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Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Uncommon Birds of George Edwards

April 3, 2014 | by

Edwards American Kingfisher

The American Kingfisher

edwards the bearded vulture

The Bearded Vulture

Edwards The Toucan or Brazilian Pye

The Toucan or Brazilian Pye

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The Golden Bird of Paradise

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The King Bird of Paradise

edwards_whooping_crane_1

The Whooping Crane

edwards-black-capped-lory_1

The Black-Capped Lory

edwards-green-parrot-west-indies_1

The Green Parrot of the West Indies

edwards-longest-tailed-humming-bird_1

The Longest-Tailed Hummingbird

edwards-ornate-lorikeet_1

The Ornate Lorikeet

edwards-penguin_1

The Penguin

edwards-red-african-gray-parrot_1

The Red African Gray Parrot

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The Hawk-Headed Parrot

The_Dodo_and_the_Guiney_pig

The Dodo and the Guinea Pig

The_Summer_Duck_Of_Catesby

The Summer Duck of Catesby

George Edwards, born today in 1694, is known as “the father of British ornithology”—as fine a paternal legacy as a guy can hope for. Today, his reputation as a naturalist endures in no small part because of his excellent drawings, which introduced English readers to scores of exotic creatures: first and foremost, birds. His greatest work is the four-volume Natural History of Uncommon Birds, whose full august title deserves to be seen in toto: A Natural History of Uncommon Birds: And of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Fishes, Reptiles, Insects, &c., Exhibited in Two Hundred and Ten Copper-plates, from Designs Copied Immediately from Nature, and Curiously Coloured After Life, with a Full and Accurate Description of Each Figure, to which is Added A Brief and General Idea of Drawing and Painting in Water-colours; with Instructions for Etching on Copper with Aqua Fortis; Likewise Some Thoughts on the Passage of Birds; and Additions to Many Subjects Described in this Work.

These drawings are taken from that work, which you can read here. Of particular note is his illustration of the dodo, which was, even then, extraordinarily rare and facing extinction.

As for the man: According to The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and Their Collectors, a contemporary of Edwards’s “described him as of medium stature, inclined to plumpness and of a cheerful, kindly nature ‘associated with a charming diffidence.’”

 

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The Joyce Lee Method of Scientific Facial Exercises

December 11, 2013 | by

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Selected from AbeBooks’ Weird Book Room.

 

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Bones

October 9, 2013 | by

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You discover one day—while everyone else is doing whatever it is that makes them happy—that you can almost pop one of the bones in your hand right out of the skin. It’s awesome. First, you practice in secret, when you’re bored or exasperated by school. But one day, you are practicing out in the open when someone notices the little bit of white sticking out, and they say, Wow, how cool, and they ask you to do it again. Look at this guy, they say—when formerly you were ignored or marginalized or made to feel you were odd or would at any rate never to amount to much—and it occurs to you: maybe you’re on to something.

You get good at it, the bone popping, and in college you realize there’s a whole department devoted to the study of it: how they did it in the old days, how it became different when the boats came to North America. Yet, on the musty college campus, everything seems safe and no one’s trying hard enough. In fact, it’s difficult to find anyone doing a good or brave job of bone popping.

Eventually, you find places in the big city—loft buildings, various dark cafés—where people gather. Most can pop one or two hand bones, but a few can do their whole arm bone or an entire leg. Some of these people are actually making a living doing this. They get contracts to spend years on one big bone popping. Some win awards, or fellowships. But no matter how good you get, one old timer says, never remove your heart. Then you’re dead.

So you practice, getting good, refining your technique. Read More »

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The Immortality Chronicles, Part 4

September 9, 2013 | by

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What have we not done to live forever? Adam Leith Gollner’s research into the endless ways we’ve tried to avoid the unavoidable is out now as The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever. Every Monday for the next three weeks, this chronological crash course will examine how humankind has striven for, grappled with, and dreamed about immortality in different eras throughout history.

During the Middle Ages, every alchemist worth his saltpeter tried to find the philosopher’s stone, the water stone of the wise, the miraculous stone that is no stone. It was the means to transmute base metals into gold and—more importantly—concoct elixirs of immortality.

The word is Arabic in origin: al-kimia, al-khymia, or al-kīmyā. It’s how chemistry begins. Science as we now conceive it did not exist in the medieval period. (The word scientist only became commonplace in the nineteenth century, after Cambridge University historian William Whewell coined the term in 1833.) Instead, there was natural magic and philosophy—and alchemy, the experimental attempt to combine different elements and uncover the factual mysteries of nature. Read More »

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Giant Mr. Darcy Terrorizes London, and Other News

July 9, 2013 | by

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  • A twelve-foot fiberglass Mr. Darcy is currently standing in the middle of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, and is terrifying.
  • A new analytics tool claims it can detect sarcasm in online comments. But the best part: “Its clients include the Home Office, EU Commission and Dubai Courts.”
  • The artist formerly known as “the” is now represented by the symbol Ћ.
  • Book titles missing one (key) letter.
  • A scientifically accurate “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Sample lyric: “Thirty-two light years in the sky / Ten parsecs which is really high.”

 

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Zeus, and Other News

December 12, 2012 | by

  • On protectionism, e-books, and candlemakers.
  • Biologist Edward O. Wilson and U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass on science and poetry.
  • All the best books of 2012 lists that are fit to print, in one place.
  • Zeus’s affairs, graphically.
  • The worst word of 2012?
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