursing or drinking another animal’s milk would have given the little hell-raiser stomach cramps and potentially life-threatening diarrhea; in the absence of lactase, lactose simply rots in the guts. With Cain weaned, Abel could claim more of his mother’s attention and all of her milk. This kept a lid on sibling rivalry – though it didn’t quell the animus between these particular sibs – while allowing women to bear more young. The pattern was the same for all mammals: At the end of infancy, we became lactose-intolerant for life.
Two hundred thousand years later, around 10,000 B.C., this began to change. A genetic mutation appeared, somewhere near modern-day Turkey, that jammed the lactase-production gene permanently in the “on” position. The original mutant was probably a male who passed the gene on to his children. People carrying the mutation could drink milk their entire lives.
Genomic analyses have shown that within a few thousand years, at a rate that evolutionary biologists had thought impossibly rapid, this mutation spread throughout Eurasia, to Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, India and all points in between, stopping only at the Himalayas. Independently, other mutations for lactose tolerance arose in Africa and the Middle East, though not in the Americas, Australia, or the Far East. In an evolutionary eye-blink, 80 percent of Europeans became milk-drinkers; in some populations, the proportion is close to 100 percent. (Though globally, lactose intolerance is the norm; around two-thirds of humans cannot drink milk in adulthood.) The speed of this transformation is one of the weirder mysteries in the story of human evolution, more so because it’s not clear why anybody needed the mutation to begin with.

Wheel of Urine
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
Urine Wheel
This Wheel of Urine is from Ullrich Pinder’s Epiphanie Medicorum (1506). It was used to diagnose disease based on characteristics of the patient’s piss, including its taste.
Urinalysis is common today, of course. Well, not the tasting part.
The Urine Wheel (SciAm)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Knowledge doubles every 15 years. But much of what you know is wrong. What to do? “Stop memorising things and just give up”... more

Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

Here are some examples of projects from the Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide. I’m surprised by the complexity of the vehicles and robots that you can build with these components. (And how could anyone resist the far-out soundtrack that accompanies the trailer?)
Once again I have swopped the Amazon link for The Book Depository (where it’s actually cheaper anyway).

More Tiny, Heartbreaking Street Art Sculptures from Isaac Cordal
via Flavorwire by Caroline Stanley
We’ve previously featured the creations of Brussels-based Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal on Flavorwire, but there’s something about his evocative work that simply leaves you craving more. Fortunately, a post on Designboom pointed us to the latest additions to Cordal’s ongoing Cement Eclipse series, which he installed last month as part of 2012 BLK River Festival in Vienna.
Do you see these sad old fellows in shopping carts and row boats as “a sculptural metaphor reflecting on a civilization highly urbanised and homogenised”? Or do you just want to give them a hug?
What about the gas mask-wearing bridge and groom on top of the asphalt pile? What are we to make of them?
Click through to venture down Cordal’s latest rabbit hole into a miniature world that is strange, bleak, and completely irresistible.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In politics, says Jonathan Haidt, truth or falsity is beside the point - a “rationalist delusion”. Likewise the idea that “reasoning is our most noble attribute”... more

Nude Men Throughout Art History at the Leopold Museum [NSFW]
via Flavorwire by Marina Galperina
There’s a controversial new exhibit now on view in Vienna. The museum had to recently censor its ads around the city… just because they feature an artwork by Pierre & Gilles with three fully-frontally nude soccer players encircled by victorious confetti. See, we’re quite accustomed to the female nude in art.
But men?
Presenting, the Leopold Museum’s Nude Men[19 October 2012 to 28 January 2013] an “unprecedented” and “long overdue exhibition on the diverse and changing depictions of naked men from 1800 to the present”. From the Renaissance’s ripped, pants-less, glassy-eyed slabs of masculine perfection to Bruce Nauman’s ’80s frantic drawings of a semi-transparent, erect male silhouettes in a jagged can-can line, from Paul Cézanne to Andy Warhol to Egon Schiele – the museum’s all-star lineup and a varied body of work explores the changes over time in “the concept of beauty, body image and values” of the male nude.
Definitely Not Safe For Work
And here they are: All the nudes, none of the fig leafs.

The Year’s Most Spectacular Microscopic Photos
via Flavorwire by Tom Hawking
If you associate camera manufacturer Nikon with those silly ads that feature Ashton Kutcher, you may somewhat relieved to know that they also do some good in the world. As well as making some pretty swanky SLRs, the company manufactures scientific microscopes, and it runs an annual competition for photography at a microscopic scale. This year’s results are in, and the company has published a selection of the winners on its site – and they’re as spectacular as ever. The photos – which we spotted at Ars Technica – are all kinds of amazing, encompassing everything from algae and fossils to a fly’s eye and the curiously perverse beauty of a cancer cell.
Click through to check them out.
NOTE: contains an image of baby spiders.

Photo credit: Somayeh Naghiloo, Department of Plant Biology, University of Tabriz
This curious-looking unit is the primordium of a garlic flower.

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