Saturday, 21 January 2017

From spam to Greek gods and goddesses, a miscellany

How Long is Chile?
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
Pretty long. It is, after all, the longest country in the world. But why is it that long? And how long is it exactly?
Chile is as narrow as it is because of the Andes Mountains, which separate it from Argentina. That's why the country is only 110 miles (177 km) across, on average. The country derives its length from the successful colonial expansion of the Spanish, and independent Chile's own military successes. In 1818, when Chile broke free from Spain, the country comprised only the middle third of its current north-south extension.
It is worth scrolling through the original post to read the comment on climate comparisons.
Link here

Long term effects of slave exporting in West Africa
via OUP Blog by Nonso Obikili
History matters.
Historical events can sometimes have consequences that last long after the events have finished. An important part of Africa’s past is its history of slave exporting. Although Africa is not unique to the trading of slaves, the magnitude of slave exporting rose to levels not previously experienced anywhere else in the world.
Between 1500 and 1900, an estimated 10 million slaves were exported from West and Central Africa. To put this in perspective, the estimated population in these regions in 1700 was about 28 million people. The exports also do not include people who died either during capture, the long trek to the coast, or the journey across the Atlantic. In short, it was a significant event in Africa’s history lasting over 400 years. A significant event of this magnitude is bound to have long lasting effects.
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Video: “A History of Rock in 15 Minutes”
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
“348 rockstars, 84 guitarists, 64 songs, 44 drummers.”
Let the debate begin over who they missed! I'll start with the Sex Pistols.
Check out the track list and see whether your favourite rocker is included

The enduring mystery of Keats’s last words
via 3 Quarks Daily: Michelle Stacey at The Paris Review

Keats’s near obsession with death – “youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies”; “many a time I have been half in love with easeful death”; “now more than ever seems it rich to die” – becomes a palpable entity in this house [the Museum in Hampstead ??]. A cabinet displays the barbarous-looking instruments he used as a medical student, before he turned to poetry; a portrait depicts his younger brother, Tom, whom Keats nursed until he died of consumption, and from whom Keats almost surely caught the disease that would kill him as well. In the early nineteenth century, the disease killed one in three Londoners, but it was also something of a family curse: Keats had nursed his mother as she died eight years before Tom, and his older brother, George, who had emigrated to America in 1818, would die of it as well, in 1841.
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Life inside God’s customer service prayer call-centre
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Laurie Penny's latest, sacrilegious short story on, “Your Orisons May Be Recorded”, is a hilarious thought experiment about the working conditions for the angels who answer customer service prayers from dissatisfied humans.
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'The Records of this Nation'
via National Archives by Dr Laura Tompkins
The image shows a single sheet (a broadside) printed by the crown, probably in the 1680s, to explain why documents of state were stored in the Tower of London (catalogue reference: SP 9/37/6)
Why do people keep records? After all, the results of the decision to gather and store thousands – or in our case millions – of documents takes considerable amounts of time, money and space.
Continue reading I found this fascinating

The true meaning of cell life and death
via OUP Blog by Ronald Edwards
Two hundred years ago, William Lawrence blew the roof off the Hunter Lecture Series at the Royal College of Surgeons by adding the word “biology” to the English language to discuss living physiology, behavior, and diversity as a matter of gunky chemistry and physics, sans super-added forces. Moving on from there, one might think that life can arise from non-living stuff any time, or whenever the parameters are right, and who’s to say whether that’s a rare or common thing. Therefore it was difficult on the basis of logic alone to conclude the reverse, that the living things we see are a matter of living things’ reproduction and nothing but.
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19th century spam came by post, prefigured modern spam in so many ways
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
In the 19th century, the nascent advertising industry took notice of the fact that postmasters could send each other letters for free, and bribed them to forward packets of mail to one another to pass on to townspeople (“To Superintendent Sunday School OR ANY ONE INTERESTED IN MUSIC”).
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Butterflies Forty Million Years Before Butterflies
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ed Yong in Not Exactly Rocket Science
There’s a group of fossils insects that look really quite a lot like butterflies. They had broad wings with scales and pigmented eyespots. Their mouthparts were long probing straws. They likely fed from plants and pollinated them in return. They’re as butterfly-esque as it’s possible to be.
Except these creatures were flying around between 40 and 85 million years before the first butterflies existed.
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Ten things you may not have known about Greek gods and goddesses
via OUP Blog by Samantha Zimbler
Greek gods and goddesses have been a part of cultural history since ancient times, but how much do you really know about them? Find out who was abandoned, who causes ecstatic dizziness, and which god actually sweats by reading the short facts below. For example, did you know that Hestia, the Goddess of Hearth and Family Order, was unable to leave the house and could never leave Mount Olympus? You can learn more about these figures from Greek mythology by reading the lesser known facts below and by visiting the newly launched Oxford Classical Dictionary online.
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